Over-Under Betting Explained

In this latest article from the Betting Explained series, we take a closer look at one of the most common types of wager: the over/under. Whatever sports you bet on, a solid understanding of the over/under market is a step in the right direction.

What Does Over and Under Mean in Betting?

What Over/Under Bets Looks Like

Let’s start with the basics. While the moneyline for most sports poses a single question (who is going to win?), over/under betting drills down into more specific outcomes. Whether it is the margin of victory or the total number of points, the oddsmakers set a betting line that reflects the quality of the teams involved.

As an example, Kevin Durant and the high-flying Brooklyn Nets might be expected to go into Cleveland and beat the lowly Cavaliers by 14 points. In that case, the line would be set at 14, giving you the choice of Brooklyn -14 (i.e. Brooklyn to win by more than 14 points) or Cleveland +14 (i.e. Cleveland to avoid defeat by 14 points or more). Keep in mind, you will find more over/under examples at the end of this article.

Potential Outcomes of Over/Under Wagers

When the line features a half-point, half-goal or half-run (e.g. -4.5, -221.5), there are just two possible outcomes for an over/under bet. You either win or lose. Where the line is a full number (e.g. -7, -210), it opens up the possibility of hitting the line exactly – a third outcome that results in a “push” and receiving your original stake back.

How is the over/under total calculated?

Over/under totals are influenced by a wide range of factors, which vary from sport to sport. Some of the more common considerations include the form of the teams/players involved, any injuries to key players, weather conditions and the respective importance of the game for the two teams. Oddsmakers will also weigh recent travel/condensed scheduling, the home team’s record at home and the road team’s record on the road.

Does Over/Under include Overtime?

Yes, the over/under line typically applies to the final score – so, where a game goes to overtime (e.g. in the NBA or the NFL), it is the score at the end of overtime that determines the outcome of your over/under bet. Likewise, over/unders for individual stat totals include overtime.

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What is an Alternate Over/Under?

Often, the bookmakers will give bettors the flexibility to pick the over/under that aligns best with their view of how the game will unfold. So while the favourite might be -5.5 in the main spread, those who feel that the margin of victory will be far larger could wager on an alternate line of -7.5 or -8.5, with the odds adjusted accordingly. Equally, those who believe that the underdog has been undervalued could seek out an alternate line of -3.5 or -4.5.

The same applies to over/under lines for total goals and total points. In addition to a main line, with odds of 10/11 on either side (e.g. 2.5 total goals, 45.5 total points), there may also be alternate lines for those bettors who see the outcome slanting further in a particular direction.

How to Read Over / Under Odds?

Which Sports Use Over and Under Wagers?

Over / Under Bets in Football

Much of the football betting action revolves around the three moneyline options: home win, away win, draw. Beyond that, there are other categories like first goalscorer, anytime goalscorer and whether both teams will score. But, when walking through the football odds, you will also find some over/under options further down the list. These include the number of goals in the game, number of cards and number of corners.

Over / Under Betting in the NFL

Over/unders play a central role in NFL betting, from the margin of victory point spread to the total points in the game to points totals for each team. With so many individual statistics to monitor, including number of passing yards, number of receiving yards and number of interceptions, the player performance over/under market is extensive and largely focused on quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. As with other over/unders, oddsmakers typically pick their line and provide odds of 10/11 for either side of it.

As scoring continues to skyrocket, particularly in games featuring Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, those lines are nudging higher and higher. Certain over/unders are also available as part of in-play live betting. Just keep in mind that scorelines can flip in a matter of minutes in the NFL, with touchdowns (plus extra point kick) worth seven points.

Over / Under betting in Basketball and the NBA

Like the NFL, there are plenty of over/unders to be found when betting on the NBA. It starts with the point spread and total points, then expands to include individual statistics such as total points, total rebounds, total assists and total turnovers.

If you are undecided on the likely outcome of a game, those individual player odds are another way to get involved in the action. The over/under line for player performance is usually set right around the player’s nightly averages. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard would likely see a line close to 30 points as the over/under. Lines for assists and rebounds may be limited to players who excel in those categories – e.g. assists for Chris Paul or Luka Doncic and rebounds for Joel Embiid or Rudy Gobert. The do-it-all superstars like LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo tend to have odds for all the main categories.

