When you watch a game, do you get more enjoyment from watching great defense or lots of scoring? If you placed a totals bet, you would find yourself rooting for either one or the other!
If you want to bet on whether the total combined score of the teams will be over or under a listed number, you are placing a totals bet. You place a wager on the combined score, and unlike a moneyline bet or a spread bet, you do not care which team wins. As long as you picked the correct side of the listed number, you win the bet!
Sportsbooks use complex formulas to create the expected total. They need to account for ability of both sides to score and defend while setting the total, and they set the number hoping to make bettors think long and hard about which outcome is more likely.
Most totals bets will have identical odds listed for both sides of the spread. However, they might still list one side at a worse payout if the listed total slightly favors one outcome or the other (see examples below).
For American Odds, the more likely outcome will have odds listed with a minus. The minus means you need to risk more money than you will receive back as profit. The less likely outcome will have odds listed with either a minus or a plus. The plus means you will receive a larger profit amount than your bet amount if it wins.
American odds are listed to show you how much you need to bet to win $100 profit if you bet on the minus bet and how much profit you receive if you decide to bet $100 on the plus side.
Most bettors place totals bets on the final outcome of a contest, but you can place bets on the combined score at the end of quarters, halftime, and more. Other examples of totals bets include games played in tennis, corner kicks in soccer, and rounds in an MMA match.
Here’s an example of a totals bet:
The SMU Mustangs football team is scheduled to play the North Texas Mean Green football team.
The linesmaker at the sportsbook decides a combined score of 69 points will lead to an equal amount of money bet on each side of the total, but they think setting the number at 69 makes the over side the more likely outcome.
They set the odds of over 69 at -125 and under 69 at +105.
If you think the combined score will be more than 69, you can bet $125 to win $100 of profit.
If you think the total will be less than 69, you can bet $100 to win $105 of profit.
If the total is exactly 69, the result is a push and bettors of both sides will receive a refund of their bet.
Q: What if I want to bet on the total, but I wish it was a little more or a little less?
A: Most sportsbooks will let you bet on an alternate total for different odds. The slang term for betting an alternate total is “buying” or “selling” points. When a sports bet recommendation says to “buy half a point to avoid the hook”, they are suggesting you place an alternate total bet with an number that could result in a push instead of a loss on your wager. One thing to keep in mind is that routinely placing alternate spread bets can affect your long-term betting profits and losses.
Q: Can I bet the same amount on both sides before the game starts and come out ahead?
A: The answer is usually no! The difference in odds, nicknamed the juice, keeps the sportsbook in business and almost always prevents you from simply betting both sides to make a profit. However, there is a way to bet both sides before or during a match to lock in a profit no matter which team wins.
Q: What if I think Team A is going to score a lot, but I can’t trust Team B to score enough?
A: You can try placing a team total bet, where you bet whether a team will score more or less than the listed amount.
Q: What if I trust the two starting pitchers to minimize runs scored, but I am worried about the bullpen pitchers?
A: You can bet a totals bet after a certain number of innings are finished, such as after 5 innings have been played.
Q: How do I know which side of the total to bet on? Always bet the favored side since it wins more often, right?
A: Not always! See Common Betting Strategies for more helpful information.
Please note: if you think your gambling is becoming harmful or you think someone you know is having a hard time dealing with problem gambling, please click here to learn more about obtaining help.