It sounds like the dream job – making money watching and betting on NBA games. A few lucky souls get to do just that, while others try and fail miserably.
So what do these guys know that the rest of the world doesn’t? Is it just luck, or do they have a few tricks up their sleeves? Most importantly, is there anything you could do to join their ranks?
Below, we’ll reveal some of the NBA betting strategies used by the top sharps and handicappers worldwide. We can’t promise they’ll make you money — there’s more to being successful than just a good strategy — but they will give you an advantage over the rest of the betting public.
Best NBA Betting Sites
- MyStake: Best overall
- BetOnline: Best for NBA live betting
- Bovada: Excellent NBA daily specials
- BUSR: Best for totals betting
- MyBookie: Best prop bets
- Everygame: Best for halftime betting
- XBet: Excellent player futures
- Thunderpick: Best crypto NBA betting
- BetUS: Best NBA Draft betting
- Sportsbetting.ag: Great props builder
How to Bet on the NBA
If you’ve never bet on the NBA (or any sport, for that matter) before, then you might be confused by some of the terms being thrown around.
We don’t have the space to define everything you might hear at the bookies (now’s not the time to tell you the difference between a “beard” and a “Bismarck,” for example), but in this section, we’ll cover the absolute basics you need to know before you get started.
Point spread betting is the most common type of sports bet, and you’re probably familiar with the general concept even if you’ve never done it yourself.
The basic problem with sports betting is that one team is usually better, so how could a bookie entice punters to wager on the underdog? The answer is by giving them free points.
If you bet on Boston and they’re a 5-point favorite over New York, the Celtics have to win by more than 5 points for you to win your bet. If Boston only wins by 3, you would lose, even though you correctly predicted the winner of the game.
Point spreads are usually shown as numbers with a plus or minus sign in front of them. In the previous example, Boston would be (-5), whereas Chicago would be (+5).
A moneyline bet is almost identical to a point spread bet, only expressed differently. It’s a different way to solve the problem we mentioned earlier.
Here, instead of giving one team free points, the bookie will pay out different amounts depending on which team is favored and by how much. These bets are represented numerically with plus or minus signs as well.
Using the previous example, Boston might be (-120) versus the Bulls, whereas the Bulls might be (+120). The negative number indicates how much you’d have to wager to win $100; in this case, you’d have to bet at least $120 on Boston if you wanted that c-note.
The positive number shows how much you’d win on a $100 wager. In this case, you’d get $120 if you bet $100 on the Bulls.
You don’t always have to pick which team you think will win. An over/under bet (sometimes called a “point total” bet) is a wager on how many points the two teams will score combined.
The bookies will do their research and set a total they think is likely to happen — let’s say 222. You can then decide whether the two teams will combine to score more or less than 222 points and bet accordingly.
Over/under bets are usually accompanied by moneylines, and the line is usually the same on either bet. So, the bet here might be expressed as:
Over 222 (-110)
Under 222 (-110)
In this case, whether you take the over or under, you’d have to bet $110 to win $100.
Props are another way in which you can bet on something other than the outcome of the game. Short for “propositions,” prop bets can be just about anything.
The most common form is player props. You can bet on how many points, rebounds, steals, etc. a certain player will have, typically as an over/under. You can also bet on things like the score at halftime, which team will score first, whether there will be any technical fouls, etc.
The sky’s pretty much the limit with prop bets. You may even see ridiculous props for high-profile games like the All-Star Game or an NBA Finals matchup — things like how long the national anthem will be, how many celebrities will be shown on TV, and more.
A parlay isn’t really a distinct type of bet; rather, it’s several unique bets strung together. You have to make at least two bets to have a parlay, although it’s possible to have parlays as long as you like (and the longer they are, the more you stand to win).
Here’s the thing, though: you have to win every bet to win your parlay. That means that if you made a parlay in which you picked Boston, Cleveland, Phoenix, Miami, and Denver to cover the point spread, you would lose if even one of those teams failed to do so.
Parlays are extremely fun and can have massive paydays. However, professional handicappers avoid them, as the payouts rarely justify the long odds.
