October 8, 2022

This post will go over the ins and outs of NBA betting. The endless NBA season begins in late October and concludes in early July. The long season offers several possibilities to increase your bankroll, but before becoming a sports investor, you must first understand how to bet on the NBA. This article explains the many wager kinds available in the NBA, including the spread, moneyline, parlay/teaser, first quarter/1st half, halftime, and futures.


Any NBA fan will tell you that games can become high-scoring affairs since teams only have 24 seconds to score on each possession. Because of these high scores, bookmakers utilize a spread known as a line to equalize the probability of either team winning a wager. It is relatively uncommon to see point spreads of 15 or more, which is unusual in the NFL. The following example from the SI Archive can help explain things:

Team Opening line Final score
Boston Celtics       -2 -110 96
New York Knicks      +2 +110 86


The example above is the starting line for a regular-season matchup between the Celtics and the Knicks. Even though the Knicks play at home, the Celtics are the favorites. The ‘-110’ next to the line represents the vig, or juice, which bookmakers charge fees to utilize their service. A wager of $110 on Boston would increase your bankroll by $100 because the team covered by 8 points. A ‘+’ symbol always represents an underdog, whereas a ‘-‘ symbol always represents a favorite. A two-year analysis of NBA point spreads revealed that games come within.5 points of the spread 5.5% of the time, highlighting the importance of scouting for the optimal line for the savvy sports investor.


The Moneyline is a wager in which the odds are determined only by who will win. When the NBA’s powerhouses meet up against lower-level clubs fighting to remain above.500, the Moneyline (ML) odds may be severe. The following is an example of a typical NBA Moneyline wager:

Team Moneyline Odds
Warriors +600
Spurs -850


The moneyline odds are relatively high, indicating that the Spurs are heavy favorites in this game. In reality, a $100 profit would need a wager of $850 on the Spurs. On the other hand, a $100 bet on the Warriors would net the bettor $600 in rewards. The moneyline and point spread are not always announced at the same time.

The Spread and Moneyline are two aspects that influence Sports Insights’ Steam Moves and Smart Money plays.


A total wager is one put on each team’s COMBINED score. The bookies establish this figure, and the bettor lays a bet on the over or under (O/U). Because the NBA is the top-scoring sport among the leading American sports, totals in the +220 range are not unusual. The following example should help to clarify things:

Team O/U Final Score
Heat 197.5o -105 100
Pistons 197.5u -115 94


The final total for this battle was 194, only 3.5 points less than the bookies’ expected total. Because of the extra juice, a $115 gamble on the under would result in a $100 profit. Total lines sometimes change after release, so check SportsInsights.com’s Betting Trends Data before placing a wager.

Quarter and first-half lines

A 48-minute NBA game is split into four 12-minute quarters, and gamblers may make wagers on the first half and first quarter lines before the games begin. These bets are best viewed as a game inside a game. The first quarter line (usually 14 of the total spread) allows you to predict who you believe will cover the spread at the end of one-quarter of play. The first half lines are roughly the same; only they last the whole first half of the play. As in other sports, some teams are noted for getting out of the gate swiftly and establishing an early lead, while others are “fourth-quarter teams” who prefer to play from behind. These are some of the situations that inspired the first quarter and half lines. (I couldn’t determine whether to keep or delete the preceding statement)

Lines at halftime

For most people, halftime means it’s time to change the channel, but halftime may be profitable for the savvy sports investor. Only during halftime are halftime lines accessible. The halftime lines consider what happened in the first half to construct a whole new spread for the remains of the game. Consider the second half an entirely new game with a fresh spread to suit the rest of the game. The following example might help to clarify this concept:

Team Halftime Score Halftime Line Final Score
Bulls 58 -4 -110 102
Pistons 53 +4 -110 90


If the third quarter started at 0 to 0, the final score would be 44 to 37, indicating the Bulls would have covered the halftime spread by 3 points. Halftime bets aren’t as common as wagers placed before the game, but a winning bet still generates the same return.


As with any major American sport, you may parlay or combine your bets to boost your reward. To hit or win your parlay, ALL of the bets must cover. Mix spread, totals, and moneyline bets to increase the payoff of a parlay. A teaser bet is like a parlay bet in that the bookmaker provides points to increase your possibility of winning while decreasing your overall payout. For example, if you bet on a 4-point teaser and the Boston Celtics spread is -10, the result would be -6. Each component of the teaser wager includes this 4-point edge. The payoff structure for a standard spread parlay is shown in the chart below:

Number of Teams Payoff
2 2.64/1
3 6/1
4 12.28/1
5 24.35/1
6 47.41/1
7 91.42/1
8 175.44/1
9 335.85/1
10 642.08/1
11 1226.70/1
12 2342.79/1
13 4473.51/1
14 8541.25/1
15 16306.94/1


Futures bets are bets on which team will win which conference or the NBA championship. Futures are not only for teams. For example, you may wager who you believe will be the league’s MVP. Even bets are available before the start of the season on a team’s over/under victory totals. As the season proceeds, the odds change, and after a club is officially eliminated from contention, the odds for them to win in total are reduced. It is rare for clubs to be removed from this list before the end of March. Even though just eight different teams have won the NBA championship in the previous 30 years, many gamblers choose to back a dark horse team because of the superior odds they obtain. A gambler may bet on many teams to win the big game to improve the chances of a good payoff.

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