Totals Bets Explained

As the most populous state with numerous professional teams, California boasts the biggest untapped market in the country. Hence, CA sports betting momentum won’t fade so easily. The legalization saga is likely to resume in 2023 as a follow-up to the 2022 push.

Regardless of when sports betting launches in California or the structure of the market, we can make some educated guesses about bet types available online and/or in retail books. 

Common wager types you’ll encounter once the market gets off the ground are Over/Under (also known as total bets) focusing on the final score of the game. Various versions of it are available for most sports, so you might want to learn how it works.

This guide will break down totals betting, provide examples, list the best sportsbooks for Over/Under bets, and offer tips to help you win more consistently, among other things. 

What Are Total Bets? 

Total bets are a simple way to place action on a sports game. It’s one of the three staples of every sportsbook’s portfolio, alongside moneylines and point spreads.

In their basic form, totals, colloquially known as Over/Under, revolve around predicting the game’s final score. The sportsbook displays an estimate representing the sum of both teams’ scores, and you must predict whether the actual score will exceed or fall below the projected number. 

The metric used for total bets can vary depending on the scoring units used in a sport. For instance, basketball and football use points as a gauge, hockey’s Over/Under line shows total goals, and baseball’s operative number is home runs — you get the idea.

Total bets are essentially a two-way market on the flow of the game. There are two possible outcomes: Over or Under. In case you predict a high-scoring game, you’re likely to choose “Over” while a matchup between two defensively oriented teams prompts bettors to pick the “Under” side. 

Now, let’s put all of this into context with some real examples of total bets. Suppose you want to get some action down on a ballgame between the Los Angeles Lakers and their city rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers. 

A hypothetical line for that matchup might look like this: 

  • LA Clippers O 240.5 (-110)
  • LA Lakers U 240.5 (-110)

Our hypothetical matchup has a total line of 240.5. The combined score of both teams must be 241 or higher for “Over” bettors to win. If the final outcome were 121-120, anyone who bet on the “Over” side would win, regardless of which team was victorious.

In the event that both teams’ scores did not add up to 241, anyone who bet on the “Under” outcome would receive a payout. So, let’s say both LA teams put up a strong defensive performance, and the final score was 103-92 Lakers. In this case, anyone with the “Under” bet would hit. 

The totals lines at some sportsbooks display whole numbers. Applying this to our LA matchup example, the line would be 240 instead of 240.5. In the event that the game ended on exactly 240 (the exact total), all bets would be a “push” and bettors would receive their original stakes back. 

One important rule for Over/Under bets is that they include overtime; at least, that’s how most sites operate, and OT points contribute to the final score. Generally, this is great news for “Over” bettors because it gives their wager a second chance. 

How to Calculate Total Winnings

Following our previous discussion on how total bets work, let’s take a look at how much you stand to win on Over/Under bets.

To illustrate how you can calculate payouts, we’ll provide an example.

Let’s say you want to put a few bucks on an NFL Sunday night showdown between the LA Rams and the San Francisco 49ers. An overview of a total line would look like this: 

  • LA Rams O 45.5 (-110)
  • SF 49ers U 45.5 (-110)

In this example, the prices for both sides were quoted at -110. Negative (-) odds mean that your potential winnings would be less than the amount you wagered. More specifically, if you bet $100 on “Under” and the final score was 44 or fewer points, you would net a $90.91 payout. The quoted number shows how much you have to wager to possibly win $100. 

The lines are not always at -110. Occasionally, they may be skewed in favor of one side. When a sportsbook predicts a low-scoring match, it sets slightly unbalanced lines such as these: 

  • LA Rams O 45.5 (-105)
  • SF 49ers U 45.5 (-115)

In this case, a lower potential payout would be offered to “Under” bettors. Namely, you would need to bet $115 on Under to possibly win $100 if the final score ended up being 44 points or less. 

It’s important to keep in mind that betting the same amounts on both sides of the totals will always result in a negative expected return. This is due to the vig, which represents sportsbooks’ house edge — a cut they take on every bet. 

Using the Over/Under of -110 for comparison, if you covered both sides of the bet with $100, you would wager a total of $200 and win $190.91. The remaining $9.09 would be the vigorish. 

Best Sportsbooks for Total Bets 

Almost any sharp bettor would recommend implementing line shopping into your regular totals betting routine. This technique entails comparing lines from different sportsbooks in search of pricing inconsistencies. The ultimate goal of line shopping practice is to spot value, which is the key to successful betting.

To the untrained eye, odds differences between sports betting operators may seem minor, yet they are no small fry. Even a -/+5 differential in margin can move the needle in the long run. 

Take, for instance, a recent NHL game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks. This is how the game was priced at three different sportsbooks.

Sportsbook A

  • LA Kings O 6.5 (-105)
  • ANA Ducks U 6.5 (-115)

Sportsbook B 

  • LA Kings O 6.5 (-107)
  • ANA Ducks U 6.5 (-113)

Sportsbook C 

  • LA Kings  O 6.5 (-102)
  • ANA Ducks U 6.5 (-118)

Suppose three bettors each put $1,000 on the “Over” at different books. Ultimately, the Kings won 6-2, so everyone benefited (some more than others): 

  • Bettor who played with Sportsbook A won $952.38 (total payout of $1,952.38)
  • Bettor who played with Sportsbook B won $934.58 (total payout of  $1,934.58)
  • Bettor who played with Sportsbook C won $980.39 (total payout of $1,980.39) 

Here, the bettor who used Sportsbook C won roughly $46 more than the ones who didn’t line shop and ended up betting with a worse-priced sportsbook.

