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DunkOrThree > Betting Guide > Basketball Spread Betting: How to Navigate Point Spread Bets in Basketball

Basketball Spread Betting: How to Navigate Point Spread Bets in Basketball

Publish Date:20.02.2024
Fact checked by: Emily Carter

Are you confused about basketball spread betting and how it works? Don’t worry, it’s actually a lot easier to understand than it appears at first glance – as I’ll explain to you in this guide.

Spread betting lines in basketball even up a contest by giving a handicap to the favorite and an advantage to the underdog. If you bet on the favorite, they need to beat the spread for you to win. For an underdog bet, the team can lose and your bet can still win, so long as they stay within the spread.

What is spread betting in basketball?

As a basketball fan, you will be fully aware that not all NBA games are even matches, despite the salary caps that are in place for all teams. That’s where spread betting in basketball comes in, as it aims to even up a contest, and the odds, for any given game.

With basketball point spread betting, points are deducted from the favorite team and an equal number of points is given to the underdog team. This levels up the playing field, or the basketball court in this case, for a contest that would otherwise be one-sided.

The bigger the perceived gap in quality between the teams, the larger the spread will be. I have provided you with an example of a basketball spread betting line below to make the concept even clearer:

TeamsSpreadOdds
Washington Wizards+14.5-110
Dallas Mavericks-14.5-110

How to read the points spread in basketball betting

Reading the points spread is a bit different from basic betting lines – see my guide to moneyline betting explained if you are unclear on that point.

So that I can explain clearly how spread betting in basketball works, I’ll first break down all of the elements of the example above:

  • The handicap – First of all, the sportsbooks determine the handicap number based on the gap in quality between the two teams. In the example I’ve used above, there is quite a lot separating the teams, which is why the handicap is 14.5 points.
  • The favorite – In this example, the Mavericks are the favorite team, which is why they have a -14.5 handicap. If you were to bet on the Mavericks here, they would need to win by 15 points or more for your wager to pay out.
  • The underdog – The Wizards are the underdog here, which is why they have a 14-point advantage. A bit on the Wizards here could still pay out if they lose, so long as they stay within 14 points of the Mavericks’ final score.
  • The vig – As with all bets (including my basketball predictions for under-over today), the sportsbook adds some commission to their basketball spread betting odds, known as the vig. The starting price will usually be -110 (as opposed to -100, which is what it should be as a 50/50) contest. The extra -10 added to the odds protects the sportsbook’s profits.
  • Covering the spread – If the Mavericks were to win 122 – 106, it would give them a winning margin of 16 points. This is 1.5 points higher than 14.5, meaning that they have covered the spread.

Basketball spread betting explained: Betting against the spread

If you want to take an even deeper dive into this subject, you can check out my guide for making picks against the spread explained. For now thorough, here is an overview of the main points:

Which team will cover the spread?

The first thing that you need to decide when betting the spread in basketball, is which team will cover the spread. Will the underdog stay within the points total, or will the favorite win by the required margin?

Spread betting explained basketball: why does it change?

Unfortunately, the spread isn’t fixed, as the handicap and the odds can both change based on several factors, such as:

  • How much money has been wagered on each outcome
  • Which side pro gamblers are betting on
  • Injuries, news, and other factors that could impact either team in the game

What does -110 mean in spread betting on basketball?

-110 is an example of minus odds, which shows the price of the spread. This gives each outcome an implied probability of 52.38%. That extra 2.38% on each side of the outcome is known as the “juice” or the “vig”. As I explained earlier, this is how a sports betting site makes its profit.

How much can I win?

Using my example, you would need to wager $110 to win a profit of $100, or to put it another way, you could receive a payout of $0.91 for every $1 that you stake.

How does spread betting work in basketball? Determining the handicap

As I said before, the spread in basketball is determined by the difference in quality between the two teams. However, as all of us basketball fans know, there are several factors that determine a team’s skill and performance levels.

While bookies and odds makers all each have their own set of metrics for determining an NBA game spread, the most common contributing factors are instantly familiar to us as fans:

  • Recent form of both teams
  • Home-court advantage
  • Injuries and individual player form
  • Dressing room bust-ups and other news

Spread meaning betting basketball – The pros and cons

Before we finish up, I would like to summarize this guide with the main pros and cons of spread betting in basketball:

Advantages
  • Evens up an otherwise one-sided contests
  • Makes an underdog bet less risky
  • Makes a bet on the favorite more valuable
  • Both sides start with an even winning probability
Disadvantages
  • Less chance of a big payout due to stable odds with small movement

Basketball spread betting – Conclusion

There you have it guys, everything that you need to know about NBA spread betting – now all that you need to do is get started. In summary, the main advantage that this type of bet gives you is an even contest.

The spread effectively evens up the underdog and the favorite, giving you a more stable bet option than a traditional moneyline wager. If you fancy giving basketball spread betting a shot today, take a look at my top recommended NBA sportsbooks in the US for 2024, which you’ll find displayed in the on-site banners here at DunkorThree.com.

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Basketball spread betting FAQ

⛹️‍♀️ What does the spread mean in basketball betting?

So what is a spread in basketball betting? Basically, it evens up a contest by deducting points from the favorite (handicap) and giving them to the underdog (advantage). For example, if the Mavericks were -14.5 vs the Wizards at +14.5, the Mavericks would need to win by 15+ points to beat the spread. Meanwhile, the Wizards would just need to stay within 14 points of the Mavericks’ score.

🏀 How does the spread work in basketball betting?

The spread works by putting the odds and probability of an NBA game on a level playing field using a handicap. For example, 3.5 points could be given to the underdog, but taken away from the favorite. Is this useful? Discover my answer to “what are prop bets?” here at Dunkorthree.com.

⛹️‍♀️ What does +7.5 mean in NBA spread betting?

+7.5 in NBA spread betting would be the advantage given to the underdog. If you were to wager on the underdog team at +7.5, they would just need to stay within seven points of their opponent to beat the spread and have your bet payout. On the same line, the favorite would have a -7.5 handicap to even things up.

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