If you’ve ever seen someone not rooting for a particular team and just cheering for points instead, they’ve probably bet on a total.
A total, also known as an over/under, is a bet on the amount of points both teams will combine to score in a game.
As a bettor, you’re trying to predict whether the total score will go over or under a pre-determined amount. You’re not trying to guess the exact number.
Totals are among the most popular wagering options in sports betting, behind point spreads and moneylines.
DraftKings set the over/under at 52 for Chiefs vs. Titans in the 2020 AFC Championship Game.
Bettors had the option to wager on the total points in the game going over or under 52.
The Chiefs won 35-24 — a total of 59 points — putting the game over the total. Anyone who wagered on the over won their bet. Anyone on the under lost.
If this game landed exactly at 52 points, it’s called a push and all bets are refunded.
Over/unders come in all shapes and sizes — you can wager on the total points scored in a game, or on prop bets like total field goals in an NFL game or total rebounds by an NBA player.
How Do I Make an Over/Under Bet?
It’s easy to make an over/under bet at any sportsbook, from BetMGM to a heavyweight national player like DraftKings.
- Navigate to your desired sport
- Click on the over or under in the game module (the over will always be listed on top) to highlight your bet.
- Head to the bet slip on the right side of the page (on your phone, it will pop up automatically).
- Click “Login to Place Bet” and login, then submit your bet
How Much Do You Make on an Over/Under Bet?
A standard bet on a total is treated just like a point spread. The sportsbook will take its 10% cut, displayed with American odds.
For the most part, you’re going to be risking $1.1 for every $1 you want to win on a total bet in a football game. That’s what the -110 means next to the Chiefs-Titans total.
So if you risk $11, you’ll win $10. If you risk $55, you’ll win $50.
In low-scoring sports like hockey, soccer and baseball, a sportsbook will often adjust the juice before moving the number.
Let’s say a Yankees-Red Sox game has a total of 8.5, but the sportsbook makes its projection closer to 9 than 8.
In that case, a sportsbook may make the over -120 and the under +100 to reflect its projection of how the game will go, forcing anyone who bets the over to risk a little bit more.
You can read more about how to read American odds here, but at -120, you’re risking $1.2 for every $1 you want to win, and at +100, you’re risking $1 for every $1 you want to win.
If the Red Sox win 5-3, under bettors win. If they win 6-3, over bettors win.
How Are Totals Made?
There’s a lot that goes into making totals, and it of course varies by sport. Bookmakers and bettors use many inputs — including how fast each team plays, offensive and defensive efficiency, weather, and more — to create a total.
Average totals are constantly changing as rules and team philosophies evolve in sports.
Just five years ago, NBA totals in the 180’s were common. But there has not been an NBA total under 190 since 2017, as small-ball and 3-point shooting have taken over the league.
There have been six NBA totals in history greater than 245, with five coming in February and March of 2020.
In the 2016-17 season, the average NBA total was just 210.6 — almost 10 points less than the 2019-20 season.
Is It Better to Bet the Over or Under?
If it was that easy, I’d be retired on a beach somewhere.
But unders have been a better bet in every sport over the last five years — just not enough to blindly bet them and become profitable because of the cut the sportsbook takes.
Here are records for each sport, listed as overs-unders-pushes.
It’s human nature to root for points and offensive success instead of rooting for offensive ineptitude.
Your bet is also never technically dead when you bet an over — there’s always a chance the game goes to overtime, or there’s a flurry of late scoring to push it over.
But that’s led to unders often being undervalued in a large sample, as you can see in the chart above.
Does Overtime Count for Totals?
Overtime does count toward totals. Sorry, under bettors.