Over/Under Betting – What Is the Best Approach to the Popular Market

The most popular betting markets in most sports are the match outcome markets. That’s where most punters choose to focus, so that’s where bookmakers take the most care in setting their odds. It is possible to find an edge in the match outcome markets, but it is hard. A better, and often more profitable option is to specialise in one of the more obscure areas, such as the over/under markets. So, what is over/under in betting? Find out below.

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What Does Over/Under Mean in Sports Betting?

How does over/under betting work?

Over/under markets are relatively simple to get to grips with. The most popular over/under market in the sports betting industry is the goals market available with football matches, and the most popular of these is the over/under 2.5 goals bet.

With this bet, bookmakers give you a price on over 2.5 goals and under 2.5 goals, and you can bet on either. The reason why 2.5 goals is the most popular marker for this type of bet is that the average number of goals per game in top European leagues is generally around the 2.5 mark.

How to Start: Sports Betting Over/Under Explained

Whether you are betting on over/under 2.5 goals or over/under the total number of runs scored in a cricket match, the principle of working out your winnings is the same.

Let’s say you wagered £10 on under 2.5 goals in the over/under 2.5 market on a game between Manchester United and Chelsea at odds of 11/10. If the score finishes 0-0, 1-0, 0-1, 1-1, 2-0 or 0-2, you will win your bet and earn a return of £11 and a profit of £1.

How to Bet Over/Under and on Which Occasions

Of course, given that the average number of goals scored in a football match is around 2.5, you won’t generally find big odds available on the over/under 2.5 goals markets, whichever side of the line you want to back. That’s why many punters who specialise in these markets prefer to look for opportunities to back in some of the other over/under markets, such as the over/under 1.5 or 3.5 market. If, for instance, two defensive-minded teams missing key strikers are lining up against one another, under 1.5 goals could be a good bet.

Psychology and Over/Under Markets

Another edge that shrewd sports punters who play the over/under markets can gain on their rivals is that psychology often leads people to make the wrong choice in these bets. For reasons that are not entirely clear, the over option in the over/under 2.5 goals market is always slightly over bet, compared to the under option. Perhaps this is because there are in theory more potential winning scorelines for the over bet (every score involving three goals or more!). Whatever the reason, this is a psychological quirk associated with these markets that can be exploited by the well-informed.

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Over/Under Variations

One interesting variation on the traditional over/under market is the various ‘full ball’ markets that some sportsbooks offer. The normal over/under market is set up in such a way that there are only two outcomes to a bet. For example, in the case of football, the over/under 2.5 goals market can only produce two results as it is impossible for any team to score half a goal!

But ‘full-ball’ over/under markets add a third possibility, which will see your stakes refunded. In the case of football, instead of the traditional 2.5 goal market, you might see an over/under 2 goal option. In this case, there are three possible outcomes: over two goals, under two goals, or exactly two goals. It might be easier to follow if we look at a specific example.

Imagine an over/under 2 goal market on a game between Stoke City and Middlesbrough. A sportsbook may offer the following odds on this game:

  • Over 2 Goals 11/10
  • Under 2 Goals 11/10

Let’s say you think that this will be a scrappy game of few chances and the under bet is the best option, so you back ‘Under 2 Goals’ at £10. Your return will be calculated as follows:

  • One or no goals in the game Bet wins Return £11
  • Exactly two goals Bet refunded Return £10
  • More than two goals Bet loses Return £0

There are two main advantages to this type of market. For a start, you can often get better odds than with the traditional ‘half-goal’ markets. But more significantly, it offers a degree of reassurance. Many punters have experienced the frustration of seeing a winning over/under bet turned into a loser by a late goal, but with a ‘full-goal’ market you won’t lose out if your judgement is wrong by a single goal. This is particularly useful for those starting off in over/under betting.

Try This Over/Under Strategy

Over/under betting strategy

Punters tend to develop their own strategies for how to read over/under betting, but one approach is to focus on statistics. In the case of football, it is possible to work out how many goals games in your chosen competition produce on average, and how many goals matches involving the two teams generate. Using these figures, you can arrive at an estimate for the number of goals you can expect in a particular game by using the Poisson distribution.

The details of this mathematical formula are beyond the scope of this article, but you will find Poisson calculators widely available for free online, and some punters also use the Poisson facility available in most spreadsheets.

By inputting the expected number of goals in a particular game, you can use this formula to work out the probability of a certain number of goals being scored, and you can then compare these probabilities to the available betting odds to find a value bet.

Is This Market Worth It

Over/under betting is one of the most under-appreciated markets in sports betting, offering the chance for those prepared to put in the work to capitalise, as bookmakers don’t devote as many resources to getting the odds right as they do in the match outcome markets, and many of your punter rivals regard the market as a side-bet not worthy of serious study.

While it can be a frustrating way to bet, this relative obscurity means that the rewards for those who are able to master over/under betting can be greater than those available in the traditional sports betting markets, so it is worth checking out how you can incorporate over/under betting into your overall sports betting strategy.

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