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What is an Over/Under Bet

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One of the most exciting bets you can make is taking a gamble on the total points scored in a game. It’s a bet that requires only simple math skills, and if you know enough about the teams involved you can be successful betting on totals. The winner of the game is irrelevant in an over/under bet, as you are simply betting on the performance of the two teams combined. 

Sportsbooks set over/under totals for most major sports, and knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the teams and their styles of play can help you determine which way you should go. For outdoor sports, factors like venue and weather also can play a role in scoring and will need to be taken into account.

If you’re betting on an NFL game, and the forecast is for snow or high wind, your best bet might be to take the under, depending on where the number is set. And if you’re betting on an NBA game and you know a particular player is struggling with his shot or might not be 100 percent because of injury, this can help you determine the best bet.

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The betting line is usually -110 on both the over and under, though books sometimes adjust the number on specific games. So, let’s say the Los Angeles Lakers are facing the Houston Rockets in a midseason NBA game. Bookmakers have set the total at 234.5, which means each team is expected to score in the ballpark of 117 points. The odds would look like this:

Total: 234.5 – Over: (-110) | Under: (-110)    

If the Lakers and Rockets play the way the bookmakers expect, and the final score ends up 124-112, that adds up to 236. So if you took the over and bet $110, you would see a profit of $100. If you took the under, the sportsbook would keep your money. If you bet $50, your profit would be $45.45. 

But if in the above scenario you knew that James Harden had struggled the past three games in hitting his three-pointers, or LeBron James was limping on a bad ankle, you might want to take the under. Then, if Harden indeed bricks his threes or James has a subpar night and the score winds up 114-102 (216), then you win, no matter which team comes out on top. If you took the under and bet $200, you would win $181.80/ in addition to your initial outlay.

Over/under bets are simple to understand but offer a challenge at the same time. It is an easy concept to master, but there are a lot of factors to consider, and the bookmakers likely have already built these into their picks. But trying to outsmart the bookmakers is part of sports betting’s entertainment value. 

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