Basketball Betting Guide


Since its development in the late 1800s by a Canadian-American physical education instructor in Springfield, Massachusetts, the game of basketball has come a long way. Originally utilising a peach basket – from which the ball would have to be manually retrieved each time a team scored – and a soccer ball, the modern game is a fast, frenetic but highly skilful game enjoyed by millions around the world.

The pinnacle of the professional game is undoubtedly the National Basketball Association (NBA) which contains 30 franchised teams, the vast majority from the United States (29) along with a token Canadian side. But as well as the undoubted popularity of the sport in North America, it is also widely played and supported in many countries on all continents, with professional leagues existing in countries as diverse as Brazil, Iran, Japan, and New Zealand, along with most European countries.

The upshot of all this basketball from a betting perspective is that there is almost always a match, league or tournament on which to bet, and with some bookies now offering live streaming of many in many of the international leagues, you can get to watch some of the action too!

How To Bet On Basketball

As basketball has grown in popularity throughout the world, so the number of bets available has increased. There are numerous markets available on individual basketball matches or on tournaments and leagues, and here we present some of the more common among them.

  • To win – As easy as they come, simply backing the team you think will win a particular match. With ties not an option (if the sides are level extra periods are added until one side wins) this really is the most straightforward – and popular – of basketball bets. Also known as the money line.
  • Point spread – Also known as a “handicap”, this is a market in which the bookmaker tries to equalise the chances of either side by awarding a points handicap to the favourite. As such you could back the underdog with, for instance, a 7.5 point head start, or you could take the favourites with a 7.5 disadvantage, with both being priced just short of evens. The handicap amount will vary depending on how strongly favoured a particular team is.
  • Total points – Simply backing whether you think the match will produce over or under the specified points total (which is usually given as a half-point value).
  • Quarter betting – This involves picking the team you think will be leading at the end of a particular quarter, which could be used if you know a side starts well but fades later, for instance.
  • Tournament outrights – Backing the winner of a particular tournament – for example the NBA Championship – is a popular, and self-explanatory, bet. There are often a number of other tournament outright bets available, such as who will be the NBA’s Most Valuable Player (MVP).

Basketball Betting Rules

There are a few betting rules that are worth knowing about before you start piling into the next available basketball match. While things like match abandonments are rare indeed, your bets will still stand as long as a certain proportion of the match has been completed (often 43 minutes for NBA, but check with individual bookmakers).

If handicaps are given as whole point values (as opposed to the half-point values mentioned above) and the score lands on that exact number, the bet will be voided and your stake refunded. Generally speaking, overtime counts for all market unless otherwise specified, or where it is obviously not applicable – for instance individual quarter betting.

Basketball Betting Strategy

Basketball is the kind of end-to-end sport that means there will always be highscoring matches. But given the nature of the sport, it is not as common as one might expect for teams to win by massive points margins, even when they are strong favourites. As such, getting involved with the underdog in the handicap markets is often a fruitful option when betting on basketball, as long as you’ve done your homework.

Assessing when teams are likely to hit form, maintain form or pull a surprise against a team perceived as better is easier said than done, and watching as much of the sport as possible is clearly the first place to start. Also reading the news, checking the player stats and looking at past trends will also pay dividends if you allow your mind – rather than your gut – to rule your basketball bets. The nip and tuck nature of many matches means you can often get good value from quarter betting. For instance if you see a team who tends to put in a fantastic third quarter is facing a better-fancied side who tend to have a third quarter lull (which is easy to spot in the stats), you could be onto a winner.

Of course, learning about the less prestigious leagues is also a good way to get the edge on the bookmakers. While the big bookies are likely to have the time and inclination to study the stats for the NBA and major European leagues and set their odds accordingly, they may not be so hot on the league matches of South Korea or Argentina. Though, bookies being bookies, many will still offer odds, which could give you the chance to seek out some value. So get on those Korean basketball forums, befriend some English-speaking local experts and do your worst!

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