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How to bet on the WNBA (and why it’s a good time to start)

(Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

The WNBA playoffs are right around the corner, which means the spotlight on the league is growing. It also means it’s a great time to enter the growing betting landscape.

After all, what better way to — in the words of Nneka Ogwumike — “bet on women” than to literally bet on women?

The first step is to learn to read the odds and lines (or what odds and lines even are!). All the numbers, pluses and minuses can make your head spin, and for a rookie bettor, staring at them can feel like a rookie player staring at their new team’s playbook.

That’s where this primer comes in. If you’re new to the party and looking for the 101 course, we’ve got you covered. And if you’re not sure whether WNBA betting is for you, we’ve got you covered there, too.

Making sense of the numbers

There are three common types of bets you can place on a WNBA game. These aren’t the only available options, but if you’re new to betting, then they’re probably the only ones you need to care about.

When you click on a game on an online sportsbook’s website, the first thing you’ll see are the lines and odds for each of these three options — spread, total and moneyline. We’ll get to what those mean in a minute, but here’s an example from PointsBet Sportsbook for the game between Phoenix and Atlanta on Sept. 8.

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Moneyline

In basketball, moneylines are the least common of the three — they are much more common in lower-scoring sports such as soccer or hockey — but they are also the most important to understand first. That’s because the way the odds work for moneylines also applies to almost all other types of bets.

The odds are just those pluses and minus you see in a sportsbook. In our example game, the Mercury had odds of -221 while the Dream’s odds were +175. While the numbers themselves may seem complicated at first, the concept of moneyline bets is simple: Who will win the game?

A minus number means that you have to bet that amount to win $100. A $221 bet on Phoenix to win the game would earn you $100 if the Mercury win. (Some books will tell you that the bet “returns” $321, which just means you get your original $221 back plus the $100 you won.)

Plus odds work the opposite way — you have to bet $100 to win that amount. If the Dream were to win, a $100 bet on them would win $175 (or return $275 including the original bet).

These odds work proportionally, so you don’t need to bet that exact amount. Instead of betting $100 on Atlanta to win $175, for example, you can bet $1 to win $1.75 or $1,000 to win $1,750.

Spread

Against the spread (ATS) bets are the most common form of basketball betting. These are bets on a certain team to win after a handicap is applied to their point total.

Sportsbooks will determine the amount by which the better team is favored, and you can then bet on that team to win either by more than that many points or fewer than that many (including to lose).

PointsBet favored the Mercury by 4.5 points in the Sept. 8 game, meaning Phoenix would have to win by five or more for that bet to win. An ATS bet on the Dream would win if Atlanta wins or if Atlanta loses by four or fewer points.

Put another way, if you subtract 4.5 points from Phoenix’s score (or add it to Atlanta’s) at the end of the game, then who won? That’s why that number — known as the spread or the line — is given a minus sign for the favorite and a plus sign for the underdog.

Sportsbooks generally try to set these lines at a mark where they believe each side has a 50 percent chance of winning, so unlike with moneylines, the odds are typically the same for both sides. Some sportsbooks deviate slightly from this norm, but the standard is -110. That number works the same way as the moneyline odds: Bet $110 to win $100.

Total

The third common type of basketball bet is a totals (or over/under) bet. This is a bet on the total number of points scored between the two teams, so if you want to bet on buckets or bricks, this is where you’ll make your hay.

In our game, if the teams combine for 155 or more points, the over wins. If not, the under cashes out. The odds work the same way as before and, like with spreads, they are usually around -110 on each side.

The other important thing to know when it comes to totals and spread bets is what a “push” is. You’ll notice that in the Mercury versus Fever game, the spread and the over/under are each set at a half-point mark, so it would be impossible to hit the exact line. But that’s not always the case.

Sometimes those lines are set at whole numbers. Let’s say the spread was instead Phoenix -5. If the Mercury won by exactly five, that would be a push, which means you would get your money back but wouldn’t win anything extra. Whole number totals work the same way.

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Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (Rich von Biberstein/Getty Images)

Why bet on the WNBA?

Betting isn’t for everyone. It’s a personal financial decision that you should never feel pressured into trying.

If you approach it responsibly, however, there are pros to betting on the WNBA that can outweigh the cons (even beyond the obvious opportunity to grow your bank account).

Growing the game

Pretty much everything you do to get involved with the WNBA will help the league grow, from attending games or buying gear to interacting with WNBA-related social media posts.

Betting is just another one on that long list. Sports betting in general is already a booming industry, and it continues to grow rapidly as more and more states legalize it. The higher the share of the money and the wagers that get placed on women’s sports, the more they’ll become part of that equation.

Even if you don’t want to risk your own money, which is certainly understandable, engaging in discussions about the betting markets can still have an impact. Plenty of people make their “against their spread” picks online but don’t actually put money on the pick.

However you wish to participate in the league, participate in the league. It will only move things forward.

