If you’re an NBA fan yet new to sports betting, wagering on the money line is the easiest way to get started. No need to understand point spreads and totals, you just look at the matchup, pick a winner, and voila, the race to win some extra cash is on.
Indeed, it’s that simple to wager but if you also want to win in the long run, then things get complicated. Don‘t worry though, we’ve got you covered with a special guide mostly focused on NBA money line picks and tricks, plus things to take into consideration when betting on a winner straight up.
NBA Money Line: The Simplest Wager Of Them All
First however, let’s discuss some basics. Yes, all you have to do is pick a winner to bet but what do those numbers after your pick mean? That minus or plus followed by three digits…
It’s quite simple actually and an example will definitely clear things up. An example like:
Toronto Raptors +107
Boston Celtics -127
Since the game is played in Boston, you would imagine the Celtics are favorite… and you would be right. The minus sign shows the favorite of any NBA matchup. In our case, to get a $100 profit, a bettor has to wager $127 and pick the home team to win. Thus the number in front of the favorite represents how much a bettor has to wager in order to win $100 as profit.
The plus sign points at the underdog. In our example, Toronto is the underdog and if you bet $100 for the upset, you would win $107. So the number after the plus represents how much a bettor wins if he or she wagers $100 on the underdog.
You will often see the money line moving up or down throughout the day depending on several factors like injuries, mainstream media news, and betting trends (how many wagers are on one side or the other). As an example, if there is a significant discrepancy in terms of total sum wagered in Raptors’ favor, then Toronto’s line could move more towards the 1-to-1 winnings odds to +104 or +102. Obviously, the Celtics’ line will move as well towards -120 or -115.
Just before tipoff, all bets are off and the last money line is the closing line. It doesn’t matter what the closing line looks like compared to your initial bet. If you wagered on the Raptors at +107 and won, you would receive an extra $107 for every $100 bet, even though the closing line changed at +102.
NBA Money Line Parlays
NBA money line parlays are the most common parlays on the market mainly because there is real value in picking multiple winners.
As compared to point spread or over/under parlays, this isn’t a 50/50 game. The bookies can’t balance the odds between two given NBA teams. Most matchups are NOT evenly-matched and one team will have an advantage over the other. And you can use that advantage, combine multiple picks and have better payout and winning odds as a consequence.
To understand more clearly, how about an example? It’s Friday and still one hour till the start of 4 NBA games. To amp up your game day experience, you decide to bet on all matchups and pick the following winners:
Memphis Grizzlies -315
Portland Trail Blazers -121
New Orleans Pelicans -480
Milwaukee Bucks -1250
If you bet on each winner separately, you will get these payouts:
|WINNER||TOTAL PAYOUT FOR A $100 BET||PROFIT (BET – PAYOUT)|
$400 ($100 for each winner) will get you $144 as pure profit. The parlay option will give you the possibility to bet only $100 and get in return a total payout of $316 ($216 profit). Obviously, to get all that cash, there is no room for mistakes. If Blazers lose, your $100 are history.
Since the payout odds vary significantly from one NBA matchup to another, there isn’t a standard payout like in point spread and totals betting. It depends entirely on your picks: if you pick the favorites, the payout will be smaller as presented above; if you pick an underdog, the odds will increase greatly.
Getting to our example, let’s say you don’t choose the Grizzlies as winners. Instead, you pick the underdogs, the Sacramento Kings at +260. Just replacing Memphis with Sacramento and keeping all the other favorites (Portland, New Orleans, and Milwaukee) will give you a $761 profit instead of just $216.
NBA Money Line Tips & Tricks
The basics are out of the way and it’s time to show you how to become profitable in the long run.
A word of caution before that. If you’ve already read our NBA Point Spread Betting Strategy and NBA Totals Betting Strategy, then you must know about the 52.4% threshold. The percentage doesn’t apply to money lines! Both point spreads and totals have a 50/50 chance of happening, at least in the eyes of the bookmakers. Money line is NOT such a game: one NBA team has an advantage over the other, one NBA team has a better record than the other, one NBA team has the momentum advantage (won several games in a row), and so on. Based on all these factors, the bookmakers will adjust the payouts accordingly turning the percentages in favor of the better side. This is why we can’t actually use historic data like we used in our other strategy guides.