Certain over/unders are also available as part of in-play live betting.

Over / Under betting in Baseball and the MLB

While not as prominent in baseball as other sports, there is an over/under market to explore for the MLB and other baseball leagues. For the average MLB game, over/under categories include total runs and margin of victory, though there are far fewer individual statistics to wager on.

How do you Line up Your Over/Under Bets?

How to Win Over/Under Wagers

There is no simple answer here, but there are various factors to weigh up as you sift through the different over/unders and determine where the value lies. Check out the tips below:

Take Advantage of Multiple Lines

When multiple lines or alternate lines are available for margin of victory, total points, total goals and so on, there could be intriguing possibilities to explore. For example, if you envision a particular Premier League football match being a low-scoring scrap, the odds for -0.5 total goals or -1.5 total goals would often be more favourable than a more standard +/- 2.5 total goals line.

You could also consider taking the more standard line and a longer shot, in the hope that both outcomes payout, such as picking +2.5 total goals and +3.5 total goals when you anticipate a goalfest between two strong attacking teams.

Understand the Coach’s (and Players’) History and Plans

There are often clues to be unearthed by looking closely at the coach’s history and game plan – as well as how star players perform in different matchups. Should you expect a defensive approach and therefore a low-scoring battle? Or is there so much offensive talent on show that a shootout is the likeliest outcome? Where possible, read up on prior matchups between the teams and the game plans used in those games.

Break the Game Down into Segments

While there are wagering opportunities by quarter or half across many major sports, there is value in breaking games down and viewing them through that lens when considering any over/under bet. Is one team typically a strong first half team? For NBA betting, does one team have a stronger starting line-up and is, therefore, likelier to dominate certain parts of the game?

Other trends to monitor

  • Keep an eye on the schedule: With significant travel and chunks of the season where certain teams are playing a packed schedule, the fatigue factor is real. On paper, a line might look too low, but be sure that one team is not limping into the game after changing time zones multiple times in the past 72 hours / coming into the game after an extended rest period.

  • Look out for injury updates: One injury to a key player can make a huge difference in any league, but especially in the NBA given the 5-on-5 nature. Players will often be considered a “game-time decision”, with a final verdict on their fitness sometimes delivered less than an hour before the game begins. With growing awareness of the benefits of managing players’ minutes, it is also not uncommon for a player to be rested or rotated occasionally, though this would often be known in advance and reflected in the odds.

  • Monitor home/road records: The very best teams in any sport tend to have the poise and talent to thrive at home or on the road. But there are some teams, such as the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA and the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL, who often perform at a higher level in front of their own fans.

Over / Under (Totals) examples

Here are a few more examples of over/under bets:

  • Margin of victory: Margins of victory in the NFL can be similar to the NBA. For instance, if Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are facing a middling team like the Philadelphia Eagles, we might see a line like Chiefs -8.5. You can either wager on Kansas City to win by nine points or more, or pick Philadelphia to keep the score close (requiring the Eagles to avoid defeat by nine points or more).

  • Total points: That same NFL clash would likely have a fairly high total points line, given the explosive nature of the Chiefs’ offence. Bettors might see a line of -50.5 or -51.5.

  • Total goals: Take a football match between Belgium and Russia as an example. You can expect to find an over/under line for 0.5 total goals in the match, 1.5 total goals, 2.5 total goals, 3.5 total goals and 4.5 total goals. In terms of odds, +2.5 total goals is likely to be close to even odds, while +3.5 total goals could be north of 2/1.

  • Total corners: Using the same fixture as an example, you would see several options for the total corner count, ranging from 7.5 total corners to 10.5 total corners. Even odds typically fall somewhere between eight and nine corners.

Conclusion

The over/under market really does offer something for everyone – from the different sports available to the range of bet types (total points, individual performance, margin of victory and so on); from regular bettors to those who just enjoy a casual bet on gamedays. Just keep all the tips above in mind when getting involved in the betting action.

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Tom is a freelancer sports writer, specializing in US sports, including the NFL, NBA and MLB. He brings 15 years of experience and is also the author of biographies on Cristiano Ronaldo and Rafael Nadal, as well as the Ultimate Football Heroes series.

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