How To Bet The Over/Under

How To Bet The Over/Under

Published Date · July 21, 2022 · Last Updated · July 22, 2022 ·Read Time · 7 mins

What is an Over/Under Bet?

In sports betting, there are three main types of bets you can make: Moneyline, Spread, and the Over/Under (also known as the total). While the first two-sport wagering options have to do with one side of the matchup winning, the Over/Under only considers how little or big the total scoring is between two teams. When looking at odds for a matchup, this will be listed as the Total, Over/Under, or sometimes simply just O/U. The odds will provide a single number which you’ll select either the Over or the Under. A wager on the Over means that you think the total number of points, goals, or runs will be over the number listed. On the other side, a wager on the Under means that you believe there will be less than the total that the sportsbooks provide. 

The Benefits Of An Over/Under Bet

As Good As A Coin Flip

One of the things that makes Over/Under bets special is how most sportsbooks present them. At most brick & mortar and online sportsbooks, the Over/Under number provided will end in a .5, meaning there cannot be a draw. Rarely are there straightforward odds like these for a sportsbook, providing a 50% chance of winning when betting on the Over/Under. This is higher than traditional betting on a sportsbook or casino game. 

Both Sides Are Working Towards Your Bet

When wagering on a Spread of Moneyline, the action relies on one side for you to win. One team or player must be better than the other for your bet to pay out. With an Over/Under bet, both sides of the matchup are trying to win, especially when wagering on the Over. It doesn’t matter which side scores the points, goals, or runs. All that matters is the final “Total” number that is affected in the end.

In-Depth Look At Over/Under Betting

The sportsbook oddsmakers look into many factors when determining the final number for the Over/Under total bet. This goes beyond just the two teams that are playing as well as their offensive and defensive statistics. Weather plays a huge part in the overall influence of the Total number provided by the sportsbooks. For example, a day that is more windy than normal for an NFL game should see a lower Total number since fewer passes should be thrown, thus leading to a lower score. Another example could be a cold day for an MLB game with a lower Total score than normal since cold weather leads to fewer home runs and longer hits. 

What Else Should I Consider?

Other things like what lineups are benign set, injuries that take place before the game, who has home field advantage, coaching tendencies, and several other factors go into how the final Over/Under number is listed for each matchup. Once that initial Over/Under number is set by the sportsbooks, the general sports betting public starts to impact how the bet changes. If more money is being wagered on the side of the Under, the sportsbooks may increase the payout for bettors that bet on the Over. This is to ensure that there is as much even action on both sides of the bet as possible. As the game draws closer, information that comes to light will also affect the Total number. Again this news can be in relation to injuries, trades, or weather updates. 

Let’s look at an example of an NBA Over/Under wager for the New York Knicks versus the Boston Celtics:

New York Knicks
O223.5 (-110)
Boston Celtics
U223.5 (-110)

What To Focus On

This is where some first-time sports bettors get confused. Although the point totals look like they are assigned to a team, they are independent of the first column in the table. All you need to focus on when betting on the Over/Under is the number as the letter designation in front of the number. The “O” in front of the number means that you’re selecting the “Over” as your bet, while the “U” in front of the number means that you’re selecting the under. 

  1. For this example, the Total number of points is set at 223.5. This means that the oddsmaker took all their calculations and analysis and found that the number that provides the most even distribution of bets on both sides of the bet is 223 points. This means that logically (and as the sportsbook hopes) that 50% of the bets will select over 223.5 points, and 50% will select under 223.5 points.
  2. Regarding how the wager pays out, let’s look at the number in parentheses, -110. For simplicity’s sake, the odds payout should be considered in terms of a $100 wager. Betting on anything with a negative (-) sign shows you how much to wager to pay $100. In the example above, you would have to wager $110 (from the -110 odds) in order for the sportsbook to pay out $100 should you win. If there was a plus sign in front of the 110 instead of a negative (+110), if you made a $100 wager that ended up winning, your payout would be $110 (from the +110 odds).

Pushing on the Over/Under

Before the top tips of betting on the Over/Under at your favorite online sportsbook, you should know about pushing on the Over/Under wager. While somewhat uncommon, there is a way to tie in a Total sports bet. Some sportsbooks don’t provide a .5 at the end of their Over/Under bet. They provide a whole number meaning that, realistically, the total number of points scored can equal the number provided by the sportsbook oddsmakers. This is called a push or a tie; when this happens, you don’t win or lose. The sportsbook will give you the money back that you initially wagered.


Tips For Over/Under Betting

Weather May Be More Crucial Than The Teams Playing

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the weather is such an important factor when determining your Over/Under bets. While the sportsbooks will have this already factored into their Total lines, there can be value in doing your homework on how weather impacts the sport you’re wagering on. However, you may be able to beat the sportsbooks to the punch if you time the news well enough. Cold weather can lead to low-scoring affairs while warm weather can really light up the scoreboard. It also helps to see how weather impacts the games based on geographical locations, so make sure you always know who the home team is as well. 

Defense Wins Championships

When you think about the Over/Under bet, it’s only normal to focus heavily on the offensive side of things. After all, that’s where the Total number comes from, the offense. However, success can be found by taking a serious look at the offensive side of the teams. While a team against team view is a good start for defensive matchups, where you can find some great value is on an individual matchup defensively. A top cornerback has the chance to shut down any top receiver in the NFL. There may be a height disadvantage in an upcoming NBA matchup that not everyone is able to see. There is always the opportunity to find a mismatch that could lead to a swing in the number of points, goals, or runs scored in a game. Getting down to the nitty-gritty of player tendencies can help you win your Over/Under bets. 

Know The Coaches

While the coach’s influence on the game’s result varies by sport, a coach’s largest impact in the sports betting world may be in Over/Under wagers. The coaches decide how hard they want to run their team, which directly impacts the game’s final score. Learning about a coach’s history and tendencies can help you learn how the next game is going to go for whatever team you’re looking to wager on. Betting the Over on a coach that takes his top players out when they have a sizable lead may lead to the Under hitting in a game. Some coaches have a style that’s more aggressive as opposed to conservative. If you have two aggressive coaches playing against each other, expect a higher score. Looking for patterns in a coach’s behavior can lead to success in your Over/Under betting strategy. 

Injuries Are Influential Even When The Player Is Back

We all know that when a star player gets hurt, you can expect the Over/Under to go a bit lower to make up for the fact that the injured player will no longer be playing. But when they come back from their injury, it can be impactful as well. Depending on the injury and how long a player was out for can directly impact the Over/Under. While the sportsbooks may adjust the lines according to having the now “healthy” star back, one should proceed with caution. The star may not be playing all the minutes they had before they got injured and may not return to the same form as they previously played. The smart options would be to take the Under if there is value to be found when the star returns from injury or to wait and see how they perform for a couple of games until you feel like either they’re back or something feels off with them.

What Next?

Now that you’re familiar with Over/Under (or Totals) wagers, you can keep going with your sports betting career. An Over/Under bet is a great way to learn a bit more about the online and brick & mortar sportsbook industry. It shows granular details about how the sportsbook operates and what factors to consider when making a bet. After you feel comfortable with the Over/Under, make sure you check out Moneyline and Spread bets next to widen your sports betting horizon. 


Ian Dincuff

US Content Writer