The NBA is, by far, one of the most popular basketball leagues out there. Not just in its native region of the USA but internationally as well. Punters all around the globe tune in to live events and eagerly await the results of games they consider of interest.

This, in turn, means that the league enjoys a permanent spot at online sportsbooks, with many options to pick from in terms of markets. So much so, in fact, that an NBA fan who is new to sports betting might find themselves at a loss when presented with the rows upon rows of numbers and symbols that dominate sportsbook websites. Learning how to understand and use the information given is not a difficult task, however.

In this article, we will focus on an essential aspect of NBA sports betting, the odds, and how you can apply them when you wager based on the lines of your favorite NBA games.

NBA Betting Odds

decimal odds iconDecimal Odds
fractional odds icon Fractional Odds
american odds icon American Odds
percentage icon Calculations

As established, sports betting is more or less centered around the odds. They show you a clear picture of the connection between the potential profit you could earn and how much you will need to put at stake to have a chance at winning.

Naturally, this makes a good understanding of the odds absolutely crucial for someone looking to try out wagering on sports, and the same can be said about those who will immediately head to the NBA listings of the sportsbook they plan to frequent. If you live in the West, this means becoming familiar with three popular formats that can be found at pretty much all sportsbooks. These are the decimal, fractional, and American odds.

Overview of NBA Betting Odds Formats
TeamFractional OddsDecimal OddsAmerican Odds
MIL Bucks20/331.60-165
CHI Bulls29/202.45+145

Thanks to technology, you will not need to learn how to work with all of them, seeing as most bookies will usually offer all three or, in the worst-case scenarios, two of these formats.

In other words, becoming familiar with just one will be enough in most cases, while getting accustomed to a second format will guarantee that you will always find an option suitable for you.

Speaking of technological advancements, it is also worth noting that sportsbooks will also calculate your profit and payout for you once you have selected your bet and inputted how much money you wish to stake. However, getting used to swiftly figuring out your payout by yourself can still be beneficial. This will enable you to tell, at a glance, which bets are worth it and which ones you can skip, something important when you are in a rush or partaking in live betting.

Fractional Odds

Often considered some of the easiest odds to work with, these are the type of odds you might already be familiar with if you reside in the UK or Ireland. As the name suggests, the odds are presented as fractions, and the numerator, i.e. how much you can win, is followed by the denominator, which is the stake.

To get a better idea of how they work, we will focus on the following moneyline bet example:

  • ATL Hawks: 20/31
  • WAS Wizards: 27/20

Here, we can see that for every $31 we wager on the ATL Hawks, we can win $20. If you wish to know the total payout of such a listing depending on exactly how much you will bet, you can do so by multiplying the stake by the odds and then adding back your stake. In this case, the calculation will look like this if we are to bet $10 on the ATL Hawks:

  • $10 x 20/31 = $6.4 profit
  • 6.4 + $10 = $16.4 total payout

If we wager $10 on the WAS Wizards and our bet is successful, the resulting payout will be $23.5 ($10 stake + $13.5 profit). Evidently, the WAS Wizards are the underdogs in this example game, while the ATL Hawks are the favorites.

Decimal Odds

This odds type is often considered to be the simplest to work with out of all odds formats out there. There are two main reasons behind this. First and foremost, spotting who is the favorite and who is the underdog is very easy when the odds are shown as fractions. In addition, calculating your payout is an absolute breeze since you do not need to add back your stake in the end. On the other hand, if you wish to know just your profit, you will need to take out your stake.

To illustrate, we will, again, take the previously mentioned game into consideration:

  • ATL Hawks: 1.64
  • WAS Wizards: 2.35

If you wish to know much your payout will be if you wager $10, you can calculate it as follows:

  • $10 x 1.64 = $16.4 payout
  • $16.4 – $10 = $6.4 profit

That is all there is to it. This ease of use is why those from The Old Continent are so fond of this format, to the point where it is often referred to as the European Odds. Thanks to the calculation, we can also see that your payout if you were to wager on the WAS Wizards would be $23.5.

It is also evident that the results are the same as what we got when we used the fractional odds. This is to be expected because, as we emphasized above, the odds formats are simply different ways of presenting the same information. Picking between these two or the US odds is therefore a matter of preference.

American Odds

American odds are popular in the USA, and they function by using $100 as a unit. Here, the favorites are preceded by a minus, while the underdogs, by a plus. We will take a look at an example of what you will find at a sportsbook if you select this odds format:

  • ATL Hawks: -155
  • WAS Wizards: +135

The ATL Hawks are the favorites, so if you wish to have a chance at winning $100 with your bet, you must first put $155 at stake. On the other hand, wagering on the WAS Wizards will be more profitable if they manage to beat their opponents. The plus before the number means that you have a chance at winning $135, provided you wager $100.

All in all, this format is another viable option once you get used to it, and differentiating between the favorite and the underdog could not be easier. One last peculiarity you should bear in mind is that, on occasion, they might be referred to as the moneyline odds depending on the bookmaker.

NBA Moneyline Betting

Moneyline bets are considered one of the best options for those just starting out when it comes to wagering on sports. This type of bet is very straightforward, as you are simply placing a stake on the team you believe will win.

One important thing to note is that a tie is not possible in NBA betting. This means that no matter what happens, there will always be a winner, and a push will not be an option.

As an example of a moneyline bet, we will take a look at a game between the CLE Cavaliers and PHI 76ers:

  • CLE Cavaliers: 27/10
  • PHI 76ers: 5/17

In this case, the PHI 76ers are the favorites or, in other words, they are considered the team more likely to win. This is reflected in the odds as you will need to risk a larger fraction of your bankroll than you would on the underdog, all in order to, potentially, win a smaller sum of money. This balances out the advantage you have in terms of the team’s superior chances of winning.

On the other end, we have the CLE Cavaliers, who are the underdogs in this event. The odds are more lucrative here, but you also face a greater risk of losing your stake. This is why it is generally recommended to wager on the underdog only if you have good reason to believe that their likelihood of winning is reasonably high.

NBA Point Spread Betting

Basketball is a sport where, occasionally, there will be a significant difference between the skills of a team and their opponent. So much so, in fact, that you will often run into games where predicting the winner can be very easy. As a result, wagering with a simple moneyline bet will be seen as a bit boring by some punters, which is why such individuals can turn to point spread betting.

As noted above, who the underdog and favorite are will typically affect the odds. Here, however, things are a bit different. Instead of the odds reflecting who is more likely to be victorious, the bookmaker will instead create a point spread, often dubbed a handicap, that will consider the favorite’s advantage and even the playing field for sports bettors.

Here is a typical point spread you will come across at an online bookmaker:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers: +7.5 10/11
  • Philadelphia 76ers: -7.5 10/11

The first thing you will notice is that unlike the moneyline odds we covered previously, the odds here are the same. Instead, the relationship between the underdog and the favorite is expressed by the first numbers, which represent the point spread.

In this example, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the team that is considered more likely to lose. The point spread dictates that if you place a bet on this team, and they lose by 7 points or less, then your bet will be successful. As for wagering on the Philadelphia 76ers, they are the favorite and thus receive a handicap of -7.5. Therefore, they must end the match with an 8 point advantage or greater if a punter is to win by betting on them. If the players win by less than 8 points, the sportsbook will keep the stakes.

Thanks to the spread, bettors supporting either team now have an equal chance of winning, which is why the odds remain unchanged.

Lastly, there is no chance for a push to occur in this scenario. This is due to the fact that the point spread is listed with half points. A push would be possible if the sportsbook was to use whole numbers for the handicap, but it is not common to run into such listings nowadays as the absence of a push is one of the benefits of spread betting.

NBA Over/Under Betting

Often referred to as the totals, over/under bets involve wagering on whether or not the combined points at the end of a game will be over or under a certain threshold.

It sounds fairly simple and it really is, but there is one important thing that needs to be kept in mind. You will typically find that there is an over and under option next to each team:

  • Indiana Pacers: O (230.5) 10/11
  • Detroit Pistons: U (230.5) 10/11

This could lead new punters into believing that the listing is referring to the individual teams’ results, but that is not the case. Instead, they are the combination of both teams’ points. You will therefore bet over if you believe that the combined total score between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons will exceed 230.5, and vice versa for the under bet. The only reason the two bet options are listed per team is for organization purposes.


At the end of the day, there is much to learn if you wish to partake in wagering on NBA games. You will not go far, however, if you neglect the odds. Getting accustomed to reading and interpreting them is absolutely crucial if you wish to be a successful NBA bettor. This knowledge will allow you to decide which bets to pick and which ones to avoid with ease. You must also be aware of the concept of the underdog and favorite, as it is at the basis of some of the most simple of betting types.

In addition, remember that if you are not pleased with the odds offered at one sportsbook, you can simply try your luck elsewhere and visit another bookie. Most experienced bettors make use of this strategy as it ensures that a punter will be able to take advantage of the best odds available.

Either way, you can be certain that with the basics covered, you will be ready to begin your NBA betting career. is a media website dedicated to sports news and reviews of the most popular sports betting sites. Here you will find comprehensive guides on where to bet on football, tennis, NBA, NFL and information about the most popular betting deposit methods.