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What Is Over/Under Betting? Totals Betting Explained

Frank AmmiranteFantasy Sports & Betting Writer
Posted: Sep 6, 2022Last updated: Sep 6, 2022

Totals betting, also known as over/unders, is one of the traditional markets that are highly popular for sports betting because it’s easy to understand and fun to follow. All you need to do is bet Over or Under on the projected combined score.

However, it’s important to formulate a strategy for targeting totals. You also need to monitor line movement to see how the market is reacting to pertinent news, weather, and more.

This article will act as a guideline to help you understand how to bet on totals.

Over/Under Betting Explained

Totals are the projected score for each team as well as their combined result. You choose Over or Under the assigned number. Over/Unders can involve portions of the game, like quarters, periods, and halves. They can be related to the total score of a specific team or the combined number from both sides.

The Over or Under is each assigned a moneyline, usually at -110 odds on each side. However, in some cases, you may find that the price is skewed towards one side, which indicates that the number could move in the near future. For example, if the total is 49.5 points for the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos, but the Under is juiced to -125, we could see that number decrease to 49 or 48.5 points.

Types of Over/Unders

Game Totals

The game total is the combined score of both teams. This is the most popular way to bet on this market.

Here are the ranges that you’ll often find for totals in each sport:

  • NFL: 39-55
  • NBA: 200-240
  • NHL: 5-7.5
  • MLB: 6.5-11.5
  • Soccer: 2-4
  • Tennis: 20-30

This bet is settled at the end of the game. For example, if I took the Over 222.5 in the Celtics vs. Nets game that finished 110-103, I would lose because the total finished at 213 points, which is lower than the number.

There are several great sites to target full-game totals, but I would suggest Caesars Sportsbook. Their numbers are consistent with the rest of the market and you’ll often find useful betting promotions.

Team Totals

Each team is given a projected number of points, goals, or runs that they will put up in a given game. Their team total depends on the game total and moneyline.

For example, if the Yankees are -160 favorites in a game with a 9-run total, you could expect their team number to be around five runs.

This is what you’ll usually see for each sport:

  • NFL: 20-30
  • NBA: 95-115
  • NHL: 2.5-5.5
  • MLB: 3.5-5.5
  • Soccer: 1-3

I would recommend trying out BetMGM for your team total wagers. This operator has a phenomenal live betting platform that allows you to live stream selected events.

Halves Totals

Halves totals apply to football, soccer, and basketball. Each game has a projected score for the first and second halves. The latter will be adjusted based on what has happened in the match.

You can try out FOX Bet for this type of wager. It’s a user-friendly website that makes it easy for both beginners and experienced players.

Period Totals

Period over/unders apply only to hockey, where there are three periods. The most popular type of wager here is on the first period, which almost always has a 1.5-goal total. If the game is projected to be high-scoring, the first period total will be heavily juiced towards the Over and vice versa for the Under.

Quarter Totals

Quarter totals apply to the NFL and NBA. The second and fourth quarters usually have higher numbers for football because teams generally pick up their pace and execute more plays as they hurry up before time expires. This is due to the fact that they won’t keep possession during halftime. We sometimes see this in the NBA as well, as teams rack up free throws at the end of the game.

First 5 Totals

First 5 totals are with baseball, where your bet only applies to innings one through five. It has become a popular type of wager because it allows you to focus on the starting pitchers without having to worry about the bullpen blowing your pick with a bad outing.

Tennis Totals

Tennis over/unders are a bit different because they relate to the combined games within the sets. For example, if one player wins 6-4 and 6-3 in straight sets, that would add up to 19 games. If I took the Under 23.5 in that case, I would win my wager.

How Does Totals Betting Work?

Each game is assigned a projected score, which is based on the two teams.

For example, two teams with good offenses will have a higher total. If both teams are stout defensively, you’ll tend to see a lower number.

Sometimes you’ll see a good offense go up against a tough defense, yet the total is high. This is what we call a “pace-up" game. The high-scoring team is projected to control the game, forcing the opponent to try to match their play style, even if they’re at a slow pace.

You may also see projected lopsided games have lower over/unders. This is because when teams lead by large margins, they tend to slow it down because there’s no incentive to continue scoring more points.

In baseball, the total has an additional factor to consider: the pitchers and the ballpark. If the pitching matchup is good, the number will be lower, even with two strong lineups. Likewise, if the location is a hitter’s park, the total could be higher. We often see pitcher’s parks have lower totals, even with average starting pitchers.

If a marquee player is out of the lineup or if most of the public or sharp money is skewed towards side, you could see the number move up or down. Sportsbooks could also opt to increase or decrease the moneyline instead of the number in this scenario.

What Is a Push in Totals Betting?

