How to read and use NBA odds

How to read and use NBA odds

While earning money on NBA bets is very tough, knowing how the odds work is relatively simple, once you know what you’re looking at. That’s why spending a little time with the principles can quickly get you up to speed. You just need to be familiar with a few basic number formats, and very little math is required. Once you have figured out how to read the numbers, sites like can help you find the best betting bonuses and promo codes to get started betting on the NBA.

The point-spread

The point-spread, which defines all traditional NBA wagering, is a smart place to start. In a game, a point-spread is a figure that is assigned to both sides. One team is said to be favored by that many points, the other is described as the underdog by the same number. Consider the following scenario:

New York Knicks -5 vs Cleveland Cavaliers +5

You can see that Cleveland is facing New York, with the Knicks favored by -5 points. To put it another way, the Knicks are 5-point favorites over the Cavaliers while the Cavaliers are 5-point underdogs.

If you bet on the Knicks at -5, they must win by at least 6 points for the wager to be successful. A successful bet on Cleveland at +5 would result in them either winning the game outright or losing by a margin of less than 5. If New York wins by precisely 5 points, the bet is what is known as a ‘push’ and all bettors will get their money back.

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In a point-spread situation, both sides of a bet are paid equally. However, not all teams competing against each other are equal in terms of quality. The point-spread is used to cover the gap. You might think of it as either adding or subtracting points from the final score.

Let’s assume the Los Angeles Lakers are -6 versus the Dallas Mavericks, who are +6, and the final result is 93-90 for the Lakers. If you took the Lakers at -6, you would remove 6 from their total, giving the Mavericks a score of 90 and the Lakers a score of 87, resulting in a defeat. If you choose Dallas you would add 6 to their total, giving them a 96-93 victory.

The money line

The money line is a way of describing probabilities that is frequently used in sports betting, particularly NBA gambling. Money line betting involves simply wagering on the winner of a game without considering the margins. With no point spread, a different concept is used to account for the disparities in team quality and that’s where the odds come in.

Here is an example:

Orlando Magic +400 vs Miami Heat -600

Miami is a 6-to-1 favorite is another way of looking at it. If you see -600 or minus-any-number, it is the amount you must wager to win $100. You must stake $600 to win $100 on Miami. If you wager $100 on Orlando at +400, you will win $400. Everything is arranged around the mythical $100 stake when working with money lines to make it a round amount that is simple to work with.

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It’s important to remember that the money line is also employed in point-spread wagers. When we bet against the spread, we don’t win $100 for every $100 we wager. On such wagers, the standard money line is -110, which means we must wager $110 for every $100 we want to win.

When we hunt for a better wagering line, such as a -105 line, we can generally locate one where we just have to spend $105 for every $100 we expect to win. The key is that the money line is an important aspect of betting that must be understood almost intuitively if you are going to bet on the NBA effectively.


A figure described as a ‘total’ will appear next to each NBA basketball game listed by a sportsbook. That figure represents the bookie’s expected total game score. If you believe the total aggregate score of both teams will not match or exceed that figure, you can gamble on the Under option or if you think it will be higher, you can go with the Over bet. Here’s an illustration:

San Antonio Spurs vs Utah Jazz: Total 191.

In this game, the total figure is 191. If the game, for example, finishes 100-91, then everyone will be repaid since the aggregate score is neither under nor over the total forecast.  The most popular betting line is -110, which means you must spend $110 for every $100 you expect to win.


Yes, this information may seem to be a bit puzzling and unfamiliar at first, but it’s nothing to be afraid of. With a little practice, those who’ve been betting for a few weeks will have the same level of understanding of NBA basketball odds as those who have been betting for years.

Ayhan Fletcher

"Subtly charming zombie nerd. Infuriatingly humble thinker. Twitter enthusiast. Hardcore web junkie."

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