Totals Bets and Over/Under Bets
Ever wanted a chance to cheer for both teams or root against both teams? It's your lucky day, because sportsbooks have provided a way to satiate this desire while simultaneously providing a great way to make some money.
The sports bet type that we are talking about is called a totals bet or an over/under bet. They are 100% exactly the same thing, the names are fully interchangeable. Typically, the term over/under seems to be more popular in daily conversations between bettors, but both are regularly used in actual sportsbooks and on sports betting websites.
For the sake of this article, we will mainly refer to them as totals bets, but remember that they are completely interchangeable.
What is a Totals Bet?
A totals bet is a wager you can place on the total number of something in a sporting event. For example, you could bet on the total number of points that are going to be scored in a game by both teams. The sportsbook will put out a prediction of what they think the total will be and you will get to choose over that number or under that number. For example, let's take a look at this actual posting from a sportsbook for college football games.
If we look at the first game between the Texas A&M Aggies and the South Carolina Gamecocks, we can see some numbers over on the right-hand side. These are the numbers that are depicting the totals bets available on this game. You have the option of betting over 58 points or under 58 points. As you can see, both bets pay out as a moneyline bet for the exact same amount.
So what exactly does over 58 or under 58 mean? This is the total points scored in the game by BOTH teams. Let's say you think that both teams are going to go crazy and score a ton of points. You would bet the over. If the combination of both team's scores is greater than 58, you win! Let's pretend we actually made a bet on this game and look at some outcomes.
You bet $100 on the Over for the Texas A&M and South Carolina game.
The final score of the game is:
Texas A&M - 26
South Carolina - 35
The total for both teams scores is 61 which is greater than 58, so you win!
You are paid at the moneyline of -110, meaning you profit $91.90 for your wager.
It does not matter if one team scores all of the points or it's split evenly. It also does not matter which team wins the game. All that matters is the total points of BOTH teams.
What types of Totals Bets are available?
One of the great things about this type of sports bet is that it is not just the final scores of games you can bet on. Pretty much anything that can be added up to a total in sports can be bet on.
For example, you can bet on how many birdies will occur during a golf tournament. In soccer, you can make a bet on how many yellow cards are going to be given out during the game. As you can see, this gives you a lot of flexibility to make a wager if you have any types of feelings about how a game will go.
For example, let's look at the yellow card example. You may not have a good idea about who is going to win the game, but you may have a strong feeling that there is a lot of tension between the two teams that is going to be taken out with aggression. This would result in a lot of yellow cards. Totals bets now allow you to capitalize on this prediction.
Are all Totals Bets paid out the same?
Surprise again, not all totals bets are the same, and the difference again is how they are paid out. For most major sports, the totals bets are going to be paid out at the standard moneyline rate of -110 (you win $100 for every $110 you wager). If the sportsbook needs to get more money on a certain side, they will move the actual point total instead of moving the moneyline.
Some sports, though, will offer varying moneylines for over/under bets. Here's an example screenshot of a tennis match between Dzumhur and Ferrer. Let's take a look at what we need to learn from this example.
It doesn't specifically say this, but the over/under or totals bet for tennis is the total number of sets that will be played. The first number, 3 1/2 is the line. If there are more than 3 1/2 games, the over wins. If there are less, the under wins. As there are no half games, this basically means that the under will win if the game finishes in three sets. Anything longer than that and the over will win.
As you can see, though, the odds are not the same for both options as they were in our previous football example. There is a significantly higher payout for the over. This means that the oddsmakers are expecting this match to most likely to be wrapped up in three sets or less.
If you were to bet $100 on the over and win, you would receive a total of $400 (your bet x the decimal odds). This would be a profit of $300 dollars.
If you were to bet $100 on the under and win, you would receive a total of $122 (your bet x the decimal odds). This would be a profit of $22 dollars.
Bets like this are common in tennis as well as in fighting sports like boxing and MMA (bets on how many rounds the fight goes).
You may also see bets where there are multiple different over/under lines for you to choose from on the same game. This is done by sportsbooks to allow you to risk more if you want to by wagering more aggressive over/under lines. Confused? Don't worry because this example will make it clearer.
These are betting odds on a soccer game from a UK based betting site. If you are not used to the fractional odds, they're not important for this example. Most sites will also offer the odds in all formats so no need to stress. What is important to notice here is that there are three separate over/under lines for the exact same game. This allows you to bet even more precisely as to what you think is going to happen.
Let's say that you are fairly confident that the game is only going to have one goal. You could choose to bet the under 2.5 goals which would give you a cushion in case an additional goal was scored. But, because this sportsbook offers multiple lines, you could choose to bet the under 1.5 goals if you were very confident in your prediction. As you might have expected, you would be paid better for making this prediction.
If you bet $100 on the under 2.5 goals, you would be paid a total of $172.73. This would be a profit of $72.73.
If you bet $100 on the under 1.5 goals, you would be paid a total of $350.00. This would be a profit of $250.
As you can see, the second option pays out much more as it is a much more specific prediction. The multiple lines give you the flexibility and freedom to bet at different levels of certainty. The more you trust in your bet, the more money you can make if you are right. Looking for a bit more of a cushion on your bet? You have that option as well with the multiple lines.
Notes on Different Sports
The totals numbers for any game can be whatever the oddsmakers think it is going to be, but they tend to follow patterns. This is not really important for betting as each game should be viewed independently. It will help you, though, to be more prepared for what you are going to see and to recognize anything that might seem a bit out of the ordinary. We did not address every sport here, but just a few of the more common ones to give you a little more insight into how the bet might look.
The NFL point totals average is somewhere around 41 points. This means that most games are going to fall within a range around this number. If you have two defensive powerhouses going at it, you can expect this number to be significantly lower. On the flip side, if you have two offensive juggernauts duking it out, you can expect this number to be considerably higher. As of 2017, the highest point total on a game was 61.5! Here's an article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal talking about the game.
College football typically has more variance when it comes to the point totals. This is because you are going to have a lot more matchups between teams that are less evenly matched. You could have offensive powerhouses up against defensively terrible teams that would result in huge scores. This is less common in the pros as even the worst defensive teams are not THAT bad.
Most of the time you will see a pretty consistent over/under line of 2.5 goals in soccer games. What you will see changed is the moneyline payouts for each side of the line. The more goals the oddsmakers think will be scored, the less you will earn for betting the over. The same is true in reverse for the under.
Hockey is similar to soccer in that the line will always hover around the same mark. Most hockey goal totals will be 6.5 or very close to that. They do sometimes move the point total, but most of the time you will see the moneyline payouts slid to adjust for the different teams projected performance.