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There are also several professional basketball leagues across Europe that attract a lot of bettors and betting. In many cases, bettors bet on their own leagues – especially where the leagues are a bit bigger – but those who want to go a bit across borders have a range of interesting options for betting on basketball.

The most popular league is, of course, the NBA (in America, college basketball is also incredibly popular with bettors, by the way), with the season lasting from November to June.

There are 30 teams from the US and Canada, divided into the ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western conferences’. Each conference consists of three divisions of five teams and each team plays 82 games in a season – not counting playoff games. In the playoffs, the four best teams from each conference play.

Betting on basketball is one of the simplest ways of betting on sports games. As with football, the point total of the match is used to make bets. If you are familiar with football betting, you can assume that you can get along with basketball betting too.

The beauty of basketball? It is one of the most exciting sports to bet on – especially if you also watch the games. After all, a lot happens from start to finish and you often see the score go up and down. So the sport for punters who love action! Time to see what you can bet on.

Structure of a basketball match

Basketball is a sport played worldwide. The NBA (National Basketball Association) is probably the best-known basketball league in the world. The sport is currently biggest in America where players like LeBron James, Michael Jordan, David Robinson and Kobe Bryant are big names.

If you want to secure a ticket to the NBA finals, you must first win a few bets, these start from a meagre $500. The aim of the game is to score as many points as possible. Points can be scored when the ball is played through the opponent’s hoop. Betting on the outcome of a basketball game is the most common bet.

The basketball court

Like a football court, the basketball court has a rectangular shape. On both sides of the court, a basket hangs at 10 feet (+- 3 metres). This is a ring through which the players throw the basketball. Below the basket runs a line marking the “bucket”. This is an area where the defensive players are not allowed to be for more than three seconds. Slightly beyond that is runs another line.

From this line, free throws are taken. Each free throw scored earns the team 1 point. Not slightly further out is the three-point line. When a player outside this line manages to throw the basketball through the basket, the team gets 3 points for this. Remarkably, the 3-point line in the NBA is further away from the basket than during European events.

Scoring points

When a player manages to throw the basketball through the opponent’s hoop, the team gets 2 points. When this happens from the so-called three-point line, the team gets 3 points. If a free throw is scored, the team gets 1 point.

A free throw is awarded to a team when the defending side commits a foul on a player trying to score. If the foul is made inside the three-point line, the player gets 2 free throws. If it happens outside the three-point line, the player gets 3 free throws.

The game

A basketball game is divided into 4 quarters. In the NBA, one quarter lasts 12 minutes, in the Netherlands it is usually 10 minutes. After playing two quarters, the sides switch sides. During this changeover, there is a 15-minute break.

The offensive team is given 25 seconds to throw the basketball into the opponent’s basket from its starting position (in the bucket). If the basketball does not hit the opponent’s ring within 25 seconds, the turn automatically passes to the other side.

The most common method of betting basketball involves the point spread, which is a handicap the bookmakers they make a team that both teams are equal in terms of bets. For a more detailed explanation of the point spread, see Introduction to Point Spreads.

With the point spread, the team expected to win will be called the favourite, while the team expected to lose will be called the underdog. The team expected to win gives, or lays, indicates the team will be expected to lose for the bet.

If the Celtics play the Knicks, most bettors would bet on the Celtics to win the game. But say the point spread will make the Celtics a 10-point favourite.

Betting on basketball: Types of Betting

Point spread

If you’ve read our article on American football, you already know what point spread is. Whereas we are all used to there being such a thing as a draw, in American sports you don’t have that at all.

Of course, this also fits with the culture that there are only winners and losers. That’s why there is always an extension in case of a tie, with only two possible outcomes in the end. From a sports betting point of view, that is of course less competitive. And that’s where the point spread comes in.

The idea is that the lesser team (as expected) gets an edge, to ensure that both teams have equal chances of winning and thus get the same odds. The point spread is thus a handicap bet on a basketball game and one of the most popular types of bets in this sport.

The bigger the difference is between the two teams, the bigger the point spread will be. But when placing a point spread bet, you basically have to take into account the same thing as when betting on the match outcome.

When you look for the best value bets in a match outcome bet, you are looking at the teams that are undervalued (or in other words, underrated).

So if you are looking for a good point spread bet, you look at the teams that have been given a generous handicap by the bookies. The prices are the same but the handicaps differ so you want to find the best handicap for your bet.

Match Outcome

Like any other sport, you can also just bet on which team you think will win, just leaving the whole point spread for what it is. The only downside with basketball is just that the odds for your favourite bets can be short there – which is also why the point spread is usually the more popular bet.

