Totals vs. Spreads

Bettors are hard pressed at picking either totals or spread bets. This article will discuss totals vs spreads to help you find a profitable wager.

comparison between totals & spreads
Totals vs. Spreads

Totals & spreads are the most common bets on any betting site. Each wager has its own risks and reward rate, but how can a bettor pick one that suits them?

If you weigh totals vs. spreads before betting, this article will help you see how both work. It will also teach you how to read spreads and totals through various examples. 

Spread, Money, and Total Basics

Totals & Spreads Betting

Below is a detailed discussion of the most common wagers among US sports betting sites.


Total is also known as over/under bets. In this type of betting, US sportsbooks will predict the total score based on the game and the teams playing. It is called totals because the scores of the playing teams will be added even before the game begins.

The bettors will decide whether the game's final score will be over or under the predicted total score. If the prediction is equal to the actual score, it is called a push, and the bets are returned to the people. If the total score is more than the predicted score, those who betted "over" win. 

If the score is less than the predicted outcome, those who betted "under" will win. This makes total have better prices vs moneyline bets.


Spread betting is a type of staking on the result of a game event where the payout is based on the accuracy of the bet. It does more than simply judge who is the winner or loser in the game, such as money or moneyline betting. 

It can also depend on the range of the outcomes. The bet is either above or below the spread. Financial spread betting can be a high-risk game without "stop." In the UK, it is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Totals vs. Spreads Examples

Football Totals 

Totals are the simplest and easiest to understand wager among the other types of betting. To do totals American football bets, you need to know the teams that will play. Choose a sportsbook that offers over/under betting for football. 

Look at their odds and decide whether you will go with over or under. For example, if the competing teams are the San Francisco 49ers against the Sheriff Tiraspol. If the sportsbook predicts a total score of 40 at the end of the game, bettors should either go over or under 40.

If the total score is exactly 40, the stakes will be returned to bettors. If it is over 40, then "over" bettors win. If the total score is below 40, then the "under" bettors win. The same rules apply to totals NBA bets. 

Football Point Spreads

Point spreads are making hypothetical point adjustments to the score of each team. The favorite team receives a deduction for betting purposes, and the underdog gets additional points. Here's an example to help you visualize.

Kansas City Chiefs (-3) -110

Bengals (+3) -110

The -110 is the odds of the game. However, it is not always -110, but it is one of the most common or standard odds for a point spread. Point spreads can be a little lower or slightly higher, but they are almost always close to -110. 

The odds will determine how much winning will return relative to the bet. The -3 for the Kansas City Chiefs and +3 for the Cincinnati Bengals represent the spread. However, these points are for adjustments only. They do not influence the possible outcome of the game.

NBA spreads work the same. However, there can be a big difference when it comes to scores. 

How Do Spreads Work?

Spread odds are not constant. According to the game, the teams playing, and the sportsbook's judgment, it can change. By setting a spread, the sites can ensure that they will earn at least a small amount. 

Most sportsbooks refer to point spreads as the vigorish (vig) or equalizers. This is not to be confused with vigs or the bookies' cut, which is how sports betting companies make money. Point spread betting is another choice for punters when lines move, and they like to bet on the underdog. If the underdog wins, the profit of the bettor is also higher. 

How Do Totals Work?

Totals or over/under work in an effortless way. Once the sportsbooks know the playing teams, they will come up with a total score considering several factors, such as the teams' abilities, the players playing, and so on.

Totals do not depend on which team wins the game. It is more dependent on the overall score of both teams. Typically, the odds on both over and under-bets are similar. It is because casinos or sportsbooks want to attract equal betting from the punters. 

Similar to spreads, the usual odds of totals are -110 with an additional 10% for the sportsbook commission. Sometimes, the odds can be favorable to over or under, depending on several factors. It is also a way for casinos to make the other side more appealing.

Decimal Points on Spread and Over/Under Bets

The sportsbook's primary purpose is to earn money from bettors. They will set up the winning wagers advantageous to them. We have 40 points for over/under betting using our examples above and a +-3 for spreads.

As much as possible, sportsbooks prevent having a tie or a "push" in a game. Because if that happens, casinos will return the money to the bettors as if betting did not occur. Therefore, they will not earn anything. 

Sportsbooks can be sure that they don't have to return any bets with decimal points. There will be winners and losers in betting. In return, they will also earn money from the wagers of the losing bettors.


Which bet is better - spreads or over/under?

In other sportsbooks, the spread gives a better winning wager to bettors. But, it is harder to win in spreads than in over/under, especially if the point spread is wide. If you prefer a more straightforward bet, go for over/under.

Is buying a half-point on a spread worth it?

Buying a half-point on a spread can reduce your payout. Buying a half-point on each game can lose you an extra 18.63 units. In other words, buying half-points all the time can hurt your wallet at the end of the day.

Are spreads and over/under bets for entire games only?

Spreads and over/under are not only for entire games or events. Betting can also be done during halftime or a single quarter game. For a single football game, you can bet on seven different parts of the game. 

What does total spread mean?

Total spread means giving an almost equal point spread on each side to get similar action on bettors. Sportsbooks do this for the people to trust the other underdog of the game. In return, they will also have lesser chances of a tie. 

Do spreads and totals count in overtime?

Depending on the sportsbook's terms and conditions, overtime is included unless stated before the game begins. Parlays with spread or totals for a match that went into overtime are still counted. Both spreads and totals have overtime.

Totals and spreads are both excellent types of sports betting. But between totals vs. spreads, go for totals if you want a straightforward one. If you are interested in a more challenging bet, go for spreads. It still depends on your sports preferences. 

This article was published on June 27, 2022, and last updated on July 4, 2023.