How Does Basketball Betting Work? – Quick Guide

How Does Basketball Betting Work Explained
Basketball Betting Explained

With online sports betting starting to become legal in more and more places, it is no surprise that people are starting to discover the wonders of basketball betting for the very first time. You may be one of them. You may not know how it all works, so we are here to help.

This is a quick beginner's guide to basketball betting. We can't possibly cover everything there is related to basketball betting (we would be here all day!), but we want to cover the main points. The parts that should help to get you off to a good start with your betting adventures. 

How Does Betting on Basketball Work – Main Bet Types

There are a lot of different types of bets that you can make on basketball. We are going to focus on the main types here. These are the ones best suited for beginners. Once you become a bit more advanced in your gambling, you can move on to other ways to put together your bets.


This is the simplest basketball bet. Simply put, you choose who you believe will win the game. Most new gamblers will get started with this. This is because moneylines are easy to predict. 

Point Spreads

Once you have nailed yourself a few wins, you will want to move to point spreads. They are tougher to win but offer bigger rewards.

In the next section, we are going to go through how point spreads work in a bit more depth. However, you will, essentially, be betting on the point/goal gap between two players.


Most bets that you place will be focused on an individual game. The exception will be a futures bet. This is when you bet on something that could happen over the course of a season or tournament. In most cases, this may be betting on the winning team. However, any bet which involves progress over multiple games can be a futures bet. So, for example, the top point scorer over the course of an NBA season would be a futures bet. 

Prop Bets

A prop bet (sometimes known as a side bet) is a bet type that relates to anything that does not involve the winner/loser of the game. So, anything that can happen in the game. For example, you may bet on the first team or player to score, or the player that scores the most points. You may even bet on the number of 3-pointers that are scored.


Parlays are not a specific bet. Instead, they are combined bets.

Most of the time, when you are new to betting on basketball, any bet that you place will be a single bet. You either win or lose that bet.

A parlay combines multiple single bets into one whole bet. So, you may have multiple lines.

In order to win a parlay, you have to win all of the lines on your bet. If just one loses, you get nothing. These bets are high risk and high reward.

There are other that are similar to parlays e.g. if bets, but these are a bit more complicated and certainly not for beginners. 

How Does a Spread Bet Work In Basketball?  

Perhaps the most confusing bets for newbies to understand will be the point spread but, don't worry, it is actually pretty simple.

As you know, there will almost always be a clear favorite when it comes to basketball games. This means that the moneyline (remember, you bet on the winner!) may not always be a great bet to place. It would carry little risk, but the rewards would be lower. This is where the point spread comes in.

The point spread aims to even out the playing field. This means that the favorite will have a point handicap.

Let's say that there is a 4-point spread.

This means that (for the purposes of the bet), the favorite starts 4 points behind the underdog. In order for the favorite to be a winner for the purposes of the bet, they not only have to win the game, but they have to win it by 4 points.

For the underdog to be a winner for the bet, they do not have to win the game. They can, but as long as they prevent the favorite team from beating them by more than 4 points, they are a winner for the purposes of the bet.

Don't worry if this sounds tricky. We promise you that, in practice, it isn't. A sportsbook will always try to make the process of gambling as easy as possible for you. After all, it is in their best interests that you don't get confused about what is going on!

How Does Betting Work in Basketball – Understanding Betting Odds

The last thing that you really need to understand is how betting odds work. There are three betting odds systems that you will find at an online sportsbook:

We are going to focus on the American odds system here. This is because we are assuming that you are American, and thus it will be the system that you see the most often. 

Understanding the system is simple:

In both cases, you would get back your initial stake. Here are some examples.

Basketball Betting – Placing Your First Bet

Placing your bet shouldn't be too difficult. You will need to find an online sportsbook to sign up for, but we have provided plenty of information on the best places to gamble on this site.

Once you are registered, browse the game that you want to bet on (don't forget to do your research), find the bet, and enter your stake. After that, just cross your fingers and hope it is a winner.

The Pros ; Cons of Basketball Betting




We hope this beginner's guide to basketball betting will help you get off on the right foot. Remember, this is just scratching the surface of available basketball bets. Once you know what you are doing, you have an entire gambling world to explore. This means more ways to win some cash.