At Ballislife, it’s no secret that we love the NBA. With the rise of sports betting, we can combine our love for the sport and put our knowledge to the test to see how we do with wagering.
One of the most popular ways to wager on the NBA is betting against the spread. Below, we’ll cover everything you need about this betting market.
With over 80 games to be played for every NBA team, there are multiple chances to wager on them. One of the most well-known ways is NBA spread betting, where you’ll pick who you think will win and account for the point spread. If you’re unfamiliar with the point spread, don’t worry—we’ll cover that in more detail below.
Throughout this NBA betting spread guide, we’ll explain what spread betting is, the diffrence between point spreads and betting against the spread how it works, how to read the spread/odds, look at a key term associated with NBA betting spreads, how to get started, and more. Consider this your all-in-one resource for all things NBA and betting against the spread. Let’s dive in.
When it comes to NBA betting, the three most common ways sports bettors do so are with the moneyline, totals, and the point spread. The moneyline and point spread are somewhat similar in that you’ll pick who you think wins the game, but the similarities pretty much end there.
As you know from watching the NBA, some teams are flat-out better than others. That’s where the point spread comes in. The point spread is a number that online sportsbooks come up with that accounts for each team’s strengths and weaknesses and is used to make the game as equal as possible.
When you’re browsing the various NBA betting spread options, you’ll see a number that’s designated for that game as the point spread, and you’ll need to factor that into your analysis to determine if a team can “cover” or not—more on that shortly. So, with spread betting, you’re not only picking who you think will win the game, but you’re assessing how much a team will win or lose, which will directly impact what direction you wager in.
As mentioned, the point spread is a number that online sportsbooks come up with, and it could be different from platform to platform.
This number is generated by considering multiple factors like each team’s performance throughout the season, the home and away team, and whether there are notable injuries. Sportsbooks will adjust their odds and point spread values based on players' betting. For example, suppose 80% of cash wagered is coming in on one side. In that case, the sportsbook may need to adjust the other side to make it more favorable to try to even out the playing field.
We’ll dive into this deeper in the next section, but the point spread will be shown as the number and a “-” or “+” in front of it. A great way to think of this is, if a team is +7, for example, the game may start 0-0, but when it comes to NBA betting spreads, you can view the game through the lens of that team having a seven-point head start. To cover the spread means to win by enough points if you’re the favored team. If you’re the underdog, you can cover by winning outright or losing by less than the point spread.
Now that we understand how the spread works and where it comes from let’s look at some examples of how to read them.
Whenever you’re ready to engage in NBA betting against the spread, you’ll need to pay attention to multiple aspects of the point spread.
With that out of the way, let’s look at some real examples from March 7, 2023, slate of NBA games.
We examined a live example for you. The Washington Wizards are -9 and on the road against the Detroit Pistons. The betting odds are -110.
If you wagered on the Wizards -9, they would not only need to win the game, but in order to cover the spread, they’d need to win by more than nine points. So, if they won 120-110, they’d cover the spread and you’d win. In the event they win by exactly nine, you get your wager back.
Another example: Looking at the underdog Houston Rockets, they’re +6.5 points.
If you bet this, you can imagine that when the game starts, the Rockets are already ahead by 6.5-0. Of course, this isn’t the actual score, but it is through the context of betting. So, you’d win this wager if the Rockets were to win outright or lose by six points or less.
If they lost 120-115, yes, they lose the game in “real life,” but thanks to the added 6.5 points, they cover the spread, winning 121.5-115.
The term vig or juice is essentially a commission that’s paid on wagers. If the betting odds are -110, the “juice” is -10 in the -110 because you’re wagering $11 to win $10. This is important to point spreads because the vig can demonstrate an imminent change, which we’ll discuss in the strategies section below.
You could employ some expert strategies for betting against the spread. We've compiled a number of these for you.
If you’re in a state with multiple online sportsbooks, you can bounce between them to see if you can find better odds and lines for your desired wager. For example, if you find a bet of the Rockets at +6.5 and -115 but then at another sportsbook, find them at +7 and -120, you can decide between sacrificing some juice or getting the additional 0.5 on the point spread.
Using the examples above for point spreads, you’ll see in the Pistons vs. Wizards game that they’re -110 on both sides. The -110 is the most common odds you’ll see. Any time you see something different, this could mean a change is coming to the point spread. Looking at the Rockets +6.5 and -115, if players continue to bet on that, it could go to -120 and ultimately adjust to +6 and back to the -110 odds. You can monitor this if you think you’ll get a favorable adjustment.
Live betting is a fun way to not only bet on a game you’re watching live, but you can use it to hedge—or limit your losses—on a pregame wager. Suppose you bet on the Rockets +6.5, but they’re losing by 14. In that case, you could then look to the other team and mathematically devise a plan, depending on the odds, to limit your losses, break even, or in some cases, return a smaller profit.
The health and status of players in the NBA are paramount to what the point spread is or could be. If there’s a player whose availability is in question, it might be best to hold off on making your NBA spread betting picks depending on the caliber of that player
When it comes to NBA betting against the spread, there’s a lot that goes into it beyond simply picking your favorite team or who you think will win.
Throughout our guide above, we’ve made it a point to break it down in terms of what it is and how to read it using real NBA game examples.
While we can never guarantee successful wagers, there are numerous strategies you can deploy, as we also covered above, that can set you up for the most success possible.
We recommend bookmarking this page as your go-to resource for NBA spread betting.
Players must be 21 years of age or older or reach the minimum age for gambling in their respective state and located in jurisdictions where online gambling is legal. Please play responsibly. Bet with your head, not over it. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, and wants help, call or visit: (a) the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey at 1-800-Gambler or www.800gambler.org; or (b) Gamblers Anonymous at 855-2-CALL-GA or www.gamblersanonymous.org.
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