What Is a Totals or Over/Under Bet? — Wager Explainer

Totals bets are also known as over/under bets. The terms may be used interchangeably at legal online sportsbooks and among media covering sports betting.

Like the moneyline bet, an over/under wager is a straightforward and popular one at the sportsbook, especially for NFL and NBA games. Totals bets are usually available for all major professional sports (football, baseball, basketball, and hockey) and major college sports (football and basketball).

For a majority of over/under wagers, bettors are choosing whether the total number of points (i.e., runs for baseball, goals for soccer and hockey, rounds for boxing and MMA, points in other sports) will be OVER or UNDER the listed total of points provided by the sportsbook. The outcome of the sporting event does not factor into the wager — all that matters is the combined total of points scored by both teams.

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Components of Total and Over/Under Bets

There are four parts to a totals bet: The value, the price, the over, and the under.

1) The value: The value in a totals bet — the actual, operative number — is the unit listed bettors are wagering against in the sporting event. For an example, if the totals bet has a listing of 51 points, bettors are wagering a sporting event will finish with over 51 combined points by both teams or under 51 combined points by both teams. The units vary depending on the sport, with goals for hockey and soccer; runs for baseball; and rounds for boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA). And often you can bet on total points scored by just one team. For example, Bulls to score o/u 113.5 points in their game against the Bucks.

1) The price: The price or moneyline applying to the over/under bet indicates the price the bettor is getting on the wager. For example, if the over/under is established at 51 points at -110, bettors must bet $110 to win $100 regardless if they are picking the over OR the under. That’s a standard 10% “vig” (-110) that goes for most spread bets, too.

3) The over: Bettors who are selecting the over are wagering the combined number of points (or number of runs in a baseball game) will be GREATER THAN the number listed by the sportsbook. Using that same example of an over/under of 51 points on a -110 bet worth $100, bettors would win the $100 on their $110 stake if the teams combined to score more than 51 points. If the teams combine for exactly 51? That’s called a push, the bet gets “cancelled” or “voided,” and the amount wagered returned to the bettor.

4) The under: Bettors who are selecting the under are wagering the combined number of points (or in hockey, goals) will be LESS THAN the number listed by the sportsbook. Using that same example of an over/under of 51 points on a -110 bet worth $100, bettors would win the $100 on their $110 stake if the teams combined to score fewer than 51 points.

Potential Outcomes of Total and Over/Under Bets

There are three outcomes to a totals bet: Win, lose, or push.

  1. Win: Whether it is by one point, 21 points, or anywhere in between or beyond, bettors win if they correctly choose whether a game goes over or under a total offered by the sportsbook, and can collect winnings due them based on the wager placed.
  2. Lose: Conversely, bettors lose when they incorrectly choose whether a game goes over or under a total offered by the sportsbook. The house wins in that instance.
  3. Push: There are occasions when a “flat” point total (i.e., a whole number with no half-point) offered by the sportsbook will be equal to the combined points in the sporting event. That is a push, and when that happens, bettors are returned their original stake in full.

Winning the totals bet

Similar to point spread bets, a sportsbook typically establishes (or “posts”) the total before the game with a -110 moneyline. That means bettors must wager $110 to win $100 on their pre-game totals bet. And like point spreads, if a sportsbook receives more action on one side of the number than the other, it can raise the moneyline to try and balance the action. If bettors continue to put more and more action on that same side, a sportsbook can reset the total to a new number – usually in one-half point increments – and the moneyline will revert back to -110 at the new number.

Since over/under betting is popular on NFL games, most sportsbooks will provide a range of wagers that are both attractive to bettors while also protecting themselves, in case one particular bet sees so much action it can generate a loss for the sportsbook.

In-Game Offerings of Total and Over/Under Bets

Totals and over/under bets are not restricted to full-game offerings, as sportsbooks now offer partial game totals and over/under bets for quarters and halves. They also offer totals and over/under bets for individual team totals, both for full and partial games.

In-play and live wagering for totals and over/under bets are available too. For example, in the case of football, the sportsbook will update totals throughout the game, based on how the contest is unfolding. If one team returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown, that will quickly elevate what live total compared with the pre-game total.

Totals or Over/Under Bets FAQs

Can you put totals or over/under bets in parlays?

Yes, you can put multiple totals or over/under sides in the same parlay bet. But keep in mind that choosing a couple or several favorites will not yield the same payout as if you were picking sides closer to even (-110) or underdogs.

Can you put totals, money, and spread bets together in parlays?

Sure can. The potential payout is based on the pricing of any spread bet(s) in the parlay. The standard vig on a spread bet is -110.

Do totals or over/under prices differ from one sportsbook to another?

Absolutely. Sometimes they’re pretty drastically different from book to book as they sometimes offer different totals. It’s always wise to shop around for the best price for the side you like. For example you might see 51 points on one book and 51.5 points at another. Depending on the balance of each wager, one could be offered at -110 and the other offered at -115.

Are toals or over/under bets good bets?

They’re perfectly fine. Your bankroll, your call. Totals or over/under bets are more straightforward, and the “spread” is considered the great equalizer and involves a bit more handicapping (by how much will X team win or lose?). That said, there’s nothing wrong with just picking either the over or under against a total offered by the sportsbook.

How do totals or over/under bets work?

The price established on one or other is a function of how competitive or talented each side is — independently and based on the particular matchup. Put simply, the bookmakers will assign a certain price that they think accurately reflects what it should cost the bettor to pick either side of the total combined units being wagered on in the game. The closer the price is to “-110” (in American oddsmaking), the closer the number is in terms of competitive balance. When it gets into the -115 to -120 range, it means there is more betting on one side, and there is the potential for the units offered to move in a direction that resets the competitive balance of the bet.

Will the totals or over/under bet change once it’s set?

Definitely. Spreads and moneylines and totals are all fluid. They will adjust based on the bets people are placing (“action”), especially bettors that a bookmaker knows to be “sharper” (well informed). Winning long-term is as much about getting the best price and good value, as it is being on the right side. For example if two people bet on the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl but John bet it one week before the Super Bowl at -130 and Joe waited until Sunday and got K.C. at -120, Joe is getting the better price and payout, percentage-wise.

Can the totals or over/under price for MY bet change, once once I’ve bet it?

No. This is opposed to horse racing, or “parimutuel” betting, where the odds/prices change up until the gates open. With moneyline betting, the price that you bet gets locked in when you hit “place bet,” and it’s accepted. So if you bet on the Packers-Lions and took the over at 45 points -110 (bet $110 to win $100) and then later in the week, the line shifts to 43.5 points at -115, your bet is still over 45 points at -110.

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