What Does Over/Under Mean?
Over/Under totals bets are wagers on the combined score in a game. For example, “Chiefs-Lions Over/Under 54” is a totals bet. If the total points scored in the game is higher than 54, the “Over” wins, otherwise the Under takes the cash. If it lands at exactly 54, it is a “push” and there is no bet. In baseball, the wager is on the combined total of runs scored, in hockey it is on total goals, etc. There are even Over/Unders on combat sports, in that case it is a wager on the length of the fight.
How Is the Over/Under Determined?
Over/unders are determined by the betting markets, same as in point spreads. The Missouri betting apps set an initial price that is generally designed to produce equal action on both sides of the wager. Take a random Saturday evening Cardinals vs. Rockies for example. The total is 9, a slightly high but very normal number in baseball. It started at -110 on both sides, meaning bettors have to risk $110 to win $100. More action came in on the Under, and some sportsbooks reacted by shading the money in that direction and it now is -112 and even -115 in some spots to bet the Under, vs. as low as -105 to bet the over. If Unders keep getting extra money, the sportsbooks might change the total to 8.5 for later wagers.
How to Read Over/Under Odds
As in point spreads, Over/Unders all carry a value and a money cost on both sides of the wager. The Sunday night NFL opener looks like this:
Cowboys at Giants: Over 46.5, -110; Under 46.5, -110
That all means the total is set at 46.5. In this football game, if the two teams combine for 47 or more points the over wins, otherwise it is the under. Each sides requires a bet of $110 to win $100.
How to Bet the Over/Under
Betting on the Over/Under is very similar to wagering on a moneyline or point spread. There is a number to “beat” and a price to place that wager. The only tangible difference is that totals bets are purely on two teams combined results rather than on the ultimate winner of a game and/or the margin of victory. The handicapping itself is essentially part of the same process. You generally would attempt to calculate an anticipated final result when wagering on any of point spreads, moneylines or totals. Experienced bettors will play the bet with the most edge. You will be able to use Missouri sports betting promos on nearly every over/under bet unless stated otherwise by the operator.
What Is the Payout on an Over/Under Bet?
Payouts on over/under bets depend on the price of the wager. Here is the market for the Royals at Phillies.
Over/Under 9.5, -115 Over, -105 Under
In this example, betting on the over requires $115 to win $100. On the under side, the bettor risks $105 to win the same $100. Since the total is an odd number, there is no chance of a tie or “push.” If however it was set at 9 and that is where the game landed, all bets are simply returned with no action.
Types of Over/Under Totals Bets
While the concept is constant, there are many different types of Over/Under bets. They most commonly refer to the combined team totals at the end of the game, but there are myriad variations. There are totals on halves and quarters and MLB five innings as well as individual team totals and so on. Here are some examples.
Standard Over/Under Totals Betting
This is generally the default; take the two teams and add up the points or runs or goals at the end of the game. Something like Detroit Lions vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 54 from above is the first total anyone will see when looking at the betting screen on that game. The lion's share (no pun intended) of the totals handle on this game will be on this standard market.
Team Over/Under Totals Betting
Sportsbooks all offer markets on one team's total number. In the above game, the number is 30.5 for the Chiefs, with -120 on the over and +100 on the Under. The Lions are at 23.5 with -108 on the over and -112 on the Under. If the Chiefs score 31 or more, Over bettors win $100 per $120 bet. If Kansas City finishes with 30 or fewer points, the Unders win $100 per $100 wagered.
Alternative Over/Under Totals Betting
Many sporting events carry alternative Over/Under totals. On the Cardinals vs. Rockies game from above, the standard total is 9 with a slight money lean to the under. There are alternate totals listed at virtually every nearby half run, with the money adjusted. The alternate 8 total is -166 on the over and +130 on the under. Conversely the alternate 10 total pays +135 on the over but costs -177 to play the under.
Quarter or Period Over/Under Totals Betting
All the sportsbooks offer totals markets on parts of games. Over/Under bettors can wager on an NFL or NBA total for any quarter. Ditto for the NHL and totals on any period. Generally these totals do not list until the day of the sporting event.