A futures bet is just what it sounds like – you’re wagering on something that will happen. While you could argue that every bet is a futures bet, they generally refer to things that are at least a few days or weeks off.
A common example of a futures bet would be wagering on which team would win the championship before the season starts or which player will be named league MVP.
You can make a futures bet on just about anything. However, a lot can happen between the time you make a bet and the time it pays out (your can’t-miss bet on the Bucks could be in trouble if Giannis suffers a season-ending injury, for example), so be prepared to deal with a lot of variances.
See these other basketball betting guides:
Basic NBA Betting Strategies
Believe it or not, sports betting is both a skill and a discipline — if you want to succeed, anyway. As with most skills, you’ll have to crawl before you walk, so it would behoove you to learn the basic NBA betting strategy before you try to master the fancy stuff.
1. Line Shopping
This is the backbone of any successful sports betting strategy. The best — and easiest — way to beat Vegas is the same strategy used by lions hunting on the savannah: identify the straggler and target them mercilessly.
We’re not recommending you kill and eat a bookie; instead, what you should be doing is looking at the lines at several different sportsbooks to see if one is out of sync with the rest.
This is called “line shopping,” and it can be a profitable strategy even if you do nothing else. Getting an extra point here or there may not seem like a big deal, but it adds up over time, and it can be the difference between breaking even or ending up in the black.
To line shop, you’ll need to open and maintain accounts at multiple sportsbooks. That way, you’ll be able to quickly take advantage of any discrepancies you encounter. And believe us, time is of the essence — that juicy line you spotted could disappear in the next few minutes if the bookie realizes they’re standing outside the safety of the herd.
2. Getting Ahead of the Schedule
A team’s schedule will provide clues to their performance, so you should take a long look at it before you make a wager.
For example, a team that’s played five games on the road in six days is likely to be tired and probably won’t perform up to their usual standard. That could make them ripe for an upset, or it could mean it’s time to bet the under on their game.
Conversely, a well-rested team could be ready to pounce on the next squad they face, especially if they’re playing at home. The crown jewel of scheduling is when you find a tired team facing a fresh one — those matchups are usually as juicy as you’ll find anywhere.
3. Examining Matchups and Injury Reports
Besides the schedule, you should also read the injury reports every day. As we alluded earlier, a team might go from being a bet to a fade if their best player is out or hobbled. Similarly, a high-scoring offense might not reach its usual heights if its point guard is on the mend.
Matchups are also important. Some players and teams just don’t do as well (or do much better) against certain other players and teams. This could mean noticing that Team A’s star player doesn’t do well against Team B’s lockdown defender, or it could mean realizing that one team has a huge height advantage over the other.
Remember: you don’t necessarily have to pick which team will win. If you notice that one team has three 7-footers in the lineup, whereas their opponent’s tallest guy is 6-foot-10, it might be a good time to bet on a rebounding prop.
4. Bankroll Management
This is one of the most boring aspects of being a successful sports bettor, so many people avoid it. It’s also potentially the most important.
Your bankroll is like a company’s cash flow: if you lose it, you’ll be out of business. You want to protect your stake as much as you can, which means not going overboard with individual bets.
It’s typically recommended to wager no more than 3% of your total bankroll on a single bet; while this may not seem like much, it will limit your exposure if things go wrong.
Regulating your emotions is an important part of bankroll management as well. If you tend to chase losses and start betting wildly when you’re down, you likely won’t last long as a professional bettor.
Interested in other betting opportunities? Check these articles out:
Advanced NBA Betting Strategies
You should master the techniques above before moving on to the more advanced strategies we’ll outline here. Like with everything else, the basics represent 90% of what you need in sports betting.
Get them right, and you’ve got a great chance at success. Get them wrong, and you don’t stand a chance.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the more sophisticated NBA betting strategies you should eventually add to your repertoire.
1. Line Shading
This technique doesn’t come up all that often, but when it does, it can be quite powerful. Line shading is when a bookie expects the public to heavily favor one side of the action; to compensate, they’ll move the line a bit further to that side than they normally would.
