NBA Totals Betting Guide

Sports Betting Strategy of Max
Whilst most punters know of head to head and line betting, not as many are aware, or have placed bets on totals. Total betting is more casually referred to as over/under betting. That is a combined total of points that is expected to be scored in the match.

So how does it work?

Bookmakers, after studying their statistics, will set a number that they believe represents the amount of points that will be scored in the basketball match. For an example, the points total may be set at 200.5 points (50 points per quarter). Punters can then decide to place bets on 'Overs' or 'Unders'. That means, if 201 or more points are scored, than the overs will win. And if 200 or less are scored than the unders will get up.


Of the three main bet types (head to head, line, and totals), they usually are the last market to be priced and often sees very quick betting action when they are first priced. A game might open up with a total of 200.5 but very quickly make its way down to 196.5, as factors such as fatigue, travel schedule, player injury mightn't be immediately available after yesterday's matches, so the totals can be somewhat volatile.

How can I make money from this market?

Several ways actually!

First: Most recreational punters don't place their bets until close to game time, and that's fine too, but money can be made very early on by identifying the betting activity. In the example used above, betting Under 200.5 when the market first came up, and then betting on over 196.5 once the markets have moved, will present at least one guaranteed collect for you, and with a 4 point buffer, a very real possibility of a double collect.

Second: Line betting can be very difficult in the NBA. A team giving away -8.5 points at the line might be up by 10 with a minute to go, only for both coaches to rest their starting players and play their bench, which can lead to unpredictable scoring. Similarly, a team up by 6 points with 30 seconds to play giving away -5.5 points might start to play the scoreboard and therefore their concentration isn't on scoring points but taking time off the clock which can lead to a rushed shot before the shot clock expires and turning the ball over to the opposition who charge down the court and knock down the three. To many recreational punters, it's therefore more interesting to back a totals option in a game they are either not too sure about, or involving teams they don't care about.

Third: Some providers will give you more than just the game total option. You may see individual quarter or half over / unders. You may also see individual player over / unders. These are known as 'props' and usually just absorb the 'mug money' of punters out there who don't do research but like the novelty of backing these unique markets. But, given proper research, they can represent a lucrative money making option.


Some things that can influence the totals

  • Did the team play last night?
  • Are the opponents fresh?
  • Are they Home or Away?
  • Are all Players available for selection?
  • Injury Cloud?
  • Past results versus the same opponent
  • Does the heavy favourite have a critically important game next up that they may be looking to give their stars some rest in this one

The list above is not finite, but odds makers do take this in to consideration when setting the total.


Things to keep in mind

Most recreational money goes on 'overs'. To an impartial viewer it's always more fun to bet on points being scored, than shots being missed. This is also taken in to account by the oddsmakers so remember that most totals will be one point above the 'true' estimate. 2. Overtime is included for totals betting.
Most bookmakers and betting exchanges have Totals markets on every NBA game and like anything, you need to make sure you get the best value for your money. Even small differences between operators can make a significant difference to your Profit/Loss at the end of the season.

Totals markets are usually subject to a higher 'margin' for the bookmakers so in almost all cases the prices available through betting exchanges like Betfair will be more attractive and make you more.

Smarkets offers betting on totals and has live betting on NBA matches. Smarkets charge a lower commission than Betfair. Every dollar you spend with them is effectively worth more than it is at almost every other provider. The more you bet with them the more loyalty points you earn which results in even this low commission being reduced further, and more winnings in your account.