NBA Betting Systems


The NBA season is an excellent time of year for handicappers. Basketball season attracts the casual bettors and their piles of line-moving cash and reactionary, fade-able picks to create the ideal situation if you’re paying attention! This article is intended to adjust how you think about making picks, hammer home the importance of managing your bankroll correctly, and set you up for a lucrative future of betting on NBA basketball.

If there’s anything you should take away from this article, it’s just how much of the handicapping process is not about the picks. Casual sports gamblers will get a hunch about a game or decide they want to put some action on a matchup and blindly go place their wager without a single thought given to long-term staking plans or implied probability. Sure, it takes a little less work than our way, but your chances of sustained success are nil.

Like most things, sports betting is just a numbers game.

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Is the likelihood of this event happening more or less probable than the odds are implying?

That’s the most critical question in sports betting and the key to all of your future success. Once you think in terms of that question, the only thing more important is figuring out how to determine the real probability of various outcomes taking place accurately.

The top handicappers in the world use advanced analytics and simulations based on sophisticated statistical models to help them decide how likely it is for one team to triumph over another in any given contest. But such a dedicated, time-consuming approach is not feasible for the majority of us, whether it’s because we don’t have the time or the intelligence. So, what is a person to do if they want to find success betting on the NBA but without having to get an analytics degree from MIT to do so?

That’s what we’re hoping to answer for you. By combining disciplined staking plans, value-based betting, and proven betting systems, you can drastically improve the profitability of your NBA betting without dedicating your entire life to the task. Once you’ve completed this article, you should have the blueprint from which to model the rest of your handicapping career. If basketball season wasn’t already your favorite time of year, it will be soon!

Get the Money Right First

On the surface, this is going to seem like a really crazy thing to say, but when it comes to betting on the NBA and other sports, people don’t think enough about money. Sure, they think about how much money they’re going to throw down on the bet and pray that their wager will result in earning some extra cash, but that’s not what we’re talking about.

When we say we want you thinking about money, we’re talking about before you’re at the sportsbook or examining the odds online. We’re even talking about before the season begins. Before you place a single bet, open an account with an online sportsbook, or try to predict who will win what, you’ve got to do some honest accounting and create your gambling bankroll.

Create a Bankroll

Your bankroll is the amount of money that you plan to set aside exclusively to fund your gambling. You must honestly look at your finances and only allow yourself an amount that you can afford to lose without it causing any disruption or strife in your life. You also need to determine how long you would like the money to last and understand that if it runs out before the date you set, you will not pull funds from other areas or keep gambling regardless.

It may seem a little ridiculous, but the truth is that gambling is a vice and can lead to some very destructive behaviors if not treated responsibly.

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Organizing your betting finances and creating a disciplined plan before you experience the rush from your first miracle backdoor will ensure you’re entering this hobby with a clear mind.

Beyond preventing your financial ruin, proper bankroll management can also play a role in you becoming a profitable handicapper long-term. Once we tackle the concept of value and how to shape all of your bets around it, you’ll see how these two steps work together to ensure eventual success by merely making sports betting a simple math problem. But first, for the math problem to work, you’ll have to decide how you want to divide up this bankroll.

Apply a Staking Plan

Being a responsible gambler by having a dedicated bank for betting is a significant first step, but on its own, it’s pretty useless. If the money is going to last for the entirety of the duration you plan for it, and you’re going to earn money by comparing probabilities, you’ll need to create a staking plan. A staking plan is a system you use to decide how much to risk per bet and how often you will be betting.

There are numerous approaches to staking plans, some of which are incredibly complex. For today, we’re just going to keep things simple and use a fixed staking plan. This means we’re either going to divide the bankroll up into equal pieces and bet the exact same flat amount for each wager or set a fixed percentage of our bankroll per bet, which will allow us to gamble a bit more when the bankroll is growing and a bit less when it’s down.

Depending on the size of your bank and how many bets you’re planning to get out of it, the percentage you choose may vary. Staking plans that risk 2.5% – 5% of the bankroll is pretty standard, but again, it’s all relative to how much you have in total. Regardless, as long as you have dedicated gambling funds that are organized into a set number of individual bets, that’s all that matters.