Sure, the winning percentage can be a factor, but not a significant one. Maybe the San Antonio Spurs has the best win percentage since 2003 but looking at today’s NBA (November 2018), the Spurs are not what they used to be. Also, without the actual payout odds, we can’t be that sure betting on the Spurs was that profitable even though they have a 69% win percentage. What if the team lost several games in which they were huge favorites (-1250 or among those lines)? Little to gain yet much to lose. Those games could significantly alter the overall profitability.
Comparing Money Line To Against The Spread Payout Odds
Now that you see the bigger picture, let’s start with a simple strategy that has to do with choosing the better payout odds.
Going back to our first example in this guide, along with the opening +107/-127 money line, you could see something like this in the point spread section:
Toronto Raptors +1.5 (-112)
Boston Celtics -1.5 (-109)
If you like the Raptors, you have two possible payout odds: +107/-112. Which one is better? +107 obviously! So, instead of picking the +1.5 ATS, you could very well place a money line wager and increase your odds to +107. Sure, if Raptors loses by 1, you don’t win anymore, but this is NBA basketball and, usually, a 1-point or even 2- or 3-point margin isn’t that likely EVEN IF the teams are evenly-matched.
On the other hand, if you like the Celtics, you could switch between money line and take the ATS bet. We know, if Boston wins by 1, you lose, but is that the likely outcome of the game?
Always look for differences between money line and point spread payout odds whenever two evenly-matched teams meet.
Regular Season vs NBA Playoffs
To become a profitable NBA bettor, you also have to spot differences between certain periods of a season. In the NBA Parlay Betting Guide, we talked about the risk of starting your betting journey early in the season. In fact, the whole regular season is tricky to bet on as most upsets happen during this period. The regular season is a marathon, NOT a sprint and from time to time, the top NBA teams will have ‘a breather’ that could lead to many surprising results.
The playoff, how is much more predictable with many more predictable results. In April, May, and June, the top experienced teams step up and win the games in which they are the favorites.
Take Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James in the 2017 – 2018 season. The Cavs finished fourth in the Eastern Conference with 50 wins and 32 loses yet in the playoffs, the team delivered and was crowned Eastern Conference champ.
The regular season is the time when you should maximize your profits and look for underdog upsets and big payout odds, while the NBA playoffs should be all about playing conservative and betting on the favorites.
Pre-All Star Break vs Post-All Star Break
Not ALL regular season should be treated as upset-friendly though. There is an interesting trend in the NBA that has to do with the exciting All-Star Weekend. In many cases, from the start of the season till the All-Star, the top teams have their struggles both defensively and offensively. This also applies to teams with a revamped roster that made an off-season transaction or two bringing one of the top players from the league.
After the All-Star break though, in March and first half of April, those teams pick up the pace and gather momentum leading to the playoffs. The situation can favor the bettor who wagers on the slightly underrated top team for good payout odds.
The San Antonio Spurs is a very good example after 2000 starting slow and finishing the regular season strong. LeBron James learned that as he matured and during his time in Miami and Cleveland (2nd coming), he had several slow starts only to pick up the pace near the playoffs and win it all in the end.
Making Sense Of Historical Data
One last trick before you start betting: keep an eye on the many before-the-game reports the Internet is offering you for free. You will see many interesting facts and maybe you will spot a trend that could profit you in the long run.
Look for the Head2Head section and analyze what kind of matchup you have. A top NBA team may struggle against a mediocre franchise just because they are a bad matchup for them. Still, the payout odds heavily favor the top team so maybe it’s a good chance to gamble and pick the underdog.
How about playing at home versus playing on the road? Or about back-to-back or resting days? An underdog could have a chance of beating the favorite straight up if the favorite is playing on the road in a back-to-back.
As always, don’t overcomplicate things though. Keep it simple, use a few stats, pick the winner in a rational manner, and you might just have a chance to be profitable in the long run. And don’t forget to use our resources and come back daily for our experts’ parlay picks.