How to Read Basketball Odds

Of all of the major sports that you’re likely to bet on, none is more global than basketball. This fact makes basketball odds more diverse and unique as well.

Not only does the NBA feature international stars like Nikola Jokic from Serbia, Luka Doncic from Slovenia, Giannis Antetokounmpo from Greece and Pascal Siakam from Cameroon, but the growth and popularity in the home countries of past stars like Yao Ming and Dirk Nowitzki still hold strong today.

Use the following guide on how to read basketball odds, you will be able to get started with basketball betting before you head over to and claim some of the top sportsbook offers.

Also don’t forget the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, including the Final Four and Championship. This is one of the most popular sporting events in the US.

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How to Read NBA & NCAAB Odds

Expert tips on how to bet on basketball.

To bet on basketball you must be able to read basketball odds.

Reading NCAA basketball and NBA odds is very simple but requires that users understand the +/- points system. Normal NBA odds or NCAAB odds will include a number next to each team which is either + or -.

If the number is (+) then that many points will be added to the end score to decide the winner of the bet. For example, if we took an NCAAB line where there was +5 for Team A and -5 for Team B and the end score was 99-100 in favor of Team B, a wager placed on Team A would still win due to the fact they have a +5 point head start.

The important part to remember when making line bets is that the team which is the favorite in the game must cover the spread (the number of points awarded to the underdog) and the underdog must lose by no less than the spread. In the case of a draw for NBA or NCAA, basketball lines result in a refund.

Keep in mind that odds can change based on injuries and rumors nearing game time. Whatever line you bet on, however, will not change in your betting slip.

Basketball Betting Picks

The two most popular basketball leagues in the US are the NBA and the NCAA. Let’s take a look at each of them.


NBA betting strategy comes into play when you bet on basketball. Some of the NBA best bets come in the form of handicaps, moneylines, and over/unders.

When betting on lines and handicaps it’s a good NBA betting strategy to look at past performances between teams and the most recent games. Be sure to look at injury lists and whether key players are expected to be rested in a certain game before placing your bet.

Some of the other NBA best bets you can look towards wagering on are over and under bets. With them you will have to predict whether both teams will score a combined number of points over or under an amount set by the sportsbook.

Example of NBA best bets: Lakers and Celtics to score over or under 210 points. A good NBA betting strategy is to look up the past meetings of teams and predict whether the teams will have a similar score.

Example of NBA prop bets: On FanDuel, and other top sportsbooks, you can place bets on players to score a certain amount of points, grab a number of rebounds, or even who is most likely to win the MVP. Below are the current NBA MVP odds courtesy of FanDuel.

  • Nikola Jokic -125
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander +210
  • Luka Doncic +850
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo +900
  • Jayson Tatum +2900
How to bet on basketball


College teams tend to be a lot less consistent than the professional ones. That makes college basketball wagering a lot more dynamic, especially if you’re betting on the Elite 8.

As the players are much younger, sometimes as young as 18, you can generally expect more volatile performances.

Team cohesion is very important when betting on college basketball. A LeBron James-style player rarely dominates the college court.

So when considering a college team to bet on, evaluate an entire team’s strengths and weaknesses. Don’t fall into the trap line of thinking that a single player or two might be “hot”.

Hot streaks come and go and it’s best to look at the whole picture before placing a bet on a college team. You don’t want to fall prey to the hot-hand fallacy.

As of right now, according to FanDuel, these are the teams with the best shot to win.

How To Calculate Probabilities

A required NBA betting strategy to ensure you’re getting the most out of your bets is checking implied probabilities on NBA betting lines and college basketball betting lines.

When you bet on basketball there are certain implied probabilities which can be calculated to assist you in making your bets on college basketball lines and NBA betting lines.

Implied probability converts your betting odds to a percentage by taking into account the sportsbook margin when expecting the probability of a certain team winning.

