How to Develop Your NBA Betting Skills

A majority of experienced sports bettors will tell you that professional basketball is the easiest spread-based sport to beat. Although the trend of resting players has been spreading throughout the NBA, this statement is still true....if you develop your handicapping process by focusing on the correct areas and accessing the correct sources.

You're not going to succeed as a basketball handicapper if you use the same information everyone else uses to pick a side. The linemaker - the man who decides the pointspread, should be a focal point for any handicapper. If you've done any wagering at all, you know that the linemaker's goal is balance - create a spread that will get an equal number of bettors on each team. If 100 people bet on Side A and another hundred bet one Side B of a single game, half of them will lose their wagers and the other half will win. The bookmaker will get his 11/10 cut, commonly known as vigorish, which is sure money. They don't want to risk being on the bad end of game with lopsided action, so to come up with a perfect number, the linemaker has to read his players. He has to figure out how they are going to bet before they do - and he does. Why? It's because most of his customers use the same information to form their opinions and make their picks.

The Two Methods of Basketball Handicapping

Basketball handicapping is generally divided into two areas - one led by prognosticators who look at historical data and try to find trends or angles based on past performance, the other by punters who analyze raw data and try to predict the future based primarily on numbers. Occasionally there's a crossover, as there should be. Just know the advantages and disadvantageous to each method. In the end it's up to you to decide which makes the most sense. Likely, it'll be the mode that fits into a comfort zone, which is determined by the amount of work that's needed to keep up with the flow of an average NBA season.

In truth, a player can combine both methods and achieve positive results, but both methods have to be anchored with information about how a team is performing now! What have you done for me lately?

The trend handicapper can use one year, two years, or even ten years, to find some kind of pattern between teams, but those patterns are tentative at best if they aren't tempered by the counter argument presented by the stats-based handicapper. Trend-based handicapping is generally the easier choice for those who don't have the time or energy to keep detailed records - easier because much of the work has been done by professionals who post/sell their information the web. The value of trends can go down quickly as the bookmaker finds them and builds them into the line, so it's important to watch indications that the pointspread is higher/lower than it should be.

That's where the stats-based handicapping comes in. If nothing else, you should be able to make your own NBA line - even if you have to base it on the same information everyone else has. Unless you're unusually good at linemaking, you're not going to use these numbers as anything but a starting point. Simply put, a line consists of the average number of points scored and allowed by Team A compared to the average number of points scored and allowed by Team B (the opponent). Getting more sophisticated (with more accurate numbers), you will have to assign a point value to other factors such as injuries, fatigue, and the like. Keep in mind that while you can use year-to-date numbers, it's probably better to go back only about nine or ten games, as this will point out how the team is performing now. Additionally, you should use home statistics for the home team and visiting statistics for the visitor.

Reasons You're Not Doing Well

Find your "comfort zone", your personal handicapping method that is able to generate results and exploit the linemakers number. If you find your bankroll is still dwindling, look to one of the following as the possible reason.

1. You're Putting Too Much Emphasis On Home Court Advantage.

Stats from the past few seasons point to this not being as valid a number as it once was. Don't ignore it by any means, but perhaps back off a bit on the weight you give this statistic.

2. You Are Not Getting the Best Number.

It's best to bet a favorite early and a dog late because favorites usually become heavier. Having just a single wagering account, you'll have to pay strict attention to the numbers so you can select the best one. With more than one account, you can compare the lines.

3. You're Betting Too Many Games.

The NBA is a long season. Choose your best games. If there comes a day where no games are rising to the top and you can't find any pointspreads to exploit, then so be it. Don't give into "the fever". The occasional day with no action isn't going to kill you.

4. You're Betting Too Few Games.

If you have a good winning percentage, check your records to see if you can squeeze out additional games. Your percentage might drop a point or two, but your overall bottom line will go up.

5. You're Betting Too Many Exotics.

Parlays and teasers have long been known as sucker bets for the player and money grabs for the bookmaker. Unless you're handicapping at a 75% or better clip (which you aren't), parlays and teasers won't work for you. Besides, with the recent trend of teams resting star players at the last minute, multi team bets have become risky plays. Limit yourself to straight wagers and reserve only a small bankroll for exotics.

6. You're Letting "Fandom" Get in the Way.

It's natural to want to wager on your boys, but let's face it, you're boys sometimes stink. If you're betting with your heart, at least do it based on solid handicapping.

7. You're On Tilt.

Going on tilt means you've lost and you're now trying to get even by increasing your action. Don't do it. If you're good enough in the long run, you will win.

8. You Don't Have a Good Money Management Plan.

For years and years, players have been trying to find the optimal betting strategy for pointspreads. Some go with a percentage of bankroll; others prefer a flat bet based on their average win percentage; still others bet by units - one unit (set amount of money) for mediocre bets,two units for better plays, and three to five units for best bets. With a percentage of bankroll, you are increasing the amount of your wager when you're on a winning streak and decreasing it when you start to lose more often than you win. With flat bets, you wager the same amount on every game. With unit bets, you are judging, rating and placing a value on your own ability to handicap.


Faltering in any area can turn any bettor, even the savvy ones, into consistent losers. It all comes back to....

The comfort zone. Find it!

The linemakers pointspread. Exploit it!

A finely tuned betting plan. Follow it!