Comfortable and Furious

A Beginner’s Guide to Betting on the NBA

While it’s a fairly popular sport throughout much of the world, it’s in the US where basketball attracts the truly passionate attention of so many fans.

The secret of its success is the end-to-end nature of the game involving huge amounts of athleticism by players, many of whom are truly extraordinary physical specimens – at 6’7” you’d be considered one of the shorter members of a team.

It’s also a sport that attracts a great deal of interest by fans who want to bet on their favorite team as well as making a game a little more interesting by having a financial interest in its outcome.

As we approach the start of the NBA playoffs in late April there’s bound to be an upsurge in people wanting to learn more about the ins and outs of basketball betting. If this includes you then this useful guide will help you on your way.

What are the odds?

One of the most important things to understand, before you get into the types of bet you can make, is the odds system that you’ll find being used on most US-based sports books.

These are given as either the size of the stake you’ll need to win $100 if your bet is going to be successful or how much a $100 bet will win you. It’s represented as a number prefixed by either a + or a – sign depending on the likelihood of success

So let’s assume that we’re looking at a game in the playoffs between the Boston Celtics and the Denver Nuggets.  The NBA playoff odds for the Celtics, the favorites, are -120. This means that a stake of $120 would win you $100 if they win. The Nuggets, on the other hand, are at +110 in the game. So a successful $100 bet on them would win you $110. 

The different bets you can make

With the odds explained, now let’s go through some of the different bets that you can make.


This is the simplest kind of bet that you can make – and the example above explains it perfectly. It’s just a straightforward wager on whether a team will win or lose.

Points spread

A more interesting kind of bet is the points spread. The spread of the title refers to the number of points that a team could win or lose by in a game and the odds are include another figure that refers to that number of points. For the Celtics v Nuggets game the points spread could be:

Celtics     -2.5 (-110)

Nuggets  +2.5 (-110)

The odds are the same but the difference is that the Celtics need to win by a clear 3 points. The Nuggets, on the other hand, have to lose by no more than 3 points or win the game for the bet to succeed.


In games where you have no real loyalty to either team this is a good bet to make. It’s simply a question of deciding whether you think it will be a high or low scoring game. Typically, the over/under bet could be on 222.5 points at odds of -110. You just choose whether aggregate points total will be 223 or more or 222 or fewer and put your money on either option.

Prop bets

These are more and more popular because they give you so many options Typical prop bets include predicting the points total that a single player will score or which team will be the first to reach 20 points first, or even the total number of three-pointers a team will make in a game.


If you believe that at the end of the playoffs that the Nuggets will be able to make it two in a row and bet on it then this counts as a futures bet. These cover any bets made in advance – so it might even be on who is going to emerge as the season’s MVP.

Some tips for winning

So those are the basics of betting, but how to maximize your winnings and chances of success?

Look for the best odds

There’s always going to be some variation in the odds offered by different sportsbooks. So shop around if you want to get the best prices.

Check out the form 

The advantage of betting on the NBA playoffs is that all of the teams will have a season’s worth of form behind them. So if two teams have met before it could give you a pointer about how a playoffs encounter could go.

Find out who’s injured

Having a key player out of action is always going to affect the whole team and, at the end of the season, injuries are likely to be an issue. So make sure you know who’s sidelined, and decide how it’s going to impact on the team.

Hopefully, now you have all this information it’s going to make betting on basketball simple. And there’s no time like the present to get going!





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