Taking advantage of the sportsbooks

Sportsbooks make money when they are smarter than you (read: when they pay more attention than you do). Sports like the NFL or the NBA see such unfathomable sums of money wagered that the books have to devote as many resources as possible to making sure their lines are as accurate as possible. If they aren’t, the books stand to lose millions, if not billions.

That isn’t true to nearly the same extent in the WNBA. As a result, sportsbooks often neglect the league to the point where their lines and odds are inefficient and exploitable.

For instance, the Lynx entered the season on most books with the eighth-best odds to win the championship. For a top-four team a year ago that returned nearly everyone and added multiple key free agents, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

A more relevant example for those who are planning on betting on single games using the three options listed above is injury updates. In the NBA or the NFL, if a key player’s status changes, the lines and odds on their game change almost instantaneously. A team who is favored by 13 and then has its star player ruled out will be favored by 10 or 11 before you have time to bet on the spread of 13.

In the WNBA, it can take hours for sportsbooks to account for injury updates. Players as impactful as Sylvia Fowles, Brittney Griner, and Candace Parker have all had updates to their status at some point this year without the spread of their game changing for a good chunk of the day. This leaves you with a window to bet on their team if they are declared healthy or to bet on their opponent if they are ruled out.

This opportunity, while profitable, ideally isn’t around for too many more years. If sportsbooks pay more attention to the WNBA and we lose out on chances to make money, that’s a substantial net positive. But as long as those advantages linger, we might as well cash in on them.

Calvin Wetzel is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering basketball and betting. He also contributes to Her Hoop Stats and Bet Her. Follow him on Twitter at @cwetzel31.

2023 MVP Breanna Stewart Drops 31 Points in Liberty’s Huge Win Over Fever

breanna stewart and jonquel jones of the new york liberty celebrate win over indiana fever
Stewie and the Liberty dominated the court throughout Thursday's Fever home opener. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty dominated Indiana on Thursday night, winning by a whopping 36 points in the Fever's home opener. 

A sold-out crowd of 17,274 was in attendance to watch as star rookie Caitlin Clark finished the 102-66 defeat with nine points, seven rebounds, and six assists. It’s the first time since January 2021 — her freshman season at Iowa — that Clark's been held to single-digit scoring. 

"The physicality is definitely up there... I'm easily pushed off screens," she told reporters after the loss. "The game seems a little fast for me right now. The more I play and the more comfortable I get, it's going to slow down a little bit. It will be easier for me to make reads, see things develop."

The Fever were outscored by a combined margin of 57 points in their first two games — the largest two-game point deficit in WNBA season-opening history, according to @ESPNStatsInfo.

"We've got to get to a level of toughness," Fever coach Christie Sides in her own postgame remarks. "When things are going south on us, we're not stopping the bleeding."

"I have great perspective on everything that happens," Clark added. "It was the same in my college career. There were some moments that were absolutely amazing. And there were some moments I was not happy with how I played and how my team performed. That's just life, that's just basketball."

Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, who herself experienced a rocky rookie season following a much-hyped college career, offered up some insight on the matter.

"In this league, there are tough defenses all centered around not letting you get the ball, trapping, not letting you score," Ionescu said. "There were many factors that played into what was a tough first season for me in the league, but it helps you be able to figure it out. You have to have those experiences."

But it was reigning league MVP Breanna Stewart that truly stole the show, racking up 31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks on the night.

"In general, I just wanted to come out more aggressive coming off of last game," Stewart said after putting up the 24th 30-point game in her career.

Stewart she also commended the fans inside Indianapolis's packed Gainbridge Fieldhouse, noting that she hopes that level of support to continue across the WNBA.

"This is how you want every game to be and when it's a sell-out crowd, it gives you a similar playoff atmosphere feel," she said. "People want to be a part of this and the thing now is to continue to sustain it, continue to take the momentum that we have and turn it into something more."

WNBA Commissioner Admits to ‘Faulty’ Charter Rollout

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert at 2024 wnba draft
Cathy Engelbert at the 2024 WNBA Draft in New York. (Cora Veltman/Sportico via Getty Images)

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert admitted to a "faulty rollout" of the new charter travel initiative on Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Ahead of Tuesday's season opener, it was announced that the only teams flying private this week would be Indiana and Minnesota. The announcement came mere days after the league made a new charter flight program for all WNBA teams public. At the time, they said it would be implemented "as soon as we have the planes."

But as two teams out of 12 chartered to their first games of the season, others like the Atlanta Dream and Chicago Sky were forced to fly commercial.

A town hall meeting between Engelbert and the players was held in response to the confusion. Everything from the league's new media rights deal to private travel was covered in the meeting, with players submitting their questions ahead of time. Sky center Elizabeth Williams told Sun-Times reporter Annie Costabile afterwards that cross-country flights were prioritized.

"Flights that are across the country like [the Lynx] going to Seattle, crossing multiple time zones, or flights that usually require a connection, those were the priorities," Williams said. "That’s why New York didn’t go to DC with a charter, but Minny goes to Seattle."

