Intro to Betting WNBA Games

Beginner's guide to the different ways to bet on a single game in the WNBA

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Earlier this month, we kicked off our WNBA betting series with an overview of championship futures betting, or betting on who will win the title at the end of the year. Now that the season is underway, it’s time to take a look at game betting. There are endless types of bets you can place on an individual basketball game if you find a sportsbook that offers them. Some books offer bets on a certain player to record a set number of assists, for example, or for how long it will take for the first basket to be scored. These bets are much more common in the NBA, but there are three main ways to bet on a basketball game that nearly every sportsbook offers in the WNBA as well.

Against the spread

Against the spread (ATS) betting is probably the most popular way to bet on a single basketball game. The concept is simple: The sportsbook sets a line, which is the number of points the favored team is favored by. You just need to choose whether you think the favorite will win by more than that amount or less than that amount (the latter option includes the favorite losing).

Let’s take a look at tonight’s game as an example. PointsBet’s line for the game between the Lynx and the Storm (as of 11:17 a.m. EST) was Storm -5. This means that Seattle is favored by five points. Another way to write the same line is Lynx +5. A bet on the Storm will win if they win by six or more points, while a bet on the Lynx will pay out if Minnesota wins or if Minnesota loses by four or fewer. If Seattle wins by exactly five, the bet will be a “push,” which will be neither a winning or losing bet and simply result in your money back.

The amount of money returned for these bets is determined by the odds attached to them. Different sportsbooks vary on this slightly, but by far the most common odds for ATS bets are -110. The number following the minus sign is the number of dollars you would need to wager in order to win $100, so in this case a successful $110 bet would pay out $210 (including the original $110 returned and the $100 winnings).

Moneyline

Another way to bet on WNBA games is to simply pick the outright winner. Unlike ATS betting, where each side has roughly a 50% chance of paying out even in blowout situations, moneyline bets on favorites are much more likely to win than those on underdogs. To compensate for that, the payouts for moneyline bets work a little differently — each team has its own odds, which can at times be vastly different from each other if the game is a mismatch. The favorite’s odds will always be preceded by a minus sign, which works the same way as ATS and futures odds. In our example game, the Storm have moneyline odds of -226, meaning a $226 bet on the Storm would earn you $100 if Seattle wins.

The underdog’s odds are occasionally also preceded by a minus sign if the game is expected to be close, but generally they will come after a plus sign. The plus sign signifies the amount you would win on a $100 bet. The Lynx have odds of +180, so $180 would be returned on any $100 bets on them if they win. These numbers hold proportionally, so a $10 bet on the Lynx’ moneyline would return $18 if Minnesota wins.

We can use moneyline odds to calculate the implied probability of each team winning the game. For a more detailed explanation of implied probability, check out the first installment of our betting series linked at the bottom. The short version is that implied probability is the amount bet divided by the amount paid out (original bet plus winnings), and it’s the key number to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to place a bet. If you believe the actual probability of the event happening is higher than the implied probability, that’s when you want to put your money down.

The implied probability of the Storm winning tonight is 226/326, or 69%. For the Lynx, the number is 100/280 = 36%. These are the important break even points to look at when you place a moneyline bet — you may think the Storm will win, but you’d need to be more than 69% sure of that in order for it to be worth wagering.

Totals

The third type of bet you can place on a WNBA game is a totals bet — a bet on how many total points will be scored by the two teams. The sportsbooks will set a number as the “over/under” for the game, and you just need to choose whether you think the total score will be higher or lower than that number.

The over/under for the Storm/Lynx game is 163.5, so a bet on the under would be a winning bet if the teams combined for just 163 points or fewer. If at least 164 points or scored, the over will cash out. As with ATS bets, sportsbooks will attach odds to both the over and the under to determine how much the bets will pay out, and also like ATS bets, these odds are typically around -110 each way.


Futures betting is rewarding for those who are patient, but single-game betting can add an extra layer of excitement to the viewing experience, especially for an otherwise neutral fan. Nothing gives you a rooting interest quite like having your money on the line. If you’re ready to get in on the action, tonight’s game is a great place to start. Both teams are coming off of disappointing losses and are a combined 1-3 this season despite both having championship aspirations.

The key tonight will be whether or not Napheesa Collier can suit up. She returned to the U.S. on Sunday and will need to register six negative Covid tests before being eligible to play, but Lynx reporter Mitchell Hansen noted that those tests may not have to be spread out over six different days.

It’s much more likely that Collier’s season debut comes next week in Minnesota’s rematch with the Storm, but if she is out there tonight then the Lynx +5 will be an excellent ATS bet while the +180 moneyline will provide good value as well. In last year’s semifinal series between these two squads, Collier played remarkable defense on Breanna Stewart, and slowing down Stewart will be even more key to stopping the Storm this year with some of Seattle’s other top options gone.

Napheesa Collier launches a shot over Breanna Stewart in Game 2 of the 2020 WNBA semifinals on September 24, 2020. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

Follow along this year as we continue our betting series with analysis and breakdowns of the best bets and tips to improve your gambling skills, and don’t miss our betting coverage on our live shows on Twitter! So have fun, and bet on women — literally.


This is Part 2 of our 2021 WNBA betting series. For Part 1 on championship futures betting, click here. This series is about learning, so we want to hear from you! If you have any questions or any betting topics you’d like to see covered, please feel free to let us know in the comments or tweet at us @herhoopstats.


Thanks for reading the Her Hoop Stats Newsletter. If you like our work, be sure to check out our stats site, our podcast, and our social media accounts on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. You can also buy Her Hoop Stats gear, such as laptop stickers, mugs, and shirts!

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