What Are Over/Under Bets in Sports Betting?
The classic sports bet is on which team will win but there are tons of other exciting outcomes to wager on. One of the best is by betting on how many total points you think will be scored in a game. This type of wagering is called Over/Under betting or Betting on Totals.
It all starts when the sportsbook sets a line before a game to predict how many combined points they think will be scored by both teams. As a bettor, you get to choose whether you think the final combined points scored for both teams will be more (Over) or less (Under) than the casino’s predicted line.
These days we see all sorts of Over/Under betting lines across many different sports as well as with in-game live prop bets. As Over/Under betting continues to grow in popularity, oddsmakers are coming up with more and more exciting variations of totals bets for you to wager on.
It wasn’t long ago that betting on something like the Over/Under for total aces served by John Isner in a tennis match, or how many free-throws DeAndre Jordan would make in a game, were bets you could only make among friends. Not anymore. Prop bet Over/Unders like these are starting to become common on lots of the best online sportsbooks.
If you are not familiar with this style of betting it might sound confusing at first. That’s ok because we’re here to help. This article will explain how Over/Under betting works, strategy tips to win more betting totals as well as give examples of what to look for across all the major sports when it comes to Over/Under betting.
How Does Over/Under Betting Work?
Over/Under betting is one of the easiest and potentially profitable bets and since it’s available in every sport it’s worth getting familiar with how it all works.
Oddsmakers calculate how they think each team will perform in the game and then they combine those numbers into one prediction of how many total points will be scored by both teams.
Here are the key points to remember about Totals bets:
- A bet on the Over/Under line in sports is a wager that only considers the total points scored in the game.
- If the casino’s line for a baseball game Totals bet is 5.5, for example, a bet on the Over will win if both teams score a combined six or more points and a bet on the Under will win if they score a combined five points or less.
- No matter what sport you’re planning to wager on, and regardless of whether one team is likely to dominate the other, you can bet on the total points line.
- Typically the odds on both the Over and Under bets are the same. This is because the casino is always trying to set a line that will attract equal action from the betting public on both sides of the line.
- The odds on over/under bets are usually -110 with the extra 10% representing the casino’s commission. A line with -110% odds is called a Dime Line.
- As a general rule of thumb, you can expect the line to be similar or close to -110 but this won’t always be the case. At times you might see a line like O -105 / U -115. Or even O +105 / U -125.
- The reason we sometimes see this shifting of the “juice” in the lines is usually because the house is trying to balance the total action they’re taking on each side of the line by making one side more appealing.
How to Read Over/Under Betting Lines
Just like all sports bets, Over/Under betting lines can be confusing at first. Once you know the basics, however, you’ll see they’re actually really simple. In this section, we’ll show you exactly what all the betting terminology and numbers mean, step by step.
Let’s look at a Totals Bet example from MLB baseball where the odds are the same on the Over and Under:
- Padres+8.5O (-110)
- Dodgers+8.5U (-110)
The Over/Under line in this game is 8.5 runs. This means that if both teams score 9 or more combined runs the result counts as Over. If less than 9 runs are scored, the result counts as Under.
With odds of -110, you have to bet $110 on either team to win $100 in profit.
In this case, the payout (odds) for both the Over (O) and the Under (U) is the same: -110. With O/U betting, don’t worry about where the O and the U are represented on the screen. It doesn’t correspond to either team; it is just the standard written layout for the Over/Under betting line at sportsbooks with the home team often listed on the bottom.
Now let’s look at an example where the casino is offering slightly different odds on each team:
- Padres+8.5O (-110)
- Dodgers+8.5U (+105)
In this example, you’d have to bet $110 on the Padres to win $100 in profit but a $100 bet on the Dodgers will win you $105 in profit.
How to Calculate Over/Under Betting
Understanding payout odds when you’re betting totals is important so let’s take an even closer look to make sure it’s clear. Let’s see what happens if two people bet opposite results for this (above) game so we can exactly what happens when both Over and Under offer equal payout lines of -110.
- If Person A thinks the game will have more than 8 runs (9 or more) and his aim is to make $100 profit, the -110 line means he needs to wager $110 on the Over in order to receive a return of $210 total ($110 initial investment returned plus $100 profit).
- If Person B predicts a lower scoring game and he thinks there will be less than 9 runs, he would bet $110 on the Under in order to also receive a total return of $210.
In this example, the sportsbook takes in $220 ($110 from each bettor) before the game and they pay out $210 to the winner after the game. That leaves them with a $10 profit. This is why the house wants equal action on both sides of the line when the odds are the same. It guarantees them a profit regardless of the game’s outcome.
What Is a “Push” When Betting Totals?
In gambling, a “push” is another word for a tie bet where the gambler takes back their bet but no winnings.
