How to Read NBA Betting Odds

It’s time to learn how to read NBA betting odds. Betting odds for different sports sometimes have unique features associated with them. That’s not necessarily the case with NBA odds and lines. 

They are the same as with football, but different than hockey and baseball.


Point Spreads

Every game has a favorite and an underdog. The point spread is the predicted difference in the score of the winning and losing team.

A wager on the favorite pays out if they win the game by more than the point spread.

If a player bets on the underdog, the wager pays out if they win the game outright. The bettor also wins if the underdog loses by fewer points than the spread. There are also odds associated with point spread bets.

The odds on point spread bets are generally the way the sportsbook operator ensures themselves of making money. The odds are almost always -110 for either side of the wager. That means it takes a bet of $110 to net $100 in winnings.

The $10 kept by the bookmaker is called the house edge, the vig or the juice. If the bookmaker can manage to get the same amount bet on each side, they’re guaranteed a 9% profit.

Moneyline Bets

When looking at how to read NBA betting odds, moneylines are very important. It’s one of the more popular betting markets.

A moneyline bet made on a team pays off if they win the game outright, with no point spread involved. The odds for the bet are expressed as a negative number for the favorite and a positive number for the underdog.

The bigger the favorite, the larger the difference in the odds. This is the only relationship between the point spread and the moneyline bet. Usually, the larger the spread, the greater the difference in the odds.

If the favorite has odds of -200, it takes a wager of $200 to net $100 on the winning bet. If the favorite has odds of -200, the underdog will carry odds of something in the area of +165. That means a winning $100 bet on the underdog pays $165.

For this particular wager, the bookmaker has taken in a total of $300. If the underdog wins, they pay out $265, giving them an edge of $35. If the favorite wins, they pay back the original $200 plus $100 in winnings to the player, breaking even.

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Over/Under Wagers

The over/under, also known as the total, is the total points scored by both teams in the game. The wager is on whether the points scored will be over or under the total line. It doesn’t matter which team wins the game. This is another popular wager for NBA betting.

If the over/under is 224 points for Utah and Atlanta, and the final score is 110-108, the under bet pays. Just like the point spread wagers, the odds for both sides of the bet are set at -110. 

It takes a $110 bet to net $100, with the difference constituting the bookie’s edge.

Over/under wagers are usually pretty straightforward, but lopsided or overtime games can drive a bettor crazy. Also, there is the possibility of pushes in the case of whole number over/under lines. When that occurs, no money changes hands, and there is no edge for the bookmaker.