The NBA is second only to the NFL in betting popularity, but the action really kicks into high gear when the NBA playoffs begin.
NBA playoff betting spans two months from April to June and pits the 16 best teams in a series elimination tournament to crown the league’s best. That gives you the chance to bet on dozens of games each week and, since it’s the playoffs, sportsbooks offer even more wager types and prop bets just in case you needed even more action this spring.
If you are new to sports betting and are interested in putting your NBA IQ to the test, here is a quick primer breaking down how to bet on NBA playoff series and the types of bets you can place.
NBA Playoff Odds
NBA odds typically feature a favorite (denoted with a minus sign), an underdog (denoted with a plus sign), and a point spread, which is the margin of victory the favorite must win by for your bet to win. For example:
Golden State Warriors -4.5
Toronto Raptors +4
In this case, the Warriors are a slight favorite, so they are “giving up” 4.5 points. This is done to entice betting on the underdog, especially in lopsided contests where the action is likely to be focused on the heavy favorite. Since they are giving up 4.5 points, they must win by 5 or more for your bet to win. On the other hand, the Raptors can lose by up to 3 points and still win your bet, while a 4-point loss would be a draw or “push,” and you would get your money back.
In some cases, you may want to try betting on the moneyline, which simply denotes the ratio between your wager and the payout. Since there is no margin of victory to beat, oddsmakers offer higher payouts on the underdog to entice betting on both sides. For example:
In this case, the Warriors are a slight favorite so you would have to bet $135 to win $100. The Raptors are a slight underdog, so your $100 bet would net $130. In some cases, the matchup will be heavily lopsided and a $100 bet on an underdog could net your $200 or more if the underdog can pull it off.
How to Bet on NBA Playoff Series
While single-game bets like those described above allow you to bet on individual game winners, futures betting allows you to bet on NBA playoff series winners. In fact, futures betting allows you to predict division and conference winners and the NBA finals winner months before the playoffs even kick off.
Once the playoffs start, there are a wide variety of wagers you can place.
Over/under betting allows you to bet on whether the combined point total between two teams will be higher or lower than the sportsbook’s projection.
Parlay and teaser bets allow you to combine multiple bets into one, giving you higher risk but also the chance at a higher payout.
Sportsbooks will also offer a huge number of prop bets, allowing you to predict whether Steph Curry will have over or under 35 points, which player will record the most assists, and who will win the finals MVP.