Basketball Betting Guide – How to Bet on Basketball

As one of the four major professional sports in the US and a fan favorite around the globe, basketball continues to deliver excitement to spectators and sports bettors all year long. And if you’re looking to up the excitement or if you’re always picking winners and want to turn those picks into cash, stay tuned. In our basketball betting guide, we’re going to lay out all of the details and resources you need to start betting on basketball right now.

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Types of Basketball Bets You Can Place

When it comes to NBA betting online, betting on college basketball, or betting on any other leagues in the world, you have options. There’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple and just picking game-winners. However, that doesn’t always align perfectly with your picks and predictions. While you can certainly be a huge winner just choosing game-winners, it’s nice to be aware of what your options are just in case.

Moneyline Basketball Bets

When we talk about betting on the winner of a basketball game, we’re talking about moneyline bets. All you need to do to win a basketball moneyline bet is pick the winner of the game. If you’re right, you win.

While it really is that simple, there is one nuance you need to be aware of. Not every team that wins is going to pay the same amount. Basketball betting odds on moneyline wagers are based on the likelihood of the team winning. The bigger the favorite a basketball team is, the less you’ll get paid on a win. The bigger the underdog, the more you’ll get paid.

For example, let’s say the Miami Heat are playing the Boston Celtics. The NBA basketball odds for a moneyline bet might look like this.

Celtics vs Heat
Basketball Moneyline Bet
Boston Celtics
Miami Heat

In this example, the Celtics are favored to win. If you put $10 on the Celtics, a win would pay you a profit of $7.41. A $10 bet on the Heat, though, would pay you a profit of $11.50. These varying betting odds are based on the likelihood of each team winning and how the public is choosing to bet the game at NBA basketball betting sites.

If you want to learn more about these types of bets, check out our dedicated basketball moneyline betting guide.

Betting Basketball Point Spreads

Moneyline bets are great, but they do leave a bit of a void. What happens when you think a team is going to outperform what the analysts and fans think but not win the game? Or what happens if you agree that a team is going to win a game but by way more than other people think? Shouldn’t you be more rewarded for a more precise prediction?

This is where basketball point spreads come into play.

NBA betting sites determine which team they believe is going to win the game, just like with a moneyline bet. However, the book goes a step further and determines by how many points. From there, you can bet on whether or not a basketball team is going to outperform the prediction.

All a team needs to do for you to win your bet is outperform the point spread. Here’s an example.

In that same Celtics and Heat game, the sportsbook decides they believe the Celtics will win by 2 or 3 points. Here’s what the spread would look like on the board.

Celtics vs Heat
Basketball Point Spreads
Boston Celtics
-2.5 (-110)
Miami Heat
+2.5 (-110)

In this example, a bet on either team pays the exact same amount of money. Let’s look at the outcomes of a bet on the Heat at +2.5.

  • If the Heat win the game by any number of points, you win your bet.
  • If the Heat lose the game by fewer than 2.5 points, you win your bet. So, a loss of 1 or 2 points is still a win for you!
  • If the Heat lose the game by more than 2.5 points, you lose your bet. So, a loss of 3 points or more is a loss.

For a bet on the Celtics, here’s what that looks like.

  • If the Celtics win the game by more than 2.5 points, you win your bet. So, a win of 3 or more points is a win for you.
  • If the Celtics win the game by fewer than 2.5 points, you lose your bet. So, a win of 1 or 2 points is a loss for you, even though the Celtics won the game.
  • If the Celtics lose the game by any number of points, you lose your bet.

Point spreads attempt to “level the playing field” where you can bet on any team even if you expect them to lose. All the team has to do is outperform the point spread, and you win. Additionally, half points are often used to prevent ties. If you’d like to learn more about these bets, check out our basketball point spreads betting guide.

Basketball Totals

When you have a prediction on game tempo but you’re not sure who will win, a totals bet could be what you’re looking for. A totals bet is a basketball wager on the total number of points scored in the game by both teams. The sportsbook sets a line, and you choose over that line or under that line. If you’re right, you win.

Celtics vs Heat
Over/Under Basketball Bet
208.5 (-110)
208.5 (-110)

For example, the total in the Celtics Heat example might be 208.5. Again, half points are often used to prevent ties. In this example, if the total number of points score by both teams is over 208.5 (209 or higher), a bet on the over wins. If the total when you add both team’s scores together is under 208.5 (208 or lower), the under wins. Generally, both of these bets pay out the same amount of money.

Check out our totals betting guide for more details on this type of wager.

Basketball Prop Betting

The last type of real money basketball betting bet to be aware of is proposition bets (prop bets for short). These are wagers on whether or not something will happen during a basketball game. While that might sound confusing, it’s much easier when you see examples.

