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A Guide to Spread Betting in Basketball

What is spread betting?

Have you ever played a game of pickup basketball where one team was better than the other? Maybe, in an attempt to make the game more interesting, both teams agreed to give the lesser team an advantage. The better team “spots” the other team a few points in the hopes that this will make the game more even.

If this is a familiar idea to you, then you already understand spread betting basketball.

The spread is simply a tool that sports betting oddsmakers use to make a game even and encourage betting on both teams. This guide will go over how to spread bet on basketball, explain what a spread is, how to understand the spread, and some tips on how to bet the spread in basketball.

What is Spread Betting?

The easiest way to understand spread betting in basketball is to look at an example. To that end, let’s delve into a hypothetical line for an NBA game:

  • Golden State Warriors -10.5 (-110)
  • Los Angeles Lakers +10.5 (-105)

In this example, the Golden State Warriors are playing the Los Angeles Lakers. The “-” and “+” signs show which team is favored to win the game—the “-” is assigned to the favored team and the “+” goes to the underdogs.

In this case, Golden State is favored to win by 10.5 points. So, if you bet on the Warriors, they need to win by 11 or more total points for you to win the bet and cover the spread. Conversely, if you bet on the Lakers and take the points, they can lose the game and you can still win so long as they don’t lose by more than ten points.

What is Payout?

What’s the number in parenthesis next to the spread? This number shows you how much a bet on either team will payout if you win.

-110 near the Warriors means that if you bet $110, you will win $100. For the Lakers, you only need to bet $105 to win $100. Since the spread is used to even the betting odds, most payouts will be very close and will likely be around -110.

What is Push?

In our above example, the use of the half-point in the spread means there’s no way that there will be a push on the bet (where the favorite wins by the exact amount of the spread).

However, not all spreads have half points. That means a tie, or push, is possible. In the case that a bet pushes, bettors get their money back and no winnings are paid out.

Other Parts of the Line

While the spread is often the first thing you will see in a betting line, it is not the only thing. Knowing the other elements of a betting line can help you decipher it quickly. Let’s look at the previous line again:

  • Golden State Warriors -10.5 (-110)   O 228.5 (-110)  -1250
  • Los Angeles Lakers +10.5 (-105)     U 228.5 (-110)   +750

What are the new elements of this extended line? Let’s take a look:

  • Over/Under – First up is the over/under. As you can see, this is marked by the O or U before the line (it may also be in a column labeled O/U or Over/Under), and the number is the same for both teams. This number is the total amount of combined points that will be scored during the game. If you think the teams will score more, bet the over. If you think the teams will score less, bet the under. The payout for this bet is listed next to the line.
  • Moneyline – If you just want to pick the winner of the game, the moneyline is where you should focus. It’s a way of setting up the payouts to account for which team is most likely to win. In this case, betting on the Warriors means you will have to bet $1,250 to win $100. Conversely, if you bet $100 on the Lakers, you would win $750.

Home vs. Away

The final thing to note is how to tell which team is home and which is away. This can be slightly tricky. In America, most listings will place the home team on the bottom (so in our example, the Lakers are home).

However, many international books use the opposite setup.

To that end, it’s always worth checking the book you’re using or verifying who’s home for the game before you make your bets.

Why Should You Use Spread Betting?

Why do we even need a spread? Couldn’t you just bet on whatever team you think is going to win? Wouldn’t that be easier?

Well, in theory, yes. But sometimes it can be pretty obvious what team is going to win a given basketball game.

While upsets certainly happen, better teams tend to win and there are many examples where the better team is apparent before the game even begins. Since sportsbooks aren’t in the business of handing out easy money, they use tools like the spread to accomplish a couple of different goals:

  • Make it harder to determine the winner – The spread evens the odds, making it just as likely for an underdog to “win” as it is for the favorite. This protects the sportsbook by making it more difficult to pick the winner.
  • Even the payout – One advantage of the spread for the bettor is that payouts tend to be simple. Since the betting odds have been evened, most bets will payout somewhere close to -110, meaning if you bet $110, you win $100.
  • Distribute bets between both teams – Why do sportsbooks like it when betting is even on both sides? Well, the last point showed that payouts are even, but you may have noticed that $110 only wins you $100. That extra ten dollars is called the vig. This is the premium that a bettor pays to the book to place the bet (often built into the odds). If bets are even on both sides, the book can use the losing bets to pay the winnings while keeping the vig. Even betting on both sides ensures the house can’t lose.

What is Line Movement in Spread Betting?

Once you place a bet, your line is whatever the line was at the time of your bet. You’ve locked in that line. However, the line may still move before the game starts if the odds or point spread change. Some of the reasons bookmakers may choose to move the line include:

  • Injuries – Injuries affect all sports, especially in a game like basketball where one player can have an outsized influence on his team’s success. As such, an injury to a star player can lead to a massive movement of a line.
  • Coach’s decisions – The coach deciding to add in a little more zone defense or work more pick and roll isn’t likely to move the line. However, like with injuries, if the coach announces a key player will be sitting out for rest or disciplinary reasons, that can make a difference on the line.
  • Too much betting on one side – Picking sports can be hard. Even oddsmakers make an occasional mistake. If they notice betting on one side of a bet far outpacing the other side, they may adjust the line to entice more even betting and limit their potential liability.

While line movement is talked about more in a sport like football, where there’s a weeklong lead-up to every game, it can still happen in basketball. You may be able to find an advantage by locking in your bet earlier before oddsmakers can adjust.

Tips on Betting the Spread

No sports betting strategy guarantees you’ll win, but there are certain tips you can keep in mind that can help you make smarter decisions when you’re placing your bets:

  • Look at the schedule – Is one team in the middle of a long road trip? Are they on the second half of a back-to-back (two games in two days)? These are factors that have been shown to affect performance, but often go overlooked by casual bettors.
  • Home and away – Kevin Durant will play great basketball anywhere, but what about the rest of the team? Role players especially tend to perform better in the familiar surroundings of their home arena. In addition, teams reliant on jump shots may fare better in their home arena where they receive more crowd encouragement.
  • Avoid the blowouts – Basketball is a high-scoring game. That can lead to some pretty crazy results. It’s not unheard of for a team to win by 20 or more points. However, these are still all professional players, and even if one team is demonstrably better, the final score tends to be closer than you might expect, meaning covering the spread can be unlikely if the number is high.
  • Consider the moneyline – Betting on point spreads is a great betting option because it’s easy to understand, and the payouts are straightforward. However, if you feel strongly that an underdog is going to win a game outright, you may want to consider betting the moneyline, as the payout will be higher. Just be wary of chasing high payouts all the time; those teams are underdogs for a reason.

Place Your Bets at Tipico

Now that you have an understanding of how to place a point spread bet in basketball, it’s time to start getting in on the action. And there’s no better place for betting on NBA games and NCAA’s March Madness than Tipico online sportsbook. We offer spread bets, moneylines, NBA futures bets, and even live betting to cover all your basketball betting needs.

Do your research. Choose your teams. Then, when you’re ready to make some money, place your bets at Tipico!

Sources:
SIA Insights. Point Spread Betting Explained: Rules and Guidelines. https://news.sportsinteraction.com/guide/point-spread-betting-explained-rules-guidelines
Legal Sports Report. Point Spread Betting. https://www.legalsportsreport.com/sports-betting/point-spread/
Basketball Insiders. Best NBA Betting Strategies & Tips 2022. https://www.basketballinsiders.com/nba/strategy/
TC Palm. NBA Live Odds. http://stats.tcpalm.com/odds/nba.aspx
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