- The Over/Under is how a Totals bet works.
- A sportsbook will set a number – say, on how many points it thinks will be scored in a game. If you think there will be more, take the Over; if you think there will be fewer, take the Under.
- Along with the Moneyline and the Point Spread, it makes up the trinity of sports betting. Before you start betting, it’s important that you know how all three of these bets work.
What is an Over/Under?
If you’ve been letting The AllStar introduce you to the world of sports betting, then you should be familiar with What is a Moneyline Bet? and What is a Point Spread? Now we’re adding the Over/Under, or the Totals bet, to cover the three core need-to-know types of sports bet.
While understanding the Moneyline, how American odds work and what a spread bet is requires a reasonable amount of explanation, Totals bets are relatively straightforward and not particularly complicated.
Totals focus on the cumulative amount of a specific statistic in the game. In football, basketball and baseball, the main Total line refers to points or runs scored.
In other sports, it refers to other Totals, but for now we’ll use the example in the video to illustrate how the Over/Under works.
So the Toronto Blue Jays are hosting the Yankees at the Rogers Centre.
Setting the Total
The Total for the game sits at 10 runs, thus setting the Over/Under. The odds are -110 on either side of the bet.
In the 2021 MLB season, average runs per game per team was 4.47. Toronto ranked third in average runs scored, at 5.52, while the Yankees delivered a below-average 4.37. Collectively then, a Totals line at 10 doesn’t seem too far-fetched.
The line is therefore set as:
- Over 10 -110
- Under 10 -110
(some sportsbooks might abbreviate this and display it simply as: o/10 -110, u/10 -110).
Taking the Over
If you believe that on the night, playing at home is worth an extra run or two, and that both teams combined are likely to score more than 10 runs, take the Over.
Taking the Under
Conversely, if you believe that the Yankee pitching line-up is due to outperform after a couple rough games on the road, and that fewer than 10 runs will be scored, take the Under.
How does my Over/Under pay out?
If total points scored:
- Exceeds the sportsbook’s Totals number, the Over wins and the Under loses.
- Falls short of the sportsbook’s Totals number, the Under wins and the Over loses.
- Exactly matches the sportsbook’s Totals number, the bet is a push and your get your stake back.
Had the Blue Jays not scored 2 in the 9th, the game would have tied at 5-5, leaving the Total exactly at 10 – resulting in a push.
Avoiding the Push: Half-point Totals
At the end of the day, that push is no real good to anyone.
The bettor gets their money back, and doesn’t experience the joy of a win or the disappointment of a loss. The bookmaker returns all money staked and collects no juice from either side of the bet.
So, for the benefit of everyone, bookmakers often set totals at a half-point.
Continuing with our example, an Over/Under of 9.5, rather than 10, sees a 5-5 tie pay the Over and avoid the push.
Because half-points can‘t be scored, a half-point Total or Spread always forces a result on bets placed.
Vig at -110
Odds on the Over/Under are often set at -110 on either side (much like a point spread), though there is some room for variation.
Slight adjustments will be seen if one side of the market is taking more action than the other, but not enough to force the sportsbook to move the line. The ease at which a bookmaker can move the line varies from sport to sport, but it is easier in higher-scoring sports like football and basketball than it is in lower-scoring sports like baseball.
If you recall how American odds work, this means that at -110 on both sides of the market, you must wager $110 to win $100.
The extra $10 that the sportsbook is charging you is the vig, or vigorish.
Understanding vig is important for many reasons, especially if you plan to manage your bankroll over a sustained sports betting career. It can vary substantially from book to book, and the greater the vig, the more it eats into your potential winnings.
When shopping the line (see below), take vig into consideration .
Feel free to use The AllStar’s Vig/Hold Calculator to help work out the hidden cost of your bet.
Balancing the market
Odds wont always be -110
While it is common to see the Over/Under offered at -110 on both sides, that wont always be the case. Sometimes these odds will change depending on the action taken so far.
If the action taken so far favors one side of the market, it’s possibly that you see a Totals line like this:
- Over 10 -120
- Under 10 +100
In this case, you have even-money on the Under, but need to lay $120 to win $100 on the Over.
The ideal situation for a bookmaker is that action comes in equally on both sides of the market. This allows it to limit its exposure and potential liabilities. If it takes too much action on one side, the risk clearly grows if that side of the market wins.