While making sure the money lasts for the length of time you’ve planned for it is important, it’s really secondary to the staking plan’s primary purpose. If the amount you stake per bet fluctuates wildly, you may win a high percentage of your picks but still hemorrhage money because you went big on the losses and small on your wins.

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There are going to be times when an NBA team only has a 35% chance of winning, but because the odds imply the probability is only 20%, you have to make a bet.

If your staking amounts are organized and consistent, you can afford to lose 65% of your wagers, because winning the other 35% of the time and paying out at +400 (the odds at which implied probability is 20%) will more than make up for the losses, and you’ll come out way ahead.

But if you’re staking random amounts based on a whim, you can no longer count on the math working itself out over time. So, if you’re going to gamble like a professional with value in mind, you’ll need to get used to adhering to a staking plan.

Understand Value and How to Find It

We gave a basic example of how betting based on probability and value works, but now we’re going to look closer at implied probability and how to solve for it. The implied probability is merely a conversion of odds into a percentage. It’s realizing that when the bookmaker sets a line at +300, they’re telling you they think that team has a 25% chance of winning.

Implied Probability

So, we convert odds into a percentage to get a better idea of how probable the bookie believes it is that they’ll win. Now what? That’s where your handicapping will come into play. The lines offered by sportsbooks have the vig built in and have been moved by public dollars, so the implied probability is not entirely in line with the actual likelihood of a win or loss.

The money is made by accurately coming up with your own probabilities, and then comparing them to the percentage the odds are giving you. If the real likelihood of a team winning is higher than what’s implied, that bet has value. It doesn’t matter if the actual probability is only 30% and the implied is 15% because despite losing 70% of your wagers, the times that you win are going to pay out at +567 moneyline odds.

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You’d only need to win 15% of the time to break even, and you’re getting double, so this bet is a goldmine!

If you do a Google search for an odds converter or implied probability converter, you’ll find that there are tons of them available for free on the internet. Despite this fact, it’s good to know the formulas yourself, so here they are.

Converting a -185 moneyline favorite:

  • 185 / ( 185 + 100 ) * 100 = IP
  • 185 / (285) * 100 = 64.9%

So, if you were placing a bet at -185 odds, you’d need to win 64.9% of the time to break even, and the real probability would have to be 65% or higher for the bet to possess any value.

Converting a +225 moneyline underdog:

  • 100 / (225 + 100) * 100 = IP
  • 100 / (325) * 100 = 30.8 %

When betting on a +225 underdog, you only have to win 30.8% of the time to break even, and if the real likelihood of a result was 31% or greater, that bet would have value.

Converting every single wager you look at into implied probability before making any decisions is a habit that you should get used to. But converting odds into a percentage is the easy part of the process. The hard part is figuring out the real probability. But since this article was made to assist beginners, we’re going to find a way around all that tricky handicapping.

Instead, we’re going to combine the use of a staking plan and converting for implied probability with some NBA betting systems that have impressive winning percentages. Then it’s just as easy as researching how often these systems produce winning bets, comparing that percentage to implied probability, and betting if the system’s rate of winning is higher than the implied probability. See, you’re betting on the NBA like a pro without having to play with numbers on a spreadsheet all day and night!

Winning NBA Betting Systems

The following systems are all very specific scenarios that occur throughout the NBA season but are worth identifying and betting on. Because these are just the situations and how often these bets win, we won’t know if the wagers would be smart or not without there being any odds. But when there are odds, it will be as easy as converting them into a percentage and seeing if the betting system’s win rate is higher than the implied probability of not.

This system requires a home team that’s favored by ten or more points with the point spread. Once you’ve found teams that match that description, look at the results from their last game. If they won the previous game by 15 points or more, bet against them. Heavily-favored home teams that just enjoyed a blowout victory only cover the spread 42.5% of the time.

That means a substantial road underdog playing a home favorite coming off a big win is a decent bet against the spread with a 57.5% success rate. Since this is against the spread, this bet should provide some value and pay out at nearly even odds. Either way, anything less than -135 moneyline odds will work, which shouldn’t be difficult to find in this scenario.