All things considered, some sportsbooks offer the best sports betting odds in California for Over/Under bets more consistently than others.

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Variations of Total Bets 

Betting on totals goes beyond predicting a game’s score. Different variations of Over/Under wagers target various aspects of the game. Period bets are popular iterations of totals that can be divided into two types based on the segments they cover:

  • Halftime totals: A bet on the number of points scored at a particular half of the game 
  • Quarter totals (i.e., inning totals): The number of points both sides score in a specific quarter 

A range of other total spin-offs exist. For example, you’ll find totals lines for individual teams in major sports: 

  • LA Lakers O 110.5 (-110)/U 110.5 (-110)

While player prop bets constitute a separate type of wager, they also come in the Over/Under format.

You can also pick live-bet totals, which is a way to get in on the action while the game is underway. The total lines for live games will fluctuate as the game progresses, as they do for other in-play bet types.

Best Strategy for Total Bets 

No matter how much work you put into your picks, there are no guarantees. There isn’t a universal formula that can help you win every time you bet on totals. In any case, the more in-depth your pre-game research, the better your chances of success.

To put yourself in a better position to win, consider these tips:

  • Go against the public: When there’s heavy betting on one side, the sportsbooks adjust the lines according to public opinion. There’s room for finding value here, but only if you’re willing to think outside the box. 
  • Factor in the weather in outdoor sports: Game tempo and scoring are greatly affected by weather conditions. Statistics show that around 55% of NFL games go “Under” when wind speeds are 10 mph or higher. The opposite is true in baseball; heavy wind conditions provide extra momentum to balls, leading to more home runs.
  • Check out injury reports: Typically, rookie bettors downplay injury reports because they believe that one player can’t make a significant difference in the scoreline. A defensive star’s absence can disrupt a team’s defensive game plan, both strategically and morally.
  • Go for “Under” if you’re predicting a beatdown: It’s common for coaches to pull the first team and bring in the second unit in blowouts, which may not be as skilled offensively.

Total Bets for NBA California Teams 

The Over/Under line is generally available in some form in most sports. In the NBA, in particular, the choices are plentiful. 

The high-scoring nature of the NBA makes Over/Under bets an exciting prospect. When it comes to total betting, local CA fans are spoiled for choice. You can place a standard total bet on the Sacramento Kings/Golden State Warriors matchup, or you can back the Lakers to score more points than the line suggests in the first quarter. Alternatively, you can bet on halftime Over/Unders before the Clippers suit up or even while the game is in progress.

In addition to standard total lines, many sportsbooks offer alternative total lines. Structure-wise, this is similar to teasers, but you don’t have to parlay multiple selections.

In a Kings/Warriors matchup, for example, you may find 20 different total lines. Odds diverge the more you deviate from the standard line. As an example, if the initial line was 240.5 with -110 odds for “Over,” toggling it to 245.5 could increase the price for “Over” to +150. Conversely, toggling the line to 235.5 would result in a price drop-off (might be -140 for “Over”).

How to Place a Total Bet on an Online Sportsbook App

Now that you’ve mastered Over/Under betting, there’s only one thing left to do: learn how to place an Over/Under wager at an online sportsbook. Here’s a mini guide to help you get started: 

  1. Pick a sportsbook. 
  2. Sign up for an account. To register, you’ll need to fill out an application form and provide your name, birthday, address, cell number, and last four digits of your SSN. 
  3. Top up your account. This may not be necessary in case your chosen sportsbook offers a no-deposit bonus. We’ll make sure to list all free California sports betting bonuses so you’ll have the proper code to use. 
  4. Choose the sport you want to bet on. At most sportsbooks, sports are listed on the left side menu.
  5. Select the game. As soon as you choose a sport, the games’ lobby should appear in the front-center of the page.
  6. Place a bet. Because total lines are one of the three “core” wagers, they’re displayed in the main odds chart without requiring you to go to a submenu. Upon selecting an Over/Under line, the bet will pop up in the slip (usually in the bottom right corner). Put in the stake and submit the wager. 

Total Bets FAQs

How popular are total bets?

Total bets are right up there with point spreads in terms of popularity. They get the most traction in the NFL and the NBA. 

Which sportsbooks accept total bets in California?

Over/Under wagers are available at every sportsbook in California, be it retail or online. You’ll find total lines for nearly every sport, including major leagues, college sports, golf, soccer, tennis, boxing, and more. 

Does DraftKings offer total bets?

Yes, DraftKings offers several variations of total bets. These include bets on the final score, halftime totals, quarter bets, team totals, alternate totals, live betting totals, and more. 

Who has the best total odds in California?

FanDuel, Caesars, and BetMGM have the best overall total odds in California. There is, however, a possibility that mileage will vary depending on the contest. To make sure you’re getting the best value, you should compare lines across multiple sportsbooks. 

About the Author

Joshua Buckley

Sports Content Manager
Joshua Buckley is Sports Content Manager for Along with award-winning experience as a sports editor in Alabama and Texas, he has also spent time in public relations for the tourism and blood banking industries. Joshua is co-host of "Whole Lotta Wolves," the only U.S.-based Wolverhampton Wanderers FC podcast.