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When bettors lay a wager on whether the total points or goals in a match will be more or less than a certain total, they are betting on the “total.”
Also known as Over/Unders, a bettor can adjust the total, either above or below the standard total. This is known as betting an alternate total.
Like alternate spreads, betting an alternate total may produce substantially less favorable odds or more favorable odds depending if you move the total in your favor or against it.
For example, the 2022 NCAA basketball men’s championship game had an initial point total of 152. Bettors who believed that Kansas and North Carolina would combine for well over 152 points could bet an alternate total (say 155) for a more profitable return. Those who were skeptical of the teams’ scoring abilities might bet an alternate total of 145, though they’d have to accept a substantially lesser payout.
For what it’s worth, the Jayhawks beat the Tar Heels by a score of 72-69, a total of 141.
Depending on which way you move the total, your payout will be higher or lower than it would with the standard total.
If the odds for the over at the standard total of 152 in the example above is -110, the odds at over 148 may shift to -125. Bettors have to pay more to receive the same payout that they would at -110 by shifting the line in their favor. In this example, instead of betting $110 to profit $100, the bettor would have to wager $125.
Alternate Total Example
Let's illustrate how an alternate spread works with an example from FanDuel Sportsbook.
In Week 18 of the 2022-23 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys matched up against the Washington Commanders. The standard total is 40.5.
Here are some of the alternate totals available for the game:
In this example, both the over and under of the standard total (41.5) have odds of -110.
The example on the top/left shows some of the extreme sides of the alternate total you can take. For example, you could get +7000 odds ($100 to win $7,000) for the game to go under 13.5 points or -50000 odds ($50,000 to win $100) for the game to go over 17.5 points.
The screenshot on the bottom/right shows some more reasonable alternate totals. For example, if you think the game will end up higher than the standard total, you may over 45.5 at +172 odds ($100 to win $172). Alternatively, if you think the game will go under the standard total, you may take under 39.5 at +110 odds ($100 to win $110).
Are Betting Alternate Totals a Good Idea?
There is no right answer to whether betting alternate totals is a good idea or not.
It makes the most sense when you move the total past key numbers in the NFL such as 37, 40, 41, 43, 44, 47, or 51 as these are the most common total results of historical games.
For example, if the total between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins is set at 40.5 and you think the game will go under the point total, you may decide to move the line to under 41.5 in exchange for a lower payout. This allows you to still win if the total ends up at 41 (such as if the final score is 21-20).
It’s crucial to shop around for the best odds when betting alternate total. Whereas most sportsbooks offer -110 odds on standard totals, prices on alternate totals can vary much more from book to book.
How to Place an Alternate Total Bet With Online Sportsbooks
Most of the best online sportsbooks offer alternate total bets. Here’s a general overview of how to find them:
- Log into your sportsbook account.
- Navigate to the game you are interested in.
- In the menus within the game, look for the “Game Lines”, “Buy/Sell Points”, or “Game Props” option.
- Look for the “Alternate Totals” section.
- Find the alternate total you are interested in the list. Remember to shop around for the best odds from multiple sportsbooks.
Enter how much you want to wager and place the bet.
Note that it's also possible to bet alternate spreads, typically in the same section where alternate spreads are. In the player prop section for the NFL, you can also find alternate rushing yards, alternate passing yards, and alternate receiving yards.