NBA Picks: Basketball Betting Theory

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NBA Picks: Basketball Betting Theory

There are endless theories from countless forums, handicappers and books on how to beat the 4.5% hold built into the -110 juice you must lay when placing a wager with either Las Vegas or an online sportsbook.

Before we get to a simple initial approach in coming up with a way to generate selections, there are a few tools that you need to review and have open so you can reference back when mentioned below.

Live odds: You can compare opening vs current odds using this tool.

Steam (new feed pending): Everything from a late breaking injury or rumored illness can affect the line to move. Getting value on a number is very important and this information can help you beat the closing line.

Public Betting Trends: Knowing where the public is going and how the line reacts, in some instances this help (not always) discover games that are being bet by professionals.

One thing in betting the NBA we can’t stress enough is the importance of ALWAYS getting the best number possible. It is essential to always get the best number when placing a wager. If you are always laying a bad number, the ½ point losses and pushes will eventually add up and cost you tons of money in the end. For example as I write this the general line across the board is the Rockets -6.5 over the Clippers, but Sportbet has a -6.0. Why is something SO SIMPLE, SO IMPORTANT? Well, the industry average to buy a 1/2 point in basketball is -120 versus -110. But in this case, if you wanted to bet the Rockets you would only be paying -110 for that 1/2 point due to line shopping. -110 to -120 may not seem like much, but paying -110 for 1/2 points or more takes the edge away from the book on what it should be costing you as the player. To understand the importance of the “best number”,  here is a breakdown on an almost complete season of the basketball in regards to beating the closing number:

Home team +0.0: 675-668-27
Home team +1.0: 728-613-29
Home team +1.5: 702-642-26

What does the information mean? Well, in terms of betting the NBA and helping you make better picks, it means “VALUE”. The record above is the how well the home team did against the closing line. It is interesting to note that no matter what side you take with the closing number, using -110, you lose money.

Wagering on the NBA home team at $1000.00 per game: +$675,000.00 / -$734,800.00 = -$59,800.00
Wagering against the NBA home team at $1000.00 per game: -$742,500.00 / +$668,000.00 = -$74,500.00

If you go back to the opening part of this article, you will see we reference in the end the sportsbook will keep 4.5% of EVERY dollar you wager long term. Do the math on the above stats and you will see when betting the NBA, in the end you will lose 4.5-5.0% of everything you wager eventually. The amazing part of the numbers above? The end result of whether you take the home or away team, you will lose around 4.5-5.0% of every dollar wagered (take total amount of games x $1000 wagers and x by .045). Enough about the math Johnny! Get to my free NBA picks. Okay, here it is in a nutshell:  beat the closing NBA number by at least 1 or more points.  For example if the Los Angeles Lakers close at -6.0 and you bet at -5.0 or better, long term you have an edge over the bookmaker. Using the figures from above, with ZERO handicapping, just betting on the home team and getting one point better of the closing line, you end up 728-613-29 or at $1000.00 per game would net $728,000.00 in winners and $674,300.00 in losers for a total profit of +$53,700.00.  Just like a card counter in blackjack, by beating the closing NBA number you take the edge from the house and put it into your hands.

People work 40 hours a week at a job they hate to make $50k a year and all you need to do for the same income is just beat the closing number (in theory). Mind you, this is just NBA sides and does not include NBA totals (which has similar results using 2+ as a goal). What percent of winners in the NBA would you need to hit to make this kind of money just betting sides? Fifty four percent. Yes. 54%.  Not 60% or 70% like you always hear touts or uneducated bettors brag about.

Here are some tools to use and instructions on how to try and beat the closing number:

Paid Lines: Basically, you put the sharp books in the front and set up the alerts to let you know when they move and you in-turn can bet into a slow moving offshore or local.

Live Free Odds: The NBA lines offered on our site have a slight delay and will not beat most offshores on movements, but if you have an old school local, 99% of the time this free lines source is enough to beat him to the punch.

Steam (our new feed will be up soon): Injuries, illnesses, rest or any other breaking information on important players can cause the lines to move. If a starting point guard is pulled from the line up and the books have yet to react you can get down on the other team. In most cases, the public will over react to the injury and you can turn around and bet the other side once the lines moves and set yourself up for a free middle.

