Over / Under Betting

Sports betting isn’t just about who wins and loses the game; there are several other ways you can get in on the action. Perhaps the most popular way is betting the Over/Under odds, otherwise called totals.

Totals betting revolves around the combined number of points, runs or goals that the two sides/teams will put up in a contest.

Oddsmakers will set a benchmark number for each game, so bettors can decide if they think the total will go over or under that number.

Totals are one of the most significant pieces of information that oddsmakers release for a slate of games. One glance at the Over/Under odds board, and you’ll quickly gain a sense of which games are projected to be low- or high-scoring or somewhere in the middle.

There are scores of bettors out there who focus on Over/Under betting as a key part of their sports betting strategy.

You can do the same, and we’re going to show you how.

What is Over Under betting?

Over/Under is a wager on the expected number of points to be scored in a contest.

For each contest on the docket, oddsmakers will set the bar with an estimated number. The betting public then has an opportunity to react and decide if they like the actual amount to go over or under that benchmark.

Betting on the Over Under is available for all the major sports.

In sports with low totals, such as baseball and hockey, the benchmark is set in single digits, with the exception being a potentially high-scoring MLB game.

In NFL betting and college football betting, the total will be set with double digits. For example, you may see 39.5 points for an affair that looks to be low-scoring or 56.5 points for a game that could wind up as a shootout.

When it comes to betting on the NBA and college basketball, the benchmark numbers climb into the triple digits. For high-scoring NBA contests, it’s not uncommon to see totals set at 200 points or higher.

Once you become familiar with Totals betting, you’ll be able to get a handle on the general range of numbers posted for each of the sports. After you understand the ranges, zeroing in on potential targets and understanding the potential style of each game becomes simple.

What does ‘Over/Under’ mean?

Over/under is synonymous with totals betting. After oddsmakers post the game line and odds, which includes the projected totals for each game on the docket, bettors then decide if they like the game to go over or under that number.

Those expecting a high-scoring affair will bet the “Over,” while those who think things may be a bit tighter than anticipated will bet the “Under.”

However, for those new to Totals betting, the numbers posted by oddsmakers may not seem to make much sense.

After a little seasoning, you’ll find that the numbers are often quite prescient, to the point that each half-point of difference on the board can make a huge difference. That’s part of the challenge in totals betting.

Of course, oddsmakers aren’t always exactly on the money; there are plenty of games that go way over or under the benchmark number set.

Spotting these games on a daily or weekly schedule is also part of the intrigue, and there are plenty of bettors who are quite good at it.

Examples of betting the total number of points

For a complete understanding of Totals betting, it’s helpful to examine how it applies to each of the major North American sports. We’ll stick with the pro leagues to use as examples, starting with MLB betting.

While a slugfest can break out at any time, baseball is generally a lower-scoring affair in comparison to the NBA or NFL. As such, benchmark totals will be set accordingly.

For a ballpark range, games set at seven runs or less can be somewhat of a pitchers’ duel, while those with a total of nine or more runs could be higher scoring. In the middle, you’ll find plenty of games set at eight or 8.5 runs.

Consider this fictitious total from a random game between the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets:

  • Over 8.5 runs (-110)
  • Under 8.5 runs (-110)

As you break down the game, your goal is to determine if you expect more or less than 8.5 runs to be scored in the contest.

Betting on the NHL is a bit unique for Totals in that the vast majority of games are set at 5.5 goals.

A game that’s anticipated to be low-scoring is generally set at five goals. In comparison, the higher end of the spectrum is usually six goals, with the occasional 6.5 making an appearance.

If the Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks were squaring off in an average clash that was to be within the normal range, here’s what the totals would look like:

  • Over 5.5 goals (-110)
  • Under 5.5 goals (-110)

When you dig into this tilt, you’re deciding if you expect the total number of goals to go Over or Under 5.5 goals.

In the NFL, there are more points scored per contest, so the range of Totals jumps dramatically.

Anything less than 40 points is considered a low-scoring game. Above that range and up to 50 points or so is about average. Games that go from the mid-50s into the 60s are considered high-scoring affairs.

For our example, let’s say the Indianapolis Colts are set to face off with the Las Vegas Raiders in a potentially high-scoring game:

  • Over 56.5 points (-110)
  • Under 56.5 points (-110)

The job of the handicapper is to determine if the game will be higher or lower scoring than the number set by oddsmakers.

