Learn to Bet on Sports: What is the Over/Under or Total & How to Bet Them

A Total, or Over/Under, wager is an extremely popular bet made at all sportsbooks. A Total bet is also relatively easy to understand. These bets are available in all of the major sports including college football and basketball, the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and many more.

What is a Total bet?

A Total bet is also known as the Over/Under. The two are the same. When wagering on Totals, a bettor chooses whether the combined score of both teams will be over or under a sportsbook’s listed number (the total). The outcome of the game - who wins or loses - does not matter.

Using an example helps to clarify how easy the concept of a Total bet really is. Take a typical NFL game, like the Texans-Chiefs. The point total established by the sportsbook is 55.

Let’s say the Chiefs win 35-28. The total number of points scored is 63. If you had bet the Over, you would be a winner. It’s that simple. Some wagers will let you buy points on the Total.

What is Buying Points?

In cases where the total number of points scored ends up equal to the Over/Under, a Push results. In our example, if the sportsbook established a Total of 63 and the final score was 35-28, a Push occurs. That simply means you do not win or lose and your bet is refunded.


What is Over/Under - Totals Betting


How much can you win on a Totals bet?

The standard sportsbook fee on an Over/Under bet is 10 percent. You would see this listed as -110 at your sportsbook.

Using our example again, you may see it displayed like this?

Houston Texans            O55 -110

Kansas City Chiefs       U55 -110

Most Total bets will be priced this way. What it means for a bettor is that he/she must wager $110 to win $100. Breaking it down even further, a bettor is risking $1.10 to win a $1.

These odds can change. If bettors begin wagering more on one side or the other, the sportsbook can alter the odds to encourage/discourage betting.

Again in our example, if too many bet on the Over, the sportsbook could change the odds to -115 or -120, meaning bettors would have to wager $115 or $120 to make $100.

The odds on the Under could be reduced to -105, so that bettors would only have to risk $105 to win $100. This type of movement often happens before a sportsbook thinks about changing the actual Total itself.

Types of Totals Bets

Like other forms of sports bets, there are a number of options when it comes to betting the Total. You can bet Totals for partial games betting on the Over/Under for a quarter/period or a half. There are also options for live betting Totals and there are even proposition Total bets. 

When betting the UFC for example, bettors can wager on the total number of rounds a fight will last. In auto racing, a popular Over/Under bet is on the number of laps completed by a certain driver.

How are Totals established?

If you wonder how a Total is set, you are not alone. Much analysis goes into establishing a Total for a game. It will depend upon the sport, of course, and bookmakers will take into account historical averages, weather, injuries, rules changes, and more.

In the NFL for example, the averaged combined score for a game in the 2019 season was 45.4 points. In the NBA, the same number is 222.

Not long ago - as recent as five years - NBA totals were in the 190s, but the 3-point shot has become a huge part of the game now.

Betting on Totals

Is it better to bet the Over or the Under?

If it was that simple, we’d all be rich.

Bettors should keep in mind that it is in our nature to love offense. We like to see points scored: touchdowns in football, 3-pointers in basketball, and home runs in baseball.

As a result, the Under is often undervalued as bettors flock to the Over. It’s a known fact that most casual bettors love betting the favorite and the Over.

In college football for example, over the last five years, the Under has won 52.1 percent of the time in over 5,000 games. The Under’s success compared to the Over holds true in other sports as well.

That is worth noting for bettors considering wagering on the Total.

About the Author

A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.

His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.

When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.