What is 3-way Betting in Basketball?

By Andrew D

July 26, 2022

So, unless you are a complete beginner to the world of sports betting (in which case, read our article – How to bet on NBA games first) then you’ve heard of a “moneyline” or “straight” bet right?

It’s the simplest kind of bet available anywhere. A typical moneyline bet involves essentially answering the question “Who do you think will win?”

That’s it

If the result is a tie, or “draw” then the bet is considered a “push” and the stake money is returned.

In essence, a 3-way bet (sometimes called a 3-way moneyline) just adds the option that you think the game might be tied at the end.

Clearly then, 3-way moneyline betting only applies to sports and events that can end in a draw. More of that later…

The intrepid bettor chooses from three possible outcomes.


Since there are three possible outcomes instead of two, it is statistically harder to predict the correct one accurately.

It stands to reason then (hopefully if you’ve been paying attention) that 3-way bets offer higher odds value when compared with their traditional two-way counterparts.

So if you’re looking for more value, longer odds, and higher potential payouts, then three-way moneyline betting is certainly worth considering.

It is worth remembering/learning that, should you bet the winner on a 3-way ticket, your wager will be considered a loss should they not win during normal time. A win in overtime will give you nothing.


Logically, for those sports where a tie is never the final result (NBA games play on in overtime until a winner is found) a 3-way bet can only be a draw at the end of standard time. That must be when a 3-way bet concludes or it cannot include a tie and is no longer 3-way. Any action after that point is of no consequence to the bet whichever team wins.

Online sportsbooks and oddsmakers will primarily employ three-way moneyline bets in various sports. The main ones being ice hockey and soccer (football). This makes sense as these two sports have significantly less excitement and action than basketball and are more likely to end in a tie. Some soccer games go for 90 minutes and end 0-0. Call us old-fashioned, but we thought the idea in sports was to provide exciting, high-paced action and outscore the opponent, not bore them to death. Anyway, we digress…


The outcomes of any wagers on soccer games are determined after full-time. That is the 90 minutes of standard time plus any additional added minutes the referee chooses to include.


It merely makes them look like pathetic, cheating imbeciles on their own time.

Draws occur so often in soccer matches that three-way moneyline betting is the most standard and popular way to bet on a match.

Betting on the draw is just like betting on either side. It’s just that you’re hoping/predicting that by the final whistle there will be nothing separating the two teams.

Statistically, the chances of this happening are around 20%

An example of how we might expect to find a 3-way bet on a soccer match represented is as follows:

  • Aston Villa -115 (the minus [-] tells us they are the favorites)

  • Draw/tie +245

  • Leeds +185 (the plus [+] tells us they are the underdogs)

$115 on Villa to win returns $100

$100 on the draw returns $245

$100 on Dirty Leeds returns $185


By far the most popular league to bet on when it comes to the sport of hockey is, of course, the National Hockey League (NHL)

Two-way betting remains the most popular option for hockey games but three-way options are almost always offered. It is common for scores to be tied.

The chances of the game being a tie after FULL-TIME are around 11%

This is, again, represented in the odds attributed to each specific outcome.

  • Vancouver Canucks -135

  • Draw/tie +260

  • Tampa Bay Lightning +210

Put down $135 on Vancouver and they win in standard time? Cool – you get back $100 (plus your stake) = $235

Accurately predicted a tie and staked $100 on the scores being level at full time? Nicely done. $260 you win. $360 you take home.

Put $100 on Tampa and they win? Sweet! $210 win. $310 in your pocket.


The process with baseball is very similar to those discussed above. Your chosen sportsbook will provide you with the market options for the game. It might look like this:

  • New York Yankees -155

  • Tie/draw +215

  • Boston Redsox +200

This wager depends on regulation or 8.5 innings to 9 innings. Games that do not go at least 8.5 innings will be deemed to have “no action” and stakes will be returned. In a situation where the game is tied between the New York Yankees and the Boston Redsox after 9 full innings, the tie/draw is the wining bet and $100 on that would have just landed you a profit of $215. Awesome.


So, there are a couple of ways to introduce variety to 3-way bets. These varieties mean that a winning wager is not dependent on the winner of a 3-way game at all. They are mostly applicable to specific sports and relate to the number of goals or points scored.

One bet you can make is related to which half sees more goals scored. Now the 3-way bet might look like this:

  • More goals 1st half +125

  • Equal goals at half time +170

  • More goals 2nd half -110

Another variation is a “first to score” bet

Here’s an example:

  • Home team first to score -130

  • Neither team scores +190

  • Away team scores first +140

These examples work best with soccer betting but can be altered to fit other sports. You might need to speak to your bookmaker directly if they don’t routinely offer 3-way bets like this on your chosen sport.


So – let’s finally look at how we apply all this knowledge to the only sport that actually matter, or that we care about. Basketball.

How do we make a 3-way bet on the NBA? Basketball games are never tied as they simply play overtime until a winner is decided right? Right

But, remember when we talked about the end of regular time representing the end of the 3-way bet? Think. You read it just a few moments ago.

Well, here is the perfect example of how that works

Around 6.5% of all NBA games reach the final buzzer with scores tied

Much fewer than the soccer and hockey examples that we gave earlier. But not an insignificant number.

The odds will reflect that this is less likely to occur and can offer some incredible value if you feel a draw is likely and shop around for the best market.

  • Atlanta Hawks (Go Hawks!) -110

  • Tie/draw +320

  • New York Knickerbockers +185

Now that’s a tasty return for $100 if the game should happen to end honors even (it won’t, Atlanta [Go Hawks!] will destroy the Knickerbockers) but it illustrates the point nicely.


3-way bets are suitable for rookie bettors. They are relatively easy to grasp and a doddle to lay.

Strategies employed before placing 3-way bets can be as complex and detailed as you like (see our fabulous article – NBA betting strategy for a much clearer picture of this)

But they don’t need to be. It obviously helps if you study the form of the teams involved before placing your bet. But with only 3 options on the table, you have a reasonable chance of luck playing a part if you don’t have the time nor inclination to do so.


It is inadvisable to rely on this method of betting in the long term, as you will surely lose. But at the beginning it’s fine. See who won recently. Consider any other factors you are aware of (Injuries? Home advantage? Transfer tensions?) and place your bets accordingly.

Professional tipsters can be a way to get leads on interesting lines. If you have to pay more than you get back then it’s pretty clear they’re not worth bothering with. But there are surely free tips and tricks to be had. Google is your friend…


3-way betting is one of a number of interesting, potentially lucrative wagering options that buck the trend of a typical moneyline bet and picking a straight-up winner.

Better odds and value in the lines than in the traditional moneyline market mean that there is a chance you can win money. Guess what? You can lose it too. Oh so easily.

Betting sites are not always likely to list 3-way betting options for NBA games, as it is not a common strategy in the USA. But we have yet to meet a bookmaker that won’t take your money if you approach them with a specific request. As time passes, we may find more and more three-way betting markets appearing.

Whichever way you choose to place your wagers, remember that it is an activity that brings much more joy and much less destruction when undertaken for entertainment purposes only.

Never bet more than you can comfortably afford to lose and remember the golden rule:


When the fun stops, stop

If you think you might have a gambling problem then you are not alone and help is out there. Reach out to your local gamblers anonymous group or just talk to a friend. Suffering in silence is not necessary or healthy.

Sports betting can be a source of great excitement and amusement. But the other possible outcome is one of pure misery. Don’t let it get anywhere near that before you seek help.

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