Handicap Betting Basketball Explained

Handicap Betting Basketball Explained

Published Date · Oct. 11, 2022 · Last Updated · Oct. 13, 2022 ·Read Time · 4 mins

Betting on basketball has become very popular over the last few years. This is mainly due to the fact that online sportsbook popularity has skyrocketed across the United States.

The main league to wager on for basketball is the National Basketball Association (NBA). Within the NBA, there are a plethora of different ways and wagers to make, which is one of the reasons why many enjoy wagering on the sport.

One of the more popular betting strategies on NBA games, however, is handicap betting. Many of those who enjoy wagering on the sport of basketball will enjoy betting on basketball games with handicap bets.

What Is A Handicap Bet In Basketball?

Simply put, a handicap bet in basketball betting is when the oddsmakers at a sportsbook set a number for each game. The reason for this number is to make each side of the wager even for betting purposes. The number ensures that there is as close to even wagers on both sides as possible. 

The handicap lines are pretty easy to understand and can be used by anyone from first-time bettors to experienced sports bettors. The handicap bet in basketball is a great way for the underdog to receive wagers to keep the game close or pull off the upset.

The handicap bet also allows for the favorite to have the backing of a big win. The handicap line gives a strong favorite in a matchup a bigger deficit to overcome, depending on how large the handicap is. On the other side, the underdog will be able to start out with an advantage at the beginning of the game. 

Handicap Wager Example

An example of a handicap wager for basketball is taking a matchup like the Los Angeles Lakers against the Atlanta Hawks.

For this example, let’s say that the Los Angeles Lakers are the favorite, meaning that the Atlanta Hawks are the underdogs. If the handicap line is at -8.5, that means that the Hawks are essentially starting the game, winning 8.5 to 0 over the Lakers. 

Of course, there is no such thing as half a point in basketball. So this means that if you pick the Lakers to win the handicap wager, you need them to win by 9 or more points.

If you pick the Hawks to win, you need them to either lose by less than 9 points or win the game altogether. Winning on a handicap bet means you covered the line. 

Tips And Tricks For Handicap Basketball Betting

In general, it is usually more difficult for the favorite in the handicap matchup to win in the bet. This means that betting on the favorite will usually result in a better payout as opposed to betting the Moneyline.

When betting on the underdog in a handicap wager, there’s a pretty good chance that your wager will pay out. This is because the underdog has two ways of winning the wager; not losing by the line or by winning outright. Because of this, the payout for the underdog is fairly less than betting on them outright to win. 

No online sportsbook was built the same. It’s because of this that it is important to shop around for different lines before placing a handicap basketball wager. Many sports bettors, early on in their betting careers, only look at the promotions that the sportsbook offers.

While this is an important component to your future success, it is prevalent that you also look at the best lines as well as the best payouts for the handicap wager you want to make. If there is a game with a close line, making a bad handicap basketball wager on one sportsbook could have been a winner on another one.

The handicap bet may be the most important type of bet that you should shop around with

Are Basketball Handicap Bets Profitable?

Making a handicap wager on basketball games can be incredibly profitable, especially if you know what to look for. Learning the ins and outs of the league is invaluable to becoming a better and more knowledgeable basketball bettor. If you are able to find certain trends and patterns in the league, handicap betting can be a very profitable avenue to explore in your sports betting career. 

Coach trends can be very crucial to learning a lot about the league. Some coaches like to play their stars and run up the score. Other coaches are more partial to resting their players in favor of saving them for the playoffs. Knowing which coaches will be coaching in the matchup you want to make a handicap wager on can lead to your long-term success. 

Additionally, keeping up to date with transactions in the NBA is so important to helping you win your handicap bets. You wouldn’t want to make a wager on an underdog to cover the handicap spread if they just traded away their best player.

Just in the same way you would want to make a wager just when the news breaks about a star player getting hurt in practice. Little pieces of news can move the needle when it comes to basketball handicap bets

Start Making Your Basketball Handicap Bets Today

Now that you know a bit more about how basketball handicap betting works, you are just about ready to start making your first wagers. Once you feel that you are comfortable with basketball handicap bets, be sure to check out alternative handicap lines. Not all online sportsbooks offer these, but they can enhance your handicap betting experience when used. 

If we use our original example of the Lakers and the Hawks, most sportsbooks have the Lakers beating the Hawks by 9 (-8.5 spread) or more points.

Well, let’s say you think the Lakers will win by at least 13 points (-12.5 spread). With an alternative line, you can set your own lines, up to a certain point, with a more favorable payout. So while the -8.5 spread may pay out $90 on a $100 wager, the -12.5 spread would pay out $120 on a $100 wager. 


Ian Dincuff

US Content Writer