A push is when you tie your wager and your stake is returned to your balance. This happens in over/unders when you have a whole number. For example, if I take the Raptors and Knicks to go Under 205 but it ends 103-102, that would be a push. This is why you should try to stick to totals with decimals, such as the Over 7.5 in the Red Sox and Rays game.

Over vs. Under

Betting on the Over means that you need the combined score to eclipse the projected number and vice versa for the Under.

Usually, both sides have -110 odds, but sometimes we see one get to -115, -120, or even -125. When we see one side get that juiced, it often means that the number will change in that direction in the near future.

It’s a good idea to take a look at each team’s records on Overs and Unders because that gives you a sense of how they’ve performed compared to their market value.

How to Bet the Totals Online

Here’s what you need to do to bet on totals online:

  1. Sign in to your account at an online sportsbook
  2. Select your preferred sport
  3. Click the game that you’re interested in
  4. Decide whether you want a game, team, or other type of total
  5. Choose Over or Under the number
  6. Type in your stake
  7. Place your bet

Always make sure to read up on how to bet on sports before placing a wager.

Over/Under Betting Strategy

When betting on over/unders, it’s better to stick to the game or team as opposed to quarters, halves, or periods. It’s already tough to project a final score as it is, so there’s no reason to make it even more challenging by betting on only a portion of the game unless it’s baseball, where the first five totals are firmly in play.

Here are a few key points to consider that apply to each sport:

  • Monitoring the weather because extreme conditions can affect the offenses
  • Check each team’s record on Over or Under
  • Be mindful of any important lineup changes

Below you’ll find some specific factors to consider for each sport.

NFL

Take a look at each team’s pace of play. Faster teams run more plays on offense, which opens up more scoring opportunities. If you think a team will score a lot of points but aren’t confident enough in the combined score, go with the team total. And always check out the best NFL over/under odds before making a wager.

NBA

How fast a team plays also applies to basketball. Check each team’s three-point shooting because if they’re proficient at it, that can lead to more points. Keep an eye out for any last-minute changes to lineups, since this happens often in basketball.

NHL

It’s important to see which goalie is in the net for your game. Often, the backup is not nearly as good as the starter, so this is a major factor in the projected total. Check to see how each team performs on the powerplay as well as 5-on-5 situations.

MLB

Check the pitching matchup and ballpark. Hitter’s parks can result in more homers. Make sure the bullpen is not too ineffective because if it is, you run the risk that your total collapses because a reliever gets rocked. If the bullpen is questionable, go with the First Five total to mitigate this risk.

Soccer

Research each team to see their play style. Check their formation because some shapes are more attacking-oriented, while others are more defensive. Think about a team’s incentive in that particular game. For example, some contending teams may be more focused on a mid-week Champions League game rather than a Sunday league match.

Tennis

Heavily favored players tend to have lower game totals because it’s projected as a blowout. This could be a good spot to roll with the Under. If the game is expected to be close, the Over may be the right way to go. Consider the play style and court surface before placing your wager.

Where Can I Legally Place a Totals Bet Online?

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut (no betting on in-state college teams)
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey (no betting on in-state college teams)
  • New York (no betting on in-state college teams)
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Should You Make Totals Bets?

You should make totals bets because it’s definitely a market where you can find an edge.

It’s a good way to become profitable since you have an opportunity to ride hot streaks. We often see teams start to score goals or points in bunches, making them go Over their number in several games in a row.

You could also find underpriced lines that put too much value on one specific factor. For example, in baseball, we usually see the total between 7.5 to 8.5 runs in Pirates’ games because they play in a pitcher’s park and their offense isn’t good. However, the number stays this way even in a bad pitching matchup. This is where you can take advantage.

Another approach may be to target team totals as a way to save money on a heavy favorite with juiced-up odds. For example, imagine you like the Chiefs -300. Obviously, you’re not laying this price, but you can opt to go with their team total Over 27.5 points. Chances are that if they win, it’s likely that they’ll go Over their team total as well.

You may opt to go with the underdogs Under as an alternative choice. There’s a good chance that they’ll fail to eclipse their team total if they lose.

Totals betting should be a major part of your betting portfolio because it’s one of the best markets to target. Remember to consider these factors because they’ll set you up on a path to success with this bet type.

Author

Frank Ammirante

Before joining The Game Day, Frank spent three years in the fantasy sports and betting industry, writing for websites like RotoBaller and 4for4football. Frank is an active member of the fantasy baseball and fantasy football community, participating in high-stakes leagues like NFBC/NFFC as well as industry competitions like Scott Fish Bowl, RazzBowl, and TGFBI. Frank is a member of the FSWA and IBWAA. Give him a shout to talk fantasy sports and sports betting.

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