There are three types of sports bets that every bettor should know: moneyline, spread, and totals. Totals are more commonly referred to as over/unders. While spreads are more applicable to certain sports, totals apply to almost every team sport.
Here is a guide explaining what a totals bet is, as well as the step-by-step process to placing a totals bet at a sportsbook.
What is a Totals Bet?
Totals or over/unders are lines that oddsmakers set reflecting what the total score of a game will be. A bet on the over means a bettor believes the two teams’ combined scores will be higher than the predicted total. On the other hand, a bet on the under implies a bettor thinks the two teams’ combined scores will be lower than the predicted total.
Here is an example from Super Bowl LIV:
Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers (O/U 53.5)
The final score of Super Bowl LIV was 31-20 in favor of the Chiefs. Since the two teams combined for 51 points, bets on the under cashed while bets on the over did not.
How to Place a Totals Bet
- Approach the betting window and tell the cashier the two teams playing in the game you wish to bet on.
- Say you wish to bet the “over” or the “under.”
- Tell the cashier the dollar amount you are wagering.
- Check that the total and potential payout is agreeable to you when it appears on the screen.
- Hand the cashier your money and take your betting ticket.
Wagering on the total online is just as easy. On a sportsbook’s website or app, the over/under bets will appear in the same area as the moneyline and spread. Find the over/under column and click on either the over or the under. Then, type in your wager and check the payouts before clicking “confirm bet.”
The Strategy Behind Totals Bets
Depending on the sport, a variety of strategies can be applied to totals bets. In football, one should take into consideration the strength of the defenses as well as the ability of each quarterback. In addition, will weather have an impact on the game?
Basketball by nature is the highest-scoring major sport. If it is available, one key statistic to analyze is a team’s tempo or willingness to either push the pace or slow it down offensively. Free throw shooting often is responsible for many totals outcomes, so are the two teams accurate from the charity stripe? Certain coaching tactics may also come into play, such as a coach’s tendency to foul when behind late.
In baseball, an over/under is usually set based on the strength of the two teams’ starting pitchers. However, in the modern era of baseball, bullpens are being used more often and much earlier in games. How strong is a team’s bullpen? Who is in the starting lineup? Did a team rest any of its big sluggers? These are all things to consider when making a bet on the total in baseball.
Much like baseball’s lines are dependent on pitchers, hockey’s lines are dependent on goaltending. Are the teams’ goalies hot, or in a slump? Does a team tend to score more at home versus on the road? How rested are each of the teams?
Soccer and tennis also have their versions of totals bets. One can wager on the number of goals combined in a soccer match. While these lines are typically set at 2.5 goals, one can find other variations of lines like 1.5 goals, 3.5 goals and so on at different odds. With tennis, one can either bet on the over/under amount of sets or games played.
Is There an Advantage to Betting a Total vs. a Spread?
A novice bettor may be wondering if it is more advantageous to bet a total as opposed to a spread. The answer is not necessarily, but it does change the way one would watch a particular game. Many bettors prefer to bet “unders” as opposed to “overs” since they are already winning when the game starts. However, the appeal of betting “overs” is that one could potentially win their bet well before a game ends.
No matter if you are betting totals, spreads or moneylines, the fact remains you must do your research in order to be successful. Pay attention to team news leading up to games, and always stay up to date with injuries and team transactions when applicable.