USA Online Basketball Betting Guide

USA Basketball LogoBasketball in the United States is considered one of the big-four American sports and is actually the second-most popular, right behind football (NFL, CFB). The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the college D1 teams (NCAA) earn billions of dollars in revenue, can be seen on many networks every year starting in fall through late spring, and billions of dollars change hands in sports betting. If you are a basketball fan, either professional or collegiate, or both, then you may also appreciate sports betting. People knowledgeable of the games can bet on their outcomes and earn a lot of money in this genre. Of course, it's never as simple as it seems on the surface.

There is a lot that goes into betting on a basketball game. You cannot rely on blind luck here. To bet successfully, you not only need to know the sport intimately and how to spot a winning team, but you also need to know how to navigate the betting options on a sportsbook. USA Sportsbook Sites would like to introduce you to our beginner's guide for basketball betting. To get things started, let's speak about the legality of wagering on basketball games in the United States..

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Betonline is one of only a few top shelf online sportsbooks still operating in the USA market today. They've been around for ages and have gained a fantastic reputation in the industry by offering players a very robust betting software platform, a great variety of wagering types and live and mobile betting options. They also offer some of the easiest and fastest ways to deposit and withdrawal around. As a matter of fact they recently added Bitcoin for both deposits and withdrawals which is a huge attraction to United States players.

Where Betonline really shines is with their bonus offerings. New players can enjoy a fantastic 50% bonus up to $1000 on their initial deposit. And if that doesn't get you excited, then their 25% reload bonuses for life should. That's right, Betonline is the only 5-star sportsbook that offers this big of a reload bonus. Trust me, it really helps fatten your bankroll if you go on a bad run.

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Is It Legal To Bet On Basketball In The United States?

LegalitiesAs an American, you should understand right away that it is perfectly legal for you to gamble. While there are many laws, both state and federal, working against those who offer gambling options as a business, there are no laws that keep you from gambling. This is why you can still purchase a lotto ticket or still freely travel to Las Vegas to play at a casino. The government isn't so Draconian that they have made it illegal to gamble altogether; they have simply worked to make illegal the practice of offering gambling to the public as a business (primarily due to banking). This means that, as an American, all you need to do is find a site that accepts you, which is typically going to be an offshore site. This sort of site is not under American jurisdiction and thus there's nothing the American government can do to stop you from gambling. You are not breaking any laws this way and are free to bet on basketball 'til your heart's content.

The Big-Three: Federal Regulations Against Gambling

While an American betting wherever he or she is allowed to bet is perfectly legal in the United States of America, the federal government does still come down very hard on most states' ability to actually offer sports betting to people. So just always remember that these are two separate things. Your ability to gamble is not impeded by law, whereas the ability of a company to offer gambling options is usually expressly illegal. Here are the three pieces of federal legislation that really make it difficult, if not impossible, for most states to offer legalized sports betting:


The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, also called the Bradley Act, is a federal law against sports betting at the amateur and professional levels. This law was forced through and signed supposedly for the protection of athletes and the integrity of the game. Four states are exempt from this law: Montana, Delaware, Colorado and Oregon. These states had existing sports lotteries, and an exemption was carved out. But when it comes to a state's ability to outright offer a sportsbook, PASPA prevents this entirely.

Federal Wire Act

This federal law, passed in 1961, is basically a way to keep interstate gambling under control. For instance, a state like Virginia had no way of enforcing state laws against people making wire-based (phone) bets in Maryland. So the federal government stepped in with the FWA, and it was used as justification for the UIGEA.


The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 is the big one that really shook the gambling industry at its foundations. It made it illegal for any sort of gambling site to operate licensed by America. This not only shut down thousands of sites, but it cost billions of dollars and even put some people in jail. The Department of Justice ruled in 2011 that this was overreaching by government, and that states should have the right to legalize gambling if they want, but it's still a minefield dealing with the UIGEA, and most states simply respect it and keep online gambling illegal (to offer).

You can read more about each law by visiting our Sports Betting Laws page, or our legal state sports betting section.

A Quick Beginner's User Guide for Basketball Betting

Basketball has been one of those popular big-four American sports since James Nasmith invented the game nearly a hundred years ago. Of course, that game has changed a whole lot during that time. What used to be played in peach baskets is now played with state-of-the-art equipment, and other additions to basketball like the 3-point shot, shot clock, technical foul rules, etc, are all relatively new. Another "new" addition to basketball is the ability to bet via online sportsbooks on your favorite teams and athletes. Of course, betting is a complicated subject that requires a lot of knowledge and skill. After all, you have your hard-earned money on the line here. Knowing how to navigate the betting field for basketball is vital to winning bets. Throughout this guide, we're going to cover a variety of betting aspects, such as the types of bets you can make, and even some beginner-friendly tips to help you win when you bet.

