What Does Over/Under Mean in Betting?

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The over/under bet is one of the most popular markets for US-based sports. Coupled with the moneyline and points spread, they make up the “big three” of sports bets and used properly, can be one of the most profitable bet types.

In this article, we’re going to look at what does over/under mean in betting, how the market works, multiple examples, and how you can maximize returns using the market.

What is an Over/Under Bet?

An over/under bet is based on the total number of points or goals scored in a game. Is sometimes referred to as totals bets, and includes the combined points scored by both teams.

You need to choose if you want to take the over or the under on the line for the bet to win. It doesn’t matter if you win by half a point or 30 points, the bet will still pay out the same.

Totals bet for the NBA

The example above is taken from an upcoming NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets. As you can see, BetOnline calls this market “Total” but includes both the Over (O) and Under (U) bets.

BetOnline has set the line at over/under 227.5 points for the game. This is a combined number of points. You will also notice that the odds for both are -110. Again, this is common as the betting site is trying to make the same odds for betting on both the over and the under bet.

This market uses decimals. So, for this example, we have points of 227.5. Doing this means that there is a result regardless of the score, given that half points can’t be scored. This means the under bet will be 227 points or less and the over will be 228 points or more.

There are markets where whole numbers are used instead of decimals, which we address later in this article.

Let’s assume that you wager $100 on the under, and 240 points were scored in total. This means your bet would win and you would make $90.91 in profit.

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Over/Under by Sports

The easiest way for us to highlight how over/under betting works is to break it down per sport. In this section, we’ve covered the main US-based sports with a look at what does over/under mean in betting for each sport.

NFL Over/Under Bet Example

Over/under betting in the NFL includes the total number of points scored for both teams. This is a cumulative amount and includes all scoring plays.

Most bets in the NFL are placed on the over market, which means that lines often offer slightly better value betting on the under.

Totals bet for NFL.

This game is between the Cleveland Browns and the Indianapolis Colts. The over/under betting lines are set at 40 and the odds are -110 for both the over and under bet.

Once the NFL season kicks off, the market coverage is vast and there will likely be alternative over/under betting lines that you can exploit. This moves the line, and the odds adjust accordingly. There are times when this will offer value, especially if you think that the line is off in any way.

NBA Over/Under Bet Example

The NBA has the biggest over/under betting line in the industry. On average there are around 213 points per page, which means that setting a line is tough. The flip side is that finding value is generally easier than in most sports as the totals can vary massively from game to game.

Another plus point with the NBA is the sheer volume of games on offer. It has 1,230 games a year, which is insane…. But again, great for finding value.

Hawks v Celtics

Our example of over/under NBA betting comes from a game between the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics. As you can see, the line is set at 229.5, which is very high, especially considering that we know the average is around 213 points per game.

A good way to quickly see why this might be is to look at the moneyline odds. The Celtics are huge favorites priced at -400 and the bookmakers are expecting that they blow the Hawks out of the water in a high-scoring game. You generally find that over/under betting lines that are nearer the average or even below are games that are going to be much more competitive when it comes to the moneyline bet.

NHL Over/ Under Bet Example

NHL over/under bets are unique in that the total is the lowest of the four major US sports. For this market, we are betting on the total number of goals scored for both teams combined.

The lower totals mean that variance in these games is lower than that of say the NBA or even the NFL. The odds of the line being blown out of the water are much less likely, which can mean that it’s harder to find value.

However, what you will find is that the odds can be weighted in favor of one result over the other, which does offer value.

penguins v blue jackets

The example above is from an NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The total line is set at O/U 6.5, but the odds differ for each. Over is priced at -125 and the under is priced at +105. From this information alone we can see that the sportsbook is telling us that the under 6.5 goals are more likely.

MLB Over/Under Bet Example

MLB over/under betting is not too dissimilar to that of NHL markets in that, the totals are much lower than NBA and NFL. This market is based on the total number of runs scored by both teams combined.

What’s great about the MLB is that it comes with lots of alternative over/under betting markets. These include the first 5 innings and the total number of runs scored by each team, ranging from as little as 1.5 runs up to 6.5 runs.

penguins v blue jackets

Our example above is from an upcoming game between the Minnesota Twins and the New York Yankees. The over/under betting line is set at 8.5 runs and priced evenly at -110 aside.

How are Over/Under Bet Odds Calculated?

To better understand the over/under betting meaning, we need to look at how the odds are calculated.

The first part comes from the sportsbook and it’s up to them to determine a competitive line. Most of the time they are trying to make this an even market, meaning that the odds for both the over and under bet are the same, creating a coin flip.

To do this they look at both the offense and the defense of both teams to see how the game may play out. For example, in the NBA, two teams that are strong offensively but poor defensively will have a high over/under line. Whereas the opposite will be true for teams that are poor offensively but strong in defense.

They also consider external factors, such as the weather (huge in the NFL and baseball), injuries, starting rosters, form, and previous head-to-head results. By balancing all this information, they can make strong judgments on where a fair line would be.

The second part comes after the initial line has been set and gone live. They are now reacting to money coming in for one result over the other. When this happens, the odds start to shift.

