How to Bet on Basketball
What You Need to Know
- Basketball is more than just the American NBA. The EuroLeague and domestic leagues across Europe offer plenty of great opportunities for sports betting.
- Going online is the best way of betting on basketball. Here you will find the widest range of betting markets. For this guide we've used Bet365.com for examples. They offer up to £200 in bonus money if you open an account with them, they can be found on our list of top UK Betting Sites.
- Money Line bets are the easiest type of bet to make. Here you just bet on the overall match winner. Though they are easy to make, the odds are often quite unattractive.
- Point Spread bets are also very popular. Here he favourites are given a handicap and the underdogs an advantage and the odds adjusted to reflect this.
- Other popular types of bets in basketball include Winning Margins and Prop Bets such as who will score the first points in a match.
- It's worth remembering that many big clubs prioritise the EuroLeague. This means they may field weaker teams in their domestic leagues, offering you the chance to make a bit of money.
- Before you place your first online bet make sure you understand the Rules of Basketball and how to play.
- Be aware that betting on any type of sport can become addictive, so make sure you are in control of your gambling.
Betting on Basketball
Basketball is no longer just about the big-money American NBA. European basketball is now thriving, offering a wide range of great opportunities for both the novice and the experienced sports gambler. As well as individual domestic leagues and regional competitions such as the Balkans League, there is also the EuroLeague. This features Europe's best teams and best players and also the most opportunities for a flutter.
However, before you put any money down on a basketball match, you should do your homework and learn how betting on this sport works. While some types of bet may be familiar, others may not, so a little background reading about how odds work and about the most popular types of basketball bet is essential.
Where to Bet
While your local high street betting shop may be willing to offer you odds on a big NBA match, for European basketball betting markets, you should go online. Most major online bookmakers will offer a wide variety of odds on the EuroLeague, as well as on the main domestic leagues across Europe, including the Spanish, German, Italian and Balkan competitions.
Check out our latest guide to the best Sports Betting Sites and get some introductory bonus funds so you can start betting on basketball today.
Understanding the Odds
Arguably the number one thing you need to know about before you make a bet is how odds work. The odds (also known as the price) indicate how the bookmakers think an event will happen. The odds also determine how much you will win if your prediction is correct. On most UK sports betting sites the odds will be expressed as fractions. Or they could be expressed as decimal points or even in the American style. In all cases, however, you should be able to change the settings to suit you.
Here's what each of these mean:
1) Fractional Odds
On UK-based sports betting sites, the default setting for displaying the odds will be as fractions. Odds displayed this way show you how much you will win on a bet compared to how much you put on. The first number of the fraction indicates how much you will win if you place the amount of money shown in the second number of the fraction.
So, if the odds for Team A winning a particular match are 2/1, this means if you bet £1, you will receive £2 in winnings (and you will get your original stake back on top of this). This works on a ratio basis. So, if you are extra confident and place £7 at odds of 2/1, you will receive £14 in winnings. Or, if you place £10 at odds of 2/1, your winnings will be £10, plus your initial stake.
2) Decimal Odds
Since the majority of sports fans are used to seeing odds displayed as fractions, getting your head around decimal odds may seem daunting. But, don't worry! This system is equally straightforward once you've got the hang of it.
The way it works is that you just need to multiply your stake by the decimal shown and this is how much you will receive in winnings, including your returned stake.
So, if you put £1 down on odds of 3.00, you will win £3.00, including your initial stake, if your prediction comes true. And again, this works on a ratio basis. So, if you put down £15 at the same odds of 3.00, you will win £45, including your original stake.
A Further Note About Odds
Some online bookmakers will also display odds in the 'American' style. While some US sports betting fans prefer this system, to avoid any unnecessary confusion, you should switch the odds to either the fractional or decimal system.
If you're still confused about the odds on offer, then click on the bet you want to make and type in the amount you want to bet. With most online bookmakers, you will then be shown how much your stake will return and, using this information, you can decide whether or not you want to go ahead with the bet
Popular Types of Bet
1) Money Line
The simplest and most common type of bet to make on a basketball match is a Money Line bet. If you've only ever bet on sports such as football and rugby before, this term can seem confusing. So, what is a Money Line bet?