Now is this a guaranteed free NBA picks system for you to quit your job tomorrow? Of course not. In some cases, the NBA line will move back the other way and you can be on the wrong side of the closing number. Early movement can be bought back by wiseguys or late breaking injuries can cause you to be holding a bad line. Another downside is many offshore sportsbook frown on people betting NBA steam (beating them to the line move) and can feed you sharper lines, lower your limits of even close your account. There is no fool-proof way to always beat the closing number, so when getting your feet wet, bet with low amounts and document as much data as possible. What books tend to move first? Are there certain times of the day when more moves hit? Is a certain book solid on NBA sides, where another is the first mover on NBA totals? You can also monitor our public betting trends and work in where the public money is going to help filter out certain games. This is why someone like Vegas Runner is successful at what he does. Trying to predict movement on your own could end up costing you money, while someone like VR many times is getting your picks BEFORE the move. So say Handicapper X likes the Bulls and releases and the line is -5.0, but VR gets you the selection at -4.0. The value on beating a move ALONE is worth the price of admission many times.

In closing, this lesson is more about “understanding value” and not just “free NBA picks”. Being able to line shop, watch the market and know what numbers give you an edge can make you a better handicapper and give you an understanding of how to bet on the NBA. As mentioned, just trying to beat moves is not going to guarantee you to beat the system in place to take your money. But, and a big but, is watching how games moves and understand who tends to dictate the market is an essential part to becoming a good NBA handicapper and helping you get over the 4.5% the sportsbook is looking to earn off you long term.

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Make sure to check out our sports betting community to share handicapping information you have or just to get some free NBA picks. Also, check us out on both TWITTER and FACEBOOK to get exclusive content from the Pregame Team.


Johnny Detroit, Co-Founder and Vice-President
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  • Great article always have the most interesting and informative blog posts.

  • With football winding down, bump for remainder of hoops.

  • In a part II basically, we looked at Tuesday's NBA totals:

  • Thanks Sig. Great situation all the way around. With the site running so well, I can focus more on what I do best and not so much daily grind.

  • Hey My Man JD, was down with the dreaded Flu all day great to see you back. Hope all is well with the Family. I always love your input on betting into and away from line movement it has made me a smarter player over the years! Salute and Great to see you back!

  • Sounds great, JD!

    I've been to 2-3 Italian places around here since I moved out a year ago, but I'm betting the one your buddy owns is probably not as Collegiate as the few I've checked out.  Being that the fiance is in Med School, my experience here has been pretty similar to whatever your average grad student would have, I think.

    It just occurred to me that having you on the daily podcast, if you're feeling up to it, would be frickin' amazing.  Maybe we could have you and RJ on a Monday show to talk about the conglomeration of betting minds taking place before our eyes (or re-conglomeration, as it were).

  • Nice to see you back JD!  Looking forward to your new ideas!!

  • Can you tell me if I am understanding the article or I'm I missing it.

    Today the opening line of the Utah @Indiana game was 5, and now is 5.5. I see the public is on Utah. Do I wait till this numer hits 6 and Take indiana.

    May be a dumb question but if I dont ask I cant learn.

    >In this case the public is liking the favorite and the line is moving as such. Using this as an example, the case would be you took Indiana at -5 and it closed at -6, so you have a full point of value over the closing #. The other case would be say the game goes to -6 and closes at say -5 and you took the dog +6. It is easy to see where the smart play was after the fact. The hard part is getting the right # before the game goes. Almost like buying stocks. At one point is there still value in buying something? Getting in the habit of seeing when moves tend to happen, for NBA around 11-1pm EST and about an hour to 30 mins before tip on average will help you understand the market. Even though it sounds odd, over time some people can look at a game and tell you where the line will end up. VR is one of those people.

  • Dan, friend of mine I play 30-60 and 40-80 limit with owns an Italian place in Ann Arbor. I might be buying into a bar in NOVI in the next week, so maybe we can make that our "drink and meet"!

  • JD -

    Thanks for the props on the NBA blog!  I really try to put in an absolute ton of time on that thing, and I only hope it continues to help folks find their way!

    The time thing is completely understandable.  I'm not quite in the 100 hour/week stratosphere, but I'm already getting the business from the fiance!  Whatever the reasons, it's great to have you back over here, as your brain is one I've been wanting to pick for quite some time.

    Oh, also, I live in Ann Arbor, so the next time you're over, maybe we can grab a lunch or something?  My Hebrew background tells me Zingerman's, but my wallet tells me McDonalds...

  • great article. I'm a long time small guy who never put much thought behind my bets. Thought I didnt need help because I knew a lot about the nba. But after realizing I was one of those guys that lost 5% or more a year I needed help. Then I found pregame and I found I knew very little.

    Can you tell me if I am understanding the article or I'm I missing it.

    Today the opening line of the Utah @Indiana game was 5, and now is 5.5. I see the public is on Utah. Do I wait till this numer hits 6 and Take indiana.

    May be a dumb question but if I dont ask I cant learn.

  • All is well in the universe again!

  • WELCOME BACK JD----GREAT to have you and all you bring to the table back to pregame.

    Take Care

  • Damn, JD nice to see you back around the forums here.  Good luck hoss.

  • Need to find out the statute of limitations on some things first, lol......