The Basics
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betting types

Moneyline wagers are the most basic form of betting on NBA games and a really simple way for those new to gambling on the NBA to dip their toe in the water. Placing a moneyline bet on an NBA game is as uncomplicated as it gets. All you have to do is select which team you think will win the game!


While placing a moneyline bet is as simple as picking the winner of a two-horse race, it’s important to understand that both NBA teams taking the court are not necessarily an equal chance of winning the game. Factors such as the talent on each team’s roster, their recent form and their travel schedule are all taken into consideration as the sportsbooks determine who is the favorite and who is the underdog.


The sportsbooks then assign odds to each team that reflect their chances of winning. The favorites are represented by a minus sign in front of the odds (e.g. -360), while the underdogs are represented by a plus sign in front of the odds (e.g. +290).


These odds are an indication of how much your payout will be should your bet win. Choosing to bet on the favorite is a safer proposition, but won’t pay as well if you win, while betting on the underdog carries more risk, but with more substantial dividends. With that being said, those dividends only get paid if your bet wins, so regardless of how enticing an underdogs odds may look, evaluating the risk and reward ratio of a moneyline bet is crucial.


In basketball terms, a bet on a heavy favourite is like an open layup, - not a very spectacular play, but fairly high percentage. In contrast, a bet on a heavy underdog is more like shooting a contested three-pointer - it’s a tough shot to make, but the rewards can be handsome if you do.


In terms of understanding moneyline odds, it’s important to note that negative sign for the favourite corresponds to the amount a bettor needs to wager in order to turn a $100 profit. The positive sign for the underdog corresponds to the potential profit a bettor can make by wagering $100. 


In other words, the calculations to figure out how much profit you make from are moneyline bet are as follows:

  • For favorites divide 100 by the odds and multiply the result by your wager amount. 
  • For underdogs divide the odds by 100 and multiply the result by your wager amount.


For a more detailed explanation on how to read NBA betting odds, including moneyline odds, click here.




To better understand this concept, lets examine this example of an NBA game between the Denver Nuggets and the Orlando Magic.


The minus sign in front of the -360 odds for the Nuggets tells us straight away that they are the heavy favorites, despite being on the road. This means the Magic are the underdogs (as indicated by the positive sign) at odds of +290.


For argument’s sake, image you had a bankroll of $100 to bet on the moneyline for this match. 


If we chose to wager that $100 on the Nuggets to win, your winnings would be $27.78 profit (i.e. {100/360}x100=$27.78), plus your original $100 stake back.


If we bet that $100 on the Magic to pull off a big upset, your winnings would be $290 profit (i.e. {290/100}x100=$290), plus your original $100 stake back.


As mentioned earlier, betting on an underdog can be attractive because of the juicer payouts, but the real profit in NBA moneyline betting comes from noticing occasions the risk reflected in the odds offered by sportsbooks is less than the risk in reality. To help you be able to spot situations where this might occur, our team at Bet Basics put together a handy list of NBA betting tips and strategies.



The Los Angeles Lakers were massive +2352 underdogs when they took on the Golden State Warriors on March 6, 2016. Despite this, they caused a stunning 112-95 upset over the team that finished with the best regular season record (73-9) in NBA history.


With a solid understanding of how NBA moneyline betting works, you’re now all set to go and shop for the best moneyline odds available. Here at Bet Basics we recommend having accounts with multiple sportsbooks such as BetMGM, FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars, 888sport and Bet365. This will allow you to conduct an odds comparison before every bet and take advantage of any NBA bet bonuses and promotions on offer. Check out our full list of Bet Basics list of 100% licensed legal sportsbooks to get started today!


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