Betting on NBA games is faaaaantastic—so long as you have a firm grasp on the fundamentals of how to bet on NBA games. If you don’t, you can kiss your cash goodbye.

This game is quite different from a betting perspective, and can really eat up your bankroll if you bet like a sucker. From underestimating a red hot scorer to overestimating the importance of home court advantage, the NBA offers ample opportunity to make bad bets.

Here are a few big things to keep in mind as you bet the NBA:

The Refs Are Superstars, Too

You heard about that dude Tim Donaghy, right? That NBA referee who was working with mobsters to fix NBA games?

The official NBA story was that Tim Donaghy was a “lone gunman,” and no other NBA ref, never ever ever ever, slanted calls so that one team would cover the spread and/or the other team wouldn’t. Conspiracy theorists would beg to differ with the lone gunman notion, and are requesting that David Stern show his birth certificate.

All joking aside, NBA refs don’t have to be crooked to have a tremendous impact on whether or not you cover the spread when you’re betting NBA. In no other sport is officiating so central to the outcome of the game itself, but even more especially the outcome of the spread.

If you watch an NBA game, the pervasive influence of the refs is easy to see because in many instances, these guys (and gals) are calling fouls nearly every single time down the court. The neverending foul calls result in free throws which turn into free points.

These guys are professionals after all, they should be able to hit a 15 foot shot with no one even guarding them. And that’s exactly what they do, is hit free throw after free throw.

In addition to the barrage of free throws which can make or break your NBA point spread bet, NBA refs can influence the game by getting major players in foul trouble early in the game. This is most common in the case of NBA big men such as Shaq or Dwight Howard, whose teams are totally different without them on the court.

One game the refs call two early fouls on Shaq, the next one they don’t. You better hope that you’re betting on the right side of those calls! (P.S. Mr. Donaghy says hi!)

NBA Players Don’t Try Frequently During the Regular Season

Another potentially frustrating—but also potentially profitable—aspect of betting on NBA games is caused by the fact that, with 82 games in the season and constant coast-to-coast travel, not to mention the various “extracurriculars” these players engage in…well, let’s just put it bluntly:

There are many games during the regular season in which NBA players don’t try hard.

This is why you must always be wary when you see an NBA line that seems “too good to be true.” Whenever a good team is an underdog to a bad team, be wary! The good team may be ready to roll over and play dead that night.

Many NBA bettors, for this reason, avoid betting on teams that are playing the second in a series of consecutive-day, back-to-back road games.

The NBA Is a Game of Runs, and of Great Players

Another aspect of how to bet on NBA games that you must consider is that NBA basketball is a game of runs. It is not uncommon to see 17-4 runs, 20-6 runs, that sort of thing, and then the other team will come back and put together its own 17-4 or 20-6 run.

These players are such amazing athletes and so skilled, even the worst team in the league has a few guys that can light it up for 3-5 minute stretches at a time. You never can get too comfortable betting an NBA game, even if you’re up by 20 points on a pick’em game, there’s still a halfway decent chance that you will end up losing your bet.

All that being said, the best NBA teams consistently control key parts of the game; for example, the first quarter of a big game. With this in mind, many people who enjoy betting on NBA games choose to bet halftime lines or even quarter lines, thinking that the inferior team may make a run in the second quarter, but in the first quarter, the better team will come out and make a statement.

By way of conclusion, betting on NBA games is always easier when you have a truly great player on the team you’re betting. When you have a Michael Jordan, a Kobe Bryant, even a Dirk Nowitzki on your team, you are in much better betting shape than if you don’t.

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