How to Bet on Totals
A totals bet is a sports bet you’ve probably encountered before but possibly under its more colloquial name: the over/under.
Totals bets are extremely common sports bets and part of every sportsbook’s betting menu. It’s one of the simplest bets you can make in any sport, and Virginia sports bettors will soon have daily totals bets as part of their betting repertoire.
If you want to start betting the over/under at online sportsbooks in Virginia, here’s how to do so.
What is a totals bet?
In a totals bet, the sportsbook designates a certain amount of points, runs, or goals that it expects the two teams to score in a game or match. Players then bet on whether they think the actual total will be higher (over) or lower (under) the sportsbook’s estimate.
The estimate itself has come to be known as the over/under. If you think the game will have a higher point total than the sportsbook’s line, then you’ve “taken the over.” If you think the total combined score will be lower, you’ve “taken the under.”
Totals bets are unique in the scope of most common sports bets because they are wholly unconcerned with which team wins or which team scores the most points. For the resolution of a total bet, it doesn’t matter who does the scoring at all.
If you look at most totals bets that a sportsbook offer, one thing you may notice is that the over/under line is often in half-points. The sportsbook sets the total in decimals because it wants to avoid the hassle of refunding money to bettors when the teams match the estimate exactly.
It’s much easier simply to pick an estimate that can never be exactly achieved.
How do totals bets pay out?
A winning totals bet will typically pay out a profit slightly lower than the amount of your bet. You’ll receive a 1:1 match on your money minus the sportsbook’s commission on the bet.
The good news is that the amount of this commission is never a secret. As is the case for point spread bets, sportsbooks advertise their payout ratios alongside the over/under for each game.
This number signifies the amount of money that you would have to pay to realize $100 in profit on a winning bet. So, for instance, a -110 listing means that you must pay $110 to win $100.
The extra payment you pay is the premium that goes to the sportsbook for the service of hosting your bet. This premium is also known as the vig, which is short for vigorish.
Totals bet examples
To make totals bets less abstract, here are a couple of examples of real totals bets that have been offered by sportsbooks. In our case, these are bets that DraftKings Sportsbook offered to its customer base at one time.
NHL: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Edmonton Oilers
- Over 6 (-110)
- Under 6 (-110)
In this example of totals betting in the NHL, both sides of the over/under are set at the standard -110 line. In other words, bettors are split fairly evenly in terms of the action that they are taking on this wager.
However, one interesting thing is that this over/under is a whole number. So, DraftKings could potentially have to pay back all the bets it takes if the two teams combine to score exactly six goals.
Sample over/under payouts
Because the totals odds offered on each side of the bet are even, they both payout the same. So, whether you choose the Over or the Under, you would receive the same payout for your winning bet. Here are some sample payouts that this game might feature based on the sportsbook odds:
- Bet $110: $100 profit, $210 total
- Bet $100: $90.91 profit, $190.91 total
- Bet $50: $45.45 profit, $95.45 total
- Bet $5: $4.55 profit, $9.55 total
MLB: Cincinnati Reds vs. Detroit Tigers
- Over 8.5 (+100)
- Under 8.5 (-120)
This example of totals betting in baseball is an example of an unbalanced payout. DraftKings is so certain that the game will be a low-scoring affair that it is offering the over for no vig at all.
The sportsbook’s confidence in this regard is a little odd, given that the Reds are one of the league’s top-scoring teams, and Detroit is in the middle of the pack. However, the pitching for both teams is also quite interesting, so this might be a game to study.
However, DraftKings does feature the decimal point total in this listing. Since the teams cannot score 8.5 points exactly, there will be no ties to pay back.
- Bet $120
- Over: $120 profit, $240 total
- Under: $100 profit, $220 total
- Bet $100
- Over: $100 profit, $200 total
- Under: $83.33, $183.33 total
- Bet $50
- Over: $50 profit, $100 total
- Under: $41.67 profit, $91.67 total
- Bet $5
- Over: $5 profit, $10 total
- Under: $4.17 profit, $9.17 total
How to Bet on Sports
Tips for totals betting
If you’d like to make over/under betting a regular part of your routine, here are a few tips that you can use to improve your performance in totals betting.
1. Look at both offense and defense
Points are generated by the offensive sides of a game or match. So, it makes sense to look at each team in terms of its ability to put points on the board.
However, it’s a mistake to ignore the effect that each team’s defense can have on the game. An excellent defensive gameplan or execution can negate the firepower of a normally-potent offense, so you need to examine if that’s likely to happen with the teams you’re considering.
2. Check the weather
One variable that can make a big difference in the amount of scoring is also one of the least controllable aspects. Changes in the weather can mean the difference between a high-scoring shootout and a defensive slog in the mud or snow.
3. Examine the players for trends
It is axiomatic that good players play well. However, anybody can have an off-night, an off-week, or an off-month. So, it’s important to look at the bottom-line statistics for the players in the game.
However, it’s perhaps more important to look at each player’s recent statistics and performances. You want to take a look at whether a player seems to be surging or fading at the current point in the season, and assume that his or her trend will continue.
At its core, betting the over/under is not a difficult thing. However, doing it well and consistently takes some work. If you want to make totals betting an active part of your sports betting, take the time to give it its due.