What is a Team Total in Sports Betting? How to Bet on Team Totals

<p>AP Photos</p>

AP Photos

A team total bet in sports betting is similar to an over/under bet. But instead of betting on how many total points will be scored in the game, the bet is exclusively on how many points will be scored by one team. 

How Are Team Totals Made/Handicapped?

Team totals are made by looking at the predetermined spread and over/under lines — they are subject to the same potential movement as those bets. These movements can be due to money coming in on a certain side or variables like injuries, suspensions, recent form and weather. 

By looking at the spread and total points, it’s easy to figure out (or at least come very close to) what the team totals will be. 

For example, if the New England Patriots are playing the New York Jets and are favored by 8 points with an over/under total of 42, the team totals will add up to 42 and be a differential of 8 points, or very close to it.

So, in this case, the Patriots’ team total would be around 24.5, while the Jets’ team total would be 16.5. Those only add up to 41, but both are on a certain side of key football numbers (combinations of adding 7 for touchdowns with an extra point and 3 for field goals). 

How To Read Team Total Odds

Because there aren’t as many variables in a team total bet (only one team instead of two), odds will not be exactly even as often as they are on full game totals. Be sure to pay attention to the corresponding odds (+100, -110, -120, etc.) before selecting a side to wager on. 

Many sportsbooks also offer alternate lines on team totals, meaning you can select from various different totals. Depending on how far your selection is from the standard team total, the odds will be heavily skewed in one direction or the other. If the standard team total is 21.5 and you select an alternate line of over 28.5, that bet will have a significantly higher payout because of the 7 points “sold” to the sportsbook. 

Is a Team Total a Good Bet?

Like any standard bet, the sportsbook sets the line in the middle of the potential outcomes to try and split the money and make a profit on the juice, or vig. So at first glance, this bet is no more profitable or risky than any other bet. However, because it is a bet on only one team’s outcome, there are fewer variables to think about.

In our example, if you believe the Patriots will have no trouble scoring points but aren’t sure the Jets will contribute enough to push the game total over, selecting the Patriots’ team total over may be the right choice. On the other hand, if you have no confidence in the Jets to score but think the Patriots may blow them out of the water, the Jets team total under would be the right play.

Team Total Betting Strategies by Sport

Football Team Totals

Because football has unique scoring usually in increments of 3 or 7 points, you’ll want to pay special attention to where the team total falls in relation to common and attainable point totals. A difference of 1 point between 23.5 and 24.5 is far greater than from 24.5 to 25.5 because of how frequently teams score exactly 24 points.

Basketball Team Totals

Since points in basketball are commonly scored in increments of 1, 2 or 3 and so many points are scored in each game, the type of number doesn’t matter as it does in football. Keep in mind that fouling and free throws at the end of the game can often push the total over, especially in college basketball. Of course, the books take this into account so it’s not profitable to just blindly bet overs.

Baseball Team Totals

Baseball team totals are the most interesting because the variables change every day depending on lineups and opposing starting pitchers. Always do research into the opposing pitcher and your team’s lineup before placing your bet.

Hockey Team Totals

Hockey is usually the lowest-scoring sport in the major North America leagues, so the team totals will be lower. As a whole, this means there may be greater odds discrepancies between the over and under sides. Like starting pitchers in baseball, hockey goalies can play a big role in the team’s lines. Make sure to be aware of which goalies are starting that night to be best informed before placing your bet. Additionally, don’t forget about the potential for late empty-net goals.

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