Most of the time you’ll see the line for Totals set at a half-point, like the 8.5 point line we used in the example above, and since teams can’t score half a point there’s no possibility for a tie bet. Sometimes, however, the line will be set a whole number. If the totals line was 8, for example, the outcome of the game can match the line precisely.
If that happens all totals bets are a push and everyone gets their money back.
Over/Under Betting Strategy
Like all other forms of sports betting, you want to do your homework with Over/Under bets. The more you study and take into consideration, the more informed your decisions will be. You want to reduce emotion and maximize logic.
Use our top Totals betting strategy tips to give yourself an edge on your next wagers:
- Analyze both teams independently first. Are they offensive or defensive? Do they have power hitters that guarantee more runs or a pitcher that makes it impossible for their opponents to score?
- Consider where they are playing. Are they at home or on the road? Is the environment much different than they are used to? Will weather play a factor? If so, how?
- Once you form an opinion on each team and checked out their statistics, compare how they’ve formed against each other in the recent past.
- The key words here are ‘recent’ and ‘statistics. Many punters tend to mentally overvalue teams’ reputations. Look for hard statistical data to use as evidence, the more recent the better.
- An example of this are teams that have earned a reputation for high scoring. It may actually be the case that they put up a lot of points in a few big games but actually score an average amount when you look at all their games as a whole.
You also want to take your research to deeper levels in order to think about outcomes from the perspective of the professional oddsmakers. This is just good practice and will make you a better bettor in the long term.
For example, in a hockey game, instead of just seeing how often the two teams score, consider how many shots on goal they generate on the road or at home. Do they generate most of the shots at 5v5 or on the powerplay? If you spot an edge here, compare it to how many penalty minutes the other team takes on average per game.
Is there something circumstantial about the game at hand that would factor into play, coaching, or strategy? Are there playoff implications for the teams? Go as deep as your creativity and critical thinking can take you.
Over/Under Betting Strategy in MLB Baseball
Baseball Over/Under betting can be really profitable but if you want to be a winning bettor you have to do your research. Follow these tips to get your studies started:
- Start with the weather and the stadium first. Each building is different and so are the elements. If it is an outdoor stadium, consider that day’s forecast, especially things like wind and rain.
- A dry sunny day might see fly balls carry farther which leads to more scoring. As well, certain pitchers get a larger majority of their outs from pop flies. On a given day that could mean trouble.
- From a defensive perspective, you might find Under bet opportunities when both teams have really strong starting pitchers, a deep bullpen, or a particularly powerful infield.
- Conversely, if both rosters are stacked with power hitters it might make betting the Over more appealing.
- Finally, make sure to look at each team’s managerial decision making. Does the manager of one team like the hit-and-run? Does he tell his guys to take risks and attempt to steal a lot bases?
All of the small factors add up to be really important so it is imperative that you gather all the information possible and use it to make an informed decision.
One final crucial piece of information to keep in mind with MLB Over/Under betting: If you think the home team is likely to be in the lead in the later innings, this may influence at-bat stats since they wouldn’t play the bottom half of the 9th inning. This could play a huge role in the ‘make or break’ of your Over/Under wager. Find out if your state has legalized sports betting on MLB before you go forward with betting.
Over/Under Betting Strategy in NFL Football
Much like in baseball, football Over/Under bets will largely be influenced by stadium and weather. You need to think about how a team likes to run their offense as well as the opponents likely defensive tactics.
Here are some of the key factors we look for when betting NFL football totals:
- A team that relies heavily on their passing game could face difficulties in a cold, wet, windy day.
- Consider as well how a team is likely to choose their play-calling depending on if they are winning or losing. Are they likely to be trailing and in need of some quick scoring or are they more likely to have a lead late in the game and want to kill the clock by running the ball on most plays?
- As an Over/Under NFL bettor you want to base your decisions on how you foresee the entire game panning out. Think of the most likely scenarios for how the game will play out and form an educated guess on what this means for each team’s point total per quarter.
- Next, go on to consider an exaggerated outcome in one direction and ask yourself how much that would impact the quarter by quarter scoring.
- Once you’ve done that, go through the same process but in reverse and exaggerate the outcome for the other team.
With these three scenarios in mind, what outcomes do you foresee? Write down those answers and then go back to your original research regarding teams, locations, and weather.
If the ledger is moved from towards any of your imagined scenarios you’ve got a great opportunity to make a good totals bet. Then the only thing that’s left to do is grab a beverage, find a comfortable seat and enjoy the game. Before you can place your first bet on the NFL you’ll need to find out if it is legal for you to do so. That’s where our guide on legal NFL betting comes in handy where can you find out which states have legal betting options.
Over/Under Betting in NBA Basketball
Basketball Over/Under bets can be equal parts pure exhilaration and maddening frustration. You might find yourself hooting and hollering in glee or ripping your hair out in a fit of rage. Stick with these tips and you’ll have a better chance of experiencing the former.
- Unlike other sports, the ending of basketball games, even if they are not particularly close in score, can have huge fluctuations in point total outcome.
- Be prepared to see your whole wager come down to garbage-time free throws or layups that mean nothing in terms of game victory yet can mean everything to your bet.
- To prepare and study for NBA Over/Under bets, the best advice is to look at recent results for both of the teams involved and find out how many of their recent games finished Over or Under.
- You want to find teams who have consistently been finishing on the same side of the line. Calculate what the average point totals were in those games. This data is available on several websites.
- When you identify these teams and see an O/U line that has a line with a large differential from their recent average point total (during their recent streak O/U streak), then you have identified good value and should bet accordingly.
If it’s your first time betting on the NBA then you’ll need to find out if there is legal sports betting in your state. Read our legal betting on the NBA guide to find out if your state has legal betting options.
Over/Under Betting in NHL Hockey
Statistically speaking, nearly one out of every four games in the NHL is decided in overtime or a shootout which makes predicting a straight-up winner very challenging. Overtime is now played 3-on-3 and shootouts which make betting on a winner even more of a crap shoot.
For this reason alone, Over/Under bets in the NHL are really appealing to a lot of gamblers. Here are the key points to learn for hockey totals bets:
- Research home and away scoring stats for each team.
- Stats to look for include shots on net, powerplay/penalties, special team numbers for home and away, and overall scoring chances per game at home and on the road.
- Follow streaking teams. This includes win streaks and losing streaks.
- Follow streaking players. This includes scorers as well as hot goalies.
- Follow streaking powerplays. These can vary depending on whether a team is home or on the road.
- Look more closely at how each team plays at home and on the road as the discrepancy can make a huge difference. How does each team do with their 5v5 scoring as compared to their special teams? Does this change if they are home/away? What about scoring chances?
- The numbers can reveal a lot. A team might be struggling to score goals in recent games but have been generating a lot of chances. This could be a prime opportunity to bet the Over if you see a lower line.
- As well, you will want to see each team’s recent scoring for and against but pay close attention to outliers in those games. One or two high scoring games within a stretch of 8-12 games can dramatically change how it seems a team will perform in regards to totals.
With ice hockey Over/Under betting you have some consistency on your side. That’s because of all the major sports, hockey has the smallest range of Over/Under line movement.
Generally speaking, you can expect to see the NHL Over/Under line range from 5.0 to 6.5. By far the most common lines are 5.0 or 5.5.
But don’t confuse this predictability for reduced difficulty. On the contrary. Hockey Over/Under betting can be one of the most challenging to predict, especially since late game outcomes are often influenced by one team pulling their goalie for an empty net. This is a huge factor as an easy late goal (or a goal by the team with the extra attacker) can give you the added goal you need to win your bet or crush the hopes of your Under bet.
Another unique thing about Over/Under bets in hockey is that you will also see individual team totals listed. The line on a single team’s total scoring is often 2.5 or 3.5. Take a close look at these scores as you can find good value betting on a big favorite to exceed 3.5 goals, especially if you aren’t convinced the underdog will contribute a lot of scoring or have a lot of scoring chances.
Over/Under Betting in Soccer
Soccer Over/Under lines for full-time scoring (up to 90 minutes plus stoppage time) are usually 2.5. Essentially your job is to predict if there will be more than two goals or less than 3 goals. It’s as simple as that in terms of decision making.
If you want to spice things up, some books will give you a full range of totals to bet on with longer odds for each. If you think there will be more goals you can get lines for it. Different sportsbooks will range in how far up they will go or down if you wish to predict 1 goal, or a scoreless draw).
Soccer in-play betting will update quite often for point totals so if you want more action during the course of the game keep checking the lines to find potential good value. A keen eye on the flow of the game could give you an edge here. Pay attention to changes in coaching strategies, substitutions, and injuries.
Start to Place Winning Over/Under Bets Now
We’ve covered a ton of ground in this article and we’ve seen how different sports provide different opportunities for Over/Under betting. While each sport is different and has unique elements that allow for smart point total wagering, there are some things that carry across all of them.
First and foremost, the best advice is to always go into each bet with an informed opinion.
You want to study both sides of the wager. Which team is home? How do they play there? Flip it for the visitors and ask the same question. Then look at the elements. Is this game outdoors? What’s the forecast and how does that impact the players?
The bottom line is that betting totals is a great way to put some money on your favorite team or get an edge if you’re a serious sports gambler. Stick to our tips and you’ll have another effective tool in your sports betting bag.