How to Bet NBA Point Spreads

Placing wagers on NBA games is one of the most popular forms of sports betting in the industry. Winning those bets? Now, that takes a bit of knowledge and strategy.

First, you need some basic knowledge of sports betting in general as well as some background in point spreads.


Traditional NBA Bets

Typically, NBA bettors wager on the moneyline, point spread, and game totals. Moneyline bets are simply those placed on a team to win a game.

Betting on game totals has nothing to do with the outcome of a game. Wagers are placed on whether a game’s final score will go Over or Under a set total.

When betting the point spread, bettors are wagering on a team to win or lose by a certain amount of points. Let’s take a deeper look. Betting ATS (against the spread) encompass the majority of our NBA picks.

The Point Spread

To account for differences in ability of two teams, oddsmakers establish a point spread. A typical point spread bet looks like this:

Miami Heat      -3.5 (-110)
Boston Celtics +3.5 (-110)

Miami is the favorite as indicated by the -3.5. Boston is the underdog at +3.5. The -110 is the “juice” or fee charged by the online sportsbook to take your bet. In this case, the juice is 10 percent of the wager.

If you wager on Miami, the Heat must win by four or more points in order to “cover” the spread and for you to win your bet. If you wagered $1.00 on the Heat and they won by four, you would win $0.91 (plus you get your stake, or $1.00, back). The other $0.09 goes to the sportsbook.

Understanding Point Spreads

As mentioned, oddsmakers establish point spreads to level the playing field between two teams. Their main goal, however, is to bring in an equal amount of action on both sides of a bet.

Let’s use our example, but the Heat are one of the better teams in the league and the Celtics are struggling. As a result, oddsmakers set the spread at 10.5 at top online sportsbooks like America’s Bookie.

Miami Heat      -10.5 (-110)
Boston Celtics +10.5 (-110)

When bettors start wagering on Boston to cover, oddsmakers make a change to the line – maybe -10.5 to -9.5 – in an effort to encourage bettors to put money on the Heat. Remember, a sportsbook’s goal is to bring in an equal amount of action on both sides of a bet.

Other Helpful Information

In our examples, the lines on the games were listed in half-points – 10.5, for example. Oddsmakers often do this so there is no chance of a bet landing exactly on the point spread.

If the Heat were favored by 10 and won the game by exactly 10 points, the result is called a “push.” In this case, there is no winner or a loser. The wager is refunded.

Oddsmakers can also adjust the odds to encourage or discourage bettors. Instead of the line changing from Boston +10.5 to Boston +9.5, oddsmakers may simply change the odds from -110 to +105, for example.

In that case, NBA bettors would be encouraged to bet on Boston because of the payout. A $1.00 bet on the Celtics would payout $1.05 if Boston lost by 10 or fewer points or won outright.