What’s unclear under that metric is that the Atlanta Dream played the Los Angeles Sparks on Wednesday, which could technically be classified as a cross-country flight. 

On Tuesday, rookie forward Angel Reese shared a photo on her Instagram story lamenting the league's use of commercial flights.

"Just praying that this is one of the last commercial flights the Sky has to fly," Reese posted. The team still has at least three commercial flights awaiting them in the near future.

"Obviously, I think all teams should be able to get chartered," Reese told the Sun-Times. "But I know moving forward... going in the right direction, being able to have some teams [chartering] is cool. Within the next weeks, everybody will be flying charter, which will be really good."

On Thursday, Lindsay Schnell of USAToday Sports confirmed that the league intends to have all teams on charter flights by May 21st.

Brazil Wins Bid for 2027 Women’s World Cup Host

fifa womens world cup trophy on display
The FIFA Women's World Cup trophy on display in Bangkok after Brazil was announced as the 2027 host country. (Thananuwat Srirasant - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Brazil has been named the host for the 2027 Women’s World Cup, with FIFA announced early Friday. 

The decision came after a vote at the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok, with Brazil earning 119 votes to the joint European bid’s 78. 

This will be Brazil’s first time hosting the Women’s World Cup, with the country having hosted the men’s World Cup twice before in 1950 and 2014. It will also be the first Women’s World Cup held in South America. The tournament will follow the same 32-team format as the 2023 WWC in Australia and New Zealand.

Brazil winning the bid was not entirely surprising after FIFA issued a report just last week, stating that the Brazilian bid had pulled ahead as host following technical inspection. After evaluation, Brazil was given a score of 4.0 out of 5, compared to the 3.7 awarded to the Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Brazil ranked higher in a number of key areas, including stadiums, accommodations, fan zones, and transport infrastructure. Though considered to be a frontrunner, the US and Mexico withdrew their joint bid prior to the technical inspection period, saying they would instead focus their efforts on 2031.

On Friday, Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ednaldo Rodrigues called it a "victory." 

"We knew we would be celebrating a victory for South American women's soccer and for women," he told reporters. "You can be sure, with no vanity, we will accomplish the best World Cup for women."

"We are working on a transformation, not only for the country but for the continent," added bid team operational manager Valesca Araujo.

Brazil intends to use 10 of the venues utilized at the 2014 men’s World Cup, including holding the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 25th. The CBF's proposal outlines that the 2027 tournament run from June 24th through the end of July. Last summer’s World Cup began at the end of July and concluded on August 19th.

Another notable element of Brazil's newly unveiled plan to grow of the women’s game is that "all [men’s] clubs wishing to take part in high-level national and continental competitions must now provide a structure for a women’s team." While the definition of "structure" was not specifically identified, the country has set targets with CONMEBOL to help increase the number of women’s club teams in the country.

In last week's inspection findings, FIFA noted that selecting Brazil as the next WWC host could "have a tremendous impact on women's football in the region."

Chelsea Eyes Weekend Finale With WSL Title in Sight

chelsea players celebrate win against tottenham in the wsl
Chelsea beat Tottenham on Wednesday, moving to the top of the table in an effort to win departing coach Emma Hayes some silverware. (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Chelsea did what they needed to do on Wednesday in order to make Saturday's slate of season-ending WSL fixtures interesting: Beat Tottenham.

The Blues are now number one in the league, with an edge over Manchester City on goal differential thanks to an eight-goal outing against Bristol City last week. 

Yesterday's result tees up a league finale for the books as Chelsea looks to send coach Emma Hayes off with another trophy to add to her cabinet. The Blues will play FA Cup winner Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday, while City is away at Aston Villa.

"We will be leaving nothing on the pitch, we will be giving everything and no matter what the result is," Chelsea midfielder Erin Cuthbert said after Wednesday's win. "At least we can look each other in the eye and say we gave everything."

It makes for a thrilling end to Chelsea's Emma Hayes era, as the decorated WSL coach will take over the USWNT in June. And it comes after Hayes all but conceded the title race early this month after Chelsea fell to Liverpool 4-3.

"I think the title is done," Hayes said at the time. "Of course, mathematically, it's not, but I think the title is done. Our job between now and the end of the season is to keep pushing until the end, but I think it will be very difficult.

"We will never give up. But the title is far from us; it's not in our hands. I think City are deserving, their consistency has put them in that position. Of course, we will go to the end, but I don't think the title will be going to us this year."

Be it mind games or Hayes truly thinking her team was that far off, her words lit something in Chelsea. Their following two performances showed the team’s determination to have a shot at some silverware.

As for Saturday's schedule, Hayes believes her team is facing the "tougher of the two games."

"It's a fitting finale for me, being my final game," she told BBC Sport. "As I said to the players if someone gives you a second chance in life, make sure you don't need a third one. We're in the position we want to be in, and we'll give it everything on Saturday no matter what."

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