How to Bet on Win Totals

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There are a few days every year that are like Christmas for sports bettors. Some obvious ones come to mind like the Super Bowl. Others, however, are less prominent. One of those moments is when sportsbooks release lines for season win totals. This specific futures bet is available for a variety of sports. It’s also a favorite of many bettors.

There are several reasons for the bet’s popularity. The first is that it’s easy to understand, even for novice bettors. Will your team of choice have more or fewer wins in the upcoming season than the sportsbook says it will have? The potential softness of the lines also plays into the appeal. They are available early, when multiple aspects of the coming season may still be uncertain.

We’ll provide an introduction to betting on win totals in Arizona. It will go over how to place one of these wagers, how sportsbooks create the lines and tips for placing these bets on a few different sports, among other topics.

Win total odds

How win totals betting works

Odds for season win totals will appear in the over/under format. The sportsbook will set a line projecting a total number of wins for each team. For example, if you’re looking at the NFL, the line for the Arizona Cardinals might be 10.5. You can then bet whether the Cardinals’ actual total wins for the season will be over or under that number. If the Cardinals go 11-6 or better, everyone who bet the over wins. If they go 10-7 or worse, everyone who bet the under will win.

Another key factor to take into consideration is the odds on each side of the bet. For a wager like this, the odds will often start at -110 on both sides. From there, however, they can shift so the two sides have different potential payouts. Being able to read the odds and understanding how much money your bet could potentially win are good skills to have. Odds in the American format (which is what sportsbooks in Arizona will use) will either be either positive or negative.

A positive number indicates that a wager is the underdog or less likely to happen. In this case, the number indicates how much you would win on a successful bet of $100. This doesn’t mean that you need to bet $100; the payout will adjust depending on how much you wager. For example, if you bet on the Phoenix Suns to win over 44.5 games and the odds were +125, a $100 bet would win $125 for a total return of $225.

On the other hand, negative odds indicate the favorite or something that is more likely to happen. The number itself represents how much you need to wager to collect $100 on a winning bet. For example, if you bet that the Arizona Diamondbacks will win under 92.5 games at odds of -115, you would need to bet $115 to win $100 for a total return of $215.

An important detail to check before you place a bet is what the sportsbook does for an unexpectedly shorter season. For example, in 2020, multiple leagues lost games in the wake of COVID-19. What would become of your wager on total wins for a season in a situation like that? This is information will be available on your chosen sportsbook.

Data to consider in your win total bets

Before betting on season win totals, it’s often a good idea to look at some past statistics to help you make more informed decisions. Each sport is distinct and has its trends that you’ll want to examine:

NFL win totals

The biggest thing to look at is the performance of a team during the previous season but that should be obvious. In NFL betting, the game is so scheme-heavy that coaching has more of an impact than some other sports. Take a look at which teams have changed coaches and how their new hires performed in their previous spots.

Teams can often take some time to adjust to a new coach. This happens even when coaches bring lots of excitement and hype. Thus a good strategy can be to look for teams with hyped-up hires, as their line will often be a few wins higher than their performance in the previous season. Betting on the under can sometimes be a smart play here, though this is just one factor in a long list.

NBA win totals

More than teams in other leagues, NBA teams rely on superstar players. This is why when a big name moves from one team to another, the two teams can see dramatic shifts in their lines for total season wins. Novice bettors, or those who are used to other sports, may think that these shifts are too drastic, but one must look at history to see how losing a top-five player can decimate a franchise.

An important thing to look at with NBA win totals is the frequency at which a team’s best players rest. Some of the top talents take many games off every season to stay fresh for the NBA playoffs, resulting in their team not performing as well during the regular season. Look at the stars on the team that you wish to bet on and their trend in this area before placing a wager on the NBA.

MLB win totals

Big free agency moves often dominate the MLB offseason headlines. It’s important to examine these moves and see which teams have done the work to improve their rosters and which have simply made a splashy purchase.

Managers in baseball can play less of a factor in a team’s record than for many other sports. Instead look for good depth as the length of the season means that every player on the roster may be vital to the team’s success at some point.

Analytics and data can also help us bet on season win totals. Many of these statistics can help separate team performance and strength from variables that cause noise. For example, we can compare teams across divisions to get a better idea of the strength of a schedule a team will be facing.

While they are useful, it’s important to remember that analytics are just one tool and many are still works in progress. Thus, while they should be a factor in your decisions, make sure to consider all aspects when betting on MLB.

Tips for betting on season win totals

Wagering on over/under win totals can be difficult for beginners. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Under is generally better than over

There are a lot more things that can go wrong during a sports season than things that can go right. A devastating injury, a team not gelling or a controversy on the team can quickly devastate a season. This is why generally it’s better to bet on the under instead of the over.

2. Pay attention to the schedule

An underrated factor in a team’s performance is its opponents. For leagues with smaller schedules like the NFL, this is very important, but even in MLB, the strength of a team’s division will have a large effect on that team’s success. Before placing a bet, take a look at how strong the opposition appears to be. If you want to take it a step further, take a look at opponent strength in the previous season to see how that affected a team’s record.

3. Stay away from the popular bets

As with any bet, season win totals will have some selections that are super popular among the public. These are often good bets to stay away from. The fact is that more bettors will lose than will win over the long term, so why would you feel comfortable following what they are doing?

Should you pick shorter or longer seasons to bet on?

While there are no inherent advantages or disadvantages to the different lengths of seasons, there are a few factors to consider before placing a bet. Throughout a long season, teams will trend closer to their true talent level as there are fewer chances for variance. For example, if an NFL team loses three games because of unlucky fumbles or bad calls by the referees, that is a huge blow to its record. For an MLB team, three losses are nothing.

Thus, you have more of a chance that a longer season will have teams play closer to their true strength. However, no matter if you bet on a longer season or a shorter season, there are going to be unexpected factors. Don’t let the length of the season be a decisive factor when placing a bet.

Instead, follow your sport of choice and look for value picks within that league. Good bets are good bets no matter what sport they take place in. The schedule length isn’t going to make or break your wagers.

When is the best time to bet on win totals?

The odds for season win totals come out early in the offseason and will remain available until some point near the start of the regular season, with the exact date depending on the sportsbook. Knowing when to place a bet can help you get the best odds.

The earlier that you place the bet, the less information available to both you and the sportsbook. Because sportsbooks will likely be better at projecting outcomes than your average bettor, it may make more sense for recreational bettors to wager earlier.

If you’re using an analytical model, you may want to wait until there is more information available to you. Any model will be more accurate with more information. Thus, betting closer to the start of the regular season can be a smarter idea. Remember that this also makes the lines much harder to beat.

Who determines the lines for season win totals?

Sportsbooks will set their lines for season win totals. These sportsbooks are often run by international companies with huge budgets to analyze and build betting markets. They use a mix of people who have years of experience and plenty of mathematical models to come up with the lines. When you consider that a mistake could cost them millions of dollars, it makes sense that sportsbooks put so much time and effort into the lines.

After the major Arizona sportsbooks have set the lines and released them, other smaller sportsbooks may either copy those lines or use them as a starting point when building their own. It’s rare to find large discrepancies between lines at different sportsbooks because of the arbitrage opportunity that would then be available. Instead, lines are usually pretty standard across most sportsbooks, and any differences will disappear quickly.

Other futures bets you can place

In addition to regular season win totals, there are many other futures bets that you can make across the various sports leagues. These are popular with all experience levels and offer excitement over the length of the entire season. Many bettors will often play multiple selections on the same futures market because of the high odds.

Some additional popular futures bets include:

  • League championships
  • Conference winners
  • Division winners
  • MVP
  • Individual awards