If you follow sports betting at all, you will undoubtedly have heard of the phrase ‘overunder’. This is a bet where the oddsmaker determines the total amount of money to be wagered and sets the total number of units of an asset (i.e. goals, points, or yards) to be achieved by both teams. For example, one could place a $100 bet on the Browns to score 23 points versus the 49ers’ 17. In this case, the bettor would lose his $100 because the Browns only scored 17 points.
What does the ‘O’ in ‘OU’ stand for? It’s actually pronounced as ‘Oh’, but most often stands for ‘Over’ and is used when a team or player crosses the goal line to score a winning goal in the final minute of play. So in the scenario above, it would be marked as an ‘over’ bet, as the Browns actually scored more than the 49ers. Therefore, the bettor would win his money back. It’s similar for a touchdown, as long as the host team scores a field goal in the final five minutes, the bet is a winning one for the bettor.
What about when the under achieves? In those cases, the ‘O’ in ‘OU’ typically stands for ‘Under’, although it can also stand for ‘Over’ depending on the context. For example, if the 49ers had received the ball to start the fourth quarter and subsequently managed to complete an unlikely comeback, the over would have won based on the final score. The same goes for a tie game, with each team having scored the same number of points.
A Simpler Way to Think of It
To keep things simple, let’s say you have a game between the Browns and the 49ers. The Browns are a professional sports team based in Cleveland, Ohio, and the 49ers are a pro sports team based in San Francisco, California. At the beginning of the game, you place a wager of $100 that the Browns will win. As you are making your picks, you hear that the Browns have scored a field goal and therefore the over bet has won. However, just as the refs are about to award the 49ers the victory, the Browns manage to score another field goal and therefore the over/under has come up short.
This is why, in betting, a common scenario is that the ‘O’ in ‘OU’ is used when the over or under bet fails to materialize. In reality, it is often more complex than that, but for the sake of simplicity, just think of it in these terms.
The Importance of Points
The other important thing to note about the ‘O’ in ‘OU’ is that it refers to the scoring system used by the NFL, the American Football League, and most other sports leagues. In general, points are more predictive of eventual winning than the amount wagered because they take into consideration several factors. The most important of these is time of possession, or how long a team manages to keep the ball away from the opposition. This is also known as ‘command of the ball’. For example, if a team scores a touchdown in the first quarter and the other team does not gain any more points before the end of the game, the team that scored will generally win, as they held the ball longer. The same goes for a field goal in the second or third quarter (more on those in a bit). However, if the scores remain even after three quarters, it gets trickier, as it depends on how the game is going at that point. If the score is still even after both teams have scored a touchdown, most people would say that it was a very boring game and there wasn’t much to predict. On the other hand, if the game is still close at the end, it could go either way.
In general, for betting purposes, it is best to look at the points scored and not the amount wagered. Why? This is where most wagers will hit you back if you lose, so it is best to focus on what will happen rather than what might happen. In the end, it comes down to this: you either win or lose, but most often you will lose because you did not understand the basics of probability. For example, if you are considering making a wager on the game, and you do not know what the over/under is, you are asking for trouble.
Field Goals, Touchdowns, and Penalties
Now, let’s take a look at some of the more complex cases. As stated above, a field goal is worth six points, a touchdown is worth four points, and a safety is worth two points. Everything else—a miss, an interception, or a fumble—is considered a turnover and is worth zero points. This means that the total amount of points scored in a typical NFL game is 52, as there are four quarters and eight turnovers (the average NFL game has 5.8 turnovers).
If you add the points from the end of the first and third quarters (as it is done in college football), you get to the total number of points scored in a typical NFL game, making it easier to see why this is the preferred scoring method:
- A field goal is worth six points
- A touchdown is worth four points
- A safety is worth two points
- An interception, a fumble, or a missed field goal is worth zero points
A good example of where the under performed in the ‘O’ in ‘OU’ scenario above is a game between the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills. The game starts at 7:00 p.m. EDT and, after the kickoff, the Jets manage to score a touchdown shortly after their possession starts. However, the Bills manage to answer back with a field goal before the quarter ends. Overall, this would make the total number of points scored by the two teams 10, with the Bills winning the game 8-2. This is because the Jets only scored three points in the second quarter and three points in the third quarter. Therefore, the under bettor would have won his money back (the total is now 17, with the Jets winning by two points).
As for the safety, if you look at the events leading up to it, you will notice that something is amiss. Typically, a safety occurs at the end of the half when the team leading at the half breaks a fair catch, an illegal contact penalty, or if the ball crosses the goal line in the second half and the defense does not have enough time to react. In this case, the safety was a result of the Bills defending an illegal contact call on behalf of the Jets in the third quarter. This is why, in general, looking at points scored rather than the amount wagered is recommended for betting purposes.
Difference in One-Score Games
In some cases, a one-score game can be more predictive of the eventual winner than a game with several scores. Here is why: in most cases, the one-score game will end in a tie (50-50 chances of winning). In that case, one could argue that the game was not very exciting to bet on, as both teams had an equal chance of winning. However, if you consider the number of offensive and defensive plays in each game, the intensity, and the fact that a one-score game almost always ends in a tie, it is worthwhile considering a wager on these games.
Keep in mind that a one-score game can also be a very exciting game to watch because there is no predefined outcome. In a two-to-one game, for example, if you bet on the home team with one score, you could lose your entire wager, as there is a one-in-four chance that the home team will lose the game. In a one-score game, this risk is largely negated because there is a 50-50 chance the game will end in a tie. Therefore, in these instances, the fun of betting on a one-score game might just be worth the occasional risk of losing your entire wager.
When one is considering placing a wager, one of the most difficult things to do is to determine one’s probability of winning. This is simply because there is a lot of subjectivity that goes into it. When it comes to sports betting, most people think that their gut feeling is the same as the odds the bookmaker sets. This is far from the case. For example, let’s say you are considering placing a wager on the game between the Browns and 49ers. Using Bayes’ theorem, which is the mathematical equation used to determine probability, one could write down the following: