While point spread wagers or moneyline bets are about predicting which team wins the game and by how many points, that isn’t the case with over/under bets. Over/under wagers are strictly concerned with the total number of combined points scored in a contest. The team the wins the game is irrelevant.
The basic concept of betting over/unders is simple enough. The sportsbooks will post a number and you bet over if there think there will be more combined points scored in the game than the posted number. If you believe that there will be fewer points scored you bet under.
Over/unders will vary greatly depending on the teams involved and their style of play. Over/unders can range from the 170s if two defensive-minded NBA teams are meeting in the playoffs to well over 220 if two offensive teams are playing each other in the regular season. In college basketball, two slow-paced, defensive minded teams may see an over/under in the low 100s, such as 107 or 108, while two run-and-gun teams may see a total of 170 or greater.
The same premise holds true in football, where NFL totals can range from 35 to the lower 60s, while the range in college football is greater, with totals occasionally hitting 80 points if two high-powered offenses are meeting. Over/under bets in basketball and football carry the traditional 11-to-10 odds.
It’s a bit different in baseball or hockey, where the scores are much lower. The sportsbooks may post a baseball total of 7-over (-135), meaning you risk $135 to win $100 on the over and risk $100 to win $115 on the under. A hockey game may have an over/under of 5.5-under (-140), which means you risk $140 to win $100 on the under or $100 to win $120 on the over. Because there is much less scoring in hockey and baseball, there is greater use of odds. Many times one sportsbook will have a baseball game 7-over (-120) and another will have 7.5-under (-125) so it pays to shop for the best numbers before placing your bet.
Many people bet over/unders on the nationally televised games that they want to have a bet on, but can’t decide who they believe will cover the point spread. It’s simply another way to have a bet on a game they want to watch, while other bettors believe over/unders are easier to predict than choosing the winner of the game.