Will Lebron James Score More Than 25 Points?
Basketball Prop Bet
Will the Game Go Into Overtime?
Basketball Prop Bet

Prop bets are a unique way to cash in on basketball betting predictions that don’t fit neatly into the more common types of bets. If you correctly pick if something will or will not happen, you’ll win the bet. Much like moneyline wagers, different sides of a basketball prop bet might pay our different amounts based on the likelihood and how the public is betting.

Read our basketball prop bets guide for more information on how to bet on basketball props.

Basketball Betting Resources

Now that you know where to bet on basketball online and the different types of basketball bets you can place, the next step is expanding your knowledge. An educated and well-informed sports bettor is one that sportsbooks fear. Here are some great resources to get you on that level.

Basketball Betting Blogs

The game of basketball changes fast with on-court and off-court news and happenings. Our basketball betting blogs not only inform you in real-time of the news, but our experts break down what it means for you as a bettor. Never get blindsided by news or rumors that could greatly impact your ability to make money betting on basketball.

Basketball Betting Picks

Getting the news is important, but there’s a more direct route to profitability you may be interested in—and it’s 100% free. We’ve built a high-caliber team of basketball betting experts willing to share their actual picks in real-time with you 100% free. If you want to see how the pros are betting (and have the chance to jump in right alongside them), check out our NBA betting picks section now.

Most Popular Basketball Leagues You Can Bet On

When it comes to betting on basketball, you’ve got a lot of different options. The two most popular options are the NBA and college basketball. Additionally, you can bet on international leagues all over the world and the WNBA, the women’s professional basketball league in the US.


The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the premier men’s basketball league in the world and the most popular basketball betting option in the world as well. The best of the best from every corner of the globe strive to make it to the pinnacle of the sports—the NBA. The league is based in North America, with 29 of the teams located in the US and one team located in Canada. That’s why it’s the most popular option for basketball betting.

Here are some fast facts about the NBA.

  • The regular season runs from October to April every year.
  • Each team plays 82 games during the regular season.
  • The NBA was founded in 1946.
  • The head offices for the NBA are in Manhattan, NY.
  • The top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs every year.
  • Teams compete to make it to the NBA Finals, where they can win the championship and take home the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.

Current NBA Teams

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division Central Division Southeast Division
Boston Celtics Chicago Bulls Atlanta Hawks
Brooklyn Nets Cleveland Cavaliers Charlotte Hornets
New York Knicks Detroit Pistons Miami Heat
Philadelphia 76ers Indiana Pacers Orlando Magic
Toronto Raptors Milwaukee Bucks Washington Wizards

Western Conference

Northwest Division Pacific Division Southwest Division
Denver Nuggets Golden State Warriors Dallas Mavericks
Minnesota Timberwolves Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets
Oklahoma City Thunder Los Angeles Lakers Memphis Grizzlies
Portland Trail Blazers Phoenix Suns New Orleans Pelicans
Utah Jazz Sacramento Kings San Antonio Spurs

Most Recent NBA Champions

  • 2020 – Los Angeles Lakers
  • 2019 – Toronto Raptors
  • 2018 – Golden State Warriors
  • 2017 – Golden State Warriors
  • 2016 – Cleveland Cavaliers

For more information on betting on the NBA, head on over to our dedicated guide on real money NBA betting now.

And if you’re looking for the safest online NBA betting experience, make sure to check out our list of the best NBA betting sites.

College Basketball

College basketball, sometimes referred to as NCAA basketball, is the US-based basketball competition between colleges and universities. Generally, college basketball is where future NBA stars prove their worth in some of the most exciting real money basketball betting action on the globe. The league is broken down into several divisions based on the size of a school and conferences based on the school’s location and affiliation. Division I men’s basketball is the most prominent.

Here are some fast facts about college basketball.

  • The season-long champion is decided through a single-elimination tournament known as NCAA March Madness.
  • Currently, the tournament starts with 68 teams, but that number has fluctuated over recent years.
  • There are 350 Division I college basketball teams.

College Basketball vs. the NBA

There are some substantial differences between college basketball and the NBA when it comes to the league, gameplay, and betting. Here are some of the most important differences to be aware of:

  • The NBA plays four 12-minute quarters, while college basketball plays two 20-minute halves.
  • The NBA is a professional sports league, while college basketball is technically an amateur competition.
  • Because of the last point, NBA players are paid, and college basketball players are not. However, some college basketball players may receive scholarships in return for playing.
  • The shot clock in the NBA is 24 seconds. In NCAA basketball, the clock is 30 seconds.
  • NBA players can play for as many years as they’d like. College basketball players have limited eligibility, which means they can only play a maximum of five years.

