Over Under Betting – What Does Over Under Mean?

Jonathan Askew profile picture
Sports Editor Fact Checked by Nick Raffoul

Over under betting is widely considered to be part of the “Holy Trinity” of US sports bets. It works alongside Moneyline and Spread betting, but unlike both of those bets, over-under betting is linked to total points (often referred to as simply “Totals”), rather than the outcome of the game.

Throughout this article, we’re going to be looking in-depth at how over-under betting works and how you can make more informed picks for these types of bets.

What is an Over Under Bet?

An over-under bet all stems around the points scored in a game. It can vary slightly depending on the sport or even the market type, but for the most part, you’re betting on the total points. Some sportsbooks and betting sites may refer to this market as “Totals” or O/U, but it’s the same.

The sportsbook sets the line for the game and as the bettor, you need to choose either over or under this line. The result of the game is irrelevant here and you’re simply looking at the overall score for that match.

A winning bet is one that meets the criteria of the bet placed. There are no rules that state you need to be X or Y amount under or over a line. It does not matter if you’re 1 point or 50 points over, the bet pays the same.

We commonly get asked, “what does over under mean?”. To help with our explanation, the next section will look at a working example of how this might play out.

Over-Under Betting Explained

One of the easiest ways to explain over-under betting is to run through an example of how it works. The process will differ slightly depending on the sport and we talk more about this later in the article.

For our example, we’re going to use BetOnline which we rate as one of the best sportsbooks for over-under betting. We’re also going to use an upcoming NFL game between Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins.

Over Under Betting NFL

The image above shows that there are three betting markets attached to this game. These are the Spread, Moneyline and the over under market. You may notice that BetOnline uses the term “Total”, but as we mentioned earlier, this is the same, just different terminology.

The first thing to note here is the line. BetOnline has set this at 47.5 points for both the under and over. This number will always be the same for both bets. Obviously, there can’t be a half score in the NFL, which is why the line is set to .5 of a decimal place. This means that there will always be a result.

There will be situations and sports that include whole numbers here. When this happens and the total is the same as the line, then a “push” takes place, where the sportsbook returns your stake and you don’t win or lose.

With the line set at 47.5, this basically means that if you bet on the over you need 48 or more total points in the game and if you take the under, you need 47 or fewer total points. Don’t forget, these are the combined points for both teams here, not just a single team’s points.

The next thing to note is odds. In this example, we see that we’ve got odds of -110 for each result. This means that you need to bet $110 to win $100.

Most of the time, the odds are going to be the same for each bet, but this is not a set rule. There are times where the odds might be different.

Over under betting Atlanta

If we take the Falcons v Cowboys game in the image above, we see that the odds are set at -115 for the over and -105 for the under. There are several reasons why the odds may differ, but the most common is usually down to lines adjusting due to money coming in for one bet over the other.

For example, if lots of people started taking the over in the Falcons v Cowboys game, then the sportsbook needs to start laying some of that off to balance their books. To do this they adjust their odds to create a price where they still make money on all possible outcomes, which is likely what’s happened in this game.

This is a good look at how to read over under betting lines. The next step is to simply place your over-under bet and then wait for the results to come in.

Over-Under Bet Ties

In over-under bets that don’t include decimal or fractional total, there are times when your bet might end in a tie. For example, in baseball, if the line is set at 8 and you take the over, but the game finishes 4-4 where 8 runs are scored, then this would be a tie.

When this happens, the bet is deemed a “push”. This is where the sportsbook will refund your bet and not count it as a loss. For lines that have a decimal, such as 8.5, then there will always be a result and no possibility of a tie or a push. It means that the under bet would be 8 runs or less, and the over would be 9 runs or more.

Over-Under Sports Betting

Over under bets can be applied to a wide range of sports and games. The concept of how they work remains the same for each, but the execution might differ slightly depending on each sport.

The likes of football, basketball, baseball, and soccer are the four main sports for this type of betting in the US. It can be applied to plenty of other sports as well including hockey, tennis, cricket, golf, darts, and snooker, as just a few examples.

NFL Over-Under

All NFL games are going to have an over-under bet attached. We’ve shown you a couple of examples in the section above, but there are a couple of things that we wanted to go over before moving on.

