Most people know that you can wager on which team will win a sporting event. What they often overlook is that you can also wager on the final score of the event. This is commonly referred to as over under betting and applies to all the major sports like baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. The total score is the combined total of both teams, so for example if a baseball game ends with the final score of 5-3, the total is 8 runs (combine both teams scores). Similarly in football if the final score is 31-21, the final total is 52.
A popular betting option in addition to trying to pick out who wins the game, is to determine how many total points will be scored. Oddsmakers always set a point spread line in football and other sports to determine who will win and by how much. In last years Superbowl Denver was favored by 3 points in most places. They also set a total of 48 points for the game. That means that a bettor could wager that there would be either more than or less than 48 combined points by both teams. If the games combined score landed exactly on 48 then the game would be a “push” and all bets refunded. The final score was 43-8 so the game went “over the total.”
Totals in football are determined by the oddsmakers coming up with a number that reflects their thoughts on the offenses of each team versus the other teams defenses. Most football totals hover between 36 and 50 points. In recent years that number is climbing as the NFL has placed a higher emphasis on offense than defense.
Another example to look at is basketball. In the NBA, the gap is a little wider between the possible total numbers that are likely to be set by the oddsmakers. Again, the oddsmakers will look at the strength of each teams offense against the other teams defensive abilities. Pace of play and average shots attempted will also factor into the number that is set for each game. A typical NBA total will range from 180-220 points dependent upon which teams are playing and their relative style of play.
Over Under betting lines are beginning to gain popularity with mainstream bettors. In the past they were mainly for the experienced gambler as the general public usually prefers wagering on the winner of the event against the spread. “Sharp” or savvy bettors still enjoy finding their edge in totals. Most sportsbooks will have lower betting limits on totals since there is still a significant amount of “sharp action” on them and they don’t want to get hurt financially.
Similar to wagering against the spread, totals do move from their opening number as they are bet. Heavy action on one side will cause the bookmakers to adjust their number to avoid having too much money on one particular side. This is called being overexposed and if this particular side or total were to hit, the books would lose more than they want to. In general, books are looking for balanced action on both sides. Let’s go back to the Superbowl of 2014. Some places opened up the total at 46.5. This match-up was a classic powerful offense versus great defense. The public in general was enamored with Peyton Manning and the Denver offense and continued betting the number up to 48 where it eventually settled at kickoff. The over did come in as the final score of 43 to 8 equated to 51 points. But you might be hard pressed to find an over bettor who would have liked their bet if they were told before hand that Denver would only manage 8 points.
Since totals are readily available these days it’s another weapon that you should consider adding to your personal wagering arsenal. There are plenty of trends and things to look for which can help you be successful. Also, paying attention to which way the line is moving and assuring you get the best number you can will turn some would be losers into winners.
Let’s look at another example:
Red Sox -145, OVER 8.5 -110
Twins +135, UNDER 8.5 -110
In the above, the odds makers have set the total at 8.5. The game is being played in a ball park that isn’t known to give up lots of home runs. Both bullpens are rested and both starters have been pitching well of late. Both offenses have also struggled this year. You decide to make a wager with all the above information on the UNDER.
Red Sox 4
You would win in the above scenario because the game landed on 7 (4 runs + 3 runs). Anyone who took the over would lose.
***Important note. When factoring totals, overtime DOES COUNT. That includes extra innings as well. Whatever the final score is at the very end is the final number to add.
Don’t think that books want to put up the exact number that both teams will score though. They most certainly aren’t trying to do that. What they are trying to do however is get a probable amount of points that would be scored between the teams and put out a line which will create equal betting action on both sides. Much like a traditional point spread wager, the book doesn’t care who wins or loses (covers or doesn’t cover.) In over/under’s it’s the same thing. The book doesn’t care at all if the game goes over or under as long as they have balanced action on both sides. Remember they make money off collecting juice from the losers and if they are balanced they profit either way. The worst scenario for them is a tie. Then nobody makes money including the bettors.