What Is Over/Under Betting?

Essentially, there are three main types of bets. Two of them involve picking a winner (moneyline bets) and picking a winner once you’ve factored in a handicap number (point spread bets).

With over-under bets, though, for the most part it doesn’t matter which team wins. A growing number of such bets are available as sportsbooks continue to become more and more creative in what they offer.

What is an over/under bet?

All that matters with standard over & under bets is the combined total score of a game. This is particularly in NFL betting. For example, oddsmakers may set the over/under for an upcoming game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants at 49.5.

If you want to bet on that, you have two options:

  • Under, meaning you think the two teams will combine to score 49 points or fewer, and
  • Over, meaning you are predicting 50 or more.

You’ll also see over/under-style bets in other areas like prop bets, such as an over/under on how many passing yards a quarterback will get in a game.

Other examples are the number of rounds in an upcoming boxing or UFC match or season-long wagers like the over/under on the number of wins a team will finish the season with.

Are over/under bets the same as totals?

Yes. You may see some places refer to total bets and others to over/under bets. There is no difference — they are synonymous with each other as it relates to sports betting terminology.

What are the advantages of over/under bets?

Some bettors may find more success wagering on over/unders than other bets because it takes a somewhat different skill set to figure out which side of the total line to take. A lot of over/under betting is about identifying the style of play for each team and trying to figure out how the game will flow.

If there is an upcoming game you would like to place a bet on, but you do not have a strong opinion on who might win, that is where a bet on the total could come into play. If it is a football game and you believe there will be somewhat of a feeling-out process by the offenses to start more conservatively, you might want to bet the under. However, if two basketball teams like to push the pace with a lot of possessions compared to other teams, that could be a spot to take the over.

Over/under bets in the NFL

When sportsbooks release their weekly NFL odds, it might look something like this on the betting board, using the Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals in our example:

Spread Total Moneyline
Houston Texans +4 (-110) Over 42.5 (-110) +165
Arizona Cardinals -4 (-110) Under 42.5 (-110) -195

The column on the left shows the point spread, and the column on the right shows the moneyline, while the middle section is the over/under. For this example, oddsmakers are suggesting they anticipate around 42.5 total points.

If you notice, the point spread and over/under both have odds of -110 on both sides, while the moneyline odds are quite a bit different. This is because the first two bets aim to offer two sides with roughly equal chances of winning, and odds of -110 are about as close as sportsbooks will get to offering even money.

With -110 odds, that means bettors would need to bet $110 to return a $100 profit. With that being the case, if you bet the same amount of money on every wager with the standard -110 odds, you would actually be losing money if you got 50% of your bets correct. The break-even point is at 52.4%, and that is how sportsbooks aim to ensure a profit.

If you decide to wager on an over/under, make sure you are diving into the stats more like a sports bettor and less like a sports fan. Doing your research based on the total number of yards a team is averaging can be deceptive because some teams run more plays than others.

If the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans are both averaging 375 yards per game, but Dallas reaches that number on fewer plays, the Cowboys are the better offense using that metric. Yards per play are a far more valuable stat than yards per game when evaluating offenses and defenses.

Another area to look at is how often a team runs or passes on offense. If a team is running a higher-than-average percentage of run plays, that might be a good time to take the under because running the ball keeps the clock moving and can shorten the game.

Over/under bets in the NBA

Basketball is another area where many bettors can find success in wagering on the over/under. It is similar to the NFL, but here is a look at what the over/under would look like at Caesars Texas sportsbook for a game between the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks.

Spread Total Moneyline
Dallas Mavericks +4.5 (-110) Over 213 (-110) +175
Atlanta Hawks -4.5 (-110) Under 213 (-110) -205

The over/under for this game is 213 points, with the standard juice at -110 odds, and the premise is the same. If you think there will be more than 213 points, take the over. Otherwise, choose the under.

However, notice there is no half-point as part of this total. Sometimes that will be the case, but oddsmakers use the half-point to ensure there will not be a push, which would give all bettors their money back. If this game ended with exactly 213 points, it would be as if the bet never took place, with whatever you wagered coming back to your account. Additionally, the sportsbooks would not make any money off the vig, and they’re in this to make money.

Stats to look for when betting on the NBA would be points per possession and possessions per game. Points per possession shows how efficient a particular team is offensively, while possession per game will help indicate a team’s style of play.

Over/under bets in MLB

In our final example, let’s go to baseball and take a look at potential game odds that you might find for Texas Rangers vs. Houston Astros at DraftKings Texas or FanDuel Sportsbook TX.

Run Line Total Moneyline
Houston Astros -1.5 (+130) Over 9 (-115) -165
Texas Rangers +1.5 (-150) Under 9 (-105) +140

Here, you may notice the betting odds shifted in for the over/under. Instead of -110 on both sides, the over is at -115 and the under is at -105. There could be a few reasons for that, but it’s often the case that more bets were coming in on the over, so the sportsbook tweaked the line to make under bets more attractive. If the over cashes, you’d need to risk $115 to return a $100 profit, while you’d only need to lay $105 to win $100 on the under.

For baseball betting, be sure to research both starting pitchers and both teams’ bullpens, and also check whether the park favors hitters or pitchers to any degree. Also, weather can play a significant factor in certain places. If the wind is blowing out at Wrigley Field, for instance, the game could see a lot of home runs.

In-game betting on totals

You can also bet on the over/under as the game progresses. Odds will move and update — sometimes by the second — in a fast-paced style of wagering as you look to get the best number. You can also bet on totals for quarters and halves, if you’d like.

Example of totals bets in individual sports

Examples for individual sports would be a bet how many rounds a fight will last or a bet on the number of birdies a PGA golfer will finish with. In tennis, odds might be available for the total games in a particular match. Just like the above examples, make sure you are putting in the research when betting the over/under.

Betting on over/under props

Prop betting offers no shortage of areas for you to place money on. Popular over/under props could include how many rushing yards an NFL player will have or the number of strikeouts a pitcher will record. Oddsmakers will look to produce as many wagers as possible to increase betting action, and it is up to you to decide whether they are worth placing money on.