Most Recent NCAA Champions

  • 2019 – Virginia
  • 2018 – Villanova
  • 2017 – North Carolina
  • 2016 – Villanova
  • 2015 – Duke

March Madness and Bracket Building

March Madness BracketWhen it comes to betting on basketball, nothing is more exciting than March Madness. The tournament that decides the National Champion is crammed into about a month a half, which means games, games, and more games. The excitement level for a college basketball fan is unmatched by anything else on the planet.

The 68-team, single-elimination tournament starts in mid-March and runs through April every year. In addition to the ability to bet on every game, many people partake in what’s known as bracket building. Once all 68 teams are announced, fans try and predict the winner of every game all the way to the championship.

Fans then join bracket leagues where points are awarded for correct picks. Whoever gets the most points from the most correct picks, wins! Generally, the top 10% to 15% of winners are paid in a tournament-style payout (1st place getting the most, etc.).

If you’re looking to bet on individual games during the tournament, head on over to our complete March Madness betting guide.

And if you’re looking for the ultimate resource for filling out a winning bracket, you’ll definitely want to check out our March Madness bracket betting guide. It’s filled with tips, tricks, resources, and expert insight into building a winning bracket.

International Basketball Leagues

If you’re wondering where to bet on basketball, it doesn’t just stay in the US and North America. International basketball leagues have grown in popularity over the years, especially as fringe NBA players have moved overseas to work on their games in hopes of making it back to the NBA. Some of the most popular international basketball leagues are in parts of Europe, mainly Italy, Spain, and Germany.

Some of the more prominent leagues include:

  • EuroLeague
  • EuroCup
  • Liga ACB (Spain)
  • Basketball Super League (Turkey)
  • VTB United League (Russia)
  • Lega Basket Serie A (Italy)

How to Bet on Basketball

You’ve got two main options when it comes to betting real money on basketball—betting at a land-based sportsbook or online basketball betting. Here are the step-by-step instructions for placing a basketball bet with each option.

Land-Based Sportsbooks

  1. Find the closest sportsbook. In order to bet at a land-based sportsbook, you have to go there in person. Find the closest book that you want to wager at. Keep in mind that it may be at a casino and might not be a standalone operation.
  2. Complete your research. You’re not going to have your computer with you at the sportsbook, which means you need to do most of your research at home. You will be able to use your phone, but that might not be optimal, depending on how in-depth your research process is.
  3. Drive to the sportsbook. Once you’ve got your research and picks in mind, head to the sportsbook.
  4. Check the betting odds. A major drawback to betting at land-based sportsbooks is that you don’t know the odds until you get there. When you get there, look at what the odds are on the board. For more specific bets, you may need to ask an agent for updated basketball betting odds.
  5. Decide which bets you still want to make. As your bets are heavily dependent on the basketball odds offered (or at least they should be), you need to decide which bets you still want to make.
  6. Hop in line. The next step is to get in line and wait for an available betting agent.
  7. Check the odds again. Depending on how long the line is or who bets in front of you, the odds may change while you’re waiting. Double-check them again and decide the bets you want to make.
  8. Make your basketball bets. The last step is to make your bets! Do make sure to check your tickets before leaving the counter to make sure the agent didn’t make any mistakes. Sportsbooks are loud, and agents work long hours, which can make for the possibility of mistakes

Betting on Basketball Online

  1. Create an online sports betting account. The first step for how to bet money on basketball online is to create an online sports betting account. This should take about 10 minutes max and only needs to be done the first time you bet.
  2. Complete your research. Take the time to do your research and start to look into which basketball bets you want to make.
  3. Shop your basketball betting odds. One of the huge perks of real money betting on basketball online is the ability to shop your bets around. What this means is you can check the odds at multiple different sportsbooks to get the best lines and odds available. This isn’t an option at land-based sportsbooks unless you want to drive to another sportsbook.
  4. Place your bets. Once you’ve decided on your bets, there’s no hopping in line and hoping the odds don’t change. Select your bets, choose the amounts, and hit submit.

Basketball Betting Strategy Tips

While our guides linked above give you free access to online basketball betting strategy and thousands of basketball betting tips, there are a few quick tips we want to share now. If you’re in a hurry to get a bet in, make sure to check these tips out first and bookmark the more in-depth basketball betting guides for later.

Always Check Your Betting Slips for Accuracy

BasketballNo matter if you’re betting on basketball online or betting on basketball in person, you’ve got to check your betting slips immediately after you make your wager. What you’re looking for is that the bets are correct, the amounts are right, and there’s nothing that seems out of the ordinary.