Last but not least, let’s consider the NBA and its high-scoring matchups. For ranges, numbers set at around 195 points or less indicate a lower-scoring contest. There will be plenty of games between the upper 190s and the range of 210-215. Anything over the latter is the higher range of the spectrum.

For our example, the Toronto Raptors and New Orleans Pelicans are set to tipoff in a game that looks to be skewing toward the higher end on scoring:

  • Over 216.5 points (-110)
  • Under 216.5 points (-110)

Do you think the game will be even higher scoring than that? Could the sportsbooks be off the mark as a lower-scoring game breaks out? Well, that’s up to you to decide before you place your wagers.

We’ll walk through some tips on how to find the answers to those questions shortly. For now, let’s take a look at the odds and numbers attached to Over/Under betting.

Over Under betting odds and line moves

After the opening odds and lines are released, there can be a shift in the numbers in advance of game time. So, why is that?

Two main factors lead to this movement.

First, the betting public gets their chance to weigh in after the opening numbers are released. If one side of the equation is heavily bet on while the other side attracts scant attention, then oddsmakers may adjust.

In general, this will occur to attract more action to the other side. If a sportsbook goes into a game with lopsided action, well, that’s a liability on the book’s end. As such, oddsmakers aim to make those instances few and far between.

Odds and line moves can occur if news becomes public after the numbers’ release.

For example, a significant injury or a trade of a star player could impact the outlook for a game, and the lines will adjust accordingly.

A vital aspect of the Over/Under betting strategy comes in the tracking of movement from release until the time you’re ready to wager.

This simple step can help give you a sense of market sentiment, as well as alert you to new information that you may have missed in your research.

Over/Under betting and line shopping

In addition to line moves, it’s important to note that there can be differences in the odds at various sportsbooks. While most are at least somewhat in the range of market consensus, you can find some differences here and there.

While a half-point may not seem like that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, the reality is that it is. That lone half-point can be the difference between a winning and losing ticket when the final whistle blows.

Don’t be shy about shopping around for the best odds and lines.

For example, let’s say you have done your research on an NFL game that had a projected total of 56.5 points and odds of -110.

Just as you’re about ready to pull the trigger, you notice the line has moved at your book. It’s now at a total of 56 points and odds of -115. Should you take the bet anyway?

You certainly can, but you can also look around at other prices. During your hunt, you may find other books still at the original 56.5 number. Even better, you may see it listed with more attractive odds, such as -105.

Line shopping helps to point out these opportunities, so it’s good practice to check out what other operators have to offer for comparison purposes.

How to handicap totals bets

Handicapping totals bets is different than breaking down a game and looking for the winner.

While you can still examine similar things for both — overall team strength, key stats, etc. — it’s helpful to look at a few specific data points for Over/Under betting.

The trend can be your friend lots of times in sports betting, but it can also turn out to be nothing more than noise. This applies to Totals betting as well, but it’s still a critical step you need to take when handicapping.

You’ll want to consider the season-to-date and recent record of both sides on the over/under bet.

For example, let’s say it’s an NBA game with a total of 210.5 points. As part of your research, you look at how both squads have performed on the Over/Under:

  • Team A: 22-18 over/under season-to-date, 7-3 over/under for past 10 games.
  • Team B: 23-17 over/under season-to-date, 4-6 over/under for past 10 games.

On both, the record tells you how many “overs” and “unders” the team has had.

For example, Team A has gone “over” 22 times for the season, and seven times in their last 10 outings.

Examining these trends as part of your handicapping for Totals can help you spot potential inefficiencies in the market, not to mention which way a contest between two teams is likely to lean.

The bottom line on betting the total number of points

Over/Under betting refers to wagers that are placed on the total amount of points, runs or goals scored in a contest. Oddsmakers set a benchmark number for each game on the docket.

The betting public then gets its chance to weigh in and decide if they like the number to be over or under the projected totals. Hence, the name Over/Under is used interchangeably with Totals when talking about these types of wagers.

As you begin to gain experience with Totals betting, you’ll get a good sense of the ranges that are specific to each sport. After you have a handle on that, you’ll be able to quickly decipher the potentially low-, mid- and high-scoring games from any slate you see.

Just like with other types of wagers, odds and lines can move based on news or market sentiment. Line shopping to find the best price is a key part of a Totals betting strategy, as a half-point can make a world of difference.

For the handicapping of these bets, you can go through your routine for clues, but also be sure to spend time on trends. How teams performed for the season, or the past 10 games, can be a good indicator.

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