Halftime Over/Under Totals Betting
Same as for quarters, sportsbooks post Over/Under markets for halftime scores. MLB has five inning totals which have particularly unique characteristics as it allows bettors to focus on just the starting pitchers and not need to account much for bullpens. Cardinals vs. Rockies has a first five-inning total of 5, costing -120 on the over and -110 on the under.
Prop Over/Under Totals Betting
Prop Over/Unders are essentially yes/no bets on a team or individual total of some sort. Something Patrick Mahomes Over/Under 250 yards passing vs. the Lions would be a prop total. There are prop totals on individuals and teams and they can cover games or entire seasons.
Key Factors to Consider in Over/Under Totals Betting
There are many key factors handicappers need to analyze when trying to price totals on a sporting event. This includes all of the following:
Team Offense and Defense
In “timed” sports such as football, basketball, hockey and soccer, the most important factors in totals are the quality of each teams’ offense and defense and the typical pace of play of each team. In football, each offense can run at their own preferred pace and not necessarily impact the number of plays the opposition will get off in the game. That is not always the case, see Army football for example, but is often true. Basketball works differently as the pace of each offense will have a greater impact on the other offense. The best way to analyze any of these is to try to handicap the number of plays or possessions each team will get, and the average results of each play or possession based on the respective offensive and defensive quality.
Injuries and Absences
Depending on the specifics, injuries and absences can have monstrous impact on totals markets. Consider the New York Yankees. Their offense is wildly more effective when Aaron Judge is in the lineup vs. not. The Kansas City Chiefs would be expected to score considerably fewer points in a game without Patrick Mahomes to name another one. NBA totals are notoriously volatile as teams often sit several top players at the last minute as part of their “load management.” Try to keep as tuned in to this sort of news as possible.
The trend is often your friend when betting on totals. MLB team offenses often run hot and cold, so pay close attention to recent form. On the flip side, pitchers can get on rolls too, not to mention “hot” NHL goalies, so factor all of that into the equation.
Do some teams have another teams' “number?” It feels more like small sample size randomness than a real pattern, but I would not totally discount it. The Minnesota Twins are good more often than not yet somehow recently went two decades between winning a season series vs. the Yankees. As far as totals go, NFL divisional matchups often see betters lean towards unders on the theory that familiarity means there is less chance one or both offenses can show much that the other team has not seen already.
Obviously this only factors into outdoor sporting events, but weather can have a huge impact on games. Cold in general will suppress baseball scoring due to simple physics. Balls do not carry as far. The wind speed and direction are also huge. Chicago Cubs games in Wrigley see the most volatile totals on account of wind as the stadium can play as either an extreme hitters park one day and an extreme pitchers park the next. A handful of stadiums have retractable roofs and the ball carries differently when it is open or closed, so pay attention there as well. Texas notably is pitcher's park with the roof shut, but not so much in the outdoor air. In an NFL game, heavy wind can wreak enormous downward impact on points scored, as can snow and ice.
Advanced Strategies for Over/Under Totals Betting
How do “sharp” bettors handicap totals? Well, tough to know all their tricks as that is what makes them sharp. But we can still all employ some advanced strategies.
Line Movement Analysis
It is important to remember that all sports betting lines are live markets. They move on both news, such as an injury as well as money flow in the betting market. If sportsbooks open Royals-Phillies total at 9 and there is large and sharp action on the over, the price on the over will go up and/or the total itself will go up. It is very important to analyze line moves, or even lack thereof. For example, if most of the bets in quantity terms are on one side of the betting market, but the line does not budge or even moves the opposite direction, it is called “reverse line movement.” This is often a clue that sharper money is on that side, whereas presumably smaller and theoretically less informed bettors are on the other side.
Learning how to handicap totals is the best way to identify value in a totals bet. The basic math behind all totals is not hugely complex. It is always a variation of the expected number of plays or possessions or shots in the game multiplied by the expected points or goals in each possession or play. Obviously drilling down to the actual numbers is tougher. Getting comfortable with all that will lead to increased ability to value totals and spot opportunities, or at least highlight sporting events to look deeper into.
