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Betting 101

Everything You Need to Know About Over/Under Betting

In the sports betting universe, you will find there are three primary ways to bet on sports:  spread-betting, moneyline wagering and totals wagering.

In this section of our handy-dandy Betting 101 tutorial, we will cover totals wagering.

What is totals betting exactly?  Well perhaps you’ve heard about totals wagering under a different moniker.

Totals betting is most commonly referred to amongst sports bettors as an Over/Under bet.

The name of this form of bet is interchangeable, and you will hear both terms mentioned in sportsbooks and amongst the many experts that cover sports betting in the media.  The principle behind over/under betting is one of the easiest to get a grasp of, and subsequently is one of the most popular means of betting.

You will be able to place an over/under wager on any of the college and professional sports that are offered at your desired sportsbook of choice, and in some instances, you will also see over/under betting being offered on events not even related to sports (awards shows, political events, etc.)

Basically, long story short, if you’re not familiar with totals betting, now is the time to take your crash course on this incredibly fun way to bet on sports.  Let’s get started.

Over/Under Betting Explained

In the same manner as moneyline wagering, even if you have no experience whatsoever with sports betting there is the very real likelihood you have already taken part in a variant of an over/under wager in your life.

An over/under bet (or totals bet) is a wager in which you are betting on a projected total as set by oddsmakers to be “over” or “under” that numeric value.

In other words, if oddsmakers projected that a game between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys would have a combined total of 50.5 points, you would then be able to bet money on the combined total of the final outcome of the game being 51 points and above, or 50 points and below.

As you can see in the above chart, there are a number of different scenarios you may encounter when betting on totals.

You can also see that with totals betting, it does not matter one iota what side wins and what side loses, the only thing that matters is how many points the two teams score (or don’t score, depending on your bet).

In the event of the combined total ending directly on the projected number, it again would not matter what side you were on as the bet would end in a tie for either over bettors or under bettors, and your wager would be graded as a “push” with your money just simply being refunded to you at the conclusion of the game you bet on.

What Totals Bets Can You Make?

The most common version of your over/under (totals) bet will be betting on the combined full-game total.  This is the example we used above.  However, you are also able to bet on a few alternatives that are also considered totals bets.  Those alternatives include:

Quarter/Period Totals

Are you looking for a totals bet that will be decided much earlier than betting on the full-game?  You can bet on the combined total that will be scored in any quarter (or period in hockey betting).  The total in each quarter/period is typically just a fraction of what the full-game total is.

First/Second-Half Totals

This is typically the second-most common form of totals betting.  Instead of betting on the entire game, bettors are able to bet on the total of points scored in the first or second-half of that respective game.

The totals for second-half wagers will not be set until halftime, where as any bets on the first-half of the game can only be made prior to the start of that game, unless  your sportsbook happens to offer live wagering on those bets.

Alternate Totals 

In the same manner alternate point-spreads are offered, many online sportsbooks will provide totals that are either lower or higher than the original total as set by oddsmakers.  The payouts will then fluctuate based on the bet you’re taking.

For example, if you take the larger projected total and then bet the under on it, you’ll generally have to risk more to win less because the bet should theoretically easier to win.

Conversely, if you take an adjusted point total and bet the over on that, your payout will typically be higher for less money risked because the bet is more difficult to win.

Team Totals

Team totals betting is practically the same as regular totals betting, only you’re betting on just a singular side instead of a combined total between two teams (ex. Baltimore Ravens O/U 26.5 total points)

How Much Are You Paid Out on an Over/Under Bet? 

When it comes to totals betting, the standard bet works in the same manner a point spread wager will work.

More often than not, oddsmakers will price any totals bet at -110 for the bettor.  This means that you stand to win $1 for every $1.10 you risk on any given totals bet.

Occasionally you will see the price of your bet has a slight variance depending on the matchup and the volume of bets on either side.

For example, if the Kansas City Chiefs were set to face the Los Angeles Chargers and each team was averaging about 30 points per game, you may see oddsmakers offer a slightly better price on the under to entice more action on that side.

At the sportsbook, you would see the odds presented to you like this:

In the above example, you will find that taking the under in this matchup would actually net you $1.05 for every $1 you risked, as opposed to needing to risk $1.25 for every $1 you wish to win on the over.

There are instances where sportsbooks will offer what are known as “alternate lines” on a given game, where you can bet on a total going over or under a total that differs quite noticeably from the original line.

Using the above hypothetical matchup of Chiefs and Chargers, if you felt that both teams were offensive juggernauts and would make the pre-game total of 54.5 look like child’s play, you could potentially wager on the game going above a total that’s higher than the original line for a better payout.

But in terms of straight-forward totals wagering, it will almost always emulate that of a point-spread bet.

What Happens if the Game Heads to Overtime?

In the event that bartender at Buffalo Wild Wings slaps the overtime switch and sends your game to an extra session, what happens to your over/under bet?

Well, nothing actually.

Your bet will not change, and the totals bet you made will include any scoring that happened in overtime, whether that’s one overtime or six of them.

As you could probably surmise on your own, overtime usually is not the best friend for an “under” bettor for this very reason.

What is the Better Bet?  The Over or the Under?

From a statistical standpoint, you may be surprised that since 2015, unders hit at a slightly higher percentage than the over.

But the difference is marginal at best, and the data does not reveal any true advantage to betting on one side over the other.

Many sports fans that are casual sports bettors will tend to bet on the over, because it’s just a lot more exciting to root for points than rooting for offenses to sputter around aimlessly for a few hours.

Another perk to betting the over is your bet is technically not dead until the final gun, whereas an under bet can be lost at any point during a game.

Long story short however, you can’t look at totals betting in such a binary fashion.  Each individual matchup will be unique from the others.  If you’re looking for the most effective way to bet on totals, your best friend known as handicapping is something you will need to depend on.

How to Handicap Your Over/Under Bets

When betting on the total number of points scored, there are numerous variables to consider before you lock in your bet.

Some of the factors that bettors should consider when handicapping the total of a game include:

  • Offensive/Defensive Trends (ex. Has a team scored 30+ in four straight? Has a team fared well against running teams?)
  • Injuries (ex. Is the star quarterback out this week? Is Team B missing three players on defense?)
  • Historical performances of Team A vs. Team B (ex. Does a rivalry tend to be higher scoring? Does a team hemorrhage points on the road?)
  • Weather (ex. Is it snowing in a game with pass-oriented teams? Is it windy in a game with two strong defenses?)
  • Current Over/Under Standings (ex. Has Team A gone over the number in 10 of their last 11 games? Has Team B gone under in 13 of 16 home games?)
  • Public/Sharp Betting Percentages (ex. Is the public hammering the over in that primetime game? Are sharp bettors going against the grain?)

In closing, you don’t have to be a savant professional bettor to make smart totals bets.  If you keep at your craft and stay tuned into The Hook, you will be cashing in over/under tickets before you know it.

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