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Basketball is one of the most popular sports to bet. It doesn’t matter if it is the NBA, college basketball, or any of the international leagues or competitions. People love to wager on hoops.
With legalized sports betting sweeping across the US, there are a lot of bettors that probably don’t realize how many different bet types there are. Worldwide bettors probably have a good idea from the leagues in their respective countries, but it is never a bad idea to focus on the basics.
Educating the masses is what we like to do and that is what follows with a handy Handicapping 101 guide for hoops.
Spread betting is the most popular way of betting on basketball. The spread is the number of points given to the underdog and taken away from the favorite in order to balance out the difference between the two teams. That number is represented by a plus (+) sign for the underdog and a minus (-) sign for the favorite.
Let’s say you’ve got the Los Angeles Lakers against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now that LeBron is clad in purple and gold instead of wine and gold, there is a huge difference between the two teams. The Lakers might be -15 against the Cavs. In order for the Lakers to cover the spread, you would have to subtract 15 points to their final total.
If the Lakers won 105-92, the Cavs would “win” against the spread by a score of 92-90. The Lakers didn’t win by more than 15 points.
Another way to look at it is that you could add 15 points to the Cavs total. That would give the Cavs the “win” by a score of 107-105.
The function of the spread is to make both sides attractive to bettors. If you just had the Cavs vs. the Lakers, how many people would actually bet on the Cavs to win? But, if you gave those betting on the Cavs a free 15 points, does that change their opinion?
Along with the spread number itself, vigorish or “juice” will be added. The standard vig on a spread bet is -110, which means that you would be $110 to win $100, or $11 to win $10, to simplify it further. The line would read Los Angeles Lakers -15 (-110). The vig will often move around as the sportsbooks try to balance their risk. It may be in the book’s best interest to move to -115 instead of move the spread to -15.5. It all depends on how their counts look.
You can simply bet on the team that will win the game in basketball. That is called money line wagering. The bigger the favorite, the bigger the money line price. That is why a lot of people prefer spread betting. They can bet $110 to win $100. With a big favorite in the NBA, that team might be as much as -1500, which means betting $1500 to win $100.
But, the option is there for you. There is no spread with money line betting. The spread will dictate the odds of the money line, but you are simply betting the team to win the game. Underdogs will be represented by a plus (+) sign for money line wagering and favorites will be represented by a minus (-) sign.
While big favorites can sometimes be fairly cost-prohibitive, the higher rewards for betting on underdog money lines can be worth it. If you think a big underdog can win the game, you can take a higher-risk position than the spread and bet the money line instead.
A money line might look something like -245 on the favorite and +225 on the underdog for a game with a spread of 6.5 points. A spread of 3.5 points would look more like -175 on the favorite and +155 on the underdog, so the bigger the spread, the higher the money lines.
Totals betting, also known as over/under betting, is also a very popular way to bet on basketball. With this type of wager, you are betting on the combined number of points scored by both teams. For the NBA, totals are usually going to be in the 200s. For college basketball, totals could range from as low as 100 to as high as 180 depending on the pace, offense, and defense of both teams.
If a line is over/under 205, you need at least 206 points scored by the teams combined to get over 205. Anything less than 205 would cash the under.
Like spread betting, totals have vigorish or “juice” placed on the totals. A total might be over/under 205 with the over at -120 and the under at -110. That would mean that you have to bet $120 to win $100 on the over and $110 to win $100 on the under. You can bet any amount that you want, but we use increments of $100 to use easy math to show how the vig works.
Totals betting would be based on the offense and defense for both teams and also the expected pace of the game.
Derivative betting is a way to describe betting on smaller segments of the game. With professional basketball, you can bet halves or quarters. You can bet on the 1st quarter, 2nd quarter, 3rd quarter, and then 4th quarter and overtime. You can also bet on the 1st half and the 2nd half.
Those lines will be different from the full-game lines. Typically 1st half totals are a little bit lower than 2nd half totals because of fouls at the ends of games that lead to free throw opportunities.
The full game favorite is still going to be a 1st half favorite, but with a smaller favorite line.
A lot of people like to bet 1st halves and 1st quarters in basketball because teams could be on different days of rest or will have to make adjustments to faster paces from previous games.
If you bet on a favorite to win the 1st half, they have to lead by more points than they are favored going into halftime. It is no different than spread betting, just with a shorter period of the game
Basketball is also a great sport for live betting. There are a lot of stoppages and TV timeouts and things that allow you to consider different ways of betting on the game. Fouls also have a big impact on the game. Foul trouble means that players have to go to the bench and a lot of teams do better when certain players are on the floor.
Live betting includes money lines, spreads, and totals.
There are a ton of props to bet with all forms of basketball. There are no 1st quarter options for college basketball, but a lot of people like to wager on the first team to 15 points. You can also bet on individual player props regarding points, rebounds, or assists for players like LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard.
Sportsbooks are always looking for ways to get action, so be sure to check and see which betting options they have available for props.