Over/under bets are one of the coolest types of bets that you’ll find offered at most online and land-based sportsbooks in the world. Also commonly known as totals bets, these are sports bets that allow you to root for both teams or root against both teams. By definition, an over/under bet is a sports betting wager where you bet on the total number of points, runs, or goals scored by both teams in a game.
Over/under bets are unbiased and don’t care which team scores the points. The only thing that you’ll be betting on is the total scored by both teams. All you’re really betting on is the flow of the game.
If you think it’s going to be an offensive showcase with a ton of scoring, you’ll bet the over. If you think the defenses are going to clamp down and no one will be scoring, you’ll bet the under.
As this bet is important to a lot of successful sports betting strategies, we’re going to walk you through everything you need to know. We’ll discuss the ins and outs of the bet, how these bets payout, the benefits of making the bet, and most importantly, the strategies needed to crush the bet.
If you’re ready to start learning everything you need to know and more about over/under bets, let’s get started.
Breaking Down an Over/Under Bet
As we’ve already touched on, an over/under bet is one where you are wagering on the total points scored by both teams in a particular contest. Like is common with most bet types, this is best understood and explained through an example.
Let’s take a look at an NFL example between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. If this line looks familiar to any of you, this might be the actual over/under line from a recent Super Bowl.
- New England Patriots u 48 ½ (-110)
- Philadelphia Eagles o 48 ½ (-110)
Wait a second. Before we go any further, didn’t we just say that it didn’t matter which team scored the points? Why are the teams listed here for the bet? The reason that the teams are listed is simply for organizational purposes. The sportsbooks will try and list as many bets as possible on two lines for a game. For example, the sportsbook may show this for that game.
- New England Patriots -6 (-180) u 48 ½ (-110)
- Philadelphia Eagles +6 (-155) o 48 ½ (-110)
This shows the spread bet, the moneyline bet, and the over/under bet. Even though it’s on a line with a particular team, it is done strictly for organizational purposes. When you’re looking to bet the over/under, just disregard everything else and focus on the part at the end. Let’s take a look at that and break down what it is telling you piece by piece.
- u 48 ½ (-110)
- o 48 ½ (-110)
The small u represents the under, and the small o represents the over. The number that follows each is the totals line. It is going to be the same for each. You’re basically going to bet on whether the total points scored by both teams is over that number or under that number. In this example, you’d be betting that if you added the points scored by the Eagles and the Patriots, it is either over 48 ½ or under 48 ½.
The last number listed is the payout number. As you can see in this example, it’s the exact same for the over and for the under. This is fairly common in sports like football and basketball, where there are a lot of points scored. In some sports where there are fewer points, runs, or goals scored you may see differing lines for each side of the over/under bet.
If you bet the over, you would be looking for both teams combined to score over 48 ½ points. If the Patriots score 50 points and the Eagles score 0, you win your bet. If the Patriots score 20 points and the Eagles score 29 points, you win your bet. As long as the total cumulative points scored by both teams is over 48 ½, you win the over. If the total cumulative score is less than 48 ½, the over bet will lose, and the under bet will win.
Over/under bets are typically made when you have a prediction on the game flow of the game. If you think it’s going to be a barn-burner shootout where both teams are scoring a ton of points, you’re going to want to bet the over. If you think it’s going to be a gritty defensive battle shutting down both offenses, you may want to look into betting the under.
How Over/Under Bets Pay Out
Depending on the sport you are betting, the payouts will vary slightly. If you’re betting on a sport like football or basketball where there are a lot of points scored, you’re almost always going to see both sides of the bet paid out at (-110). This means that whether you bet the over or the under, you will receive the same profit for a correct pick. A $100 bet at (-110) will pay you $90.91 in profit.
In sports like soccer, baseball, or hockey where fewer points are scored you’ll see differing payout odds for the over/under. The number will be represented in an American odds format telling you how much you’ll be paid out.
If you’re new to American odds, we recommend reading the Moneyline Guide we’ve put together where it breaks down what these payouts mean and how to interpret them.
The big takeaway is that a payout odd with a plus sign in front of it is the underdog or less likely to happen side of the bet and the minus sign will represent the favorite or more likely to happen side of the pick.
The bottom line is that you need to make sure that you don’t just look at the over/under number and then take half a second to peek at the payout odds. Make sure that you’re getting the correct potential reward for the risk that you are taking. If you’re not happy with the payout and don’t think it’s fair, don’t bet and find another option.
Benefits of Over/Under Bets
We’d like cover a few of the reasons that over/under bets are so popular. Sometimes understanding why things are useful will help you to understand better how to employ them in your own personal strategies.
Great for Hate
It’s rare that you hear the words ‘great’ and ‘hate’ in the same sentence, but today is a special day! The over/under bet is a fantastic one for recreational bettors who despise both teams playing, but still want to make some sort of a wager. When you take the under on a game, you effectively get to root against both teams.
We’re not ones to spread hate, but this bet certainly will help you get some financial satisfaction from yours.
Additionally, it works well for recreational bettors who love both teams playing. Are you one of those feel-good types that wants everyone to be happy and score? The over bet is calling your name.
When you bet the over, you get to cheer for both teams to score every second of the game. Personally, we find the over bet the more positive and relaxing to cheer for of the two options.
Again, we’re really only talking to recreational bettors here, as serious bettors shouldn’t be making this bet based on who they like or dislike.
