When it comes to wagering on sports, everyone has a different opinion about what “total” means. Some people think it refers to the money line, while others think it might mean the total points scored (or conceded) by both teams. However, none of these interpretations are right. You’ll have to look at the numbers yourself to figure out how to put a sporting event wager on. Here’s a primer on what “total” means in sports betting, and how you should actually interpret it.
What is Total in Sports Betting?
Total usually refers to the cumulative score in a game, or the total amount of points scored by both teams in a league match. It is usually shown to the left of the decimal point (or at the end if there’s no decimal point). So, in a standard 2.5 team rugby league match, you would see a score of 4.5 for the home team and 7 for the visitors. The home team will usually win the toss and elect to bat first, so in this case the home team would score 2.5 points for a “total” of 10 points in the game. The same logic applies in almost every sport.
Why Does Total Matter?
One major problem with interpreting “total” literally as meaning the money line is that there’s no consistency in how sportsbooks calculate the line. For example, you might see a −107 total in the NBA or NFL, but +195 in baseball. This makes it very difficult to compare results from book to book, or from website to website. Also, the spread can vary from game to game within a sport, so you will never know how much the total will move in either direction until you perform a specific action in real life (i.e., make a purchase or sign up for an online account).
On the other hand, if you look at the total point-spread in a game, you can usually find many matches where the total went up 7 or more points in one direction. In those cases, you can be sure that the line is going to move in that direction when the totals are announced. For example, a look at the 2018–19 NBA season shows that the total went up by 7 points or more in 47% of the games (48 of 102 total games). In other words, if you want to make money in NBA betting, go with the point spread and not the money line.
Common Errors When Interpreting “Total”
There are a few common mistakes people make when they try to use the “total” number in a sporting match. First off, many people think it means the total amount of money they’ll win or lose on a wager. As we’ve established, this is not the case. Secondly, some people assume that if a team wins the toss and elects to bat first, the other team will have to score at least 20 points to win. This is also incorrect – the other team only needs to score 14 or more points to tie the game, and 12 or more to win. Finally, some people think that the total reflects how far a team is behind in the game. While it’s true that the total will typically go up as the game goes along, it doesn’t necessarily mean the opposite – it can also go down if the game is close at the end. For example, if there’s only a few seconds left and your team is trailing by a couple of points, you might see the total drop as we’ve established is an acceptable strategy in many sports.
What About Half Time/Full Time Odds?
Another confusing thing about sports betting is that many books will tell you to use half time or full time (or maybe even quarter time) odds when it comes to backing a team in a match. These are different to usual half time/full time odds, which are usually taken to be +150/+200 for the home team, and -250/-300 for the away team. What do half time/full time odds mean? They’re the same as the total, but they apply only during the halftime or full time mark of the game. So, in basketball, for example, if you want to back the Warriors to score more than 50 points, you would use half time odds (which would be +225 odds), but if you want to bet on the Lakers to score less than 45 points, you would use full time odds (which would be -275). The same logic applies in almost every sport.
If you’re wondering which half time/full time odds to use, it depends on whether you think the team will hit a certain score or not. If you think they will, use half time or full time odds. If you think they won’t, use the usual half time/full time odds.
For example, if you think the New England Patriots are going to cover the spread in Super Bowl LIII, you would use half time odds (currently -145 is the current line). However, if you think the Philadelphia Eagles are going to win this year’s championship, you would use full time odds (currently -190 is the current line).