How To Bet On Spread Basketball


How to read NBA Odds—Lines, Spread and Totals

  1. How To Bet On Spread Basketball Scores
  2. How To Bet On Spread Basketball Predictions
  3. How To Bet On Spread Basketball Games
  4. How To Bet On Football Games

The most common betting line for a point spread is -110. A -110 line on either side is like paying a tax or commission to the sportsbook. Bettors would pay 10 percent (aka juice) to the sportsbook, which is essentially a fee for brokering the wager. So, the -110 indicates that a bettor must risk $110 to win $100.

If you check out the free NBA odds comparison page or at a specific sports book and have any questions about what you are looking at then this is the perfect article for you. In this article, we’ll explain each part of an odds listing for professional basketball. Once you know what each number relates to in NBA odds and how the lines are set up, you’ll find that you’ll be able to understand the odds on each and every game that’s posted.

We’ll cover the rotation number, point spread, moneyline and over/under. Be aware that these elements go by other names. The rotation number may be called the rotation mark or number, the point spread is the spread or is often referred to as the line. In fact, sometimes odds themselves are generally called the line. When it comes to the over/under a common term you’ll find is the total.

  1. For your parlay to hit, or win, ALL of the bets must cover. You can combine spread, totals, and moneyline bets to increase the payout of a parlay. A teaser bet is essentially the same as a parlay wager only the booksmaker gives you points to increase your odds of winning, but decrease your overall payout.
  2. A point spread push occurs when the victory margin falls directly on the number of the spread. For example, let’s say Team A is given +10 points in a basketball game for a point spread. If the team then loses by exactly 10 points the bet would be a push. In the case of a push bet, your wager will be returned but not paid out.
  3. Handicap or spread betting In this market, the favourite is allocated a number of points with a minus (-) sign. For example, if the Boston Celtics are showing -10.5, the team will have to win by more than this figure for you to win the bet.
  4. When you make a bet like this, you are choosing a team to cover the spread. You’ll often see ATS in association with this kind of bet. This means “against the spread.” Spreads for an NBA game will typically be more than 5 points since basketball is such a high-scoring sport.

Whatever sportsbook you go to all NBA odds are listed in a fairly similar manner. However there will be minor variations in how teams are posted. Many books will give you the odds on a game with one team on top of another, while others may list one team on the left and the other on the right. Whatever the case may be the first team listed is always the visitor and the second is the home club.

The first thing you’ll see will be the date and time of the game. This is on the far left of the odds listing. Just to the right are the names of the teams that are playing. In between the date and time and the team names is the don best rotation number.


The numbers run sequentially. If the Boston Celtics are playing the Miami Heat in Miami, and the Celtics, who are listed first as the visitor, are number 101, then the Heat will be 102. In the next game that’s listed on the odds sheet, the teams will be 103 and 104 respectively. The sequence of games continues for that day with each team in a game being given a rotation number.

Date/TimeRotation NumberTeamPoint SpreadMoneyLineTotal
Jun 12th101Boston Celtics+2.5+120186.5
7:00102Miami Heat-2.5-140186.5

These numbers are universal. That means that every sportsbook will list the Celtics and Heat with the same rotation numbers. This makes it easy to identify what team a bettor is going to wager on, especially when placing your bet at a land-based book or over the phone. It serves as a type of shorthand for bettors and bookies alike as you refer to the number and not the team name when making your wager.

Thus, the first parts of the line read from left to right in the following manner—date and time of game, rotation numbers and the teams. These establish the game on which you are going to bet. Everything to the right of the team names is related to the actual odds on the game. To the right of the game, in this order, you’ll find the point spread, moneyline and over/under.

The point spread is designed to, in essence, make it tougher for bettors to make the right choice on a game and to even out the odds. In a big mismatch between a top team and bottom team chances are 4 of 5 times most of us can pick the outright winner. With the spread, a team either has to win by a certain number of points to payoff or it can lose by a certain number of points and still pay the bettor.

Spreads work in the following manner—the favorite team is listed with a negative number and the underdog has a positive number. The Boston and Miami matchup may be listed with the Celtics at +2.5 and the Heat at -2.5. Simply put Boston is a small dog and Miami is a small favorite. If you wager on Boston, you’ll make money if they win outright or lose by two or less. Bet on Miami and you’ll make cash if they win by three points or more.