The lines for each game are unique. The sportsbook takes the time to work out where they think the line will be and for most games, you’re going to be looking between 45 to 55 points as a base. Any lines that are higher or lower than this will be classed as extreme and likely be a good game to consider given the increased volatility over a market “standard”.

over under betting nfl

You’re going to find that you get two types of over-under bets. One is in the form of a fraction (0.5) and the other is a whole number. As we’ve mentioned, with a fraction there will always be a result, but with a whole number, there is a chance of a tie, which equates to a push. This means that you would get your money back should this occur.

The highlight of the season for the NFL is the Super Bowl. A good NFL over-under pick would usually be the under as the games are notorious for low-scoring affairs. The highest Super Bowl over-under result was 58 in 2017 when the New England Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons. Compare this to this highest-scoring regular-season game which stands at 113 points in a game between the Washington Redskins and the New York giants.

NBA Over Under

NBA over-under bets are relatively straightforward and like that of the NFL. The biggest difference is that the line is much higher, with most games averaging over 200 points per game.

Over Under Betting - What Does Over Under Mean?

In the NBA, lines are set anywhere around 200 to 225 points per game. Like NFL, NBA bets will apply both fractions and whole numbers to the spread lines. The same rules apply in that bets that are on the line will be classed as a push and stakes will be returned.

Over the last ten years, we’ve seen a consistent trend in terms of the average points per game per team in the NBA. It’s gone up from 99.6 in the 2010/11 season to 112.1 in the 2020/21 season. This has meant the over-under lines have continued to increase and sportsbooks have had to adapt to this.

Over Under Betting - What Does Over Under Mean?

Making NBA over-under picks is a numbers-based game here. Given the length of the season and the sheer volume of games, stats play a huge role in how games might pan out. Pitting teams against each other in terms of average points per game is a great place to start for over-under bets on the NBA.

The NBA also includes several other markets where over-under bets can be applied. Markets include team points, team points per half/quarter, total player points, season-long total points scored and a range of player-based over-under bets.

MLB Over Under

The MLB is one of the lower under-over lines that you’re going to find. This is based on the total runs scored for the game and only hockey will have a lower average line.

What you’re going to find with baseball is that the variance for these bets is much lower given the lower number of runs. As a result, most of these bets will be whole numbers and fewer include a decimal, making the push much more common.

Over Under Betting - What Does Over Under Mean?

This is a good thing, generally, for the player as it reduces risk when making these types of bets. Most games are going to start around 8 for the over-under line.

The average number of runs scored per game in the MLB in 2021 was 4.53. Unlike the NBA, this number fluctuates up and down from season to season, and we’ve seen no trend over the last 20 years in the sport. Your MLB over-under picks needs to reflect the trends for that season, rather than just a blanket assumption that the line should increase each season.

NHL Over Under

The NHL’s line for over-under sports betting reduces again, with most bets being around 5 to 6 total goals for that game. What you will find from hockey is that the range of the line fluctuates the least in that, almost all games are in between this total, whereas NBA and NFL have much wider over under total lines.

To combat this, most sportsbooks will change the odds rather than the line and then follow the money based on who’s betting on what.

over under betting pittsburgh

For example, above we’ve included a game between Pittsburgh and Chicago where BetOnline has set the over-under line at 6 goals. As you can see, the price for the over is at -118 and a strong favourite, compared to the under, priced at +107.

BetOnline clearly doesn’t think that 6 is necessarily the NHL lines over under here, but they’ve priced it in a way that allows them to apply VIG (Juice/commission) to that bet without changing the line.

Over Under Betting - What Does Over Under Mean?

If we look at the game above between Seattle and Vegas, the line is set at 5.5. The odds are -102 for the over and -108 for the under. This is much closer, and the stats will likely back up the fact that the line is genuinely around 5.5.

So, when it comes to making NHL over-under picks, you need to first note the line and then note the odds. The lines will differ a lot less than in other sports, but the odds will differ a lot more.

Over Under Soccer Betting

Soccer betting works a little different from all other under sports. What you will find is that all games have a main over-under market that is set at 2.5 goals. Again, there are times when you can bet on total goals that are whole numbers, but it’s much rarer than in other US sports.