Quite simply, it's a straightforward bet on which team is going to win a particular match. That is, if you back the right team, it doesn't matter if they win by a single point or by 50.
For this type of bet, you will always see each team given a number, with this number indicating whether the bookies consider them to be the favourite or the underdog. The Money Line may be given in fractional odds, it could be given decimal odds or it could be given as a number relative to 100. However, if you are using a UK-based sports betting site, you will almost certainly be given the Money Line in fractional odds.
Let's look at the example of a EuroLeague match between Barcelona and Real Madrid, two of Europe's biggest basketball teams. Below is the Money Line market offered before the match. As you can see, Real Madrid are the odd-on favourite, with Barcelona the underdog. With these odds, all you need to do is back one of the teams at the odds given and then it doesn't matter how many points they win by, so long as the win, your bet is a winner, too.
2) Point Spread
In lots of basketball games, including the NBA, EuroLeague and especially in European domestic leagues, there will be a clear favourite and a clear underdog. This can mean that, if you just stick to predicting an outright winner through Money Line bets, you will only be able to get unattractive odds, keeping your potential winnings down.
Point Spread betting can help make a game more interesting while also allowing you to increase the size of your possible winnings. This works by giving the underdogs a head-start and the favourites a handicap to make the contest more even. You then need to bet on whether the favourites will win the game even with the handicap or if the underdogs will come out on top when their head-start is taken into account.
Let's go back to the example of the Barcelona and Real Madrid match. As the Money Line odds showed, the bookmakers made Real Madrid the favourites. To reflect this, the bookies have chosen to offer a Point Spread where Real Madrid have a handicap.
As you can see below, they will start the match at -3.5, with the odds offered for them overcoming this 9/10. So, if you put £10 on Real Madrid to win the Point Spread, so long as they win by more than 4 points, you will win £19, including your initial stake. If, however, they win by 3 points or fewer, then you will lose your bet, even though Real Madrid have won the match outright.
Similarly, here Barcelona have been given a head-start of +3.5. This means that if you put £10 on a Point Spread bet, Barcelona need to either win or lose by fewer than 4 points to win. If they lose the match by just 3 points, the handicap will make them the virtual winners, meaning you will win at the odds offered.
Most bookmakers will offer a range of Point Spread betting options. For instance, you could bet that Real Madrid win by more than 10 points, or even 20, with the odds offered varying according to how likely the bookmaker feels such a result is.
3) Game Totals
If you're already familiar with sports betting – and even if you're not – Game Totals bets will be very for you to understand. All you need to do is bet on whether the total number of points scored by both sides goes under or over a fixed number. This is what's known as a simple over/under bet.
The bookmaker will offer a wide range of possible points totals, with odds given for the end number being above or below these, and then it's just up to you to predict how free-scoring or how defensive a game will be.
Here are just some of the Game Total options offered before the match between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Here, for example, if you think the match will be a high scoring one and put £10 on both sides scoring more than 160.5 points between them, you will walk away with £32.30, including your initial stake, should there be 161 points or more scored in the game.
4) Winning Margin
One other popular bet is to put money on how many points a team will win by. The odds offered here will always reflect how evenly-matched the bookmaker thinks the two teams are. For instance, if there is a clear favourite, you will get good odds for them scraping to victory by just a few points and lower odds for ending with a larger winning margin.
Let's look at the odds given for the possible Winning Margins ahead of the Barcelona and Real Madrid match. Here you can see the bookmakers thing it is a long shot that either side will win by just 1 or 2 points, but if your research suggests that the game could go to the wire, this could be a good bet to make.
5) Prop Bets
Also known as novelty or even 'exotic' bets, Props give you the chance to put money on a number on a huge range of things either happening or not happening in a single basketball match, not all of which will directly affect the end result of the game. This means you can still make money from a game even if you don't predict who will be the overall winner.
Most bookmakers, especially online sports betting sites, will offer a wide range of Prop Bets. Often the odds will be clearly displayed, but sometimes you will need to contact the bookmaker directly and ask them to give you odds on an event happening.
Some of the most popular Prop Bets placed on basketball include:
- Player points: Simply pick a player and put money on them scoring above or below a set number of points. If you're correct, you will win at the odds you were offered at the start. Note that players will usually have to start the match, otherwise bets are declared void.
