When you bet on sports, you have many different options. The most common sports wagers are spread bets or against the spread bets. These are the bets where one team gets points and the other receives points. Another popular betting option is the moneyline, where you don’t have to worry about the point spread, just about picking the winning team.
Baseball has run lines and hockey has puck lines, where one team gets 1 ½ runs or goals and the other side gives the same amount.
Run and puck lines also have the added challenge of using varying risk versus reward situations where you might need to bet 250 to win 100 or something other than the traditional 110 to win 100 propositions.
One of the bets available at most sportsbooks that is often overlooked is the over/under wager. The over/under is a total combined score for both teams. Football is the sport where I make most of my over/under wagers, but you can make the same type of bet for most sporting events.
Here are three strategies I use to make over/under wagers.
One of the tips is about the weather, which is only important in outdoor sports like football, soccer, and baseball.
You should also consider travel distances for road teams in every sport.
1 – Past Performance and Current Ratings
The thing that most sports bettors do when considering over/under wagers is look at the average points each team has scored in the recent past. While this is a good way to start, it doesn’t help you find any real value. It’s too easy, and it’s the same place the sportsbooks start when they set their over/under numbers.
A better way to predict total score is by looking at where each team’s offense and defense rank in comparison to other teams in the league and each other. Remember, your goal is to find value in comparison to the over/under the sportsbook is offering. You’re not interested in the over or the under in particular.
I use a +2 and -2 differential in this example because that’s usually the minimum difference I’m looking for before I bet the over/under.
I also look at how each team has performed against offenses and defenses that are ranked close to where the current teams are ranked. If you’re handicapping a game between the Giants and the Patriots, you want to look for games where the Patriots’ offense has played against teams with a similar defensive ranking as the Giants and where the Giants offense has played against similar defenses to the Patriots.
You also want to look at how each team’s defense played against similar offensive teams to their opponent. This takes things quite a bit further and is much more meaningful when you’re handicapping the over/under total.
Of course you always need to consider injuries when evaluating offenses and defenses.
Everyone knows the quarterback is the most important position on the football field, but when you’re handicapping the over/under total, the next most important position is probably cornerback.
Most teams don’t have one good cornerback. It’s rare for a team to have two.
If one team has a good quarterback and the defense is missing a cornerback or has one who’s particularly weak, the good quarterback will take advantage of the weak spot for the entire game.
This can be enough to push a total over.
Another area that most sports bettors ignore is the special teams play for each side. Special teams include the kicking, punting, cover, and return teams on each team. Make sure you properly evaluate all of these areas when you’re handicapping totals.
2 – What’s the Weather Look Like?
You always need to look at the predicted weather for any game you’re handicapping for the total. But the weather is an area where many inexperienced handicappers make a costly mistake. The common belief is that you should bet the under in bad weather.
It makes sense that scoring will be down in bad weather, but the sportsbooks know this too, and they set their lines after they take the weather into account. This means that the over is often the value wager in bad weather conditions.
You can’t just take the over in every bad weather situation and turn a profit, but be very careful about betting an under because of the weather.
Make sure your handicapping system is solid and that you’re not missing anything.
I’ve lost more money betting the under in bad weather than any other wager I’ve made. For several years now, I simply don’t bet the over/under in bad weather if I handicap that the under is a value bet. I just assume my handicapping system is weak in this area, so I avoid the under bets in bad weather.
I used to try to adjust my system to account for this and didn’t ever get it right, so I stopped wasting time and worked on improving it in other areas.
Bad weather also comes in different ways. Severe cold weather is different from heavy snowstorms and heavy rain is different than both. Some stadiums channel wind on a windy day in a way that can interfere with the passing game. In these types of stadiums, the home team quarterback usually has an advantage because he already knows how the wind works in his home stadium.
I’ve been talking about football so far, but there’s one type of weather that you need to be aware of in baseball when you’re betting totals.
Extremely cold weather, especially early in the season, usually has a big influence on scores in baseball.
The first thought many bettors have is that cold weather reduces scoring in baseball, but in my experience, it’s usually the opposite. This isn’t because it’s easier to score runs when it’s cold, it’s because pitchers train in a warm climate in the spring then start the season pitching in the cold. Some starting pitchers are simply not as good in cold weather. If you can identify these pitchers, it can be quite valuable.
3 – Public Bias
The NFL figured out years ago that the product they sell is easier to market when teams score more points. If you look at all of the rule changes over the last 20 years in the NFL, you can see that many of them have been designed to make it easier to score. Quarterbacks are protected more than ever, making it easier to move the ball.
The public likes seeing high scores.
College football betting follows the NFL in many ways, and the NCAA is basically selling the same product as the NFL. This means that the public wants higher scores in the NFL and NCAA football, and the public is getting what it wants.
This pushes the over/under total up, and the public often bets the over because of what they want to be true. The public doesn’t sit around thinking about this, but it’s what’s happening anyway.
- The question is, how can you use this information to make more profitable betting decisions?
You also need to be aware that the sportsbooks set the over/under totals knowing this about the public. The books can set the total higher because they know the public often still takes the over. This is why most of the over/under bets where I find value is on the under. I rarely make an over bet.
Every over/under line I handicap, I look for value on the under. If I don’t find value there, I usually don’t bet the total. The over has to show a much stronger value for me to make the bet than the under needs to show in a different game. The main point you need to get from this section is to be careful when you think the over is a value bet. Some over bets are value bets, but most of them aren’t.
Over/under betting totals aren’t as popular as spread bets and moneyline wagers. But they’re worth looking at because it’s getting harder to find value bets as the sportsbooks set tighter lines.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what kind of bets you place, as long as you can find value.
Dig deeper into the available statistics than most sports bettors do when you’re looking at over/under bets.
Everyone can see the average scores for each team, so this isn’t going to give you an edge. When you start breaking down each team at a deeper level, you can often find the value that others are missing.