The 1/3 system is another NBA betting system that’s meant to be used when betting against the spread. It’s similar to the Martingale system in the way you increase your stakes, and it’s designed to be profitable as long as you win two out of six bets, which equals 33% or 1/3. You make a series of six wagers, adhering to the following staking plan: X, 2X, 4X, 6X, 8X, 12.5X. So, if your first bet is for $20, the progression would be $20, $40, $80, $120, $160, and then $300.

You continue working through the progression until you’ve made a profit, at which point you start over.

For Example: If you lose the first three wagers but win the fourth, you will still be slightly down overall. Despite winning a bet, you proceed to the fifth staking value in the series. If that bet wins, you start over. If it loses, you continue to the sixth amount.

This system can be combined with the zig-zag strategy, which will be covered below, to minimize the potential of losing more than four games in the series of bets. For it to work well, you’ll want consistent odds of -110, which is why we apply this method to point spread betting. Before using the 1/3 system, be aware that a particularly unlucky streak can cost a sizable chunk of your bankroll. For this reason, if you lose the first five bets, start over without proceeding to the sixth.

For this approach, you’ll need to have some offensive averages from the season to compare to recent performances. We’re looking for a team that’s playing at home who had a lousy offensive performance in the previous game. Look for teams with winning records who shot a much lower FG% than their average and scored fewer points than their typical points per game.

Teams that fit this description have exceeded their expected point total and won against the spread 62% of the time.

Note: So, if there’s a home team licking their wounds after a low offensive output, and you can bet them against the spread at -163 or less, you should do it. The point spread should move the odds closer to even money, meaning this has lots of value as a bet!

You may want to consider betting the “over” on the total score as well. Totals betting isn’t included in the data for this system, but considering it capitalizes off of the same recency bias, it will most likely be a winning play. This may also provide an excellent opportunity to parlay both bets.

One of the major gripes you frequently hear from NBA players and coaches are about games scheduled on back-to-back nights. As the season rolls on and fatigue sets in, players need more than 24 hours to recover. Otherwise, their performance is hindered. Well, the majority of casual bettors treat all back-to-backs equally, which is the wrong move.

The smart play is to find early-season back-to-backs, before the long road trips and the physicality of the season have taken their toll. If you fade the public by betting on the team playing their second game in two nights, preferably within the first month of the season, history shows they’ll cover the spread 58.6% of the time. That means anything less than -142 odds will have value, and since this bet is against the spread, once again, the odds should be closer to -110, which is great for us!

For this tip, you’ll need a team that’s favored to win despite playing on the road and who just suffered an embarrassing defeat. NBA teams that were just blown out by fifteen points or more tend to take out their frustrations on their next opponent, especially if it’s an underdog!

When a team lost their previous game by fifteen or more and traveled to an underdog's stadium for their next game, the road favorite has won roughly 64% of the time. At that winning percentage, you'll need a team favored by less than -178 to find value.

Another way to utilize this same system and increase the chances of winning is to bet only the first half. The idea is that a team that’s favored on the road after just experiencing a humiliating defeat must be a quality team and that the loss must have been uncharacteristic. The best way to erase the sting of that humiliating defeat is to really smash the next opponent. That extra motivation and push will most likely be more impactful in the first half before they settle into playing a typical game.

This time, we are looking for an underdog team playing at home. Once again, with this system, we are making a bet against the spread, so the payout should be close to even money. If the home team is a ten-point underdog or more, they cover the spread just over 58% of the time.

Make sure not to accidentally make this bet on the moneyline, though, because while they cover the spread at an impressive rate, these teams lose the actual game a vast majority of the time. Still, with a 58% chance of winning, anything closer to even money than -138 is a slightly profitable bet in the long run. But there are ways to sweeten the return.

This system becomes particularly useful when the road team is getting 70% or more of the betting action. Due to the odds typically offered in these situations, it will be difficult to profit in any significant way if you don't time the bet correctly. But if you can find a home underdog that's getting ten or more points and only bringing in 30% or less of the action, the resulting line movements make this a winning system worth using.

A zig-zag system is an approach to gambling that can be used for several different sports. It is primarily used when wagering on playoff games, specifically in sports that play a best-of series rather than single elimination. The system operates under the assumption that sportsbooks and casual bettors overreact to recent performances and that playoff teams will respond to losses with extra urgency and motivation.

