What Is The Over Under In Sports Betting?

How To Bet Totals

Over Unders under what is totals
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Sports betting totals, also known as over unders, are one of the more popular wagering options at online sportsbooks. Here we will answer the question as to what is an over under bet and provide examples of totals betting.

Betting on the over under in sports is easy as you simply bet on how many total points you think will be scored in a game. A betting total is exactly what it sounds like – the sum of something in a sporting event, most often points scored.

Below are NFL over/unders. If you think you’re ready to bet on totals now, click on the price you like.

What is an over under in sports betting?

So what is an over under in sports betting? Let’s start with some examples.

Knicks vs. 76ers (Over Under 202)

Here is a sample of an NBA Playoff matchup between the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers in which the projected total is 202. This means bettors must decide if the game total will fall over or under the number. The odds on a totals bet is typically -110 on each side. It means unlike a point spread or moneyline bet, the line isn’t favoring one side over the other. Before deciding which side to pick, bettors may look at the previous recent matchups between the two teams. Some books might have the line at 101.5 or 201.5.

So if you take the over, the combined final score must add up to 202 points or higher for the ticket to cash, while those who take the under would need a total of 201 or lower for tickets to cash. No matter which side wins, the payout on a $100 bet will be $190.91, $90.91 being the profit.

Here’s one from Super Bowl 58 between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs that ended up being an extremely close call.

49ers vs. Chiefs (Over Under 47.5 points)

Looking at NFL Super Bowl odds, the total points or over/under for the 49ers versus Chiefs game was 47.5. Bettors needed to decide if the combined score between San Francisco and Kansas City would fall over or under 47.5 points. NFL totals typically have -110 odds on either side, so the line, even for Super Bowl 58, didn’t favor one side of the other like a moneyline or point spread bet. While you may have been rooting for the Chiefs or 49ers, the outright winner did not apply here. The final score or total is the one and only factor that will determine which tickets are winners. The final score of this one ended up being 25-22, for a total of 47 points. Talk about close calls. This means if you ended up getting a line of 47.5, the under bet paid out.

Had the line been 47, the total bet would’ve settled as a tie, and bettors would’ve been issued a refund as a result of neither side winning. Other than ties, if the odds end up being -110 for the over and under, the bettor would profit $90.91 on a winning $100 bet.

When most people think of sports betting, they most often think of spread betting or wagering on the moneyline. However, another popular way to bet is on the over under. Understanding over/unders, often referred to as “totals” in the betting world, is not complicated but they are very different from the aforementioned bets because they aren’t centered on the comparing the two teams’ performance.

And totals are an important part of betting. Tons of bettors and fans enjoy wagering on them, and they can apply to everything from a game’s final score, to how many times Patrick Mahomes throws a touchdown pass, to how long a singer takes to perform the National Anthem before the Super Bowl.

Like all kinds of sports betting options, totals bets have expanded. Betting a total is no longer only available for pre-game bets. There may be totals available for partial games (quarters or periods), individual teams, and during live betting.

Another example is the over under for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a few years back. The game went off with a total of 54.5. That is, the market expected the teams to combine for about 55 points.

Both had teams featured productive, high-volume quarterbacks leading their passing offenses. Furthermore, the Chiefs had a middle-of-the-road defense and had scored pretty easily in the first meeting between the teams, putting up 27 points and finishing the game kneeling in Tampa Bay territory. The game also took place in a warm-weather city with mild wind.

Put it all together and you have a recipe for a fairly high-scoring affair, which is why the over under was 54.5.

Of course, the game played out quite a bit differently as Tampa Bay’s defense succeeded in harassing Patrick Mahomes into a day to forget. The Chiefs managed just 9 points. While Tampa Bay put up 31, the 40 points scored still came in well below the total. That means under 54.5 bettors cashed their tickets.

What does it mean to have the over or the under?

A wager on the over means you expect more than the applicable total of points, sets, goals, runs or whatever other market is in question. A wager on the under reflects the opposite – you think fewer will occur.

Most of the time, the over under is relatively straightforward in this manner. Total of 50.5? You take over if you expect 51 or more points and under if you expect 50 or fewer points.

Sometimes, these markets can be a little less intuitive.

One prime example comes in various draft seasons, when sportsbooks will open over under markets for individual players. For example, Alabama QB Mac Jones received considerable hype in the lead-up to the NFL Draft, and his over/under wound up at 3.5 when speculation mounted that the 49ers would select him third. Over 3.5 would win if a team selected Jones fourth or later, which is what actually happened when he went 15th to the Patriots. Under 3.5 would have won if someone picked him in the top three.

