NBA Betting Rules

By Andrew D

August 09, 2022

Image Courtesy of Alamy

In this article, we will describe what we see as the essential NBA betting rules you should be aware of before embarking on your own gambling odyssey. It should come as no great surprise to anyone that Sportsbooks have many rules and regulations. Some of those are imposed on them by governmental policies and some are self-created at their own discretion.

ANY reputable bookmaker will have easy access to their terms and conditions and you should be very wary of those that do not.

We are not here to break down all the myriad policies that will apply to any bets you lay. You can hire a lawyer and get him to run over those for you. We’re just here to mention what we see as the pertinent rules. Those that might actually apply to a situation you find yourself in if a game is canceled etc…


When a bet has action, it means that you have met the terms and conditions that are required for the bet to be accepted. These include external conditions beyond your control. The game must take place as described and any bets contingent on particular players must also meet the required conditions.

When the bet is said to have action, it is effectively the confirmation that your chosen sportsbook has accepted your bet. You are now locked into that wager unless one of a number of things happen that render the bet null and void. We will look at those shortly.


By far the most common type of pregame bets are point spreads, Moneylines, and over/under bets. For a much clearer understanding of how those bets and others operate, we recommend our article – ‘How to bet on NBA games’.

For those bets to be accepted and then remain valid, the agreed criteria must continue to be met. If we were betting on baseball then bets can often be canceled. If there is a change to a starting pitcher then that usually voids your wager. There are not too many variables to concern ourselves with in basketball and for the majority of the time, when you lock in a bet, it is not going to be voided.

If the game is canceled then it’s rather hard to claim your bet is a winner and it will simply be refunded.

Postponed games are fairly likely to have all bets voided too, especially if the league has yet to announce a new date. Any changes to rosters because of injuries or other unforeseen circumstances in the interim are likely to affect the odds that you were given.


If an event gets suspended for any reason and is not completed within the following 24 hours then the bet is void.

There may be situations where a date change will not necessitate a voided bet, but you need to check with your chosen sportsbook about that.

Venue changes can also trigger refunded bets. The complex, information-driven algorithms that sportsbooks use to calculate sports betting odds also account for venue. It is a virtual certainty that the odds on the bet you have made would have been different if the new venue had been announced before you made the bet.

Home/away advantage is a huge factor in most sports

Games played in the National Basketball Association are no exception.


Imagine that you’ve laid a wager on the favored team to win the game outright. Then you learn that their home advantage is gone after a venue change. We’re often dealing in minute details when choosing our results in NBA betting. And a change of venue is not a small detail. It may throw your whole system up in the air and thus the bet is voided.

There are some sports betting sites that will not always cancel your bet when a venue change occurs. However, if the teams reverse roles and the home team now becomes the away team then you can virtually guarantee that your bet is canceled.

Other reasons why a sportsbook may void or reject a bet:

  • The sportsbook posts the wrong odds. This is quite rare, but by no means impossible. We can vouch for that personally.

  • A parlay bet that has been improperly put together.

  • A prop bet contains an element that is objective and overly challenging to grade.


As long as any shortened games are considered to be ‘finished’ games with an accepted, published result, then your straight bets should still stand. Clearly, if you made a specific bet that relies on the full amount of time being played in order to determine the outcome, then it is likely your bet will be voided.

Live betting may not be affected if the section of the game that you bet on was completed without issue.

For example; if you put a few dollars on the New York Knicks to get hammered in the first half then your bet is considered complete at halftime. If a storm floods the place and washes it away in the 4th quarter then you’ve probably still lost your money.

These rules will tend to apply to any prop bets that are only interested in a particular section of the game.

When it comes to a shortened season, we recently experienced that exact thing in 2019/20. Most futures bets on things like win totals and any player over/unders were no longer considered valid.

There were, however, some futures bets that continued to have action even in the face of a shortened season. Any bets placed on who would win certain awards remained valid. So MVP and Rookie of the Year bets stood.

As did futures bets on who would win divisions, conferences, finals etc…


In a word – yes.

It stands to reason that different styles of bet would come with their own particular set of rules and regulations. Here are the NBA betting rules pertaining to the most common types of bet:


The simplest of all sports bets. You choose your predicted winner and lay money on them proving you right. There can be no tied games in basketball, so we are always guaranteed a result providing the game is not interrupted for any unforeseen reason.


Over/under bets concern themselves with the combined total score of any game. Unless specified, this will include any overt time (OT) played in the course of obtaining a result. Let’s say your chosen online sportsbook has set a line of 200 total points. If the two teams finish 102-98 then you have hit the exact amount and it is neither under nor over. In this case, the best would be declared a “push” and your money returned.

To negate this effect, bookmakers will often set the line with a scoreline that cannot be lane upon. So – all they have to do is set the line at 200.5 points and the problem is solved.

Click here to learn more about NBA over/under strategy, the second most popular type of wager in basketball after point spread or ‘line’ betting.