More times than not a spread will be listed as a fraction or decimal. This is to prevent a tie in the spread, which would result in a push where all bets are off and all money is returned to the bettors. In our example if the spread has Miami at -2.0 and the final score was Miami 102 and Boston 100, the result would be a push.

The stake, the amount of cash you have to bet when the spread is in effect, is usually the same for both clubs and looks like this: -110. This tells you how much you have to bet to win $100. With the spread, you usually have to wager $110 to win $100. This can be translated into other wagers. If you bet $11, you’d win $10 or $220 to win $200.

Although many people contend the spread bet pays even money, it does not. If it did, your $110 wager would payout an equal amount, but instead if pays $10 less (10%). That means a spread bet is not an even odds wager, which would be shown as 1:1. It has less than even odds and is actually 0.90:1.00. Where does that 10% go? It is taken by the sportsbook in the form of a commission, which is known as vigorish or vig.

To the right of the spread you may see the moneyline (some sites list moneylines separately from the point spread). With the line, the team that wins the game outright pays off. Instead of using a spread, the bookmaker charges more to bet on the favorite and pays out less and less to wager on the dog while paying out more.

How To Bet On Spread Basketball Scores

Using the Boston and Miami game, the moneyline would have the underdog Celtics at +120 and the Heat at -140. This line directly corresponds to the 2.5 point spread. With the moneyline, if a team is listed on the plus side that tells you how much you will win on a $100 wager. When a club is posted in the negative that tells you how much you have to bet to win $100. With Boston at +120, you would bet $100 to win $120 and with Miami at -140, you must wager $140 to win $100.

The moneyline and point spread have a direct correlation to one another. Below a chart lists the point spread and moneyline equivalents from 2.0 up to 10.5.

Point Spread Moneyline

Point SpreadMoney Line

The final number you’ll see in a NBA odds listing is the over/under or total for that game. Again, to prevent a push, this number will usually be expressed as a fraction or decimal and not as a whole number. The over/under is a projection of the total number of points that will be scored in the game by both teams. The sports bettor is wagering on the point total for that game as either being over or under the number on the odds listing.

In the Celtics/Heat game, the total could be listed around 186.5. If the total is 187 or better, then the over wins, if it is 186 or lower, that mean the under is the winner. Bookmakers create the number based on various criteria related to recent matchups between the teams, the points for and points against each team has averaged and other factors. Like the spread, this is a number that is not merely made up; it’s based on past performance and projected outcomes.

When you look at odds, the date and time, the rotation number and the team names establish the game on which you’re going to bet and the point spread, moneyline and over/under are the three basic bets related to that game. These are the basics of any NBA odds listing that you need to know and understand before you place a wager.

How to Bet On Sports > How to Bet on the NBA

“You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.” – Michael Jordan


For over a decade Sports Insights has been a leader in the sports information industry and our “How To” articles are designed to help our members to grasp the fundamentals of sports investing. This article will focus on the ins and outs of wagering on the NBA. The seemingly eternal NBA season starts in late October and the Finals occur in early July. The long season provides many opportunities to build your bankroll, but before you can become a sports investor, you must learn how to bet on the NBA. This article discusses the different wager types the NBA has to offer, including: Spread, Moneyline, Parlay/Teaser, 1st Quarter/1st Half, Halftime, and Futures.


Any fan of the NBA will tell you that games can become high scoring affairs as teams are only given 24 seconds on every possession to score. Due to these high scores, bookmakers use a spread, or line, to equalize the chances of either team winning a wager. It is not uncommon to see 15+ point spreads, something that is rarity in the NFL. The example below from the SI Archive should help clear things up:

TeamOpening LineFinal Score
Celtics-2 -11096
Knicks+2 -11086

The example above demonstrates the opening line for a regular season match-up between the Celtics and Knicks. The -2 indicates that the Celtics are the favorite, despite the Knicks playing at home. The ‘-110’ next to the line is what’s known as the vig, or juice, which is simply a fee the sportsbooks charge to use their service. A bet of $110 on Boston would improve your bankroll $100 as the team covered easily by 8 points. A ‘+’ symbol always indicates an underdog, whereas a ‘-‘ always indicates a favorite. A two-year study on NBA point spreads concluded that games fall within .5 points of the spread 5.5% of the time, which is why shopping for the best line is crucial to the smart sports investor.