Another over/under situation that confuses some bettors is total cage time in a UFC fight. How can the over/under be 2.5 in a three-round fight? The answer is simple. If the fighters still compete past the halfway mark of the third round (2:30), then the over cashes. If the fight ends before that moment, the under cashes.

Generally, the payouts on the over/under involve laying $11 to win every $10, denoted as -110. However, these prices can vary. More on this below.

How is an over under made?

Many factors affect the over/under. Particularly in sports like basketball, football and hockey. Here are a few:

  • Quality of the the offenses
  • Quality of the defenses
  • Pace/aggression of the teams/athletes
  • Weather in outdoor sports
  • Stadium/venue considerations (particularly in baseball)
  • Other factors may play a role as well. Even among sports with the same factors, they may carry varying weights. Generally, computer models weigh these various inputs and then spit out an expected total.

From there, the betting market takes the reins, starting with small limits once the markets open. As more information comes into the market, the totals move as game day draws nearer. Information can come in the form of weather or injuries.

Often, it comes in the form of bets. High-limit wagers from sharp players clue the sportsbook in on where they need to move their line. When a max bet comes in on an over/under from a respected account, the sportsbook may respond by nudging the line in the same direction as the bet. Over time, the over/under moves inch by inch until it reaches its closing line when the contest begins.

You should generally think of this closing line as the betting market’s most accurate prediction as to the expected result.

When the 2024 NFL schedule is released in May, bettors will find the early totals posted on DraftKings Sportsbook or other sports betting app of choice. Keep in mind they will be the very early lines as teams rosters are far from set.

Let’s take a look at two hypothetical examples for the upcoming NFL season and see why different games can feature stark differences in the totals.

San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles (35.5)

The rematch of the 2022 NFC Conference Championship Game will be played at Lincoln Financial Field. Using the Eagles 31-7 victory to set the line is a bad example. The 49ers ended up finishing this game without a healthy QB, making their passing game non-existent.

No matter how free agency and the draft play out, expect Philadelphia and San Francisco be among the NFL’s top defenses. Based on 2022 results, scoring points shouldn’t be a problem for either team. Quarterback Jalen Hurts will once again be the the NFL MVP conversation.

San Francisco still needs to figure out its starting QB as Brock Purdy and Trey Lance are both recovering from injuries. Once the schedule is set, the weather and travel factors will come into play with setting the total points.

For now, let’s use the hypothetical number of 35.5 as the 49ers will have a passing game. Combined with Christian McCaffrey’s running game, Philadelphia is going to have a tough time holding San Francisco to 7 points.

If the game ends up being more of a defensive battle, say 17-14, with a line of 35.5, under bettors would prevail as a result of the 31 total points.

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs (48.5)

There is no doubt the next showdown between the Super Bowl champion Chiefs and Bengals will be one to watch. They have split the last two AFC Championship Games.

They will meet again during the 2023 NFL regular season at Arrowhead Stadium. The date and time will be announced this spring.

Hypothetically speaking, the books may set the total points line in the neighborhood of 48.5. This would be right around the average score of the previous three meetings, two of which were 27-24.

With NFL and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes back as Chiefs QB and Joe Burrow leading the Bengals, this could be another high-scoring affair. The total could edge on the higher side at 50, especially if there are few defensive stops.

What are the chances my totals bet wins?

If the market is sharp – that is, high-limit wagers have moved the line to a closing number – you should have about a 50-50 chance of winning an over/under bet. So, if Bucs and Chiefs played out the Super Bowl thousands of times, the total should wind up 54 or less half of the time and above 54 the other half.

Similar to spread betting, the sportsbook makes money on totals by charging vigorish (vig), often called “juice,” on both sides of the market. So, you normally have to bet $11 to win $10 regardless of whether you take the over or the under.

Sometimes, though, the market likes one side but not enough for a full move off of the current number. In these cases, you might see something like this:

  • Over X (-120)
  • Under X (+100)

You’ll get an even money payout on your under bets in this market while you have lay $12 for every $10 you hope to win on the over.

Most times, you’ll see -110 either way. This page has more information about figuring the vig, but just keep in mind on normal -110/-110 markets, you need to win 52.38% of your bets to show a long-term profit.

Line shop for greater profit on totals

Let’s say you wanted to bet the under 54.5 in the Super Bowl. Right before you clicked to submit your bet, someone stopped you and offered you under 55.5. Assuming equal price, you’d be a fool to stick with your original bet, right?

That’s how line shopping works, and it’s an important tool at your disposal if you want the greatest chance of winning over/under bets. The concept simply means checking the lines at all of the new sportsbooks at your disposal and betting at the one that sells you the best line.