The sportsbook then uses the baseline of 2.5 goals and adjusts the odds for the game in question accordingly. You will see a much wider range of odds betting like this compared with them changing the line and trying to get closer to even money bets, as they do with most other sports.

Over Under Betting - What Does Over Under Mean?

Above, we’ve taken an example from the BetOnline sportsbook that includes a range of games from the English Premier League. From the three games, you can clearly see the prices for the over-under bet range massively.

The biggest difference is in the Newcastle v Brentford game where the price ranges from -126 for the over and +106 for the under. BetOnline is basically saying that the over is a big favourite in this game.

It is worth noting that with soccer you’re usually able to choose from a range of lines for over-under bets. This can be anywhere from 0.5 goals up to 5.5 goals or even higher, depending on the sportsbook. The odds are then reflective of the betting line, rather than the betting line reflective of the odds.

Soccer over under picks is relatively easy to make because you can move the line to suit the potential scoreline.

How to Win an Over Under Bet

One of the key things that you need to take into consideration is that of the general points per game stats. We talk more about this in the next section of this article, but to win an over-under bet you need to gather as much data as you can, starting with average points per game.

We’re going to look at a couple of examples of bets that should have won and bets that lost, but the numbers suggested otherwise. We will try and break down each to look a little deeper as to why each result occurred.

Given that, at the time of writing, we are in the middle of both the NFL season and the English Premier League for soccer, we’re going to look at games from each of these.

NFL – Kansas City Chiefs (13) v Green Bay Packers (7)

The Packers v the Chiefs is one of the highlights of the NFL season. The Chiefs came into the game with a mixed 4-4 record, with the Packers flying at 7-1.

Even though they are incredibly strong teams, neither are particularly prolific when it comes to scoring. In the 2021 season, the Chiefs averaged 24.6 points per game and the Packers just 22.1, landing both rights in the middle of the pack for points per game.

over under betting packers v chiefs

The line was set around the 48.5 mark, priced at -107 for over and -113 for the under. Please note, these prices are the best prices for each bet and not from a single sportsbook.

Over Under Betting - What Does Over Under Mean?

The game was close, with the Chiefs winning 13-7 in a low-scoring affair. Whilst it would have been very tough to predict such low total points (20), given that we know the average total points for both teams are just 46.7 points, the under 48.5 line would have made a lot of sense here.

English Premier League – West Ham (3) v Liverpool (2)

West Ham is a team on the up in the EPL and was flying high (for them) in 5th. Liverpool had gotten off to a good start and was sitting 3rd before the game kicked off.

Soccer works a little differently than most when it comes to over-under bets. Instead of total goals scored, it’s best to look at total goals overall. This includes both goals scored, and goals conceded. The reason we do this is that even poor teams who don’t score goals can still be great candidates for over-under bets and the goals scored stat alone would distort this.

Over Under Betting - What Does Over Under Mean?

In the season up to this point, West Ham had averaged 3.27 goals per game and Liverpool 3.82. These were the two highest-scoring goals per game in the league.

As a result, the over/under 2.5 goals market was reflective of this, priced at just -193 for the over and +157 for the under.

Over Under Betting - What Does Over Under Mean?

The game ended in a 3-2 win for West Ham, with 5 goals total, smashing through the 2.5 goals barrier. Even though the price for over was not great, based on the stats, it still offered good value.

One of the many pros of betting over under markets for soccer is that you can choose your line. Bets on over 3.5 and even 4.5 goals would both have been deemed winning bets and at much higher prices of +128 (O/3.5 goals) and +285 (O/4.5 goals), respectively.

Over Under Betting Strategy

Below we’ve included some betting strategies that can be applied to over-under betting. Sometimes we may use examples in certain sports or games, but the beauty of these is that they can be adapted to all sports.

Use the Data

We’ve spoken about stats and data plenty of times already in this article but it’s incredibly important that you use it to support your picks.

One of the best things about these types of bets is that they can be very analytical. You can take a lot of data and apply a more than plausible result without ever having to find the winner of the game.

over under betting points per game

The easiest place to start is the average points or goals per game. This is data that you can get from many online resources and if you only applied this to your bets, then you’re going to vastly improve your win rate for these types of bets.

