Wagering Over or Under the Betting Total
A sports betting alternative to betting who will win a game is betting the total. This is called total betting which is a 50/50 proposition on whether the total points scored by both teams will go over or under the bookmaker's posted total. This method of wagering is available for all sports including football, basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer.
Pricing Betting Totals
The only sport it is rather easy to handicap total betting is hockey. Here the simple formula, average goals scored plus average goals allowed for both teams divided by two is enough to make a rough prediction. For baseball all sorts of other factors come into play, primarily the starting pitcher, how batters have performed against pitchers with similar stats, today's lineup, bullpen, etc. Baseball, although complex, has a lot more useful data that can be factored to get a far more precise prediction.
For football betting there are simply not enough games in the season to get an accurate figure using points scored and points allowed alone. For this the first adjustment required is to use medians not averages. For example in the series 15, 7, 3 the median is 7 where the average is 8.33. So what you should do when calculating points scored and points allowed is place each into a list of ascending order, and take the middle figure. You should then weight this against league average.
So for example:
(Home Team Median Points Scored + League Average Points Score)/2=A
(Home Team Median Points Allowed + League Average Point Score)/2=B
(Away Team Median Points Scored + League Average Points Score)/2=C
(Away Team Median Points Allowed + League Average Point Score)/2=D
From here, (A+B+C+D)/2 will give you a rough estimate of the total points you expect to be scored in the game. Of course this model is far too simplistic to yield long term profit. No matter how simple the sport, you'll need to find other adjustments to make. The unfortunate news is if handicapping totals was easy, the market would dry up and there would be no profit left. Depending how ambitious you are this might actually be good news.
Rather than learning how to price totals, a better strategy for the ambitious beginner is learning predictive modeling. This is a topic written about in SBR moderator Justin7's book, Conquering Risk: Attacking Vegas and Wall Street by Elihu D. Feustel. This book is available on Amazon, and while not written for the sharpest of sharps, it's an excellent book for those needing the advanced fundamentals. Now for those who don't want to wait for the book, I will continue this article with more helpful advice on total betting.
Understand Key Numbers
When projecting betting totals it's important to understand key numbers. For example in NFL football the most common total points scored in order are 41, 43, 37, 44, 51, 33, and 47. Knowing this we'd be far more likely to bet over 41 when our model predicted 41.3 than we would be willing to bet under 41 when our model predicted 40.7. While 40 is still a rather common outcome, 39 and 38 are very low probability totals. Over-41 gives us a push on the most common outcome and a win on very close second and fourth most common outcomes.
Off Market Prices and Bonuses
With the information I've just given, it should be very easy to profit betting NFL totals. The goal is to take advantage of sports betting bonuses and off market prices simultaneous. Specifically, as mentioned in my article on how to handicap the market there is such a thing as sharp books, which are betting sites friendly to professionals, and square books which are betting sites that target recreational players.
What you need to understand is fan biased. The majority of NFL football fans prefer to bet that something will happen, than something that won't happen. In other words, betting the over is a lot more fun than betting the under. This leads to recreational betting sites such as Bovada often padding the total an extra 0.5 points, thus making the line worse for players betting the over and better for players betting the under.
Bovada has total disregard, or might even be aware of the implication of key numbers. Again 41, 43, 37, 44, 51, 33, and 47 are the most common total points scored in NFL game. If you were to shop Bovada.lv against a reduced juice betting site looking for spots, the sharp book has say a 47.0 betting total while Bovada has 47.5. You'd quickly spot that the under bet at Bovada is close to neutral expected value.
Finding these near neutral EV bets while having a bonus is enough to make considerable profits betting totals. Even better is when that bonus is a massive 50% cash (yes, cash; not free play) bonus which can be obtained at www.topbet.com. Shopping Topbet against a sharp book like 5dimes while using the bonus is a great way to profit betting totals.
Getting Maximum Value
One way to gain maximum value total betting is to consider if there is a correlation between the total bet you're making and that game's point spread. For instance, let's say you're betting the under based on the fact Ben Roethlisberger is playing with less than 100% health and you believe the Steelers will run the ball and eat up the clock. Now if the Steelers are -7.5 favorites in this game, maybe your opinion that the game will go under also means their opponent is more likely to cover the +7.5 point spread. In cases such as this it's highly advisable to bet the point spread and total together in a parlay bet.
Odds or Evens
To state what to many is probably the obvious, in certain sports even and odd number totals make a huge difference. This relates to low scoring sports such as baseball, hockey and in certain cases soccer. Keep in mind that in baseball and hockey if a game ends tied, they keep playing until the tie is broken. Considering all ties total an even number of points, an odd total outcome is more likely to occur than an even total outcome.
To share a related tip, in soccer matches where ties must be broken (example: elimination tournaments) an over betting line of 2.5 has only four ways for the under to win (0-1), (1-0), (0-2) and 2-0. Notice that the only way for the under bet to win is for there to be a shutout. I've actually found occasional arbitrage bets (bets where you can bet multiple sides guaranteeing a win) just from taking this into consideration.
Avoiding Suckers Bets
The final thing to mention is there are some flat out sucker bets that need to be avoided. For example I mentioned earlier shopping 5dimes. against recreational betting sites such as Bovada. This is most often profitable because Bovada is shading the line to make the odds worse for the more popular selection. This is to trap fish; if you don't want to be losing a fish (the guy they send the limo for) make certain you shop the lines and don't end up you yourself betting the wrong side of a Bovada line shade. The final tip is for reasons I covered in my article on teaser betting strategy, I strongly advocate never teasing the total. Making teasers on totals is a long term losing proposition you'll want to be certain to avoid.