Live or “in-play” betting has exploded in popularity in recent years. Bettors can play totals markets virtually until the game ends. The markets are always wider than on pre-game over/unders, but the flip side is they are less efficient and savvy bettors can find some great opportunities. Sportsbooks need to post in-play markets very quickly, and thus they are often initiated by algorithm with “human” tweaking. But a “bot” may not instantly pick up nuance within a game such as an NFL QB injury that is impacting play calling or pace.
Betting Against the Public
Everybody wants to bet with the “pros” and against the “Joes.” An objective way to measure the public side is to compare the percentage of the “handle” on each side to the percentage of actual bets on each side. If the handle percentage on one side is significantly greater than the percent of bets on that side, that suggests the pros are there, and the public is on other side. Specifics matter in a huge way though. If the line moved already in the direction of the sharps, it is very possible that all that smart money placed their wagers at odds different and better than those currently available. Do not just blindly wager on a side because sharps were clearly on that side, price matters!
Utilizing Advanced Metrics
There is no magic number or formula to use when wagering on totals. More and better info helps of course. Advanced metrics are available to either calculate yourself or via purchase in virtually every sport. At best they help handicapping totals markets. Just view them as something in the overall toolshed, not a magic elixir.
Top Sports for Over/Under Totals Betting
Deep and popular Over/Under betting markets exist on virtually every team sporting event. Here are the best ones.
NFL Totals Betting Everything having to do with NFL game betting generates big interest, and football game Over/Unders are no exception. The average betting total on a game has trended up over the years, with the typical game priced at shade over 44 in the 2022 season. The Chiefs-Lions total for opening night of 54 is high, but not unique as 27 games saw Over/Unders in the 50s in 2022.
NBA Totals Betting NBA betting totals rank second to NFL markets in terms of popularity. The scoring is of course high, as the average NBA total betting market in the 2022-23 season was 227.8. Offensive efficiency hit an all-time high as virtually every team continues to shoot more and more three pointers, and hit them at a better clip.
MLB Totals Betting Totals are low in MLB games, with the vast majority of Over/Unders listing between 7 and 10. The key is often the money price on either side as that is the big differentiation. Extra innings are tricky as the standard MLB totals bet is on the final score. Many a great Under call has lost in bonus frames.
NHL Totals Betting As in MLB, hockey totals are obviously low. St. Louis Blues vs. Boston Bruins 5.5 with -110 on both sides is a typical over/under market. NHL regular season games tied on regular play a 5:00 three on three sudden death period then go to a shootout to decide a winner, and thus 60 minute ties get an extra goal added to the total. Sportsbooks do list both 60 minute and final score totals odds.
Get Started Betting Over/Under Totals in Missouri
Over/Under totals are a different way to wager on sporting events. Instead of picking a winner or handicapping a point spread, it just involves wagering on whether the total number of points or runs or goals exceeds the set number. Totals are super fun to wager on and can prove just as profitable as wagers on point spreads or money lines.
Over/Under Totals FAQs for Missouri Bettors
It refers to the total number of points, runs or goals in the combined score of both teams. It is one of the most popular wagering options available.
If the final score exactly hits the over/under, the bet is a “push.” The bet cancels and wagered funds are returned to your account.
Standard over/under bets do include overtime. Sportsbooks do offer over/under bets that settle at the end of regulation play, but they are less popular.
Total refers to the combined score of points or runs or goals in a sporting event.
A 3-way total bet is most popular in very low scoring sports like soccer. It involves betting on either over, under or hitting a number exactly. In soccer that number is typically 3 since that is a very common goal total. There are no pushes as bettors win on one of the three.
Adam Warner is an expert reviewer for BetMissouri.com. The author of "Options Volatility Trading: Strategies for Profiting from Market Swings," former financial writer for Schaeffers Research, and freelance writer for Minyanville.com and StreetInsight.com. Previously Adam was a Market Maker on the American Stock Exchange and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.