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NBA Betting Overview

Betting on the NBA in it’s simplest form is just picking a team to win or lose by a certain amount of points known as the point spread. Over time though, as with everything sports gambling, the betting has evolved.

You probably know about wagering on the total amount of points scored, but most sportsbooks offer all kinds of other bets you can place as well. You can bet the quarters, half’s, or even at halftime.

A lot of games even offer prop bets where you can actually wager on individual player stats. If you’re not familiar with all of these types of bets, it can be a little overwhelming and definitely confusing as to where you should start.

Well within our guide, we’ll take you through the basics all the way to the more complex tips, strategies, and systems. It all comes down to finding the best value, and believe it or not you can find some great +EV (expected value) with some of the prop bets and totals that are offered.

Everybody knows they can bet on a team to cover the spread and sometimes value can be found there. But in all honesty, we don’t really care what kind of bet it is, if we feel we have an advantage then we’re going to capitalize on it.

What we’re trying to share with you are some of the key tips and strategies that professional handicappers use day in and day out. Our goal is to help you become the best NBA handicapper you can be.

NBA Playoff Betting

NBA Playoff Betting

The regular season is finally over, now it’s time for NBA playoff betting…which is basically another season in and of itself, lasting about two months.

As with any sport in the playoffs, with more people watching and betting, the lines become a little more sharp and value becomes more difficult to find. With that being said though, I personally feel that great opportunities can be found in NBA playoff betting.

Everybody steps their game up in the playoffs and it’s very apparent when watching. Where it’s most obvious is on the defensive side of the ball because games typically are a little more low scoring in the playoffs as opposed to the regular season.

There’s a since of urgency from both teams so not only do they step up their intensity on defense, they also seem to be a little more patient on the offensive side as well i.e. not forcing shots and letting the shot clock tick down a little further than usual.

NBA Playoff Betting – What To Look For

In searching for value and +EV situations when it comes to NBA playoff betting, I prefer to focus on teams that have shown defensive/physical intensity throughout the year and not just stepping it up for the playoffs.

In other words, they’re much more accustomed to this style of play since it coincides with what they’ve been doing throughout the year. Now I’m not saying they’ll win (or cover) every time, but they tend to play much closer games, possibly giving you good value when they’re getting points.

The same be said when betting NBA totals in the playoffs as well (which, as you may know, is where I concentrate the majority of my time if you’ve read our betting basketball totals section.)

In other words, I tend to focus on totals that have more defensive oriented teams playing. Typically their style of play will dominate when playing a more offensive minded team thus creating a lower total.

Trust me, I’m completely fine betting an under of 180-185 in the playoffs when my numbers show the total should be around 175-180 (just a rough example). However, the books can be a little worried about setting the totals that low, plus they’ll still be able to draw plenty of public action on the over with a total of 180-185.

Sharp bettors are well aware of this and are more than happy to be on the same side as the books with the value they’re offering. Better yet though, with so much public action being bet and if you’re wanting to bet an underdog or under, the closer you wait until game time, the better number you’ll get (since we know how the sqaures love to pound those favorites and overs).

For the most part though, NBA playoff betting isn’t totally different from the regular season. It still takes time and research, but I can assure you great value can be found (especially when looking at totals).

NBA zig zag theory

NBA Playoff Betting – The Zig Zag Theory

As you may or may not know, the NBA zig zag theory has been around for quite some time, so it may have played itself out. However, I still like to mention it because I still believe there can be value found in it.

Here is how the zig zag theory works: Bet on the team, that lost straight up in the previous game, to cover the spread in the current match up as long as they are still playing in the same venue (in other words, the home team in the previous game is still playing at home). That’s it in it’s simplistic form.

However, there have been some refinements added to it over the years that still seem to show some value. Obviously, you can’t bet on game 1 in the series. Also, the theory resets every time the game switches locations. And finally, only bet on a team that lost ATS in the previous game (not just straight up) as long as they’ll be playing in the same location.

Clear as mud, huh? Well let’s take an example from the 2010 NBA Playoffs. In game 1 of the Western Conference Playoffs, the Lakers were a 7.5 favorite over the OKC Thunder. The Lakers won by 8, thus covering the spread.

One would think that the Lakers would roughly be a 7.5-8 point favorite again in game 2. However, they were only a 6 point favorite. According to our zig zag theory, we would take the Thunder even though they are getting less points.

Well, the Lakers won in game 2, but only by 3 points, thus resulting in a win ATS for the Thunder and a win for the zig zag theory. The theory is based on the expectation that the team that just got beat will be extra motivated to come out and play the next time.

For my personal criterion, I will only employ the theory when the team that lost ATS in the previous game is still an underdog in the following game, but by a lesser amount of points. To the general public, this line would appear to be “off”, but as I always say, the sportsbooks don’t set these lines to lose money.

The squares will see a line like this and pound the favorite because they just won ATS in the previous game, are still playing at home, and are now actually favored by less points (they’re thinking free money). Well, if you know me by now, you know I always try to be on the same side as the books.

I haven’t had the chance to run the historical numbers on this zig zag situation, but I would assume it’s hitting at a long term average of above 54% (again this is purely speculation on my part, however I have found this trend to be profitable in my handicapping).

When this situation occurs, and it certainly does, you can guarantee I’m going to be looking at the underdog (but it can also be the favorite at times). The zig zag theory is based on these types of situations where you’d assume the line should be set one way, but in reality it’s actually not.

As with any type of system though, you should never follow it blindly. You always need to apply your own research before ever committing a portion of your bankroll to a bet.

For NBA playoff betting, just put in a little time to find out why a line is 2,3, or even 4 points different from the last game even though the exact two teams just played at the exact same location. Dig a little deeper and great value can be found.


NBA playoff betting can be exciting, but more importantly profitable. As with any type of sports betting though, a little time and research will always be needed. Trust me, there’s no “layups” when it comes to betting on the NBA.

Now that we have a good starting point for our NBA playoff betting, let’s take a look at some quality NBA betting systems that can be a great addition to any handicappers repertoire. As always, best of luck in all your sports betting endeavors.

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