When betting point totals, the bettor isn’t betting on who wins the game but is concerned about how many combined points are scored between the competitors. Instead of rooting for a particular side, point total bettors cheer for both teams to either score a lot of points or score very few points, depending on where their wager lies.
The point totals bet comes into play when the bettor is not confident enough to select a certain team or player but has a solid understanding of how the game will play out stylistically. For example, a basketball team with a slow pace of play will drop the point total down. On the other side, a high-powered offense in football will drive up a higher point total.
Betting the over/under can be a thrilling way to watch a game even if the game is out of hand but the point total is still on the fence. It can also be infuriating when your under bet appeared to be a clear winner before double overtime cost you the win.
Over/under, also called totals bets, are a popular wager among elite sports gamblers with their analytical approach to sports gambling, knowing the way the game will flow and play out.
Whether you’re new to the sports betting industry or a seasoned veteran, let’s take some time to learn more about it betting point totals.
Identifying the total
In order to place your wager on the total, identifying where it’s located is the first step. Typically online sportsbooks list three major categories for traditional sports. Often, the numbers listed in order from left to right are point spread, then moneyline, followed by the point total.
The point total at the far right will feature a top and bottom half. The top will list the letter “O” or the word “OVER” before the number, which signifies the over, and the bottom half will show “U” or “UNDER” representing the under. Next to the point total number are the odds for the bet. Most totals bets have -110 odds.
- O49 (-110)
- U49 (-110)
The over/under number may fluctuate leading up to the game depending on where the majority of money and bets are coming in.
- How to bet the under: This is pretty self-explanatory. When you decide to bet the under, you’re thinking the teams will combine to score less than the given number put out by the oddsmakers. It can be difficult to watch a game as a casual fan when you make an under bet. Even though your brain has been programmed to cheer for points, you’re now rooting for strikeouts, missed shots, no touchdowns, and so on.
- How to bet the over: On the other side, if you think the game plays out at a much higher scoring pace than the sportsbook shows, bet on the over and root for everybody to play their best offensive games of the season and not back it up on the defensive end.
Halftime/quarter totals betting
This is more of an advanced wager, but online sportsbooks will sometimes offer the option to bet first and second halves or quarters, depending on the sport. If you notice a particular trend early or late in games, this could be a profitable way to go. If you’re watching your favorite team and notice over the course of the season that it takes a long time for the offense to get things going, putting some money on the first half under would make sense. Or, if the offense comes out firing in the first half before cooling off after halftime, bet the first half over.
Team point totals
This is also a non-typical point totals wager, but sometimes this is an option to go after. Individual team point totals focus on the number of points scored by a particular team instead of combining all competing sides. If you believe a team will score more than the listed point total number, take the over, and vice versa for the under.
How to bet the over/under with examples
Now that we have a full understanding of what betting over/under point totals are, let’s dive into a few of the scenarios that could arise when you’re looking to make your next over or under bet.
NFL example 1
Let’s reflect on Super Bowl LIII, which featured a matchup between two of the better offenses in the NFL with the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams. This is among the highest point totals leading up to the game in Super Bowl history, and it made sense given what both teams had done to that point. The Rams finished the regular season second in scoring offense, while the Patriots placed fourth.
The point total for this game was set at 56.5 leading up to kickoff with a -110 listing for the over and under, meaning you would need to bet $110 to profit $100 on either side.
Despite the expectation of a shootout between two big-time offenses, the final score landed at 13-3. Quick math will tell you that’s a total of 16 points, falling well short of the number by 40.5 points. Hardly anybody could’ve expected such a low-scoring game, but that’s what makes sports and sports betting action fun. You never fully know what to expect.
Memorable highlights were limited, causing disappointment for fans and especially NFL bettors who took the over bet. Meanwhile, those who bet the under kicked back and enjoyed the Super Bowl, knowing they had a winning bet throughout much of the game.
NFL example 2
For our next example, let’s go back to the NFL for an NFC Divisional Round game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints in January 2018.
It’s now known as the Minneapolis Miracle, but it also led to massive heartbreak or triumph for those who bet on the point total, which was set at 49.5 prior to the game.
With 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Saints led 24-23, so everything looked bright for those who bet the under, while over bettors prayed for a miracle.
Sometimes in sports betting, prayers are answered.
Stefon Diggs went 61 yards for a last-second touchdown to send the Vikings into the NFC Championship, leaving the Saints stunned with a 29-24 loss. Under bettors likely felt the same way, with the final combined point total ending up at 53.
NCAA basketball example
Let’s take this one back to 2009 to one of the most iconic games in Big East Tournament history. UConn basketball squared off against Syracuse in the quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden.
Since sports betting was much less of a topic in 2009 than it is today, it’s hard to find the point total for this game, but let’s set it at 150 with the standard -110 for the over and under in this example.
Those who had the under probably felt fairly confident in the final seconds of regulation with Syracuse ahead 71-69 with 10 seconds remaining. Combining the two scores adds up to 140, so how could this go wrong for the under bettors? Overtime.
This is a tricky part of point totals because they include the entire game, not just regulation. UConn’s Kemba Walker tied the game to send it into overtime. After six overtimes that featured 102 combined points, Syracuse and over bettors prevailed in a game that finished with a whopping 244 total points.
The over bettors were given a gift, while under bettors still curse the name Kemba Walker.
Depending on the particular situation, overtime in a totals bet can be a sports bettor’s best friend, but it can also be part of a sports gambler’s nightmare.
In this completely made-up example, let’s say the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are matched up in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series to advance to the World Series.
The over/under run total is set at 8 with -110 juice set at both sides. Like the previous examples, this means you’d have to bet $110 to earn $100 with a winner.
In this fantasy, we’re in the bottom of the ninth with the game tied 3-3 and Boston slugger Xander Bogaerts at the plate. He steps up and rips a two-run homer to give the Red Sox the 5-3 victory, as the final runs total rests at 8.
Since the over/under run total was set at 8 and the final result matched the number, this is called a push. All sides of the point total bet get their money back as if nothing happened.
Sportsbooks try to avoid the push scenario when you’re betting on baseball, which is a reason many point totals and spreads list a 0.5 after the number.
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Key takeaways on totals
Let’s take a look back at the main points and what we learned about betting point totals.
- Traditional totals bets consist of combining points between teams involved.
- Consider the different styles of play when analyzing point totals.
- Bet the under when you think less points will be scored than projected by oddsmakers.
- Bet the over when you think more points will be scored than projected by oddsmakers.
- As with all wagers, luck can play a big role in the winners and losers.