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Over-Under Betting Explained

The goal of every sports bettor is to build sports betting bankroll, but most gamblers don’t have a sports betting bankroll, but a budget.

Sportsbooks offer many varieties of bets. For example, you can wager on the outright winner of the game, or you can bet against the spread. There are also bets called over-under wagers. If you don’t understand over-under betting, don’t worry. 

Once you understand what you’re betting on, this betting style is easy and fun. Let’s break down the concept of over/under betting, so you’re clear on how it works, and you can take advantage of the growing legalization of sports betting

What Is Over-Under in Betting?

An over-under bet is a type of total bet. That means that your wager relates to the cumulative total of points scored by both teams in the game. Oddsmakers base the over-under line on analysis of the matchup from the perspective of the total combined scoring. The bettor will wager whether the total points scored will be more or less than the over-under line. 

How Do You Start Betting Over-Under?

Totals betting starts with the people who control betting sites setting the scoring line for each game. These oddsmakers announce the line for each game, and the betting site will allow people to wager on how they think the game will go. 

Here’s an example of how it works. Suppose the New York Giants are going to play a game against the New England Patriots, and the sportsbook’s line is 51.5 points. If you think the total combined score at the end of the game will be 52 or more, you will take the over. Conversely, you wager on the under if you think the teams won’t total more than 51 points. 

What About When a Game Goes to Overtime?

When the score in a game is a tie after regulation time, and the play continues in an overtime period, the scoring line doesn’t change. So, if you wagered on the under, and the final score after overtime exceeds the line, you still lose the bet. That applies even if the score at the end of regulation was below the line. 

What Do the Numbers After the Line Mean? 

Sometimes, betting sites or newspapers will show the odds next to the line or the spread for games. Some gambling sites offer a betting odds calculator that helps you see how the odds will affect your winnings. In the US, the odds typically appear as a three-digit number with a plus or minus, but you might also see other formats on occasion. 

There’s a lot to know about gambling, so you might even want to do additional research on odds and how to gamble. Here is a quick breakdown of the three major formats for showing gambling odds. 

What Are American Odds?

This is the common type of odds in the US. The positive number states the winnings on a bet of $100. So, for example, you would win $140 on a bet with +140 odds. 

What Are Decimal Odds?

Decimals compare the earnings on potential winnings to the original stake. So, if you place a bet of $100 at odds of 3, your winnings would total $300, and you’d take home $200. 

What Are Fractional Odds?

Fractional odds are most common in Ireland and the United Kingdom. They do the same thing as decimal odds but appear as fractions. So, our $100 bet at odds of 4/1 would pay out $400 total, and the take-home earnings would be $300. 

How Do Oddsmakers Set the Line for Games?

Oddsmakers factor many considerations into their over-under total for a game. Of course, the basic offensive and defensive capabilities of the teams play a significant role in determining the final score. For instance, if one team has a potent offense and they’re playing a team with a weak defense, their score will likely be higher than average. 

They’ll also consider external factors like weather. Weather forecasts can have a major effect on the betting line for outdoor games, as windy and wet weather may make scoring more difficult. But, a well-aimed breeze can make home runs more probable, so a strong prevailing wind might make a higher score more likely in a baseball game. 

Oddsmakers pour over reams of data, analyzing it to determine the line. They’ll also consider the lineup, the absence or presence of key players, injuries, and historic matchups as part of their work. 

They will even compare data for home and away results, coaching strategies, and scheduling. For instance, if a trend in the data shows LeBron James scores fewer points in the fourth game of the week, that will factor into the projected scoring for the Lakers. 

Finally, oddsmakers almost invariably set their line to a .5, not an even number. This avoids a situation where the score matches the line. In this situation, called a push, no one wins. It does happen occasionally. 

How Do You Identify a Good Over-Under Bet?

A good over-under bet relies on logic more than a gut feeling. For instance, if you think that your favorite soccer team’s two best scorers will sit out a game to rest, you might want to bet the under. Or, if you have seen a very snowy weather forecast for the playoff game in Green Bay, you might also take the under, anticipating less scoring due to the conditions. 

You can also shop sportsbooks for a more favorable line. Not every sportsbook will set the same line. And the lines may change as bets flood in, or the analysis may change based on more recent information. For instance, the line will likely shift if a team announces a prominent player won’t be in the game. That’s part of the reason why the NFL’s weekly injury reports are the topic of so much scrutiny. 

Your betting analysis can also factor in:

  • Scoring trends
  • Historic matchups
  • Team history 
  • Roster changes
  • Coaching tendencies
  • Team statistics
  • Player statistics

Don’t base your analysis on fan favoritism, public sentiment, or wild guesses. There is an element of luck in over-under betting, but the more your picks rely on analytics instead of feelings, the more successful you’re likely to be. 

Are There Other Kinds of Over-Under Bets?

In addition to placing an over-under wager on the total scoring line, you can find other over-under bets on sportsbooks. You may see an over-under for just one team’s scoring or a single player’s point production. 

There are some over-under bets for things besides scoring too. For instance, you might be able to wager on the total number of assists, rebounds, and steals for a basketball team or player. Or, in football, it could be the total passing yards, interceptions, or touchdowns for the quarterback. 

You can also find over-under bets on things like:

  • Team statistics for the season
  • Individual player statistics for the season 
  • Season win totals
  • Loss totals for the season

How Can I Learn More About Over-Under Betting?

Over-under betting is a fun way to add some extra excitement to sports matchups. Just remember that gambling is potentially addictive and dangerous. You’re wagering real money, and nothing is a certainty in sports betting. 

Research has shown an increased prevalence of problem gambling with the recent explosion of legal sports gambling. So, be alert for the signs of addiction or pathological gambling, and never wager more than you can afford. You might also take a free course to learn more about gambling in general. 

Now you know all the facts, and you can have fun picking over-under bets against the scoring line!

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