The rules for betting on NBA point spreads are fairly straightforward. The favorite is given a handicap that they must overcome or ‘cover’ in order to win the wager. This will be represented by a minus (-) next to their name. So, if we see (-5) next to a team we know that they must win by more than 5 for the ticket to be a winner. The same applies to the underdogs. Their head-start is represented by a plus (+) and this is how much lead they have been given. In this case (+5). If they lose by less than 5 points then they have still “covered the spread” and the ticket wins. Even though the team lost!

If the final score lands squarely on the spread total then that’s a push. Effectively the result is tied and you will be refunded. Here again, bookmakers have all but removed this problem by setting spreads that cannot be landed on directly. If they make the handicap (-5.5) instead then the team either makes it or doesn’t. There are no ties this way.

Point spread bets include overtime

Unless there is a cancellation or suspension of the game itself, you are in it right until the end.


When it comes to live betting on the NBA, the rules generally follow the same pattern as those that determine pregame bets. They tend to be tied to smaller sections of the game:

  • Race to 30 points

  • Next player to score

  • Next quarter winners

Most bets like this come and go during the larger game itself. It in only when a live bet is affected by a suspension or abandonment of the game that it would be refunded.

For example; if you had placed 4 separate bets predicting the winner of each quarter, then the game was abandoned with 5 minutes remaining, only your 4th quarter bet would be refunded.

Live sports betting lines change and update very frequently. They are more closely tied to the immediate action than almost any other kind of bet and so circumstances and odds change quickly.


When looking at the madness that is parlay betting, the guidelines can often vary quite significantly.

Each sportsbook tends to have its own guidelines in this area. If one leg of a parlay should become void for whatever reason, it is common practice for the ticket to simply drop that leg. It will then adjust the odds accordingly and the rest of the ticket goes on unaffected in any other way.

Basketball betting rules generally do not allow what are referred to as “correlated plays”. These occur when 2 or more bets that you are trying to combine on a single parlay ticket are too similar. So, if you try to add separate lines for the 1st half and full-time of the same game it will be rejected. The reason for this is that bettors have a decent chance of doubling their money betting on the same game. And as we all know, the last thing any self-respecting bookmaker wants to do is let you potentially double your money. Even if it is on a ticket that represents the biggest proportion of customers’ money that they get to keep and where they almost never lose.


The only real rule to note when it comes to overtime is that it typically only counts when betting on the spread, over/unders, or the Moneyline. Live bets are seldom affected unless you placed a bet that the game itself would enter overtime. Sportsbooks do not consider overtime to be an extension of either the fourth quarter or the second half.


For player prop bets to have action, the player in question must join the game at some point. Each bet probably has to be assessed on an individual basis. If your bet states that LeBron James will score in each quarter of a game but he fails to appear in the 4th then your chosen sportsbook will have rules that determine whether the bet stands or not.
Game props are only deemed to have action if the game itself reaches the 43-minute mark. There are, as awlays, exceptions when your bet may be based on a “micro” section of the game. Again those are questions best addressed to your bookmaker in advance if they concern you.


When looking at single-game bets, the grading that determines whether or not the action was legitimate happens right after the game. A decision is made rapidly and bets are either paid out or refunded accordingly.

Futures bets can be more complex. If your bet comes in early – let’s say you put money on a team reaching a minimum number of wins – then some sportsbooks may pay out immediately. Others will keep you waiting until the bitter end.

If you happen to disagree with any decision and wish to appeal then sports bettors in the US are much better protected than previously.

When a large number of Americans were forced to engage the services of offshore, unlicensed sportsbooks, there was virtually no recourse of action. Since the landmark ruling in New Jersey that has paved the way for ever more legal sports betting sites in many states, the situation is much better. There are legal avenues to voice complaints and disagreements that simply didn’t exist before. More power to the customer – hallelujah.


As you might expect, the amounts that you can bet on the NBA with any given sportsbook depend on its own rules and regulations. Most will have very low minimums – as low as 10 cents, in fact.

Maximum bet amounts are something that you probably have to speak to an advisor about, however, it is more likely that it is the amount you can win that will be restricted. Several of the top betting sites limit your winnings to $1 million per bet.


As with any system that involves financial transactions and exchanges, there were always bound to be an insane number of rules. Legally, it is much preferable for them to leave no stone unturned. No scenario unaccounted for.

Any event, no matter how unexpected, will be covered by one section of the terms and conditions or another.

In fact, that’s better from our point of view too. We don’t want gray areas. We want to know where we stand in any given situation. Even unpredictable “acts of God”. By and large, the rules regarding the actual bets themselves are there to ensure that mistakes are avoided. So that as many bets as possible have action.

If you’re ever unsure where you stand, then any decent NBA betting site should have very efficient and helpful customer service staff. They will be able to tell you all you need to know.

It’s all too easy to get carried away in the heady, exciting world of sports betting.

If you think you might have gambling problems then a good place to start is by contacting the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Although only around 1% of adults in the USA have serious gambling issues, that number rises to almost 10% among younger people. It is an affliction that has ruined countless lives but not one that has to be faced alone. Seek help and monitor your gambling habits and attitude towards them constantly. Remember:

“When the fun stops, stop”

When the fun stops, stop

Wise words indeed.
Thanks for reading folks.

Look after yourselves and each other.

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