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Basketball Betting Guide

How to Bet on Basketball: The Definitive Guide

Basketball is now the world’s second-most popular team sport after association football. We’ll fill you in on everything you need to know about placing wagers on this great game.

Image Credit: Rondo Estrello

Basketball may not have the massive global following of football, but it’s one of the world’s most popular sports and is growing fast. After being confined almost exclusively to North America long after its invention in 1891 it gained popularity in Europe after the Second World War, with the first European stars appearing on the international scene during the 1980s.

Toni Kukoc of Croatia and Vlade Divac of Serbia helped build basketball’s worldwide profile after arriving in the US during the late 1980s. Since then, international stars like Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Yao Ming and Pau Gasol have made it evident that the game is no longer American; it’s global.

It has also gained a foothold in Africa, coming in behind football as the second-most popular sport in some countries. And in China, the world’s most populous nation, basketball is now the most popular team sport. With the game enjoying such tremendous popularity worldwide, it comes as no surprise that fans the world over are placing wagers on it. Every reputable international sportsbook regardless of location takes bets on the game, and it has become a very big business. Here is our guide if you are interested in learning about how to bet on Basketball.

What are the biggest and best basketball leagues worldwide?

Each year people wager billions of dollars on basketball events from the NBA playoffs to the Euroleague to Spain’s Liga ACB to the NCAA March Madness tournament. On March Madness alone it’s estimated that $12 billion was wagered worldwide in 2011, $3 billion of which was put down in informal office pools in the US. That makes it the largest betting event in the US, dwarfing the Super Bowl by far.

The NBA is without a doubt the biggest draw for sports bettors worldwide, as it is home to the world’s top teams and most marketable stars, many of whom started their careers in Europe, Africa, Asia or Latin America before coming over to the US. However, the global playing field has improved so much that there are strong leagues in Europe and Latin America as well.

Some examples? Europe has two great leagues, FIBA and the Euroleague. Both bring together top clubs from across the continent to compete in intense tournament play. Two of the world’s best clubs, Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow, play in the Euroleague.

In 2007 the FIBA Americas League was launched, bringing together the best in basketball from across Latin America. While few would associate the region with basketball, it is home to some top-quality clubs and players, and the Argentine national team took home the gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

In terms of the best professional leagues by country, some notables are the ACB League in Spain, which is arguably the world’s second-best after the NBA. In addition the French, Italian and Greek leagues have produced high quality clubs in both FIBA and the Euroleague, and the CBA in China has been impressive as well. In short, no matter where you live there is likely to be a highly competitive club or league close by.

How to bet on basketball games?

There are numerous different wagers you can place on basketball games. The most popular way is by placing a bet on the “point spread.” When doing so you are picking a winner in a head-to-head matchup. The point spread handicaps the favored team. For example, let’s assume that the Boston Celtics are playing against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Being the better team the Celtics are favored to win by 10 points. This means that in order to bet on them to win, you wager money that they will win by 11 points or more. Predicting that they will win by less than 10 points is making a bet for the Lakers. If the Celtics win by exactly 10, it’s a push and no money changes hands. The point spread is a way for bookmakers to bring the odds closer together.

A straight bet without a point spread is called a “money line” in basketball speak. You choose a winner, although the odds are adjusted depending on which team is favored. For example, let’s say the lines for a Lakers/Celtics game is:

Celtics -300
Lakers +240

This means that the Celtics are favored to win. You need to put up $30 in order to win $10. By contrast, if you choose the underdog Lakers you can rake in $24 by putting up only $10. However, your chances of winning the bet are smaller.

Another popular way to bet on basketball games is to place a wager on the “over/under.” Let’s say that Bet365 predicts that the combined score of the Lakers vs. Celtics game will be 198 points. Rather than choosing a winner, the bettor predicts whether the combined score will be over or under 198. Bettors are usually given 11/10 odds, so if choosing correctly when wagering $11, you will receive $21 back. If the score winds up an even 198, it’s a push and your bet is returned to you.

What are parlays and prop bets?

Aside from the standard offerings there are other ways of betting on basketball games as well. If you plan to bet with a Canadian sportsbook, the only legal option is to place a parlay. That means wagering on at least three different events simultaneously. Most bettors dislike this because betting on more events most likely means they will lose at least one of them.

Prop betting is relatively new but has become extremely popular. Rather than predicting the winner or point total of a game, participants wager on in-game events not directly related to the outcome. For example, one could place a bet on whether Lebron James or Kevin Durant will score more points during a head-to-head matchup, whether a given player will receive a technical foul, or whether someone will score a game-winning shot. These bets are a great way to add to the fun of watching any sporting event.

What are the best sportsbooks for basketball betting?

When choosing the site best for you, it’s important to consider a few factors. First off, your location matters. Some sites aren’t available everywhere (for example, it’s tough for Americans to find online bookmakers who will serve them). Some sites only offer support in a few languages or only take deposits in a few major currencies. And of course, you should choose a site that has a diverse basketball offering with player-friendly odds. Lastly, looking around for the best bonus for basketball bets is also beneficial.

Luckily for fans, there are tons of top-notch international bookmakers with great basketball offers. Some sites we recommend are Bovada (which is available in the US!), Bet365, Bodog, William Hill and Unibet. Bet365 is known for offering a great range of props in addition to standard wagering offers on leagues on all continents as well as international basketball.

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About the author

Mark-Antonio Zivic used to be a professional footballer that won a record six Champions League medals... but decided to quit the game in his prime, believing he was better than both Ronaldo and Messi. Now he spends his time brainstorming ideas for Betting Herald, before he ventures into Hollywood movies, rubbing shoulders with Daniel Day-Lewis and Sofia Vergara.