For picks that have a lot of exposure (high volume of wagers), the odds will reduce to discourage bettors and for picks that have less exposure (lower volume of wagers) the odds will increase to encourage people to take that line.

blues v stars

The example above is a great indication of how that will work. The game is between the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars in the MLB. As you can see, the odds for the under -6.5 goals is shorter (-120) than the over (+100). This would suggest that significant money has been wagered on the under total and they have shortened the odds to reflect this.

How to Bet on the Over/Under

We’re going to use BetOnline to walk you through the process of placing a bet on the over/under market. While this process is unique to this specific sportsbook, it’s worth noting that other sites will be very similar, so it should still apply.

1.   Open an Account

You need to start with an account. Once you land on the BetOnline sportsbook click on the “Join” button to get started. You’re going to be asked to enter a host of information to get your account set up, which should take just a minute or two to complete.

Registration scree at BetOnline.

2.   Make a Deposit

Once your account has been set up, you need to log in and head to the cashier to make your first deposit. BetOnline is currently running a $1,000 welcome offer for new accounts that can be used on an over/under market.

Deposit screen with bonus codes.

3.   Choose Your Game

Now your account has been credited with cash, head to the sportsbook and use the menu to find the sports and markets you want to bet on. For this example, we’ve used an MLB game between the Phillies and the Diamondbacks.

MLB game at BetOnline.

4.   Make Your Pick and Select Stake

Click on the odds to add the selection to your bet slip. Choose the amount you want to wager and confirm the bet. Once the bet is live you can track it within your account.

Betslip containing MLB bet.

Is it Better to Bet on the Over or Under?

There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer here as each game should be looked at on its own merit and the likelihood of over or under-assessed based on this. However, there are times or scenarios where some bettors will favor one bet over the other.

For example, a lot of sports bettors only bet on the over as they feel that they are in the bet for longer. If you bet on the under and there is a rapid number of points or goals, your bet may be dead very quickly.

Parlay betting is best suited to over betting for this reason. It’s possible that an under bet can end the entire parlay within a matter of minutes, whereas, by betting on the over, you’re in the bet for a longer period.

Under betting shouldn’t be overlooked, however, and the reason is a catalyst of what we’ve just mentioned. You see, most bettors bet on the over, so as sportsbooks take more cash on this, they may move the line or enhance the odds for the under to attract action.

This is why the under generally offers more value in the long run.

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What Happens if the Total Points are Exact?

We’ve spoken extensively in this article about over/under betting ending in a half point (+/-8.5, etc.)  but there are times when sportsbooks set the line as a whole number. When this occurs if the total number of points is the same as the line, then the bet is a “push”, and all punters get their money back as a result.

MLB totals betting.

The example above shows that in an upcoming NBA game between the Phoenix Suns and the Golden State Warriors, the over/under line is set at 232 points. So, if you were back the under then you would win on 231 points or fewer. If you backed the over, you would win on 233 points or more. If the game ended with exactly 232 points, bets would be pushed, and you would get your money back.

Over/Under in Prop Bets – Alternate Points Lines

Over/under bets can run multiple alternative lines which are usually found within the props bet section of most sportsbooks. Lines can be extensive, with some betting sites having over a dozen to choose from.

The odds on each of these bets will change to reflect the likelihood of the over or under result based on the line. For example, if an initial basketball line is set at 210.5 at odds of -110 for each, then a line of 205.5 might then move it to -190 for the over (lower line = more likely) and +155 for under.

alternative totals bets

It’s also possible to bet on lines based on quarters or halves. Again, the same principle is applied as it would for the whole game, but the bet is settled based on total points for the half or the quarter.

Over/Under Betting Strategies

We’ve included a range of over/under betting strategies that you can include and adapt to become more successful when betting on this market.

1.   Use the Data

There are dozens of tools and sites that allow you to apply data to your sports bets. You need to use these to get an idea of how the game might play out and then create a plausible score line that you can use for your over/under bet.

For example, strong offenses and poor defenses are going to cover the line often. If an NBA team was averaging over 205 total points per game they played and the line was set at 203 for the upcoming match, then this would be a smart move to jump on the over bet.

2.   Take the Weather into Account

For sports played outside such as the MLB or the NFL the weather often plays a big role in how a game might play out. For example, windy conditions for baseball are a nightmare for the batter as it makes it infinitely harder to judge where the ball is going to end up. As a result, scoring will be lower.

3.   Note Total Points for Home and Away Stats

Teams generally play differently with home advantage or when they play away. Most teams score significantly more points per game at home than away, so take this into account when betting on markets such as alternative over/under bets per team.

However, this is not always the case. Kansas City Chiefs won the Superbowl in 2022 and throughout the regular season averaged 33.3 points away from home compared with just 25.1 points at home.

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Jonathan Askew
Sports Betting and Casino Expert
Jonathan Askew
Sports Betting and Casino Expert

Jonathan is a freelance writer working with Techopedia. He has been working within the gambling sector for over 15 years and has been fortunate enough to work with brands that include Gambling.com, CheekyPunter.com, BasketballInsiders.com and Betfair. He specializes in US and UK-based sports and casino content for Techopedia.