What is Over/Under Betting?
What Does Over/Under Mean?
Have you ever logged on to your account or visited your local sportsbook and wondered what the "total" number with "O" and "U" next to numbers represented? Commonly referred to as the totals bet among betting professionals, the over/under bet is simply a selection on a given sport that predicts the total score of both teams or individuals combined.
This wager can range from the total number of points scored in a contest to the total number of hits a batter might have in a single baseball contest. Essentially, a totals bet is a 50/50 chance for the bettor.
Luckily, a bettor does not need to worry about which team wins or who scores the most points, but if the total falls below or over the given line.
A wager on the over/under is a bet that is placed on the predicted outcome of the total points scored. The total is set by the oddsmakers who predict how the contest will play out from a scoring outcome. A bettor simply chooses which side they believe the total will fall, exceeding the total figure or falling below the stated line. Not just a selection for teams, you can bet on totals for individual players, commonly known as a prop bet, as well. Additionally, individual sports like boxing can have over/under bets attached to the card.
Normally, a total betting line will end with a half-point (.5) or "hook," but sometimes a sportsbook will tag a total with a whole number. The half-point eliminates the chances of a push bet, while a whole number opens up the chance for a push bet to occur, thus refunding your original bet wager amount.
Additionally, the total bet carries with it varying bet prices, usually to the right of the total. This number is represented with a "+" or "-" in front of it or in decimal or fractional odds. Many bettors think that the only over/under bets you can place are on the totals. However, as long as something can be counted in a sporting event, there is a high probability that there will be a totals bet available.
Whether the contest is two halves, three periods, or four quarters, a bettor will have the ability to place bets on totals specific to each time period. In an NBA basketball contest, the bettor could place a bet on the first quarter, halftime and final totals.
If your sportsbook allows it, in-game betting is also an option for additional time periods of a contest.
Below are a handful of examples you might see when viewing over/under bets, as well as a description of each wager and the winnings that could come with a successful bet.
Florida State Seminoles @ Florida Gators
- 101 Florida State O42.5 (-110)
- 102 Florida U42.5 (-110)
In this matchup, the sportsbook set the total for the contests at 42.5 total combined points. Typically, in team contests, the payout (-110) does not vary whether you selected the over or the under bet. If a bettor placed $100 on the over, and the final score was 49-0, the bettor would net a profit of $90.91. Conversely, if the bettor chose the under and that final was 42-0, the net profits would be the same.
Chicago Cubs @ St. Louis Cardinals
Total Hits + Runs + RBIs by Paul DeJong (STL)
- 201 Over 2 1/2 Hits + Runs + RBIs -135
- 202 Under 2 1/2 Hits + Runs + RBIs +110
In this instance, say the bettor believes that Paul DeJong will exceed the 2.5 runs, hits, and RBIs total. The sportsbook also believes this is the most likely scenario, so the bettor would need to bet $135 to win $100. On the flip side, if the bettor were to select the under, a $100 bet would pay out $110 if DeJong failed to collect three or more runs, hits, and RBIs.
UFC Fight Night 173 - Curtis Blaydes vs. Alexander Volkov
- Over 4.5 Rounds +250
- Under 4.5 Rounds -325
Here we have a prop bet taking place for a mixed martial arts fight between two competitors. This particular bet is whether or not the fight will go over or below four rounds. You can also place bets on three, two, or one round with different odds. Again, if the bettor believed that the round would go the full five rounds, a $100 wager would net a $250 profit. If the bettor thought that the match would not go the full length, which the oddsmakers also believe, a $100 bet would net $32.50.
Occasionally, you may also see the bet price in decimal form. Below is an example of a total bet in decimal form with the payouts explained.
English Premier League - New Castle United @ Sheffield United
- New Castle United O2.5 (1.87)
- Sheffield United U2.5 (1.952)
The payouts are the same as American odds; however, they are listed in decimal form. If we continue to place our standard $100 bet, the net payouts will be as follows: an over bet would bring in a net payout of $86.96 while an under bet would garner a $95.24 payout.
