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Sports Betting Totals

Sports Betting Tips: Don’t Neglect Totals

By Loot, Sports Handicapper,

Straight bets can be split into two categories--sides and totals. Sides are when you pick a team, while totals are when you bet over/under on the final score of a game. You will often hear professional sports bettors talk about the benefits of betting totals. The word from the sharps is that totals are easier to beat than sides. As proof, sportsbooks often times have lower wagering limits on totals as opposed to sides.

The problem is that a lot of bettors, especially on the beginning level, don’t like betting totals. But let’s look at the reasons. During our entire lives as sports fans, we are conditioned to focus on who will win the game, while the score is more of a secondary consideration. People simply feel more comfortable taking a stand on who will win the game or cover the spread, as opposed to how high or low the final score will be.

We should ask ourselves why we bet. It should be less of a vehicle we use to shadow our fan experience and more of a money-making venture. That means sometimes coming out of our comfort zone. The things that guide us as fans are not what we will need to call on to become successful bettors.


Looking at things along those lines, we see that it’s a good idea to use a different set of standards when we wager, as opposed to what we worry about as fans. And if there is money to be made on totals and it’s easier to beat than sides, we should be open to betting it. Sure, picking who will win or cover the spread is more organic, in a sense, than picking whether the score will go over or under, but that’s not how we should be looking at it. If it helps us earn, that should be the standard.

When picking totals, you needn’t be terribly exact. When you are picking a team to beat a spread, most gross miscalculations will lead to a losing wager. When betting on totals, results can be achieved any number of ways. If you take the “over” on a game, expecting the favorite to paste the underdog, while the dog will still get on the board--it doesn’t have to go that way for you to win. The underdog could beat the favorite in a close game and you can still win the “over” bet.

When you bet sides, you need something very specific to happen. When betting totals, the under or over can be arrived at in any number of ways that you weren’t necessarily predicting. That’s of great benefit to the bettor. And so is the relatively-low juice on totals wagers. It’s really the only other bet available other than the normal straight bet on sides that has low juice.

The lines themselves on totals are less-scrutinized than bets on sides. It’s easier to spot a flawed line with totals. The betting volume on totals is far lower than what you would see with sides, making the lines less market-tested and potentially more vulnerable. That doesn’t mean that the oddsmakers are putting out soft totals left and right, it just means the potential in finding weak odds is greater. When betting on teams, there is less of a chance to unearth a nugget of info to give your bet a better chance. With totals, you can sometimes use information to enhance your chances of winning. You might hear about sudden weather developments and other things that, if you act quickly, can give you a leg up on the competition.

The problem with totals is that a lot of bettors will figure they can’t get a read on it so why bother? You look at a match-up between two teams and your brain starts kicking into opinion-making mode. Everyone has an opinion as to who will win the big game. Then you look at the total and you’ll probably just sit there with a blank expression, unable to generate any real insight. Naturally, that would make you much less likely to wager on it.

The key is to start trying to form a handicapping model for determining over-under selections in games. Don’t force it, just be open to the idea. The main reason you might not be generating any opinions or insight is that you are just closed-off to the notion of betting totals. We need to remember that if something can boost our bottom-line, we should try to incorporate it into out wagering repertoire.

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