Implied odds on NBA betting lines and college basketball betting lines can be calculated for NBA odds and college basketball odds for each of the three different odds types using the following formulas:

American odds – Negative odds / (Negative odds + 100) X 100 = implied probability

Example for NBA Betting lines: if you bet on NBA odds -200 = 200/ (200+100) X 100 = 66.6%

When the sportsbook implied probability is lower than your own calculated probability on NBA betting lines or college basketball betting lines then you have a good betting opportunity on your hands. Implied probability should as a NBA betting strategy to make NBA best bets.

Decimal odds  – (1/ the decimal odds) X 100 = implied probability

Example for college basketball betting lines: if you bet on college basketball odds of 5.00 on then (1/5) X 100 = 20% implied probability.

Fractional odds – the denominator / (the denominator + the numerator) X 100 = implied probability

Example for NBA Betting lines:  if you bet on basketball NBA betting odds were 5/2 = 2 / (5+2) X 100 = 28.5% implied probability

Types of Available Bets

The most popular bets are win/loss moneyline bets and point spread bets. But you also want halftime lines, quarter lines, and total points bets for each segment of the game.

The fast-paced nature of basketball and the quick shifts in edge make it the perfect sport for in-play (or live) betting. This is a must-know when talking how to bet on basketball.

And when it comes to March Madness betting and the NBA Finals wagers, knowing how to read all the types of prop bets should be high on your list. 

Basketball Betting Moneylines

When you bet on basketball, you will be required to place your wagers on specific NBA or college basketball odds.

The NBA or college basketball odds can be given to you in three different formats: American, Fractional, and Decimal.

All three NBA & college basketball odds types provide the same chance to bet on basketball but do so within different systems.

It might be hard at first, but you can learn how to read odds relatively easily.

American Odds

American odds use a completely different system to that of Fractional or Decimal NBA odds. They represent how much a bettor will have to wager to win $100. So the basketball betting odds provided were -135 it means you must risk $135 to win $100 from the sportsbook.

Whereas an NBA betting odds of +350 on an underdog means you risk only $100, but you win $350.

All three odds types can generally be interchanged very easily at most top sportsbooks so you should have no trouble finding the odds type that is best for you to bet on basketball.

How to read basketball odds

Decimal Odds

With decimal odds, you will be given a specific number which will be the odds on your bet winning. So for example, if we took basketball betting odds on a game between the Lakers and the Celtics using the decimal system, odds would be given to each team in numbers such as 2.20 for the Lakers and 1.75 for the Celtics.

If you placed a wager on the Lakers using these NBA odds for $10 you would receive 10 x 2.20 = $22 in total, whereas if you placed a $10 wager on the Celtics at 1.75 odds you would get 10 x 1.75 = $17.50.

Decimal odds are arguably the easiest to comprehend and should be used as a default for beginners who bet on basketball.

Fractional Odds

Fractional odds are similar to decimal odds when you bet on basketball in the sense that the odds given will be multiplied against your bet to decide your winnings but uses fractions instead of numbers to display the odds. Another difference is that the amount you will win will be provided as profit instead of total winnings.

For example, if we took the same NBA betting odds on the Lakers vs Celtics NBA lines game, the odds would be displayed as 6/5 for the Lakers and 3/4 on the Celtics. So if you bet $10 on the Lakers using the NBA odds you would still win 10 X 6/5 = $12 in profit.

Basketball Odds

In basketball line betting, the sportsbook handicaps the game by creating a margin that attempts to equalize both teams. The margin is referred to as the line. Most NBA lines give users odds close to 1.90 as the margin between 1.90 and 2.00 are the house margins.

Both NBA betting line and NCAA basketball betting lines are very popular amongst bettors and can be found on virtually every basketball game.

An example of an NBA lines would be Warriors -10.5, Pacers +10.5. Basically, the sportsbook is awarding the Pacers 10.5 points as a head start to equalize the basketball betting odds on this NBA lines.

The odds on this type of bet will almost always yield close to even money.  

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