Whichever team lost the previous game outright is the side you then bet against the spread. However, by itself, this system only wins 50.9% of the time.

To increase your chances of winning at a favorable rate, you'll need to add a few more filters

The zig-zag system works much better when the team responding to a loss is playing at home, notably when the previous failure also occurred on their home court. This brings the odds up to 53%, which is enough to become profitable. If you want to improve your chances significantly, add additional filters to find home teams that lost their previous game by at least three points and who won at least 60% of their games during the season.

When this scenario presents itself, the odds of winning against the spread are strongly dependent upon the size of the point spread. If it is between -3 and -4.5, the bounce-back home team beats the spread at a rate of just over 58%. Spreads between -5 and -5.5 aren't as worthwhile, covering at a rate of about 51%, but spreads of -6 or more win between 62% to almost 80% of the time!

You may also want to seek out road teams who lost their previous contest. When a road team loses their last game on the road and the point spread ranges between -3.5 and +3.5, they fail to cover the spread 64.5% of the time. So, if you find such a road team, make sure to bet the home team instead, despite this not technically fitting into the zig-zag system.

Notes and Research

Now that you have some specific scenarios to identify, it will take a little bit of effort to stay on the lookout for them so that you may benefit. For the most part, you should just check the lines being offered every day and just scan for underdogs at home or road favorites, then research the next criteria, like whether or not they lost their last game badly.

Some of these scenarios are very specific, so they may not come up too terribly often. But that’s why these systems all have reasonably high winning percentages. A smart handicapper searches out these ideal situations and capitalizes when the price is right. Just take the time to do a little research beyond merely looking at the odds.

Keep a Journal of Your Bets

We’ve given you a lot to digest in this article, between managing your finances, calculating probabilities, and then searching out specific matchups. The only thing left for you to do is to begin taking notes. For each bet you make, write down the two teams playing, the odds that were offered, which side you bet, and the reasoning behind the pick that you made. Then mark down whether the bet won or lost.

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Over time, the information in these notes will become a valuable learning tool. You’ll see patterns in your thought processes that have either brought you success or lead you astray. Once you see them written out like that, it will be easier to avoid them in the future.

You can even make a note of what experts you listened to for the pick, so you’ll eventually know whose advice is worth hearing and who always costs you money. The more details you can add, the more benefit you will get from these notes in the future. You can take them on a spreadsheet, too, which will be easier to manipulate and analyze when it’s time.

Final Thoughts

In the NBA, the teams that perform at the highest level and sustain their success year after year are the ones that are fundamentally sound and disciplined. The San Antonio Spurs come to mind in this instance. The betting systems we’ve covered in this article are to gambling on NBA basketball what bounce passes and hitting your free throws are to an actual basketball team.

Bankroll management and calculating implied probability so that you may determine a bet’s value are two concepts that separate the handicappers from the casuals. The majority of the people betting on sports are just doing it for fun or because they like trying to predict the winners. But picking winners is a fool’s errand because even if you are correct most of the time, you most likely won’t be making any money.

If you apply the rules above to the proven systems in this article, you will build a strong foundation on which to start learning how to handicap and get better.

Using the provided betting strategies or finding more is a sound way to win money and gain experience if you’re willing to take the few minutes required to research a team’s previous game or how many points they usually score. With experience, you’ll grow more comfortable with staking plans and comparing the results these systems produce with implied probabilities to see if there’s a good bet to be made. Just let the math do the work for you, and sit back and enjoy the profits!

Jim Beviglia
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About Jim Beviglia
Jim Beviglia has been a gambling writer at since 2018. During that time, he’s written just about every type of article related to gambling, including reviews of betting sites, guides to popular casino games, betting tips on both casino and sports betting, sports and casino blog posts, and game picks. In addition to online gambling, one of Jim’s other major interests is music. He has been doing freelance work for various music sites and magazines for two decades. Among his outlets past and present are American Songwriter, VinylMePlease, Treble, and The Bluegrass Situation. Jim has also written five books on music that were published by Rowman & Littlefield.