Moving the line
In these situations, the bookmaker adjusts the line to make the side of the market that isn’t attracting the action look more attractive.
On a moneyline bet, it alters the odds, narrowing or widening them accordingly. On a Point Spread, the size of the spread can move. Similarly, it can adjust the Totals number to help balance the market.
Let’s illustrate with a football hypothetical and set the Over/Under at 45 points. When the opening line is released, money floods in on the Over as everyone seems to expect a high-scoring, humdinger of a game.
Maybe both offences are on fire, and both defences have been struggling.
To drive action to the Under, the bookmaker raises the Total – thus making it harder for both teams to exceed it, and making the Under more attractive because it’s now easier to win.
The book may add just a half-point, to 45.5, or a full point to 46… but it keeps going until it achieves it’s desired result.
How is an Over/Under Set?
In sports where points are the focus, the most obvious factors are similar to those considered for other bets:
Power rankings: Most sportsbooks have complicated models that feed off huge statistical inputs, crunch the stats to produce a ranking. This is usually a solid starting point.
How do the offense and the defense stack up against each other? If a dominant offence faces a weaker defence, suspect higher scoring from that team. But if the opposition’s offence also isn’t up to scratch, then they probably wont be scoring many points. In this situation, chances are that the moneyline will lean towards a heavy favorite, and the point spread might be sizeable. But the Over/Under might be quite low.
Compare that to two strong teams going head to head, where the game could go any number of ways. Maybe their strengths serve to cancel each other out, defence dominating offence, for a fairly low-scoring game? Or maybe both teams play out of their skins, scoring on most possessions, producing a high-scoring game?
Recent track record/performance: Has one team been dominating their opponents recently? Or has one been on a losing (i.e., low-scoring) streak?
Are star players / playmakers either missing or carrying injuries? For baseball, does a team have their ace men pitching, or are they having to go to the bullpen? Are all their first choice basemen playing?
Home advantage: Traditionally important in football and baseball, is playing in front of a home crowd worth a few points? Maybe the visiting team is weary towards the end of a long road trip?
The weather: For outdoor sports, ignore the weather report at your peril.
How does all this play out in setting a Totals line? Suddenly setting the Over/Under doesn’t seem as simple as you might at first think.
Should I bet the Over or Under?
Clearly that depends on your view on the game in question. The key, really, is the information you have available to you.
While bookmaker’s generally tend to know what they’re talking about (if they didn’t they wouldn’t stay in business too long) they don’t always get it right.
Super Bowl LV – A Massive Over/Under miss
Super Bowl LV in 2021 is a great example of the bookmakers failing to get it right. The Super Bowl Over/Under is one of the most bet on Over/Unders of the sporting calendar.
The closing Totals line between Brady and the Buccaneers and Mahomes and the Chiefs was 54.5. The Chiefs were -3 favorites.
Brady and Mahomes were both high-scoring quarterbacks; when they last met in Week 12, the Chiefs won 27-24 (51 total). What’s more, that game was also played at Ray Jay Stadium, the venue for the big game. Taken all together, a high-scoring affair looked likely.
In the end, it didn’t play out that way. The Bucs offence stuck 31 on Kansas City, while they held them to just 9. The total of 40 was far below the 54.5 O/U – the Under paid.
The vast number of variables that go into deciding any sporting result means there is no such thing as a guarantee in sports.
Thank god. How boring the sporting world would be if upsets never happened.
Totals in Prop Betting
Be sure to read all about the sometimes weird and wonderful world of prop betting, because it’s too extensive for us to cover here. In a nutshell, prop bets allow you to get really granular, betting on very specific outcomes. Often they take the form of an Over/Under.
A couple Super Bowl prop bets that have become popular with the fans include:
- the coin toss (Moneyline bet)
- how long the singer takes to sing the national anthem (Over/Under), and
- the colour of Gatorade dumped on the winning coach (Outright)
- Super Bowl MVP (Outright)
NFL Over/Under – 2021 NFL Win Totals
One of the most popular Over/Under bets available on the NFL is a team’s regular season “Win Totals” record.
At the moment, Tampa Bay, Arizona and Green Bay sit atop the list with the Over/Under set as 12.5 wins. At the other end of the spectrum, Jacksonville and Houston have the Over/Under set at 3.5 games, while Detroit has the ignominy of sitting last at 1.5 games. The odds vary between teams and side of the bet.
