When betting on sports, the over/under is simply a wager on the combined score of both teams in a game. This type of wager is often referred to as betting “the total.” The over/under is established by oddsmakers and bettors place a wager on if they think the total combined score will be over or under that number. This is a popular and entertaining form of betting because instead of rooting for a particular team, bettors can instead root for offense or defense. For instance in a baseball game, an over bettor would be cheering for home runs, regardless of which team is at the plate.

## Over/Under Meaning

Using Super Bowl 58 as an example, the most common over/under available for that Chiefs - 49ers game was 47.5. If a bettor thought the game was going to be low scoring, they could “bet the under” and hope that the total combined score of both teams would be 47 or less. Or if they thought the game had more scoring potential, they could “bet the over” and hope there were 48 or more total points scored by both teams. In every sport, overtime still applies to the total, so the 9 points scored by the 49ers and Chiefs after the 4 quarters do count toward the over/under.

The final score of Super Bowl 58 was Chiefs 25 - 49ers 22 (47 combined points), so if you bet the game at a sportsbook which offered an over/under of 47 (instead of the 47.5 in the example above), then that bet would have “pushed,” meaning you didn’t win or lose money and you’d get the original wager back. Of course, on totals that end in .5 it’s not possible to push because teams can only score in whole numbers.

## How to Read Over/Under Odds

In general, the over is about as likely to hit as the under in a standard over/under wager. In other words, even when a really strong team like the Kansas City Chiefs play a weaker team like the New York Giants, sportsbooks take into account each team's strengths and weakness and create a total that theoretically is about as likely to pay out over betters as it is to pay out under betters.

You may see a number like -110 or -115 next to the total when placing a bet. This number represents the “juice” or “vigorish” charged by the sportsbook. The most common juice you’ll see is -110 because it’s an industry standard for wagers that have a 50/50 chance of winning. The -110 means you’ll need to wager \$110 to win \$100 and -115 means a \$115 wager wins \$100, so -110 is a better deal than -115. The reason sportsbooks won’t let you wager \$100 to win \$100 on a bet that has a 50/50 chance of winning is because that -110 juice is a 10% fee that you’re being charged by the sportsbook to place a wager and it's how they make their profit.

## Point Total Betting Lines by Sport

While forecasting over/under bets, it can be helpful (especially later in the season with more data points available) to consider each team’s high-water mark and low-water mark for the season. Also don’t forget to factor in injuries. For instance if a team’s high-water mark for the season is only 17 points but they’ve been playing with a backup QB and their elite starter is coming back vs. a soft defense, it might be appropriate to increase expectations.

Below is a chart of the average point totals during the 2023 regular seasons for the four major professional sports. While looking at this chart, keep in mind that point totals trends tend to change over time. For instance, NBA games are much higher scoring than they were 10 years ago, while NFL teams have been scoring less over the past few seasons. MLB saw an increase in runs scored immediately after instituting the pitch clock and extra innings rules which promoted scoring.

The 2024 NFL season is the first season with new kickoff rules, so bettors should watch closely to see how totals are impacted. Also keep in mind that, depending on the sport, playoff games tend to be lower scoring. This is especially true in the NBA where defenses are known to play a more physical style once the regular season ends.

## Point Totals in each league

Avg. Point Total by Sport (From 2023 Regular Season)

SportAverage Total
NFL43.5 points
NBA228.4 points
NHL6.2 goals
MLB9.2 runs

## How are Point Totals Made?

Just like with point spreads, totals often fluctuate before a game starts based on public betting patterns, injuries and the discretion of oddsmakers. This fluidity in the market is known as "line movement." For instance, a football total may be set at 41.5 and drop to 40 after news that one team’s starting QB will miss the game. Similarly, a baseball total may increase from 8 to 8.5 based on news that the wind will be blowing straight out at 20 MPH.

While totals are moving up and down before a game, it’s possible bettors may notice the vigorish change as well. For instance, Sportsbook A may increase a hockey total from over 5.5 (-110) to over 6 (-110) while Sportsbook B keeps the total at over 5.5 and increases the vigorish from -110 to -125. The move by Sportsbook B is often because that sportsbook accepted more bets on the over and is trying to decrease its liability. When this happens, it’s sometimes a precursor to that sportsbook increasing the total.

Past performance is one of the biggest factors sportsbooks consider while determining a total. For instance, if two NFL teams both have high powered offenses and terrible defenses, sportsbooks will likely price that over/under higher than a game with two teams with struggling offenses that historically played low-scoring games.

Some of the factors that go into how totals are made by sportsbooks, depend on the sport. For instance, the tempo that each team plays is a large factor in college basketball totals, but zero factor in MLB betting. Similarly, weather is a serious consideration for NFL totals, but obviously has no impact on NHL or NBA games which are played indoors. Motivation, momentum, and the perception of each team are other factors oddsmakers consider when setting a total.

### What are Alternative Totals?

Alternative totals or “alt totals” are another popular way to bet. Betting an alt total is the same concept as betting a standard over/under bet, but bettors can increase or decrease the vigorish by manipulating the total. The further a bettor gets away from the actual total set by the bookmaker, the larger the change in the juice. For instance, if an NBA game has a total set at 217 that pays -110 for the over, a bettor who thinks the game will be really high scoring can adjust the total to 226.5 so it pays more handsomely at +220. The under in this 226.5 alternate total example would pay around -290 because that bet is a lot more likely to hit.

### Over/Under Prop Betting

Bettors who enjoy prop betting will be happy to hear there are over/under prop options too. Game prop over/unders follow the same principles as betting the over/under on the final score, but instead bettors are focused on a total related to some other aspect of the game. For instance, over/under 270 passing yards for a football team or over/under 2 home runs hit in a baseball game.

Player prop over/under bets are similar, but the wagers are related to one specific player’s performance. For instance, in the NFL, C.J. Stroud’s over/under for rushing yards might be set at 18.5 yards, while Nick Bosa has a player prop for over/under .5 sacks. In the MLB, Aaron Judge might have an over/under 1 hit player prop vs. the Red Sox, while Sonny Gray's next start may feature an over/under 6.5 strikeout prop. For NHL bettors, it’s common to see an over/under saves player prop for goalies or over/under assists/points player prop for a skater. NBA bettors can wager on Lebron James’ going over or under 21.5 points or a specific rebound or assists total in a game.

### Over/Under Futures Betting

Futures betting also includes some over/under options as well. “Season win total” bets are one of the most popular forms of over/under betting in the futures market as bettors wager on whether a team will win a certain amount of games during the regular season. For instance, over/under 9.5 wins for the Atlanta Falcons or over/under 81.5 wins for the San Diego Padres.

There are also players props with over/under options in the futures market, for instance will Juan Soto hit over/under 41.5 home runs this season or will Saquon Barkley rush for over/under 935.5 rush yards? These markets are fun to bet and are a great way to spread the action out throughout a season, but beware of players who are an injury risk when betting season-long overs.