Sportsbooks are loud, and sometimes we may misclick and make mistakes. There’s no worse feeling when betting on basketball at a sportsbook or online NBA betting than thinking you won a bet only to find out that your bet slip has a mistake on it. Take 30 seconds and check every time you make a wager.

Defense Is Just as Important as Offense

There’s a tendency among new basketball bettors to focus only on the offense. Sure, it’s the most fun part of the game, but it’s a tunnel-vision approach that can get you in trouble. When you’re making your basketball betting picks, make sure to pay equal attention to the defense. How are the different offenses and individual players going to match up defensively? Just because a player or a team has been hot on offense doesn’t mean that will continue against a defensive powerhouse.

Monitor Injury Reports Closely

We can’t tell you how many stories we’ve heard from bettors who thought they were cashing in on an incredible line, only to find out later that the reason the line was so juicy was because a star player was injured or sitting out. Make sure you stay on top of injury reports and rumors as much as possible. You won’t be able to catch all of them, especially if you bet early, but you can do your best.

Understand Basketball Betting Odds

We’ve covered this extensively in our guide on how to bet on NBA basketball, but it’s worth repeating until the cows come home. Not all basketball bets pay the same amount of money. While you probably get this, make sure you know that this goes even further. There are times when you should avoid making a bet you expect to win because the payout odds aren’t good enough. Additionally, there are times you should make a bet you think is going to lose because the betting odds are too good to pass up.

The secret to winning online NBA betting or betting on anything else is making wagers that have value. Value is a fancy word for the potential to get a better payout on something than you really should.

For Example:

Let’s say there’s an upcoming basketball game between the Florida Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs. Let’s say that you think the Bulldogs are going to lose, but you think it’s going to be a really close game. Well, what happens when the sportsbook thinks the Gators are going to win but that it’s going to be a blowout? Chances are that the payout odds on the Bulldogs to win are going to be really juicy.

This is an instance where you might make that bet to take advantage of the value. Sure, you still think the Gators are going to win. However, you think it’s going to be a very close game, which means one or two buckets the other way, and you win your bet. Because the sportsbook is paying out way too much for something that’s more likely than they think, this is a great value spot for real money basketball betting.

Know the Implications of the Game

It shouldn’t be surprising that some teams outperform expectations when a game is important. Additionally, teams that don’t have anything to play for might be more likely to “mail it in” and not give 100% effort. These teams with nothing to play for also might work to protect star players, as the risk isn’t worth the nonexistent reward.

As a basketball sports bettor, this is one of the most important basketball betting tips to know. Make sure you don’t put too many eggs behind a team that doesn’t care about winning.

Basketball Betting FAQ

Is Basketball Betting Online Legal?

In most areas of the world, betting on basketball is 100% legal. With that being said, the definitive answer to this question depends on where you live and if your local jurisdiction has any special laws surrounding the act of betting on basketball. For most areas, you should be completely good to go. But it is always smart to check on your local laws before proceeding.

How Does Basketball Betting Work?

Basketball sports betting is the practice of making a wager on what you think is going to happen in an upcoming game. If your prediction is correct, you get paid a certain amount of money for being right. Different sportsbooks offer different options for betting on games and different payouts based on the likelihood of the wager winning. All you have to do to get into the action is make a prediction, put your money down on that prediction and wait to see the outcome of the game. If you’re right, you win!

Can I Bet on Basketball Online for Real Money?

Absolutely! Thanks to the exponential growth of the online betting industry, you can bet on many different types of basketball online for real money. The best NBA basketball betting sites deliver the exact same experience you get at the sportsbook except with more options, more convenience, and a lot more flexibility.

What Are the Best Sites for Real Money Basketball Betting Online?

When it comes to betting on basketball online, you probably already noticed that you have hundreds of different options. The best betting sites with basketball odds are the ones that offer a safe and secure environment with the most flexibility and options for wagers. Additionally, when we’re racking and stacking our favorites, we look at things like mobile-friendliness, the user interface, bonuses, VIP rewards, reputation, and the overall track record of the company.

Should I Join Multiple Online Basketball Betting Sites?

If you’re serious about winning and turning a profit betting on basketball online, then you absolutely should join more than one NBA betting site. Each different basketball betting site may offer different lines and betting odds on the exact same wager. By joining multiple books, you can shop around to find the best odds and lines for the wagers you want to make.

Can I Bet on Basketball Games That Already Started?

Yes! Live basketball betting is the practice of wagering on a game after opening tip-off. Many of the top online basketball betting sites offer this fast-paced and exciting betting option. Generally, you’ll be able to bet on things like the point spread, totals, and sometimes what the next basket is going to be (free throws, three-pointers, etc.) Depending on which NBA betting sites you use, you may have these options between quarters, only at half time, or after every single play for truly live betting.