Understanding Basketball Betting Options

Before you can actually put your money down and bet on any teams, whether the NBA or NCAA, you first need to understand your betting options. Here is a brief rundown on the most popular types of betting lines you will find at a popular sportsbook. The more intimately you understand the lines, the more informed your bets are going to be.

The Moneyline and Straight Bet

The straight bet and the moneyline are not necessarily the same bet 100% of the time, as you can find different moneyline bets on different teams and in different betting sections, but they are basically one and the same. This is a bet where you're simply going to be selecting which team you think will win, no final score hang-ups and no need for a team to win by X number of points. You will simply select a team like the Warriors over the Nets, and you will be paid according to the moneyline. For example, the line for this game might read Warriors: -300, Nets: +250. In order to win $100 on the Warriors, you will need to bet $300, as they're pretty bit favorites here. The Nets, being bigger dogs, will pay out $250 on a bet of $100. You're betting for a "straight" win here, no frills. Just be very, very careful that you don't get sucked in by an enticing moneyline that pays out well. You always need to research your teams to make an informed decision.

The Points Spread

The point spread in basketball is a handicapped line that tells you which team is considered the favorite. For instance, let's say the Kentucky Wildcats are playing the Mizzou Tigers in an SEC East match-up, and the line reads Tigers +9, Wildcats -9. What this means is that the Wildcats are favored in this game to win by at least 10 points (9 even would be a push, and you'd get your money back). But does that mean that everyone is that gung-ho about Kentucky and that you should bet? Be very careful here, as the point spreads are designed specifically to induce action on both sides of the bet. Just because Kentucky is a nine-point favorite doesn't make them necessarily nine points better than Mizzou. It just means that this is the range that will get people to bet on both sides, with many taking Mizzou to cover. A little bit of research before the game, looking at past results, understanding home court advantage, etc, will help you make the best decision when betting on the spread.

The O/U (Over-Under)

This bet is perhaps the easiest of all to figure out. Anyone who's ever seen an NBA game knows that scores are typically like 106-102, 98-96, etc. About 200 points per game is the average. With an over-under bet, you will see a line like "Lakers at Nuggets – 210.." This is basically saying that the baseline will be 210 points; e.g. Lakers 108, Nuggets 102. Now, do you think the final score will be lower than 210 combined points, or higher than that total? All you have to do here is pick which end of the spread you expect the teams to finish at. If the score is 210 exactly, it will be a push and you simply get your money back. If it's over 210, you win if you took the over, and the opposite for the under.

Additional Basketball Wagering Options

The types of basketball betting lines we discussed above are just really the tip of the iceberg. Those sorts of bets are the bets that can be considered very beginner-friendly, in that they're easy to figure out. After that, you get into bets that are a bit more complex, such as live betting and prop betting.

Live and Proposition Betting

The live ingame betting option that you're going to find at a lot of USA-friendly sportsbooks is easy enough to understand in concept. What makes it a more complex style of bet is that you're going to end up with a lot more to bet on. For instance, let's say you have just bet that the Washington Wizards will beat the Philadelphia 76ers on the point spread Wizards -4. And after the first half of action, the Wizards are actually up big (12 points). Now if you went to the live betting screen, you will see new odds posted. It might be something along the lines of Philly + 16. So what this does is give you a huge chance to middle the bet allowing you to win twice. If you took the other side now and bet Philly, you basically can't lose them both but have a shot at winning both of them.

Proposition bets, or prop bets, are very similar to live bets, only they don't necessarily pop up as the games are played but are rather typically introduced by the community. For example, you could bet on how many points a certain player will score, how many fouls someone will get, how many 3-point shots Steph Curry will hit, which player will make the All-Star team, and so on. These bets typically have to do with on-court action from players and teams that's separate from the actual betting lines, and thus you can find a lot more to bet on via prop bets than a basic line bet.

The NBA and the NCAA (Men's and Women's)

There are two main types of basketball on which you can bet with most sportsbooks. The first is professional basketball (NBA), which is comprised of 30 teams in two conferences, the East and the West. The teams play an 82-game regular season schedule, and the top 8 seeds from each conference meet in the playoffs every year en route to the NBA Finals championship. College basketball (NCAA) is a lot more complex to explain. Not only do you have hundreds of teams that compete in Division-1 basketball, five power conferences, the group of five, independents, and more, but you also have men's and women's basketball, each of which have their own sort of betting. Of course, the NBA has the WNBA as well, but women's NCAA basketball is far and away a more popular betting option than is professional women's basketball.

