ESTNN Staff
ESTNN Staff

NBA Betting Lines Explained: Point Spreads, Moneyline, Totals & More

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New to basketball betting? This is the perfect place to find out how to read NBA sport betting lines and odds. Also, we will explain the differences between the most popular markets and of course how they work. Continue reading for more!

How do NBA betting lines work?

When it comes to NBA bets there are several you should know about. They are called by different names sometimes and you might have heard some of the names, while others would be new to you. Let's find out how do NBA betting lines work and the specifics about them Did you know that “lines” are the odds themselves or the name of the spread.

Generally, the odds are presented in the same manner or similar. All sportsbooks in the USA use American odds, which are listed with positive and negative signs between them. For example:

  • Team A +110
  • Team B –110

Usually, the favorite team is the one with the (-) sign and the underdog is the one with the (+) sign. That represents that the underdog has the higher odds, while the favorite has the lower odds. The NBA betting lines might be presented beside each other or on top of each other. Whichever way the sportsbook presents them the home team is always the second one, while the guests are the first team. Usually, once you open the NBA betting category on the sportsbook sheet, you may see only the most important bets while scrolling through the next game. They can be three or only one depending on the sportsbook itself. Typically, they are the spread, totals, and money line betting markets. You can read more about them below.

NBA Betting Lines Explained

How to Read NBA Betting Lines – Point Spreads

In this next part, we will discuss how do NBA betting lines work when it comes to point spreads specifically. The point spread is mostly called only “spread” or sometimes even “line” and this is where the term betting line originated, but as we already said lines are also called odds sometimes.

Essentially, the point spread was created to even out the odds for both teams in the cases where the favorite is clear from a mile away. This would help bookies not lose money and it would make it more interesting for the customers. Because betting on a certain winner isn't as exciting as wagering if the winner would cover the specific spread.

Like always the favorite team is with the negative odds, while the underdog is listed with the positive odds. Here is the example we will use to explain it better.

  • Golden State Warriors +1.5
  • Milwaukee Bucks –1.5

If you plan on betting on the Warriors, which are the underdogs you will win the wager only if they win the match or if they lose by 1 point. If you want to bet on the favorite (Bucks) they would have to win by two or more points if you want your money.

how to read nba betting lines

The reason the spread is listed with a decimal number is to prevent the “tie” situation. For example, if the spread was 2 points and not 2.5, and by chance, the game ended with 102 points for Milwaukee and 100 points for Golden State, the bet would be pushed. For this reason, most sportsbooks list the spread with a decimal.

If you placed a bet on a spread with odds of @ -110, you will usually have to wager 110% to win 100%. For example, if you wager $110, you will win only $100. That is because the payout isn't even and those ten percent are taken away by the sportsbook as some kind of commission. This is also called “vig” or “vigorish.”

NBA Betting Lines Explained – Moneyline

This is the most common NBA bet alongside the spread and total. It is sometimes listed as a single wager, but in other cases, you can see it in a combination, like:

  • Moneyline/Total
  • Spread/Moneyline

In moneyline bets, the goal is to predict the outright winner of the match because only that team plays out. If you bet on it, you are lucky, if you didn't you don't get anything. Essentially, the moneyline is the bookmaker's way of charging less on underdog bets and paying out more if they win or charging more on favorite wins and paying out less if they win.

nba betting lines explained

If we use the same example we used above of a game between the Golden State and Milwaukee, here is what the moneyline odds would look like.

  • Warriors @ +110
  • Bucks @ -110

In this example, if you want to bet on the favorite, which you can guess by the negative odds, you will have to wager $120 to win $100. If you plan on wagering on the favorite, which is the team with the positive odds, you will have to wager $100 to win $110. As you can see the underdog odds are higher and so would be the payout, but the outcome is less likely.

NBA Totals – All You Need to Know

The third most popular betting market that you would most likely encounter when placing bets on the NBA is the totals market. It is also called over/under on some sportsbooks. In these types of betting markets, you have to predict the total number of points scored during the game by both teams. The way the odds would be presented is something like this:

  • Over 223.5 @ -110
  • Under 223.5 @ -100

This means that the bookmakers think there would be 187 points or more during the match. The less likely outcome (according to the bookmakers) would be that the points scored are fewer than 186 by both teams. The bookmakers are the ones that determine the number by which you will determine which outcome you will pick over or under. This isn't a made-up number, and similar to the point spread is based on various match and team data.

Other Markets You May Encounter

Of course, there aren't only these three betting markets you can choose from for any NBA game. You can also bet on long-term markets like futures. These markets are released pre-season and are usually related to the winners of a specific tournament or an award. The odds for futures can change at any time like all other odds. The thing you should be aware of is that the earlier you place the bet, the higher the odds would be.

how do nba betting lines work

Another possible market you might encounter is various prop bets. They might not be related to the outcome of the game directly, but they are still somehow related to the game. The market can be anything from the number of points scored by a certain player to the number of assists by another.

Summarizing NBA Betting Lines & Odds:

We only went through the most important markets for all NBA bettors, and most sportsbooks will offer them. Of course, you could find some combinations available, like the ones we mentioned above. Also, some bookmakers offer betting features that let you combine markets from the same game match into the same wager. Not all bookmakers offer this feature, and on some sites, it isn't available for NBA games, but once you find a sportsbook with the same game parlay feature for NBA games.

For more information about NBA betting, read on to find out how to bet on NBA games online.

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