NBA Betting Rules at Online Sportsbooks

Sportsbooks have rules that are very important to understand when making your NBA bets. Here’s a quick rundown on some basic sportsbook rules for betting on basketball and some things to keep in mind when you’re mulling over tonight’s Celtics odds.

What is necessary for an NBA bet to have action?

For an NBA bet to “have action,” it means the sportsbook has confirmed it has accepted your bet, and the game or player you are betting on (for instance) has fulfilled certain conditions — the game is taking place, the player is playing, etc.

The most common pregame bets are point spreads, moneylines and over/unders. There are also likely to be live bets available once a game has started.

The majority of the time, when you lock in a bet, it is good to go. You can confirm this by looking at the pending bets section at most major online sportsbook sites. However, some specific terms and conditions must be in place in certain instances for your bet to remain valid.

In baseball, voided bets frequently occur, as a change to a starting pitcher usually cancels a bet. Fortunately, there are fewer variables to worry about with NBA betting. Certain unforeseen events such as a cancellation, postponement or change of venue are prime examples of things that may cause a sportsbook to return your bet (aka “no bet”).

Here are the most common reasons a sportsbook may void or reject a bet:

  • A canceled/postponed game.
  • The sportsbook posts the wrong odds (rare, but it does happen).
  • A prop bet has a discrepancy or is challenging to grade.
  • An improperly constructed parlay (conflicting or correlated bets).

What happens to an NBA bet if the date or venue changes?

NBA betting may have slightly different rules at different sportsbooks regarding date and venue changes, but such changes generally will not void a bet.

For instance, at FanDuel, a venue change does not cancel your bet unless the home and away teams swap roles. Cancellations or postponements, however, may cancel your bet, especially if the league has yet to announce a new date.

What are the betting rules for shortened or canceled NBA games?

For any postponed game, sportsbooks will fully refund your bet. If an event gets suspended for any reason and not completed within 24 hours, the bet is void.

This rule does not apply to live bets if the result has already been determined. For example, if you bet on who will win the first quarter, that bet will remain valid if there’s a suspension of play in the second half. The same rules generally apply to NBA player prop bets.

What happens to NBA bets for a shortened season?

We recently saw a shortened NBA season in 2020. For the most part, futures bets on win totals and player over/unders aren’t valid in the event that this happens, but there are exceptions.

While the league must play all 82 games, sometimes sportsbooks will have lower thresholds. Some futures bets will stand in most cases regardless of season length:

  • MVP Award
  • Rookie of the Year award
  • Scoring title
  • Division, conference and NBA Finals winners

NBA betting rules by bet type

Here are the various NBA betting rules and regulations for different bets:

Point spreads

Sportsbook rules for betting on NBA spreads are pretty straightforward. The favorite will lay points (for example, -7), while the underdog will receive points (+7, in this example). You select the team you think will cover when you take that number into account and the amount you would like to bet.

If the final score lands precisely on the spread total with the favorite winning (for example, 100-93), that’s a push, which amounts to a draw. You don’t win the bet, but you receive your wager back.

Once you lock in your bet, it will remain valid throughout the game unless there is a cancellation and suspension. These bets include overtime, so you could still lose a bet in OT even if you cover in regulation.

Moneylines

With moneyline bets, you are betting on the outright winner of the game. Since there are no ties in basketball, this option is easier to follow for most bettors. There is no push for a moneyline bet in the NBA.

Over/unders

Over/unders involve betting on the combined score of a game (including overtime), without regard for which team wins. If the sportsbook sets the line at 207 and you bet on the over, you’re looking for the two teams to combine to score more than 207 points. If the total score lands exactly on 207, the bet is a push and you’ll receive a refund.

You can also bet season-long over/unders on NBA win totals odds.

Live betting

NBA live betting rules generally follow the same guidelines as pregame bets, with a wide variety of options:

  • Next quarter (spread, moneyline, over/under).
  • Next half (spread, moneyline, over/under).
  • Player prop over/under for the rest of the game.
  • Next player to score a basket.
  • Next coach to challenge a call.

One important consideration is that live sports betting lines will update frequently and quickly, so when you go to lock in your bet, it may no longer be valid because of a play that just happened that altered the odds.

Overtime betting

Overtime typically counts when betting on the spread, over/unders and the moneyline. However, it rarely applies to live bets on quarter/half point totals and spreads. Sportsbooks do not consider overtime an extension of the fourth quarter or second half.

Parlays and same-game parlays

Parlay guidelines can vary quite a bit, with each sportsbook implementing its own set of rules. If one leg of a parlay becomes void for any reason, the parlay drops that leg and offers a new parlay with the remaining legs and adjusted odds.

Often, NBA player props are singular bets only, although some sportsbooks may offer promotions to combine game results with player props. FanDuel is one notable exception, with one of the most comprehensive selections of same-game parlay options in the business.

Game and player props

Prop bets are usually the trickiest when it comes to sportsbook rules for NBA bets because of possible statistical changes and bets that are difficult to grade. For NBA player props to have action, a player must check into the game at some point. Game props have action if an NBA game reaches 43 minutes, although exceptions may occur on micro bets for an earlier quarter/half bet.

Grading bets and procedures for returns and pushes

For single-game bets, grading usually occurs shortly after the game. The same is true for bets deemed “no action” or a push. Futures bets can vary. Depending on the bet or the sportsbook, some bets may pay out as soon as they hit (i.e., season win totals), while some will cash after the season (bets on awards).

Disputes may happen. Fortunately, with the emergence of legalized sports betting, bettors have better protection and legal avenues to voice disagreements. Here are some past examples of disputed bets that sportsbooks ultimately paid out or refunded:

What happens when sportsbooks make mistakes?

As previously mentioned, mistake lines are rare, but they happen. Prop bets generally have the most frequent mistakes. Most sportsbooks will not honor a bet if they incorrectly post the line, instead refunding your stake. However, there are some notable exceptions.

What happens when stats change after the game?

Most stat disputes at NBA games are examined and audited by an in-arena stat keeper and updated in real-time. Sportsbooks generally try to follow up-to-date NBA stats and honor in-game adjustments.

FanDuel has stated, “where it is obvious or where there is an official correction to an individual stat, FanDuel will continue to work with all relevant bodies to ensure we honor all winning wagers in good faith.” DraftKings Online Sportsbook will generally compensate bettors with site credit if a stat correction occurs after grading a bet.

What are correlated plays, and why can’t you make them?

Basketball betting rules generally won’t allow correlated plays. These bets are when you try to combine betting on two game events that are very similar to one another. An example would be trying to parlay the first half and full game odds.

Sportsbooks rarely allow these types of bets because they give bettors a chance to double their winnings by essentially betting on the same results.

What are the minimum and maximum limits for NBA bets?

Minimum and maximum bets for the NBA vary depending on the sportsbook. Most sportsbooks have low minimums. DraftKings and FanDuel accept bets for as little as 10 cents. BetMGM sets its bet minimum at 50 cents.

Most sportsbooks are flexible with maximum bets, but several of them limit maximum winnings. FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM cap them at $1 million per bet. There are certain exceptions where they will take on larger bets, however.

Rules for free bets and bonuses

Sportsbook free bets and betting bonuses vary in terms of your bet amount and what you can bet on (i.e., NBA teaser betting rules). Nearly all sportsbooks have a playthrough requirement, meaning you have to bet a certain amount to withdraw any winnings.

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