Betting basketball point spreads can be daunting and quite tricky for first-time bettors. Luckily, NBA moneyline betting is way more straightforward.
What is a moneyline bet in basketball?
Betting the moneyline (ML) in the NBA means simply picking which team wins the game outright. Moneyline favorites have a negative value (-110), while moneyline underdogs have a positive value (+110). It's a two-way market, which means there are only two options to place a wager.
American odds are very straightforward. If a sportsbook has the Atlanta Hawks listed as -130 favorites, you would have to bet $130 to win $100. If you wagered $100 on the opposing underdog Dallas Mavericks at +110, you would get a $210 return, including your original stake.
American odds are commonly used by first-time bettors, as they're the easiest to understand at first.
NBA moneylines as decimal odds
Another way to read odds is using the decimal format. Some sportsbooks won't offer the American format, so it's good to know how to use it. Using our earlier line, the Hawks and Mavericks would look like this using decimal odds.
To understand these odds further, all you have to do is multiply your stake by the decimal number.
A $20 wager on the Hawks (20 x 1.77) equals a payout of $35.40, including your original stake.
A $20 bet on the Mavs (20 x 2.10) would give you a bigger payout of $42 since the decimal, in this case, is higher.
A decimal number of 2.00 signals even money (+100), with anything lower considered a negative value on the moneyline (favorite) and anything higher listed as plus money (underdog).
You can use our odds calculator and converter to help further differentiate the two.
NBA moneylines as fractional odds
Bettors will find fractional odds commonly used as the default setting on British sportsbooks.
Here is how the Hawks-Mavericks line would look in the fractional setting:
For fractional odds, you would multiply your original stake by the numerator/denominator.
If you staked $10 on the Hawks at 77/100 (10 x 19/25), you would get a total payout of $17.69 ($7.69 profit + $10 stake).
Conversely, if you bet $10 on the Mavericks at 11/10 using the same formula (10 x 11/10), your payout would be $21.00, including your original stake. Our betting calculator also converts fractional odds to help you better understand them.
Benefits of basketball moneyline bets
One of the best things about simply picking a winner is not having to worry about the margin of victory or loss that NBA point spreads pose. Moneylines are the most straightforward bet out there and take the least amount of math and homework.
Moneyline bets provide a higher payout if you back the underdog and a better chance of winning the bet altogether if you take the favorite.
In many cases, moneylines are the best way to go for games when you like a favorite to win but aren't exactly comfortable laying the points. A lot of times in basketball, there is an opportunity for a "backdoor cover." A backdoor cover is when the underdog trails late in the 4th quarter and outscores the leading team in the final minutes to cover the spread.
For example, suppose oddsmakers favor the Toronto Raptors by 12.5 points, and Toronto is blowing out the Detroit Pistons at halftime. In that case, there is a good chance they won't have their starters playing in the fourth quarter. In this case, you'd wish you bet the Raptors moneyline instead of the spread, as there is an excellent chance for a backdoor cover.
Common mistakes to avoid in moneyline betting
NBA moneyline betting comes with its fair share of common mistakes that bettors should avoid. Here are several pitfalls to be mindful of:
Ignoring analysis: Always gather as much information and statistical data as possible before placing your bet. Informed decisions are more likely to be successful in the long run.
Chasing big payouts: While underdogs can be profitable, be selective and base your bets on a combination of research and value, not just potential payouts.
Neglecting injury reports: Keep a close eye on injury reports and late-breaking news. Injuries can significantly impact the outcome of a game.
Wagering without a defined strategy: Develop a clear betting strategy that includes bankroll management and risk assessment.
Impulsive betting: Maintain discipline and objectivity. Stick to your strategy and avoid chasing losses with impulsive bets.
Not learning from past bets: Keep records of your bets, and regularly review and analyze your betting history to identify patterns, strengths, and weaknesses in your approach.
NBA moneyline tips, strategies, and advice
Now that you know how to read basketball moneyline odds, here are some tips and strategies to apply to your NBA betting.
Avoid big favorites
One of the biggest things to avoid when betting NBA moneylines is wagering on big-time favorites. Taking the Lakers at -300 means wagering three times what you could potentially win, and in the long run, will lead to a loss in bankroll.
Look to back teams at better value who you feel are being overlooked by the books. More times than not, there is a team being offered at plus money every night on the NBA schedule should be the favorite instead.
Shop for the best lines
Different sportsbooks will offer different odds. If the Jazz are +150 at one book but are at +175 at another, you are missing out on plenty of value if you're not taking the latter. It may not seem like much on a small bet, but if you're placing bigger wagers, you'd be leaving aside plenty of return.
It also doesn't hurt to create more than one sports betting account so that you can take advantage of deposit bonuses and promotions on other sites. You can compare odds at different books to find the best line using our odds comparison tool.
Monitor injury news and starting lineups
Losing even a single player to injury in basketball can affect the line of a game. It's good to brush up on injury news the night before a match and know the starting lineups ahead of time, so you know if the team you're backing is operating at 100 percent or not.
More often than not, there will be last-minute lineup changes a couple of hours before tip-off that can dramatically shift the line. Brushing up on local beat writers on social media can also be a great way to get ahead of the news before the general public detects it.
Look out for game day trends
Our NBA scores and matchups page can give you a quick but comprehensive look at a slate of upcoming NBA games. It's good to know a team's record over their last ten games and if they're coming into a matchup on a hot or cold streak. Knowing team records when on the road or at home as an underdog or favorite is also vital. You can also track league-wide betting trends and view the public consensus picks each day to see who the general public believes will win each contest.
It's also vital to know if a team is coming off playing the night before or favorite/underdog records when certain referees call their game.
You can find an edge if a referee is matched up against a particular star player, and they don't see eye to eye. Suns point guard Chris Paul has lost twelve straight postseason games that Scott Foster has called.
NBA betting tips and strategies
Make smarter NBA bets with Covers. These guides dive into other ways you can bet on NBA action:
NBA moneyline FAQs
If both lines are equal, the match would be considered a "pick 'em," meaning that neither team is favored to win, and the point spread would be zero in this case. This usually points to signs that oddsmakers consider both teams to have the same chance of winning the game. The line for a pick 'em will usually be -110.
Moneylines change based on the amount of public money coming in on either side. As the time of the game draws closer, the line will also get "sharper" as the books adjust it to its most accurate line based on injury news, starting lineups, etc.
Yes, moneyline includes overtime in basketball. There are also three-way lines where a bet is settled after the fourth quarter.