But to make sure you always really find the best value bets, it does pay to always compare match outcome bets and point spread bets first.

Total points

Another particularly popular bet at basketball matches is a bet on the total number of points scored in a match. Before you grab your crystal ball, you don’t have to come up with the exact number yourself.

The bookmaker comes up with a points table and you only have to indicate whether more or less is scored than a certain number. The points table differs between matches.

As with the points spread, the bookies choose the points table in such a way that you get equal odds for ‘over’ (more) and ‘under’ (less), so whatever outcome you choose; you get the same odds. To find the best bet on total points, it is smart to compare different bookmakers to shop around.

If you plan to bet on ‘overs’, look for bookies’ point totals that are lower than you think, and if you want to bet on unders then you want the bookie’s point total to be higher than you think.

Team To Score First Basket

Needs no explanation of course; a bet on which of the two teams puts the ball in the net first. Not really the most suitable bet if you are betting not only to win but also for a bit of entertainment.

After all, the bet is over pretty quickly. In terms of tension, this bet is especially suitable if you are dealing with two teams that start very strong or, on the contrary, very quietly.

More basketball bets


You bet on one of the teams that they will win the match. The possible extra time is included in the moneyline bet. A possible draw is not included in a moneyline bet, this makes the odds slightly lower.

Betting on the winner:

When betting for the higher odds, a draw is also included. Possible extra time is not included in this. In the NBA, draws happen regularly, so if you want to bet on the NBA, you can opt for this. Would you rather not take this risk? Then it’s better to bet on the moneyline.

First point:

For the mega quick bettor, you make a bet on how the first point is scored. 1,2 or 3-pointers?

Bet on halftime:

You can make a bet on the team leading at half-time, or whether there is an equal number of points for both teams.

First team at the 20:

You make a bet on the team that manages to collect 20 points first. This form of betting is especially popular with player who want a quick bet. This point number is regularly achieved as early as the first quarter.

Betting on quarter winners:

You can place a bet on the team that scores the most points in a given quarter. As this can vary enormously per quarter, the odds are more often a lot higher. In case of an even number of points for both teams, your bet will be returned to your account.

TIP: Don’t only watch the big NBA games. Many basketball games are also played within Europe. The European Championship is an example of this.

It’s far from surprising that you sometimes come across higher odds on these matches than on an NBA match. Besides, don’t forget that sometimes more than 200 points can be scored during a basketball match. To lower your risk, it may help to bet live every now and then.

Betting on basketball – additional tips

Make your own Point Spreads

One of the best strategies to pick out value bets in point spread betting is to look at a game schedule and then write down your own spreads/handicaps for each game that would allow both teams to start the game with equal odds. So before you look at the bookies’ spread.

Once you have that list you only start looking at the bookies’ spreads and comparing them to your spreads. The spreads that are the least similar to yours – that you therefore agree with the least – should offer the best value.

So the rule of thumb is: the more you disagree with the bookie, the better the value bet. If your point spreads are the same as those of the bookies or very close to them, you are better off just leaving those matches as you will barely have an edge. If you know a bit about the sport then this strategy is a profitable one in the long run.

Make sure you know as much as the Bookmakers

To win money with sports betting not just occasionally, you need to know at least as much about the sport you are betting on as the bookmakers. This is certainly the case for basketball – especially when it comes to knowing who is playing and who is injured.

In fact, this information has a big influence on how the bookies determine their spreads (if a spread looks too good to be true, it usually is). In basketball, a team consists of only five players, so if a player is missing, it has an immediate impact. Especially of course if it is one of the dominant or more talented players on the team – like the point guard.

Frequently Asked Questions about Betting on Basketball

  • How many players are there on a basketball team?

    A basketball team consists of five players on the court at any given time. Teams can have additional players on the bench, allowing substitutions during the game.

  • What are the main positions in basketball?

    The main positions in basketball are point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center. Each position has specific roles and responsibilities on both offense and defense.

  • What are the major basketball tournaments?

    The major basketball tournaments include the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the United States, EuroLeague in Europe, FIBA World Cup, and the Olympic basketball tournament.

  • What is the role of the three-point line in basketball?

    The three-point line is a boundary on the basketball court from where players can attempt shots worth three points. Shots made from beyond the three-point line contribute more points to a team’s score, adding an additional strategic element to the game.

  • What is a double-double and triple-double in basketball?

    In basketball, a double-double refers to a player achieving two double-digit statistical categories in a single game, such as points and rebounds or points and assists. A triple-double occurs when a player records double-digit numbers in three statistical categories, typically points, rebounds, and assists, in a single game.

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