For example, let’s say the New York Knicks are playing the Sacramento Kings in the Finals. Given that the Knicks are a much more popular team, and it’s been over 25 years since they’ve been to the Finals, you could expect a lot more action from the Knicks than Kings.
If the bookie thinks the line should be Knicks (-3.5), they might make it (-5.5) just to give themselves some wiggle room.
What that means for you is that they’re basically offering two free points on the Kings — that’s a tremendous value. It’s like they did your line shopping for you.
Two caveats with this strategy: when it happens, it will only be for a limited time, and these opportunities are hard to find. It’s a good idea to stay plugged into NBA gambling circles so you can identify a line shading spot when it happens.
2. Fading the Public
This strategy is very similar to the line shading strategy above. The idea is to be on the opposite side of the betting public as much as possible.
If you know there’s a lot of money on one team, the bookies will likely start moving the line to encourage betting on the other squad. This keeps the amounts wagered relatively even and limits their exposure.
That means the line movement isn’t necessarily representative of what Vegas thinks will happen; it’s simply a risk-management move on their part. Again, this amounts to free points for you, and we always recommend taking free points.
4. Quarter Betting
This one’s a bit controversial, as it’s a variant of the famous Martingale strategy that roulette players often use. The Martingale strategy has some serious issues in the long term, but in the short run, it can be a good way to notch some small-to-medium wins.
The basic idea is that a single team rarely covers the spread every quarter. So, what you would do is bet on one team in the first quarter; if you win, you take your money and go home.
If you lose, you double your bet on the same team in the second quarter, then the third quarter, and so on. Chances are that your team will at least win one quarter, even if they get blown out in the game.
The keys here are to quit when you win and to be ok with the fact that you might have to take a pretty big loss every once in a while.
5. Think Like the Bookies
With experience, you can start to see the thought processes behind certain lines. This is especially true in close games, so look for situations where the line is set around a single point.
Most bookies believe that homecourt advantage is worth at least a point or two, so pick ‘em situations might not be as close as they appear on paper — or they might be even closer.
For example, if you see a situation where a single point favors the home team, that could mean that the bookies feel the teams are equal — meaning you’re getting a free point for betting on the underdog.
Likewise, if a point favors the visiting team, that might mean that the bookies think they’re several points better, so you’d get a few free points there as well.
It also helps that the betting public favors the home team, especially in near-pick ‘em situations. There’s a good chance the bookies have arbitrarily moved their lines to make the public pay for that tendency, so don’t be one of the squares that do so.
6. Bet Live
Watching (and betting on) games already in progress is a powerful way to boost your bottom line. The simple fact of the matter is that it’s tough for bookies to watch and react to multiple games simultaneously, which means you might be able to spot and exploit inefficiencies before they can correct them.
To do this, you’ll need to do some serious line shopping, so you might need to open up multiple windows on your computer with a different sports betting site on each of them.
There may be a line or two that are out of whack with the action you’re witnessing, and you can get some value by just taking those opportunities as they come. This is especially true for player props and injuries.
For example, you’re watching Golden State play, and Steph Curry has 20 points midway through the third quarter. Suddenly he trips and limps to the sidelines; you watch as most bookies move his point totals for the game from 28 (U +120) and (O +155).
If there’s a site that leaves better odds on the under, you can quickly grab that bet. On the other hand, if you feel like the injury is minor and he’ll be good for more than ten points the rest of the way, you can take the better price on the over.
7. Use Deposit Bonuses
Sports betting is a game of razor-thin margins. Even the bookies don’t have much wiggle room between profit and loss, ensuring that every little bit counts.
So if a website offers you hundreds of dollars of free money or bets, why wouldn’t you take it? That one thing could turn you from a loser to a slight winner, even without changing your strategy.
Almost every sports betting site offers a first-time bonus to new players and a variety of reload bonuses for established ones. You should take advantage of as many of these as you can.
If nothing else, they can help offset all the vig you have to pay, and that’s no small thing.
Best NBA Betting Sites
1. MyStake – Best NBA Betting Site Overall
Far from being an NBA-only site, MyStake has a ton of available action on just about any sport you can think of. If you tire of betting on the NBA, you can also bet on professional leagues abroad.
