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.
Also known as over/under bets, totals are a popular option for both seasoned and beginning handicappers, as well as for bettors between those two extremes. Here’s what you need to know about legally and safely betting on totals in the US.
Latest over/unders for NFL, NBA and more
There are two parts to a totals bet: the estimated points that the sportsbook sets, and the odds attached to both the over and under. Both parts can move in response to betting action, so staying on top of shifts takes some effort.
Our live odds feed removes legwork from the equation. We pull together the latest numbers from the top legal sportsbooks in the industry and present them in a table. You can see how it works and try it out below.
How the over/under works in sports betting
Totals betting 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. An example of totals listing for an NFL game looks like this.
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.
Is over/under betting available for all sports?
We most commonly associate totals betting with major team-based sports. It’s one of the top bets for all of the following.
Totals will also crop up as bets on other sports and in various prop-type betting opportunities. For example, you may see an over/under on the total number of sets or games for a tennis match, or an estimated number of total rounds for a UFC fight.
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.
Total for an NBA game
- 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.
Totals betting 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.
State rules and regulations for totals betting
States with legal sports betting have set their own rules and regulations. There are some differences as a result, including the legal age to play, but also similarities such as prohibiting affiliated team and league personnel from wagering on their own sports.
For totals betting, it’s allowed for all of the major pro and college sports. That said, individual states could have some roadblocks in place for wagering on local colleges. For example, you can’t bet on in-state college teams in New Jersey, but no such restrictions are in place in neighboring Pennsylvania.
In legal states, one of the biggest requirements for sports betting is that wagering is restricted to actual athletic competitions. You can’t bet on things like elections or entertainment events as a result. Totals on actual games and events are good to go, and you’ll find them listed prominently in legal and regulated online sportsbooks.
House rules for totals
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.
Legal vs. illegal totals betting
Despite the rise in legal sports betting options across the US, illegal options such as wagering via offshore sites are still out there. Offshore sites operate outside of US jurisdiction and state laws. They may claim to be able to do so due to what they say is uncertainty in the law, but the bottom line is that they’re not playing under the same rules as legal sportsbooks.
There are no guarantees in place that your funds will be safe, so you’re taking your chances by playing there. At legal sportsbooks, strict rules govern the protection of customer funds.
Offshore sites may also offer wagers you can’t find in the US. Legal sportsbooks are limited to offering bets on actual sports competitions. That’s not the case in the world of offshore wagering, so you might see ridiculous over/under bets on something entertainment-related that simply can’t be reasonably predicted.
Totals betting handle at legal US sportsbooks
If you examine revenue and handle reports from legal sports betting states, its benefit to those states is apparent.
There are no exact numbers on totals betting in legal states. It has traditionally been one of the top options for sports that are regularly at the top of the charts.
It’s one of the top bets for the major team-based sports, and appears alongside the moneyline and spread as one of the featured choices. For the sports that attract the most betting volume, totals betting brings in lots of business for sportsbooks.