You can double down with points per game and target this based on if a team is playing at home or away. For example, Arizona Cardinals in the NFL average 34.8 points away from home, but just 25.8 points at home. This means that you’d likely be looking at higher lines and potentially the over bet when they play away, with the opposite for when they are at home. We’ve included this as an example as this is not common for most NFL teams.

Starting Line-ups

Playing rosters is a key area for how games may pan out. If key players are missing, then this is almost always going to affect the score or at least change the data that you’re using for your bets.

Over Under Betting - What Does Over Under Mean?

The easiest place to start is when influential players are missing in either a defence or an offence roll. For example, Tampa Bay has the highest points per game in the 2021 season with 32.5, but if you removed their star quarterback, Tom Brady, then this number is almost certainly going to be less.

However, sometimes it’s not always as black and white as that. There are many cogs that make up these elite sports teams and even a couple of omissions can make a huge impact.

Outside Influences

With over under bets outside influences like the weather can play a big role in these markets. Games that are played in the wind and rain tend to be harder work, so the scores are lower.

over under winter nfl game

In fact, the weather plays as big a role as any. It’s no coincidence to see the likes of Tampa Bay, Arizona, and Dallas as the three highest-scoring teams in the NFL for 2021/22 and Chicago, Jacksonville, and Detroit as three of the lowest, given their very different climates.

Look at Defense over Offense

When we talk about over-under betting, our instinct is to look at goals or points scored and to take the over on that market. The over the market, after all, has no ceiling, whereas the under, does.

We want to take the time to look at the defence of each team to see how strong they match up. For this it’s not necessarily just a general matchup, but more an individual one.

Generally, the elite sports teams are well-matched, even between the top and bottom teams. Margins are small, so finding head-to-head battles is going to have a big effect on total points. A strong matchup means that points are likely going to be limited whereas a mismatch may lead to more points being scored.

The offence is obviously a key point, but most people exclusively look at this and this is a flaw. Take the time to work through both defence and offence to get to the right result.

Is it Better to Bet Over or Under?

One of the key things to note when we look to answer this question is that most people bet the over compared with the under. This is a general trait that all sportsbooks see, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the right choice.

Sportsbooks take a lot of time to look at betting patterns on their site. They will know that most people back the over so they will price bets based on this. It means that the value generally lies in the under bet, but with that comes added risk as there are fewer ways to win.

We’re going to look at over-under betting pros and cons below to see why so many people use these markets to bet.

Over Under Betting Pros

One of the key points about the over-under market is that both teams in your bet are going to be working toward your goal. Instead of picking a team to win and needing one team to do something that the other is not, the over under can have both, rather than just one team, working for you to win your bet.

Another reason we like over-under betting is that you can combine them with other bets. For example, you could have a parlay bet such as an NBA team to win and over under points for that game. There are tons of bets that you can link to this market and they work brilliantly for any combo bets.

Over-under bets offer a lot of variety for what is essentially the same bet. By this, we mean that you can often choose the betting line you want for the over-under bet. Soccer is the best example of this, with lines including 1.5, 2.5, 3.5 and 4.5+ for most games.

Over Under Betting Cons

The biggest con for these types of bets is when you take the under bet and the game turns out to be high scoring. It may mean that you’ve lost the bet very quickly, especially in sports like soccer and hockey where lines are lower than most.

You will also find that over bets lack any value at all. As we’ve mentioned, most bets within this betting market are placed on the over line and sportsbooks adjust prices based on this. It results in the value bet often being the under, but that means the bet can lose very early.

Over Under Bets Conclusion

Over under betting is one of the most lucrative and often overlooked bet types in the industry. It allows you to place bets on markets that have no relation to the result and instead, are solely linked to the final scoreline. Many bookmakers offer competitive over under betting, so shop around before committing.


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Jonathan has been working within the iGaming sector since 2007. After graduating with a BA Hons in Marketing from Northumbria University, he's been able to set up his own online content business, working with some of the biggest brands in the iGaming sector. Outside of work he enjoys any type of sports, especially cricket, golf, football and darts.