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Over/Under Betting Explained

Published on June 23, 2022
Updated on February 5, 2024
Christopher
Written by Christopher

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Over/Under Betting Explained

What does over/under mean in sports betting?

An over/under bet is determined by the total points/runs/goals scored by both teams in a game. Sometimes referred to as totals bets, the bettor selects either the “over” option (predicting more total points/runs/goals) or the “under” option (predicting fewer total points/runs/goals) compared to the specified game value.

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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.

For example, if Liverpool were playing Sheffield United at home, they may be expected to beat the Blades by at least two goals. In that case, the line would be set at 2, giving you the choice of Liverpool -2 (i.e. Liverpool to win by more than two goals) or Sheffield United +2 (i.e. Sheffield United to avoid defeat by two goals or more). 

In the NBA Boston Celtics might be expected to go up against Detroit Pistons and win by 14 points. In that case, the line would be set at 14, giving you the choice of Celtics -14 (i.e. Celtics  to win by more than 14 points) or Pistons +14 (i.e. Pistons to avoid defeat by 14 points or more). 

Another slant is betting on the total number of goals/points in a match. By placing an over or under goals/points bet you wager on there being either over or under a number of goals/points scored in a match by both the teams playing during regular time. 

To give an example, you can place a bet on there being over 0.5 goals scored in the match. This means that your bet will win if there are more than 0.5 goals scored in the specified match. As there can’t be “0.5” goals scored in a match, you are betting on there being at least one goal scored. The only way you will lose this bet is if no goals are scored during the match. Extra time and penalty shoot out goals generally do not count.

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 Extra time?

This depends on the sport. 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. However for cup matches in football where, if the scores are level the game will go to extra-time bets are often based on the outcome after 90 minutes unless stated. Check terms and conditions.

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.

Which Sports Use Over/Under bets?

Over/under betting is available in a number of different sports. We have done a run-down of the most popular.

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. 

It is a great way to increase value to your bet. If Manchester City were playing, for example, Sheffield United at home, you would, with the greatest of respect, expect a home win. To get better odds you might risk adding in +2.5 goals or +3.5 goals if you expect City to score three or four. Alternatively if this fixture came after a tough European game for City you might feel that you could get some extra value by backing them to get the win, but in a low scoring game, for example -2.5.

Big matches which have chance to be tempestuous are good opportunities to bet on the number of cards being high.

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 players such as Patrick Mahomes 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 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. The likes of 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 live betting.

Over/under betting in 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.

Over/under betting in cricket

Different types of cricket over/under bets can include the 1st innings total score, 1st over total runs, total runs in the match, total match fours, total match sixes, batter match runs, total wickets, team total opening partnership, total highest individual score, and total wides.

Over/under betting explained: How to bet over/under

There are a number of ways that you can use over/under betting and bet on totals to enhance your betting experience. We will go through some of the key points. Obviously there is no way to guarantee success in sports betting. There is no magic formula to over/under betting. There are though arious factors to weigh up as you sift through the different totals bets 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 think that 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? Do some teams tend to score early in the Premier League?

Over/under betting: Stats matter

Researching the previous matches between both teams and looking at the form of the teams over the season, especially the three or four games immediately prior to the fixture is key. While this information may not always be available for international tournaments, the Premier League teams, for example, have a steady history of playing two matches per season.

Calculating the average goals per game for each year can provide some good statistical information for punters. They could identify a trend that gives them better chances of winning. Teams that score lots of goals, points, and runs do that frequently. So, if you want to win most of your Over bets, go with teams that are very prolific when attacking. If those teams have been in great form recently, that’s even better. Alternatively, if a football team has been struggling to score for a few matches or an NBA side is constantly failing to break 100 points, they are great picks for Under bets.

However, statistical information is not 100% reliable. New transfers and different management can have a huge impact on a team’s performance and make any expectations obsolete. 

Find a betting site with a range of over/under markets

The best betting sites will give you more than just one over/under betting line. The top sportsbooks provide bettors with a wide range of totals betting markets. That means you can find the one you need and can also bet on odds that will work for you.

Look for teams who can’t defend for over bets

You can find value in teams that are conceding at lot of points or goals and who look shaky when defending. Ideally, you should look for high-scoring teams that are poor defensively, or put accept that they will concede as a result of an attack bias strategy.They will both score and concede, and that is exactly what you want when placing over bets. 

Other trends to monitor with totals bets

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/away 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.

Over/under betting: Something for everyone

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 game days. Just keep all the tips above in mind when getting involved in the betting action. And always remember to gamble responsibly.

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18+ New Customers only. Max Win £10 Free Bet. Qualifying bets at odds 1/1 or greater. Paid as bonus token. Min 4/5 odds required. Skrill, Neteller, Paypal not eligible. BeGambleAware.org. T&Cs apply.

New UK, IE & Malta customers only. Min £10/€10 first deposit using Debit Card. Place a bet of £10 at min odds of 1.5 and get £10. Further £10 credited after 7 days and a further £10 credited after 14 days. Full T&Cs apply.18+. begambleaware.org

 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Over 1.5 means that there will be two or more goals scored during the match. If the number of goals is lower than that (one or zero), you lose your wager.

The Over/Under bet is rarely exact as sportsbooks include half-points or half-goals. If, however, the betting site uses whole numbers, and exactly the same number of points scored occurs, your stake should be returned,

It depends on the sport and the terms and conditions of your bet. If you are betting on basketball and American football, the Over/Under bet also includes overtime. But that's not the case with all sports. For instance, when you bet on football (soccer), extra time and penalties are not included in Over/Under bets.

In general, over 0.5 goals can be a good option for bettors who are looking for a relatively low-risk betting option with a high probability of winning. The odds are likely to be low though.

Christopher

Chris is a former athlete and a qualified PE teacher. He is a keen football fan, watching many matches at different levels throughout the season, and enjoys following many different sports. With betting and sports sites, he has a keen eye for detail and can to highlight positives and negatives for users. His experience in sport as a performer, teacher, writer and fan allows him to see things from many different perspectives.

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