Their primary deposit bonus is a 100% match up to $500 with a 10x wagering requirement. They also offer a regular assortment of lucrative reload bonuses.
2. BetOnline – Best NBA Live Betting Site
BetOnline is an incredible place to bet on basketball, and their NCAA action is as good as their NBA offerings. They’re the best place we’ve found for player props — something that can come in handy if you’re live betting.
When you open a new account, you can qualify for a 50% deposit match up to $1,000 with code “BOL1000.” There’s a 10x wagering requirement, and you have 30 days to earn the bonus.
3. Bovada – Best Sports Betting Site for NBA Daily Specials
If you can’t find a prop you like at BetOnline, Bovada has a “What’s Ya Wager” feature that lets you create your own props. You’ll find the best odds for NBA daily specials here.
They also have a low rollover on their bonus of just 5x, but the bonus itself is on the smaller side at 50% up to $250.
4. BUSR – Best NBA Sports Betting Site for Over/Under Bets
BUSR is great for totals betting. They also let you wager on just about anything that could happen during the season. Their regular lines are also quite good, although they release them a bit later than other books.
They make up for it with their deposit bonus, though, offering a 150% match up to $2,500 using code “SPORTS100FP.” There’s a 20x rollover and a $100 minimum deposit attached.
5. MyBookie – Top Player Prop Bets of all NBA Betting Sites
If you like tournaments and other fun events like that, MyBookie is the place to be. They have great tournaments for March Madness, as well as a bunch of fun ways to bet on pro action during the days leading up to the playoffs. You’ll find hundreds of prop bets for each NBA match at MyBookie.
You can grab a 50% match up to $1,000 using code “MYB50.” This offer includes a 10x rollover and a $50 minimum deposit.
Guide to NBA Betting
What Is the Best Way To Bet on the NBA?
The best way to bet on the NBA is through established online sportsbooks like MyStake, Bovada, and the others outlined above. Those sites are secure, respectable, and have years of experience catering to sports bettors all over the globe.
What Is the Most Profitable Betting Strategy?
There is no one strategy that can work in every possible situation. It’s a constant effort to stay informed to spot valuable opportunities wherever they exist, which may require using different strategies at different times.
Is It Better To Bet Spreads or Moneylines?
That depends. As a general rule, you can make more profit by betting on favorites against the spread and betting on underdogs when taking the moneyline.
Why Bet on the NBA?
There are many options for you to wager on at any sportsbook, so why should you focus on NBA betting? Here are just a few reasons why pro basketball is our favorite sport:
Easier to Predict
In basketball, the better team often wins, and it’s easier to avoid massive upsets. The seasons are also longer, giving smart handicappers more data to work with.
There are so many games (and props on those games) that you’re almost certain to find value somewhere if you look hard enough. That’s especially true if you branch out to pro leagues outside the US.
Great Live Betting Opportunities
Basketball is fast-paced, and it’s harder for the bookies to stay on top of the action in real-time. That’s why live betting can be so juicy — if you can spot value before the books can adjust, you can find incredible betting opportunities.
Ready to Put These NBA Betting Strategies Into Practice?
Using the NBA betting strategies outlined above can give you a massive edge over the rest of the betting public. The simple fact is, most people don’t think that hard about why they make the NBA bets they do — they just rely on gut feeling.
Finding the best sportsbooks to do business with is the best place to start. We recommend using MyStake and the other casinos listed above.
We can’t guarantee that these strategies alone will make you a winning handicapper, but if paired with hard work and a relentless desire to succeed, you could be well on your way to living the life of a full-time sports bettor.
DISCLAIMER: Online gambling comes with risks. There’s no guarantee of financial gain, so you should only gamble with what you can afford to lose. All information on this site is for entertainment purposes only.
While gambling can be fun, it can also be addictive. If you or anyone you know suffer from a gambling addiction problem, we recommend you call the National Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700 to speak with an advisor. Please remember that our guides and all gambling sites are 18+. Also, check with local laws if online gambling is legal in your area.
For free online gambling addiction resources, visit these organizations: