Second only to the moneyline bet in popularity are totals and over/under bets. Totals and over/under bets are the exact same thing; these are just two different names for the same bet. For the sake of brevity and simplicity, we will refer to them as totals bets for the remainder of this guide but know that they are interchangeable.
Totals bets are the only bet in all of sports that allow you to cheer for or against both teams that are playing. This can be both fun and exciting and a necessary evil when you despise or love both teams playing. Ever wanted to just root for a great game? Well, now you can, and you can get paid for it.
Outside of just entertainment value, these bets also offer some great flexibility for sports bettors to leverage some other predictions and information they might have.
What is a Totals or Over/Under Bet?
A totals bet is a wager where you will predict that an occurrence will be over or under a certain threshold. You can probably guess why they are called over/unders now. For example, you could bet on the over/under total points score in a basketball game.
The bet might be over/under 165. If the total number of points scored by BOTH teams is over 165, the over bet wins. If the total is under 165, the under wins. Usually, the points will be in half points to prevent ties (Over/Under 165.5)
As you can see, this allows you to cheer for both teams to score a ton or for both teams to do terribly. Most sports games will allow you to bet on the over/under of how many points/goals/runs are scored. Some sports will also allow you to bet on the over/unders of other occurrences.
For example, golf betting sites will allow you to bet on how many birdies or how many eagles there will be on a particular hole or during a particular tournament round. Other sports may allow you to bet on how many fouls, penalties, or yellow cards there are during a game. Basically, anything that can be counted during a game or match is a candidate for a totals bet and is probably offered somewhere.
Over/Under Bet Payouts
The majority of totals bets are paid out at -110 regardless of which side of the bet you take. The minority left over are paid based on the payout odds presented by the sportsbook. For example, let’s say the Utah Jazz are playing the Houston Rockets. You might see these odds:
Over 165.5 -110
Under 165.5 -110
The final score of the game is:
If you bet $100 on the over, you would win because 86+84=170. 170 is greater than 165.5, so the over wins. You would be paid out at -110 which would net you a profit of $90.91.
If you bet the under and the score was under 165.5, you would be paid out the exact same amount for your bet.
You might also see totals bets presented with different odds on each side. This is common in sports where the over/under line rarely changes. For example, in soccer, the majority of games are over/under 2.5 goals. The odds for a game like that might look like this:
Over 2.5 1/4
Under 2.5 11/4
This game they obviously think is much more likely to be a high scoring game for whatever reason.
If you bet $100 on the over and won, you would be paid out a net profit of $25.
If you bet $100 on the under and won, you would be paid out a net profit of $275.
Sport Specific Considerations
We wanted to take just a moment and point out anything important about totals bets for some of the most popular betting sports in the world. While these are certainly not everything you could learn about these bets as they pertain to these sports, they are a good jumping off point.
Totals bets for goals scored are usually set at over or under 2.5 goals. Soccer is the sport where you will be seeing different payout odds for the over and the under. You also sometimes will have the option of betting at multiple different lines for soccer.
One game might give you the opportunity to bet at over/under 1.5, 2.5, and 3.5. This means that if you think a game is going to go crazy scoring goals, you can get paid out at a much higher rate for your more precise prediction.
Very much similar to soccer, hockey lines are usually set at 6.5. Sometimes this goal total will be adjusted for certain games, but for the most part, they adjust the payout odds instead. We point this out, so you don’t automatically assume that you are getting paid out at -110 on both sides of a bet and end up upset when you see a smaller payout.
NFL point averages for totals bets are usually somewhere around the low to mid-40s but will slide each direction fairly significantly. Make sure you pay close attention to weather conditions and team defenses (not just offense) when making your predictions here.
Football does also offer a lot of additional prop style totals bets that are a great spot to make some money if you are sharp about individual players. These are things like how many sacks a player will get, how many touchdowns a player will get, how many field goals, etc.