When we talk about betting NBA moneylines, moneyline wagers on sporting events pay off if a team or individual wins the game, match or tournament. Unlike a point spread bet, the result is straight up with no adjustment made to the final result.
Instead, the sportsbook accounts for the favorite or underdog status through odds paid out on the winning wagers.
The odds for favorites are set at negative numbers, while the underdogs’ odds are positive. The more negative the odds, the more the team is favored. The favorite’s number is almost always higher than the underdog’s, giving the house their edge.
For instance, if the Oklahoma City Thunder are playing the Miami Heat, Miami will be the favorite. The odds on the Heat could be -350, and for the Thunder, they could be +290.
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For Miami, a bettor would need to wager $350 to net a win of $100. For Oklahoma City, a $100 bet would net a gain of $290.
How to Bet the Moneyline
At first glance, the reaction might be to always take the underdog since the payout is large for a winning wager. After all, for a predicted blowout, like Milwaukee over Detroit, the winnings can be downright huge. The odds on the Pistons are around +1100 for the 15.5-point underdogs, and -2500 for the Bucks.
A $100 wager on Detroit would net the NBA bettor $1,100 if the Pistons were to pull off the upset. Making that bet requires a closer examination of the real odds of Detroit winning the game.
Over time, the chance of a 15.5-point underdog prevailing in the NBA is just under 5%. That means for every 20 games with +1100 odds for the dog, they manage to win one game. The sum total of all the wagers for those 20 games is $2,000, with a net loss of $900.
On the other side, 20 bets for the favorite would result in net winnings of $1,900. If the underdog wins just one extra game, the net is now -$600 on the favorite.
For the Heat and Thunder, Miami is a nine-point favorite. The chance of the Heat winning the game is just over 80%. This is where betting NBA moneylines can profit bigtime if you like an underdog.
The same scenario as for a 15.5-point favorite yields a net of -$840 for 20 bets on the underdog. Twenty bets on the favorite, assuming -350 odds and a nine-point spread, yields $200.
Once again, one additional win by the underdog and the overall tally swings to the negative. It takes three additional wins by the underdog to swing the take in the bettor’s favor.
Related Link > 2020-21 NBA Win Totals: Teams to Bet On
Betting NBA Moneylines Strategy
Betting on the underdog can be profitable if the bettor can accurately predict the big upsets. The small wager can also result in a nice payout. However, the wins are scarce for underdogs facing a large difference in the odds. Be sure to use multiple sportsbooks to do some line shopping. Getting an extra half or full point here or there will be sure to increase your winning percentage.
The advantage of consistently betting on the favorite is that they win most of the time. The disadvantage is the bettor either has to place large wagers or be satisfied with small payouts.
Over time, taking favorites can be a profitable strategy. Just beware that a string of upsets could cause some short-term anxiety.