The final bet price form you might see is fractional. This form is commonly used in the United Kingdom.
Spain La Liga - Valenica @ Osasuna
- Valenica O2.5 (20/23)
- Osasuna U2.5 (20/21)
Fractional odds payouts are very easy to calculate. Here we have fractional odds of (20/23) and (20/21). If you divide the numerator (the top number) by the denominator (the bottom number), you will get your payout. Twenty divided by 23 gives you a decimal of 0.8695 or 86.95. Thus, if you placed $100 on the over bet, your net profit would be $86.95. On the flip side, if you take the under, the net payout is $95.24 (20/21).
When looking at total bets for a given sport, some carry the same over/under total for a majority of the contests. Typically, you see the same set total numbers in soccer and hockey. Typically, the hockey totals will be set at 6.5 total goals with varying payout odds listed from game to game. Traditionally, hockey is one of the easiest totals bet to handicap for the average bettor. In soccer, you will usually see the total goals set at 2.5 with the over/under payout odds fluctuating depending on the match. The total number will change on some contests, but the 2.5 total is your common number.
Other sports where scoring happens more often, sportsbooks will offer total bets on individual players. Examples include how many sacks a player might have in a football contest or how many points an individual will score in a basketball game.
Over/Under Line Movement
Let's say you are doing research on a possible total bet you like, and you notice that since the original total was posted, the number has either gone up or down. Oddsmakers are in the business to get as much money on both sides of the line, so movement in the total reflects bettors favoring one side or the other and oddsmakers trying to sway money to the other side.
In some instances, a large bet placed by a single professional gambler on one side or the other may move the line by itself if the wager is significant enough.
Here is an example:
The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers total released early in the week before the game is 47 points. As the week progresses, the threat of inclement weather is becoming evident, so bettors are placing wagers on the under.
Sportsbooks will adjust the lines accordingly by lowering the number depending on statistical models at its disposal. Come game time, that total bet might have fallen to 43 points.
Over/Under Buy Points Option
Many online sportsbooks have an option that allows the bettor to "buy points." These points are normally in .5 increments and give the bettor a better advantage over the house. If you decide to buy points, your payout will decrease, but again, you are trying to give yourself the best opportunity to beat the house. As an example, say that the total for a contest between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets is set at 224.5 (-110). You believe that the number is accurate, but think the total will go over.
You buy a .5 point that moves the line to 224 and decreases the payout to -120. So, instead of betting $100 to bet $90.91, your wager will payout $83.33 but eliminates the hook and gives you a chance at a push. Typically, online sportsbooks have a cap as to the number of points you can buy. It varies by sportsbook, but each individual sport has a different number of points you can buy in a given contest.
Over/Under and Teaser Bets
Another fun option that a sportsbook might offer is a "teaser" bet. A teaser bet requires a bettor to pair two or more bets together and adjust the points spread or total in their favor for a lower return. Like the "buy points" feature, a teaser typically gives the bettor .5 point increments to adjust the line varying from sport to sport. In an NFL contest, you can tease the over/under line from six to seven points in your favor. Let's refer to our Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers example. If the opening total is set at 47 and the bettor wants to pair that selection with another total, the bettor will have the ability to "tease" the line.
- Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers O47
- Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions O42
If you wanted to tease the totals six points in either direction, you have that option. The final total wagered on could look something like this:
- Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers O41 or U53
- Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions O36 or U48
Typically, the payout for two selections in a teaser bet will be equivalent to a straight-up bet placed on a spread or total (-110). The net payout increases if you add more selections to the teaser bet.
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Matthew is a long time fantasy football and dynasty football fan. He lives in Las Vegas and grew up rooting for the Raiders. The team moving to his hometown was very exciting news. Matthews is married and has two young boys.