The over/under bet, also known as the totals bet, is a profitable way to bet on sports without worrying about the result.
Because it’s easy to understand, it’s popular with both professionals and casual bettors.
However, there’s a lot more to over/under betting than meets the eye.
This guide will show you everything you need to know about the over/under bet, from the basics to the advanced.
What Is An Over/Under Bet?
This event is not related to the actual result of the game, meaning that it does not matter who wins or loses.
It doesn’t matter if one team scores all the points, goals or runs.
All that matters is the total scored.
How Does Totals Betting Work?
Imagine that the Indianapolis Colts were to play the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL game.
Sportsbooks first predict the outcome of the game and the final score.
Let’s assume they think the match will end something like this:
Colts 27 – 20 Jaguars
Sportsbooks use this prediction to create the totals.
Since they think the final score will end 27 – 20, they are predicting 47 total points scored.
You then get the opportunity to bet Over or Under 47 points.
If you bet on the Over, you’re betting that both teams will combine to score 48 points and more.
If you bet on the Under, you’re betting that both teams will combine to score 46 points and fewer.
But what happens if both teams combine to score exactly 47 points?
In this scenario, both bets end as a tie and your original bet is returned.
However, you don’t win any money.
This is why sportsbooks prefer to use half-point totals.
So, instead of 47, we might get a totals line set at 46.5.
This ensures the bet cannot tie as you can’t score half a point.
So, with all this in mind, we end up with an NFL totals bet that looks like this:
As you can see, the bet itself doesn’t contain the two competing teams, only the number of points.
In this example, the bookmaker thinks there will be between 46 and 47 points scored.
If you bet on the Over and the Colts beat the Jaguars 47-0, the bet still wins.
It doesn’t matter who scores all the points.
It also doesn’t matter who wins the match.
All that matters is the total number of points scored.
Totals Line Movements
This enables them to always make money, no matter who goes on to win – and take a small percentage of the bets from themselves in the meantime.
For example, if a sportsbook receives $100,000 on both the Over and the Under, they don’t care who actually wins the match.
If the Over wins, they’ll just payout from the bets they took from people betting on the Under and still profit from the small percentage fee for taking the bets in the first place.
Of course, in an ideal world, the sportsbooks get perfect action on either side of the line.
This doesn’t always happen in reality, so the sportsbooks need a way to attract or repel action.
They do this by shifting the totals number.
Let’s go back to the example above.
Let’s say that lots of money goes on the Over.
Sportsbooks would then want to encourage action on the Under by adjusting the totals line.
Instead of 46.5, they may move the line up to 47.5 or 48.
Both teams now have to combine to score even more points for the Over to now win.
It also means the Under is more likely to win compared to the previous line.
The line may move even further if money keeps going on the Over.
If these line movements attract too much action on the Under, they’ll shift them back down again.
Totals line shifts will continue up until no more bets are accepted.
The way Over/Under bets pay out vary depending on if they are high-scoring sports or low-scoring sports.
We’ll look at each scenario separately.
High-scoring sports refer to basketball and football, particularly the NBA and the NFL, where scores can reach high into double and triple figures respectively.
When you place a totals bet on one of these sports, the payout will usually be at the same rate, no matter if you bet on the Over or Under.
The earlier example showed this but here’s another between the Magic and the Heat for further clarity:
As you can see, both matches pay out at -110 ie you need to wager 110 units to win 100.
While it’s possible for these payouts to shift, they will likely stay at -110.
Low-scoring sports refer to sports like baseball, ice hockey and soccer.
Most matches in these respective sports only score single-figure runs/points/goals.
As such, sportsbooks find it difficult to move totals lines in low-scoring sports without making massive changes.
In fact, particularly for soccer, if the lines change by even half a goal, they would expect to see a lot of action on the other side.
So, to prevent this from happening, the Over/Under lines are fixed for every game.
This means that the odds aren’t always set to -110 and the payouts vary.
Here’s an example of totals odds for an NHL match between the Dallas Stars and the Winnipeg Jets:
In this example, you’ll be paid out at a rate of +100 for a correct Overs bet and at a rate of -120 for a correct Unders bet.
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Totals Betting Strategies
So that covered the basics around Over/Under betting.
Now let’s see how you can use this to create some strategies.
While the weather doesn’t have an impact on indoor sports, it plays a huge role in determining the totals for sports like football and baseball.
When the conditions are great for scoring, bet on the Over.
On the other hand, if the playing conditions are terrible, bet on the Under.
While the bookmakers are aware of the impact of a change in weather, they are unlikely to change their lines until a flood of action goes on a certain side.
If you’re quick enough to see the change in weather and make your bets before the bookmaker adjusts its line, you can score some easy value.
Lineups, Injuries And Suspensions
Certain sports are reliant on specialist positions.
For example, in baseball, the whole betting system is centred around the starting pitcher.
The best starting pitchers keep the runs scored down while weaker pitchers tend to concede more runs.
Another example is the quarterback in football.
While not as important as the pitcher in baseball, they still have a big influence on the number of points their team scores.
This makes it vital that you understand how teams lineup for every game.
With this in mind, there are also injuries and suspensions to consider.
Key players not involved in the game have a massive impact on totals.
For example, going back to football, if a dominant pass rusher picks up an injury, the entire defense changes.
Look at the entire team lineup and how the game plan can be affected by an injury or suspension.
Don’t Ignore Defense
While offense is a great angle to look at, sometimes you’re better of looking at the other side of the game.
Good defense is just as valuable as good offense.
So, while everyone else is focused on how well one team scores, you should focus on how well their opponents defend.
Some coaches build their entire game plan around being a better defensive unit than their opponents.
For example, in basketball, if you know that one team does very well guarding against the perimeter, you may wish to bet on the Under as there will be fewer 3-pointers scored.
Pay particular attention to the individual matchups and spot any mismatches.
This is great way to gain an edge as the bookmakers don’t go this deep.
They just look at the lineup in general, creating a great opportunity for finding value.
This guide will give you all the information you need to become a profitable totals sports bettor.
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