For the major team-based sports, the main betting line for a game will list three key wagers: moneylines, spreads, and totals. The first requires you to decide who will win, while the second is based on the margin of victory. The last is simply a wager on how much scoring will happen in the contest.

Over/unders (also known as totals) involve betting on a number that the sportsbook sets. This number will represent an estimated total score for the game. The book will also list odds for the two choices — over or under — for bettors to choose from. Let’s take a look at how the wager works.

NFL over/under betting example

For each NFL game, sportsbooks will set an over/under line for the total number of points in the game. For those looking to bet at how to bet on football, it’s one of the big three bets, along with the moneyline and spread. Totals for NFL games tend to range from the low 40s to the mid-50s, but there are occasional outliers. Here’s an example of over/under odds for the NFL:

After viewing the total line, bettors can make one of two choices if they want to place a bet:

Many totals will include a half point, such as 45.5 or 52.5, in which case the bet will have a definite result. For over/unders that use whole numbers, such as 42 or 54, it’s possible the total lands exactly on that number, in which case the wager will be a push. A push is effectively a tie and means that there is no winner or loser, and the sportsbook will return your bet. Let’s take a closer look at how the wager works.

How the over/under works in sports betting

Here’s another example of an over/under for an NFL game.

Over52.5 (-110)
Under52.5 (-110)

For this fictitious matchup, the bar is 52.5 points. If you expect the teams to combine to score 53 points or more, you’ll wager on the over. Those who expect the game to be lower-scoring than that will choose the under. The result of the bet will depend on how many points the teams produce. A final score of 30-28 (58 points) is a victory for over bettors, while 21-20 (41 points) works for under bettors.

Next to the total are the actual odds for the bet. Most books will use a baseline of -110 (bet $11 to win $10) for totals bets, but the odds can shift in response to betting action. For example, one side may be at -105 in advance of kickoff while the other moves to -115. When comparing totals at various sportsbooks, make note of the variance between both the estimated number and the odds. If you are located in a state where you have DFS, pick’em, or social sportsbook options, check out our Betr Picks and Rebet reviews.

How the over/under works with payouts and examples

You can bet on the over/under for a number of sports. The amount of the totals will vary based on the expected scoring for all contests, and each of the major sports has a distinct range in which the estimated numbers will typically fall.

SportLow EndHigh End
NFL odds39 or less55+
NBA odds195 or less235+
MLB odds6.510+
NHL odds5.06.5
NCAAF odds40 or less70+
NCAAB odds130 or less150+

Keep in mind while learning how to bet on college football, that even in the same sport, professional and collegiate ranges differ. If you spend enough time studying the totals for your sports of choice, you’ll learn to discern the ranges.

To further understand totals betting and how it all works, let’s take a look at some examples for each of the major sports.

NFL totals betting

NBA totals betting

MLB totals betting

NHL totals betting

College football totals betting

College basketball totals betting

Sports Betting 101

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Why do the odds move for totals bets?

After the initial release of odds, the betting public begins to weigh in, and it’s not uncommon to see the numbers move from here. Sportsbooks will adjust odds and lines in response to betting action. If one side is bringing in more volume than the other, the book may lessen the appeal on that side while making the opposite choice more attractive. Books also will adjust odds based upon wagers from so-called “sharp” bettors who wager professionally.

The sportsbook does this in a bid to reduce liability on its end. If it winds up too lopsided on a contest and the majority opinion proves to be right, it will take a loss. While there’s no way to guarantee equal action on both sides, the preference is for it to be in that neighborhood. As for the adjustments, you may see both the estimated total and the odds shift.

Example of how the line shifts in totals (over/under)

Movement on the odds board is common, but remember that you can and should shop around to compare prices. The betting action won’t be exactly the same at each shop, so there will be variances. For example, a book may get hammered on the over and have to adjust, while another sportsbook doesn’t see as much action and keeps the numbers as they were.

How to calculate the vig on totals

The vig, also known as juice, is the amount that sportsbooks charge as a fee for facilitating wagers. It’s not always readily apparent, but you can learn to spot it with some seasoning. Using a standard over/under bet at odds of -110 as an example, you won’t double your money on a winning $100 wager.

Instead, you’ll receive a profit of $90.90 for a total of $190.90. A 90.9% return is fantastic, but what happened to the remainder of the money? The sportsbook kept it as vig. In this example, the vig is $9.10, or 9.1%. There are a number of online handicapping calculators that can help you calculate the juice. You can also find ballpark returns pretty easily.

If we use the baseline odds of -110, the negative number is telling us how much we would have to wager to see a $100 dollar return; i.e., $110 to get back $100 in winnings. For every tick in the odds, the potential return shifts. At odds of -120, you must wager $120 to win $100.

The differences in potential returns help to bolster the case for making line shopping a key part of your research. While a few ticks of difference might not seem like much, it adds up in the long run. It’s hard to beat the vig long-term, but more favorable odds will boost the potential amounts that will be coming back your way.

Standard house rules when it comes to betting the over/under

Legal US sportsbooks have house rules in place. Many of the rules are of the standard variety and cover how bets are placed and settled, while others are sport-specific or cover circumstances that can influence the results. For totals betting, here are some of the top points:

Be sure to take the time to review the rules at the books where you play. If there’s not a dedicated section for house rules, check out the help and FAQ sections.