- First team to score: This is something of a 50/50 gamble, even where the two teams are mismatched. Once you start betting on the first team to score 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 points, the odds will start to vary according to which team is the favourite and which is the underdog.
- Half-time leaders: This type of Prop Bet works in exactly the same way as a straightforward Money Line bet: simply put money on one team being ahead at half-time. It doesn't matter how many points they are leading by or even if they go on to lose the whole game, so long as they are ahead at the half, you will be a winner.
- Number of 3-pointers: Another one that's a bit of a gamble as it's very difficult to predict with any degree of accuracy, here you just need to bet on how many 3-point shots will be scored over the course of a game. Some teams specialise in scoring from distance, while others prefer to get closer to the basket, so it's always a good idea to do a little research before making this type of bet.
6) Accumulators (or Parlays)
Again, the odds offered by bookmakers for basketball may not always be the most attractive, especially for Money Line bets where there is a clear favourite. One good way of lengthening the odds and so boosting your potential winnings is to bet on an Accumulator. These are also known as Parlays in the United States, so you may see this term used for basketball bets.
There really is no limit to the number of individual bets you can add to an accumulator. You could, for instance bet on the outcome of several matches, even if they are in different competitions. Or you could bet on one team to win but a player on the other team to score the most points. As with all sports, the more individual bets you add to your accumulator, the longer the odds and bigger the possible payout will be, but the risk of losing will also get bigger.
7) Futures Markets
A Futures bet is one that is made before the end of a regular season or before the end of the playoffs. Here, you will have to bet on a team winning their domestic championships or even the EuroLeague. The more likely the chance of a team winning a competition, the lower the odds and the lower the payout will be if you back the winner. Conversely, if you back an outsider and they go on and win, you will get a bigger payout.
As well as betting on the overall winners of the EuroLeague or a domestic competition, you could also put a bet on who will end up winning the European Basketball Player of the Year Award or whether a player will score above a certain number of points over the course of a season.
Hints and Tips for Betting on Basketball
Like with all sports, there's no such thing as a 'sure thing' in basketball. So, while there may be strong favourites for certain matches and even in whole competitions, betting is not without its risks. That said, however, there are a few things you should bear in mind if you want to increase the chances of your winning money off the bookmaker. These include:
- Becoming familiar with the different European leagues: Some are fast-paced like the NBA, with lots of points being scored. Other leagues are generally slower, with teams being more tactical and defensive. Know which type of competition you're betting on before you put any money down.
- Making savvy domestic league bets: Some of the biggest teams rest their best players for the EuroLeague. This can mean that they struggle against smaller teams in their domestic leagues. If you have done your homework, this could be a good place to spot attractive odds and make a nice return.
- Learning more about the big stars: Basketball may be a team game, but lots of teams are dependent on a handful of players. Given this, you need to know whether the best players are on form, or if they are injured, before you make a bet on a match. Conversely, it may be the case that a team isn't so dependent on their star player, so the bookies may overreact if they are absent through injury.
- Avoiding unattractive Money Line bets: Again, the odds offered for straight-up Money Line bets are hardly ever attractive. All too often you need to risk a lot to win a little. Given this, Money Line bets are often best avoided. Go for a Point Spread bet to boost the size of your possible winnings or try another market.
Just as with other types of sports gambling, betting on basketball can become addictive. Given this, you should always be sure you are betting responsibly and within your means. Never gamble with money you can't afford to lose and be wary of placing a bet in the heat of the moment or under the influence of alcohol.
Further Sports Betting Reading
If you're keen to get into the exciting world of sports betting, then we have a range of guides, including YouTube video tutorials aimed at helping you get off to a winning start. Some of these include:
A guide to Betting on Cricket, one of the most popular sports on the planet right now.
A guide on How to bet on F1 and make some real money from the glamorous sport.
A guide on how to join millions of other punters and Make a Bet on a Horse.
Further Basketball Betting Reading
To keep up to speed with the latest European basketball news, check out the Eurobasket website: http://www.eurobasket.com/.
For news from the NBA, visit the official website: http://www.nba.com/news/.