Sports Betting 101: Guide to totals betting

Sports Betting 101: Guide to totals betting

Initiates to the world of sports betting can sometimes be taken aback at the multitude of different ways to place bets. You can bet on win, lose or tie (moneyline betting), by how much a given team will win or lose (spread betting), live on outcomes during the game (courtsiding) and even on what the total score of the game will be, regardless of who wins or loses. This last one is known as totals betting.

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Totals betting really isn’t that complicated. It’s betting on the projected points total for a given game, deciding whether the actual total will be more or less. But let’s take a closer look

Bookmakers will calculate how many points will be scored during a given game, based on their complex algorithms, which we talk about in our article, How bookmakers calculate odds. Of course, they’re simultaneously working out various other odds for different types of bets, and all these calculations will help them work out the likely points total of the game. The points total is comprised of the total score accumulated by both participating teams, regardless of their final position.

Take note, totals betting only applies to sports where a points total can be calculated.

For some sports, this can be pretty simple. For a football match, for example, each goal scored accumulates a single point, and most teams score a small number of goals during a match. A points total of, let’s say, 4, would be perfectly reasonable for a Premier League match, assuming Team A scores three goals and Team B scores one.

For other sports, it can be far more complex. Rugby, for example, allocates different points for different types of ‘goals’. Bookmakers would need to calculate the probability of scoring tries, conversions and penalties, assign points accordingly, and provide a projected total score. Team A could score 42 points while Team B scores 12, making the points total 54, with those points made up of a combination of scores of 2, 3, or 5 points.


When you place a totals bet, you are betting on whether the actual points total will be higher or lower than the projected total score that the bookmakers have calculated. Totals betting odds are usually presented like this:

Team A 54 O

Team B 54 U

The O and U indicate Over and Under. If, therefore, you believe that the score will be higher than 54, you’ll want to bet on the Over, and on the Under if you think it will be lower. The payouts, which will also be listed alongside the totals, will be based on the individual teams’ odds.

There are, of course, many ways you can decide which way to bet. You can consider each team’s recent and historical track record and calculate your own projections; you could also follow your gut feeling about what kind of a game it’s likely to be. If you believe the underdogs might get defensive and prevent the favourites from scoring, based on the attitude the team has shown in interviews, then you might want to go ahead and bet on the under. Just remember that the bookmakers are using sophisticated algorithms to work out their odds and totals, so taking a look at the actual numbers might be a good idea.

Did you know that Sports Betting 101 is a whole series, covering the basics of sports betting? You can find more articles by following the links in this article, or clicking here.

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