For team-based sports, there are three key bet types: moneylines, spreads, and totals. The first two require you to decide who will win and by how much, while the last item simply is a wager on how much scoring will happen in the contest.
Over/under betting (also known as totals) revolves around a designated number that a sportsbook sets. This number will represent an estimated total score for the game. The book will also list odds for the two possible choices – over or under – for bettors to choose from.
NFL Over/Under Betting Example
For each NFL game on the docket, sportsbooks will set an over/under line on the total number of points scored in the game. It’s one of the big three pregame bets along with the moneyline and spread. Totals for NFL games tend to range from the low 40s to mid-50s, but there are occasional outliers. Here’s a real-time example from NFL Week 4.
- Rams vs. 49ers Totals
- Over/Under: ()
After viewing the listed total, bettors have to make one of two choices if they want to place a bet.
- Will the total be over the listed amount?
- Will the total be under the listed amount?
Many totals are listed with a half-point attached, such as 45.5 or 52.5, in which case the bet will clearly be settled. For over/unders on whole numbers, such as 42 or 54, the possibility of a tie exists. 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.
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.
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.
|Sport||Low End||High End|
|NFL||39 or less||55+|
|NBA||195 or less||215+|
|NCAAF||40 or less||60+|
|NCAAB||130 or less||150+|
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
- Over 49.5 (-110)
- Under 49.5 (-110)
- Over wins at 50 points or more, such as 28-27.
- Under wins at 49 points or fewer, such as 24-21.
NBA totals betting
- Over 209.5 (-110)
- Under 209.5 (-110)
- Over wins at 210 points or more, such as 110-108.
- Under wins at 209 points or fewer, such as 101-99.
MLB totals betting
- Over 8.5 (-110)
- Under 8.5 (-110)
- Over wins at 9 runs or more, such as 6-4.
- Under wins at 8 runs or fewer, such as 3-2.
NHL totals betting
- Over 5.5 (-110)
- Under 5.5 (-110)
- Over wins at 6 goals or more, such as 7-3.
- Under wins at 5 goals or fewer, such as 4-1.
College football totals betting
- Over 59.5 (-110)
- Under 59.5 (-110)
- Over wins at 60 points or more, such as 45-38.
- Under wins at 59 points or fewer, such as 31-27.
College basketball totals betting
- Over 139.5 (-110)
- Under 139.5 (-110)
- Over wins at 140 points or more, such as 72-70.
- Under wins at 139 points or fewer, such as 65-60.
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)
- Set at 209.5 upon release with odds on both sides at -110.
- After betting action, the over emerges as the preferred choice.
- The book may respond by bumping the total up to 210 or 210.5.
- Alternatively, it could move the odds on the over side to -115 and adjust the under odds to -105.
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:
- Sportsbooks settle wagers based on official data and statistics. If you disagree with a stat or call that impacts the game, the book will not entertain any disputes.
- You’ll be locked in at the total and odds at the time of bet placement. Any movements in the numbers from there will not impact the settlement of your bets.
- Books will void totals bets for games that don’t finish or go a certain specified distance. They’ll remain action in the event of a slight delay, but not for complete cancellations.
- If the result turns out to be exactly the same as the listed total — such as a score of 110-105 for a 215-point NBA total — then the sportsbook will consider the bet a push and refund it.
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.