NBA lines are easy to read! If you’ve ever bet on NFL action, you know that the National Basketball Association is a similar cash play on a straight pick, point total or ATS.
But wait – what if you’ve never wagered on football either? Or what if all of it seems confusing anyway?
Here are some basic explanations of how basketball lines work.
Let’s start off with an example of a pro hoops game with the point spread listed:
Chicago Bulls +6 (-110)
LA Lakers -6 (-110)
In these lines, Los Angeles is a 6-point favorite over the Chicago Bulls. Remember, the team with the minus (-) sign is the favorite and the number listed after is how many points they are favored by. That means you could bet on L.A. to best their opponent, but they must prevail in the contest by more than 6 points for your wager to pay off. ‘
If the Lakers prevail by less than 6 points, your bet would be a loser, and if Los Angeles prevails by exactly 6 points, your wager would be a “push” or tie, meaning your wager would be nullified.
On the other side of the ledger is Chicago at +6, this means the Bulls are “getting” 6 points (or are 6-point underdogs). A wager on Chicago would score for you if the Bulls either prevail outright, or lose by less than 6 points (e.g. Bulls 101, Lakers 105 would give you a winning bet if you took the Bulls +6).
The next number, after the point spread, represents the “vigorish,” or juice, that the book requires to place your bet. In the example above, both numbers are -110 (which is fairly typical). This means you must wager $110 to win $100 (or $55 to win $50, etc.). This number does change on occasion, so be sure you check it before placing a wager.
Betting the “ML” simply means picking who you think will win out-right. The only caveat is that you will need to wager more on a favorite to receive a substantial payoff, while a winning underdog comes with a better payout. Here’s an example:
Miami Heat -260
Charlotte Bobcats +220
The Heat are the favorites here, so a gambler would need to put up $260 just to win $100 on Miami. If she wanted to take on more risk for a bigger reward, she could bet $100 on the Bobcats. If the Bobcats prevail, payoff is $220.
Bookies always set a number that represents how many points the teams will combine to score in the game, called the Over/Under, or O/U. You simply pick whether the final score will be greater than (over) or less than (under) the number the odds-makers set. Here is an example:
Atlanta Hawks vs. Miami Heat – OVER/UNDER 190.5
Remember that over/under bets will also always have some kind of vigorish (usually -110), so be sure to take that into account when placing this type of wager.
To determine what the scoreboard will look like after 4 quarters, take a look at schedules and injury reports for each side. If a team is in midst of a long road trip or suffering from injuries, they are more likely to have a slow-paced, half-court offense worked into their game plan. But if they’re coming in with fresh legs and/or playing at home, you can expect a lot more running than usual. It’s never a sure-fire prediction, but it’ll help get you above 50% accuracy.
Another scenario that leads to more fast-break basketball is when a coach is trying to play his team into shape in the earliest stretch of the preseason or regular season. However, that tends to happen more often in prep and NCAA basketball than in pro action.
Also, be sure to investigate both squads’ tendencies in “garbage” time. When a contest is a blow-out, pro coaches like to substitute their bench onto the floor. Depending on what type of youngsters are playing out the minutes and who is coaching them, there could be a lot of running – or a more low-scoring half-court game.
But if a strong defensive team manages to rout an opponent, the score will often be something like 91-72 – easily falling under the O/U line on most nights.
Basketball bets are some of the most straightforward in Las Vegas, but still require skill and research to get your handicap above 50%. Happy stakes!