The games are incredibly similar in most respects. Both pro and college teams have 2 and 3-point field goals, starting lineups of 5 players, a hoop that's 10' high, a shot clock, etc. Some of the differences between the college game and pro game includes the length of the games. In the NBA, teams play four 12-minute quarters, for a total of 48 minutes. In college teams play two 20-minute halves, for a total of 40 minutes. Though these differences are very minor. The games are practically identical, which is why stars in college translate very well to the pros and typically have an immediate impact, and such was the case for years with players even out of high-school, such as Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

The biggest difference, by far, between college and the pros is the playoff system. In the NBA playoffs, you have 8 teams per conference playing in various rounds en route to the Finals. In the NCAA, you have the huge yearly spectacle of March Madness, where the nation's top 64 teams are invited into a single-elimination tournament, creating brackets, en route to the Final Four, where a winner will be crowned in a head-to-head match-up.

5 Betting Tips to Get You Started

Before you go out to bet on a basketball game, let's first go over some beginner tips to help you. These tips are going to cover things like where to play, how to spot which teams are the winners, how to budget your account, and how to avoid losing complex bets. With the right tips, you should be able to get off to a good start.

1: Betting With Trusted And Reputable Sportsbooks

The best possible tip we can give you for betting on basketball is to bet with the most reputable USA online sportsbooks. We cannot stress this point enough. Reputable sites give you so many good betting benefits, including but not limited to:

  • Fair Odds
  • More banking options (like Bitcoin, PayPal)
  • Wider range of betting options
  • Fast and secure deposits and payouts
  • Live betting available
  • Mobile betting app
  • 24/7 support
  • Legally licensed site

So before you think about betting on basketball, let USA Sportsbook Sites point you in the direction of a sportsbook worthy of your time and money.

2: Previous Results are Future Indicators

In basketball, more than any other team sport on the planet, previous results are perhaps the best future indicators. For instance, in a league like the NFL, a team that's been sorry all year can get hot and win the entire thing. The New York Giants were a horrible team for most of 2007, but they got hot toward the end of the year, went to the playoffs with a record of 9-7, and beat the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl. This sort of thing does not happen in the NBA, or even in the NCAA. Because the schedules are so much longer and teams are playing two or three games a week instead of one, you never have that sleeper sneak up that played horrible for ¾ of the season but suddenly wins it all. In a league like the NFL, six previous wild card teams with shoddy records have won the Super Bowl. In the NBA, 0 8-seeded teams have won the NBA Finals, and only one (New York Knicks) have even been to the Finals. So when betting on basketball, your best indicator for future success is how well the team has been playing thus far. It's just one of those things that happen to be true for basketball.

3: Basketball is a League of Superstars (More So Than Other Sports)

With a bet on the NFL, you may want to take the New England Patriots because of Tom Brady being perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time, but there are just so many variables in the NFL that it's hard to account for a superstar player being the difference in a game. This isn't the case in the NBA. Basketball in general, but especially the National Basketball Association, is a superstar-driven league, and as can be evidenced by the NBA Finals last year, a superstar like LeBron James can single-handedly carry his team to victory. Star power is a huge boon in basketball. So if you're having trouble figuring out who to pick, the Pacers or the Warriors, remember that one team has reigning MVP Steph Curry, and other superstars like Klay Thompson, and the other team does not. When in doubt, go with the better players.

4: The 10% Rule is a Must-Use

One of the rules we feel is the best to be implemented by a beginner gambler is the 10% rule. This means that you should never risk any more than 10% of your stack at any given time. So, for instance, if you put $100 in, and have $200 to play with after clearing one of the USA sportsbook bonuses recommended by us, you should never bet any more than $20. Sure, this seems like a very low wager to make, especially if you want to win money. But imagine making two very solid $10 bets after researching and betting properly, and turning that $20 into $40. Now you have $240 with which to play, and that 10% becomes $24, and so on and so on. Before you know it, you'll have enough of a stack to start betting $100 or better, and that's when you start making serious money. But be the tortoise here, not the hare; slow and steady wins the betting race.

5: Start Simple, Avoiding the Complex

Remember that this is a beginner's guide for betting basketball, so we're not exactly going to start doing mathematical equations while telling you how to parlay a bet on the Warriors over a five-bet span to exponentially boost your winnings, leveraging along the way with live bets on per-quarter results of nightly games. This is stuff you will eventually learn about, but for right now let's keep it simple until you truly get the hang of the genre. Stick with the basic types of bets we have discussed above; stick with picking winners to cover a spread, or betting the over-under on a game, or even going with a straight win on the moneyline. Soon enough you will understand basketball betting at a level advanced enough to really dig your heels in. For right now, however, let's keep it simple and focus on actually winning.

USA Sportsbook Sites is happy and proud to offer these beginner's guides to sports betting. We understand that it's typically the case that at least half the traffic on popular sportsbooks comes by way of novices just entering the field, and it's always nice when you can learn about betting from one source. We strive to simplify things for you in this regard, but keep our site saved to your favorites. We're eventually going to drop those intermediate and expert guides on you, helping you go from beginner to pro!