Over the long haul, line shopping turns some losses into pushes and pushes into wins. Add it up over hundreds or thousands of bets, and line shopping can have a large impact.

Since totals so frequently converge on the numbers at the sharpest books, it can be hard to find numbers that are off market. One way to increase your chances is to check the alternate lines.

Many books offer bettors the chance to bet over unders at many different numbers, known as alternate lines. So, you might have been able to get under 50.5 (+130) instead of under 54.5 in the Super Bowl. Alternate lines differ a little more often than the standard -110/-110 markets, so look for good numbers to add to your bottom line.

Should I bet the over/under?

Over/unders can be excellent options for some bettors, but they may not be for everyone.

Perhaps the biggest reason to bet the over under is they are generally some of the lowest-vig markets offered by sportsbooks. That is, the sportsbook keeps less of the money they accept (known as the handle), expecting to pay a fairly sizable chunk back to the bettors.

Bettors interested in building mathematical models in particular may enjoy trying to work out how to beat totals. Totals generally have clear inputs that will apply to the model like expected possessions and efficiency.

On the other hand, that same applicability of models makes them tough to beat for the average bettor in big-market sports like NBA and NFL.

Also, the teams generally don’t care whether a game is going over or under. They only care about winning, so they usually have no interest in helping you win your bet, though there are exceptions.

Many bettors may also find it more fun to root for teams rather than whether points are scored or not.

Totals and parlays

Most sportsbooks will let you include over/unders in parlays. Parlays allow you to roll over your bet winnings for much bigger payouts, but they bring a large downside in that every bet in the parlay must win for it to bring any return.

Given that, parlays are an ill-advised option for most bettors.

However, exceptions exist, and over/unders in particular can be a great option for parlays.

To understand this, you must first understand correlated parlays. Sportsbooks generally won’t book parlays where one winning bet increases the odds of the others winning, although this has changed recently. Parlaying the first-half total of an NFL game with the game total represents an obvious example.

But, some parlays that include the over/under have small correlation and are allowed. An example would be a high-paced NBA team facing a half-court oriented team. If each team plays at the opponent’s preferred pace, their win probability likely drops. Hence, you can parlay the half-court team with the under or vice-versa if you like the fast-paced team.

Be aware that the correlated parlays allowed these days by some books will fudge the payouts in accordance with the correlation, so do some research before attempting to play them.

Over/unders and live betting

Live betting has become more popular in recent years, and much more widely available. Increased technology from the bookmaking side has increased their ability to offer these markets, and bettors often enjoy in-play betting. Fast pace and quickly changing odds create a dynamic environment that challenges both the bookmaker and the bettor.

Bookmakers offering live betting often include an over/under line in their releases, which usually come during commercial breaks.

Live over/unders give the bettor a great chance to think critically about what they see. Sometimes, the line can change quite drastically in just a few minutes. For example, if the Chiefs defense looks dominant early against the Bengals in the aforementioned 2023, the total might move from 48.5 to 44 after just a couple of empty possessions.

Your job as a live bettor is to determine how predictive these possessions are for the rest of the game. If you think the Chiefs’ success isn’t sustainable, pounce on that over. You got a number 4.5 points better than the pregame markets.

How does an overtime game impact totals?

Generally speaking, if you bet the over, you can root for overtime and extra innings/periods because they’re very, very good news for you. Under bettors loathe such things, as they simply extend the clock to allow for more scoring.

Most times, these overtime periods count as if the game just kept going. They usually apply to second-half bets or third-period bets as well.

An exception comes in the form of three-way markets – those with win, lose and draw options. These usually apply to regulation only.

Why was my totals bet canceled?

Only a handful of situations cause cancelation in an over/under bet.

  • The bookmaker posts an obviously erroneous line. Often known as “palps,” books often cancel them if the game hasn’t started. Worse, if you bet at illegal offshore sportsbooks, they might freeroll you and only grade the bet if it loses.
  • Starting pitcher changes in MLB. If you booked a bet with “pitchers listed” on the total, then a late pitching change will void your bet.
  • The game or match doesn’t occur on the scheduled day. Even if they reconvene the next day and play, books often cancel bets and produce a new market.
  • The game or match ends early. Sometimes, this can happen due to inclement weather in various sports or a tennis injury.

Check your sportsbook’s rules to see how they grade these situations and more.

Note that a push can also occur if the total market features an even number – 54 instead of 54.5, for instance. If the game lands on 54, all over/under wagers get returned as if the bet never happened.