The Moneyline is a type of wager that provides different odds based simply on who will win. The Moneyline (ML) odds can be drastic when the powerhouses of the NBA face-off against the lower level teams who are struggling to stay above .500. The example below demonstrates a typical Moneyline wager in the NBA:

TeamMoneyline Odds

The example above shows drastic moneyline odds, indicating that the Spurs are the big favorites in this contest. In fact, one would have to lay $850 on the Spurs to collect a mere $100 in profit. On the other hand, a wager of $100 on the Warriors would earn the bettor $600 in winnings. The Moneyline and point spread are not necessarily released simultaneously.

The Spread and Moneyline are contributing factors for Sports Insights’ Steam Moves and Smart Money plays, both available in our Sportsbook Insider Pro plan.


A total wager is one placed on the COMBINED score of each team. This number is determined by the bookmakers and the bettor places a wager on the over or under (O/U). The NBA is the highest scoring sport of all the major U.S. sports, so it is not uncommon to see totals in the +220’s. The example below should help makes things clearer:

TeamO/UFinal Score
Heat197.5o -105100
Pistons197.5u -11594

Gamble spades online. The final total for this contest was 194 points, falling just 3.5 points short of the bookmakers’ predicted total. Due to the increased juice, a wager of $115 on the under would earn $100 profit. Totals lines can fluctuate from their time of release, so make sure you consult’s Betting Trends Data before placing a wager.

Quarter/1st Half Lines

A 48-minute NBA game is broken down into four 12-minute quarters, and bettors are able to place bets on the 1st quarter and 1st half lines before these contests begin. These bets can be best thought of as the game within the game. The 1st quarter line (generally ¼ of the entire game’s spread) lets you dictate who you think will be covering the spread at the end of one quarter of play. The 1st half lines are essentially the same, only they extend through the 1st half of play. Like other sports, some teams are known to jump out of the gate quickly and build an early lead, while others are “4th quarter teams” who like to play from behind. These situations are some of the inspirations for 1st quarter and half lines. (you can keep or delete this above sentence, I couldn’t decide)

Halftime Lines

For most people, the dawning of halftime means it’s time to change the channel, but for the avid sports investor, halftimes can become a thing of profit. Halftime lines are available DURING halftime only. The halftime lines take into consideration what transpired in the 1st half to create an entirely new spread for the remainder of the game. Think of the 2nd half as a completely new game with a new spread to accompany the remainder of the contest. The example below should shed light on this concept:

TeamHalftime ScoreHalftime LineFinal Score
Bulls58-4 -110102
Pistons53+4 -11090

If you were to think of the start of the 3rd quarter as 0 to 0, the final score would be 44 to 37, meaning the Bulls would have covered the halftime spread by 3 points. Halftime wagers are not nearly as popular as bets placed before the game, but a winning wager still creates the same profit.


Like any major American sport, you can parlay, essentially combine, your bets to increase the payout. For your parlay to hit, or win, ALL of the bets must cover. You can combine spread, totals, and moneyline bets to increase the payout of a parlay. A teaser bet is essentially the same as a parlay wager only the booksmaker gives you points to increase your odds of winning, but decrease your overall payout. For example, if you are wagering on a 4-point teaser and the Boston Celtics spread is -10, it would become -6. This 4-point advantage is included on each part of the teaser wager. The chart below shows payout structure for a typical spread parlay:

How To Bet On Spread Basketball Predictions

# of TeamsPayoff

How To Bet On Spread Basketball Games


How To Bet On Football Games

Futures bets are proposition bets placed on which team will win what conference or the NBA championship. Futures are not only limited to teams. For example, you can place bets on who you think will the league’s MVP. There are even bets available at the beginning of the season as to the over/under win totals for a specific team. As the season progresses, the odds fluctuate, and once a team has officially been placed out of the running, they take down the odds for them to win in all. It is not uncommon to see teams fall from this list before the end of March. Despite the fact that only 8 different teams have won the NBA championship in the last 30 years, many bettors like to wager on a dark horse team due to the better odds these teams receive. A bettor may choose to place wagers on several teams to win the big game in order to increase the chance of a decent payout.

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