When the average person bets on a sport, they wager money on a team that they believe will win (or that they want to win). But there’s more to the betting world than moneylines and point spreads.
Did you know that not all sports bets rely on which team wins or loses? When you place an over/under bet (or a totals bet), the winner of the game is irrelevant; all that matters is the total number of points scored by both teams. This total is what you’re wagering on—you bet on whether more or fewer points will be scored than what the sportsbooks predict.
The sportsbooks will determine the total score in a game for bettors to wager on. Then, people choose whether they think that the collective score will be over or under that amount.
Are over/under bets a wise investment, or should you stick to other types of sports betting? We’re going to get into the nitty-gritty of how you can profit from a totals bet:
In Which Sports is this Kind of Betting Popular?
Totals bets are less common in sports with low-scoring games—think hockey or soccer. They’re a lot more popular in sports where scoring happens more often, such as:
As one of the highest-scoring sports around, it’s no wonder why totals bets are so big in basketball. A basketball game typically features nonstop scoring for both teams—bettors must keep their eyes glued to the screen to follow the ball!
In the NFL, teams perform at an exceptionally high level of play. Every game has a favorite and an underdog, but truth be told, many of the teams are evenly matched. There is great potential for high-scoring games in football.
Like a point spread, the deciding factor of whether you win an over/under bet is the number of points that are scored. But there’s one key difference—with a point spread, the margin of victory is what matters. With a totals bet, you’re only looking at the combined points of both teams.
In any sports game, both teams try their best to score points until the very end. Overtime adds an interesting dimension to totals bets—those who bet over love it, and those who bet under dread it. However, not all sports have overtime; it’s possible for the game to end in a tie. To avoid a push, sportsbooks use total sets with half points (0.5).
How does this type of sports betting actually work? We’re going to use a football game for this example:
In this game, the Seattle Seahawks are set to play against the Los Angeles Rams. The sportsbook gives a total set of 27.5 (with a half-point to prevent a push).
At the end of the game, the final score is 20-9 for the Seahawks. This makes the total 29 points. If someone bet under, they would lose their bet. But those who bet over would profit!
Fun fact: most bettors prefer to bet over! This is because there are only a limited number of situations where betting under will result in a win, but with an over bet, there are endless possibilities. In addition, most bettors find it more exciting to root for more points rather than less. To accommodate this, sportsbooks will adjust the odds on either side. Instead of equal odds, the under may offer a slightly higher value.
How to Handicap Over/Under Your Totals Bet
Placing bets takes more than good luck—that is, if you want to win your bets.
Here are a few factors to consider before placing your bet:
They say that history repeats itself—in the world of sports, that saying often holds true.
Analyze how two given teams have performed against each other in the past. If they’re evenly matched, the games may have a low total score. But if one has a clear advantage, it may result in a higher score. Take a look at past games when making your decision.
Depending on which sport you’re betting on, the weather could play a factor in how many points are scored. Take football for example, which is played in outdoor stadiums. A game played in colder weather will typically have a lower score; players will be slower and the football will be harder to catch.
Extreme weather conditions add another level of unpredictability. Players might slide across the field, making it easier or harder to score points.
On warmer days, it might be wiser to bet over; during cold ones, consider betting under. Disregard this factor for basketball picks, which is always played indoors.
Offensive & Defensive Strengths
Take a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses of both teams. If one has a strong defensive lineup, they may not allow many points to be scored in a game. Conversely, a team with a heavily offensive play style might drive up the totals set.
Totals bets are incredibly popular for sports betting. Whether you prefer to bet over or under the total number of points, you stand to make a considerable profit if you’re accurate.
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