Examples of Non-points Totals
As mentioned earlier, not all Totals bets are points bets. In a number of different sports, the mainline Total will refer to another sum.
Over/Under in Tennis
The Totals in tennis refers to the number of games expected to be played in a match.
Say world No.1 Novak Djokovic is playing No.312 Kyrian Jacquet, a straights-set victory is likely. But how many games might Jacquet take off him?
One game per set puts the Over/Under at 21. Maybe the Total is 23? If you believe Djokovic will sweep him to love, the Under provides you with a few games cushion.
Round Totals in golf
If, to paraphrase Mark Twain, spoiling a good walk is more your bag, the Over/Under is a popular bet for golfing enthusiasts.
This comes in the form of shots played in a round. So, if you suspect Collin Morikawa is due a round in the mid-60s on Saturday, you might take the Under on 68.
Of course, if you’ve done your homework and realise the weather is going to turn nasty, the Over might look more attractive.
Fight club – Over/Under on rounds fought
In boxing and combat sports, the Over/Under is on the number of rounds. Even though there are no “half rounds”, sportsbooks do offer half-points on fights.
Chimaev entered the fight having dominated in his first three UFC fights, seeing off his opponents in very short time.
The market was 1.5 rounds and Chimaev finished “The Leech” by submission at 3:16 in Round 1. The Under won.
Shop the line
Here’s a tip that may seem obvious, but is important: Shop the line.
That’s just slang for “make an effort to find the best odds available to you”.
While betting lines tend to be fairly even across the board, there will be differences, and those differences, no matter how small, can all add up in the end.
If you’re considering taking the Under on a game, why not take the time to find a book that is offering an extra half-point, or even a full point? You’d feel none too smart if you took an Under at 54.5, while another book was offering 55.5, only for the total to end up being 55.
So it pays to do your homework. What’s even better, is that these days you can find any number of sites and tools to help you do this.
It’s hard enough to maintain a winning record sports betting – you need to be winning 52.38% of all your bets just to breakeven – so make sure you invest the extra time to shop the best line.
So far our discussion has revolved around the main line, but sportsbook will offer alternate lines on games. If you believe the main line on offer is missing the mark, you can find higher or lower lines set at different odds.
For example, if the O/U is 50, alternate lines might offer you options priced at half-point intervals all the way from 47-5 up to 52.5.
We covered a lot here, so let’s recap:
- The Over/Under, or Totals bet, revolves around the sum of a statistic – often, but not only, points scored. It is bet on a cumulative total – not a win/loss.
- Odds on either side are often -110, but can differ slightly.
- Line movement from opening odds to closing odds is more common in higher-scoring sports than in lower-scoring sports.
- Shop around for the best line.
- Read your sportsbook’s rules because they do differ from book to book.
Should I bet the Over/Under, the Moneyline or the Spread?
If a market is sharp – meaning seasoned pros have bet – the likelihood is that the Totals line is as close to the most probable outcome as suggested by all the information available to the sportsbook – including the views of the betting public because it reflect the action taken.
But even then, the sportsbooks don’t always get it right.
Totals, moneylines and spread bets all offer bettors something different. Finding value in any particular set of odds offered on an event is a major key to being a successful sports bettor.
What does +7 point spread mean?
This means the team is a 7-point underdog. If you back a team at +7, for your bet to win they must cover the spread by either winning, or losing by fewer than 7. If your team loses by exactly 7, your bet is a push and your stake is returned. To avoid these pushes and force a result, sportsbooks often set the spread with a half-point. At +7.5, a 7-point loss would be covered.
You can read all about point spreads here.
How do you play over under in NFL?
The over/under is a bet on the total number of points scored in a game. If you think a combined score of 48 points seems low, you would bet the Over. If it seems high, bet the Under. If the final score is 28-21, totalling 49 points, the Over wins, the Under loses.
What does the ‘moneyline’ mean on sports gambling websites?
The moneyline is a bet on the winner of an event. It is perhaps the simplest bet in sports as it usually has only two potential outcomes – Win or Loss, although in some sports like soccer, there is a third, in a Draw.
Here you can find The AllStar’s guide to the moneyline bet.
Is it possible to make decent stable income on sports betting?
Yes – if you know what you’re doing. While you may get lucky one day, you can also find Lady Luck deserting you on an off day. One of the many keys to success is managing your bankroll properly.
Is there a site with betting odds from all sports betting sites?
Check out our odds comparison tool to find the best odds available in your area.