Betting Flexibility – Game Flow Predictions
For those of you serious bettors looking to make some money, the added betting flexibility of the over/under bet is fantastic. When you have a prediction about the flow of the game but aren’t sure about the winner, you’ve now got a way to cash in on that. Without this bet, you’re left without any ability to bet on game flow predictions.
Some serious sports bettors stick primarily to over/unders, while some only use them sporadically. Honestly, it comes down to what works best for you and what you are best at predicting.
If you’re a rock star at picking winners but struggle to pin down how they’re going to get there, you might want to stick to moneyline and spread bets. If you’re a game flow wizard who stinks at picking winners, the over/under bet is your friend.
Remember, as well, you can always make both bets and stack them together for the maximum return on your predictions.
Over/Under Bet Strategies
Ultimately, winning and losing with over/under bets comes down to your ability to predict game flow. While this is a topic that could take a long time to master, there are a few tips and tricks that can help move you in the right direction faster. Below you’ll find our collection of some of the tricks our experts like to use when making over-under bets.
Start With the Defense
When people think about a sports bet that has to do with points, their focus automatically shifts to the offense. This seems logical as the only way that you usually get points is through your offense.
However, the more important thing you should be looking at is the defensive matchup the team is facing. They can have some of the best offense in the country, but if they are getting shut down and forced to play an ugly game, you can’t really expect them to blow through the over.
One thing that we like to do is look at individual defensive matchups instead of team versus team stats. Figure out who you think will be guarding who and decide how you think that matchup will go. When you do this across the field or the court, you’ll start to be able to form an opinion of how you think the game is going to go.
Honestly, all sports betting predictions get easier when you start breaking things down to individual players instead of just analyzing team facts that may or may not be pertinent.
Pay more attention to how the two are going to interact at the most specific of levels, and you’ll most likely start to be able to predict the game flow a whole lot better.
Break the Game Down into Sections
This tip continues our trend of advising you to break the game down. Instead of trying to decide how many points are going to be scored for the entire game, take a look at the game quarter (or period) by quarter or half by half.
If it’s an NBA basketball game, look at the first quarter first. Which teams start fast? How do they typically do in the first quarter? Then start looking at the second and third quarters. How do teams adjust? Are they great at adapting? Finally, look at the fourth quarter. How do the teams close?
When you look at things piece by piece, you’re able to make more precise predictions on the scoring output of both teams. Looking at the whole game is too broad and will leave you making mistakes.
There is a popular phrase amongst firearms instructors that says, “Aim small, miss small.”
The idea of this is that the more precise you aim with your shot, the smaller that a miss will be. If you aim at the entire target only, when you miss you might miss the target. But, if you aim at the bullseye and miss, you might miss a few inches off, but you’ll still hit the target.
Take your games in smaller chunks and put some precise predictions into what you think the scoring is going to look like.
Look at Coaching History
Often the game flow has less to do with the players and more to do with the coaching. Coaches will put together the team’s game plan and decide their course to victory. This could mean that they are planning an aggressive offensive assault or looking to squeak out a few points and let their defense win the game.
Obviously, you’re not going to be able to be in the coaches’ meetings when they devise their plans, and they certainly aren’t going to make those things public, but you do have one thing that you can look at.
You can look at the coach’s history, the game plans they have used in the past, and how they have played against this particular team before. It’s usually pretty easy to figure out how a team normally attacks games and certain teams.
All you have to do is find that pattern and then decide whether they’re going to follow the same recipe for success or if they’re going to try and mix things up. Look at the players that they have and see if they have the necessary tools to utilize a certain strategy or not.
Look and see if the strategy they typically use has worked in the past or not. This can be a big clue as to whether they’re going to follow suit or try and shake things up.
Yes, execution of the plan is important, but you’ll be drawing dead if the coach isn’t even trying to get the team to play the way that you bet.
Read the Conditions
Something that gets neglected a lot is the weather conditions for outdoor games. If it’s wet and rainy or uncomfortably hot and humid, it’s going to have an effect on how the players perform and ultimately how many points they score.
Yes, these conditions are going to affect both the offense and the defense, but you have to look at game plans. Coaches will make adjustments based on the conditions, and you need to be aware of that before you place an over/under bet.
If it’s a blizzard outside during an NFL game, you can probably bet that coaches are going to take a more conservative approach to offense. They’re going to end up running the ball way more, and the offense will be slow and sluggish. Additionally, it’s going to be really difficult to kick field goals and extra points, which will have a big effect on the score.
Yes, usually this will be factored into the lines, but sometimes it’s not, and sometimes there are big opportunities, especially when the conditions change unexpectedly before the game. You don’t need to become a weatherman, but it would help to at least pay attention to some of the weather patterns, especially in certain areas that are prone to changing weather. Always be on the lookout for wind, snow, rain, sleet, and heat.
Keep in mind as well that weather conditions before the game can also have an effect on field conditions.
If it rains hard before the game, the field will probably be a big mud pit, which is going to make it tough for players to keep their footing and be as explosive. While this will affect the offense and the defense, it typically affects the offense more. As we said, it also has an effect on the coach’s plans and play calling.
Over/under bets are great for recreational sports bettors as well as professional bettors. They offer a way to root for or against both teams and a way to cash in on game flow predictions that would otherwise be fairly worthless. At this point, you should have a strong understanding of how over/under bets work and how to properly employ them in your sports betting strategy.
Remember, you don’t have to make over/under bets just because they exist. They can be no part, a small part, or a huge part of your overall betting strategy, and all of those scenarios are great. Find what you’re best at predicting and stick with it. If you’re that game flow wizard we were talking about, over/under bets are going to be your bread and butter.