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Betting on team win totals is a popular futures option across all the major North American sports. These are bets where you try to predict if a team will win more or fewer games than the line that a sportsbook has set. It’s also something that appeals to more experienced bettors because a few educated picks can result in a large profit.
While the various leagues will play different numbers of games, the premise remains the same. The NFL has the shortest season with only 17 regular-season games, MLB has 162 games, and the NBA falls in the middle with 82 games. Despite the varying schedules, betting on season win totals is popular in all of these leagues.
This guide will cover key points about betting on season win totals in those three sports. One of the great things about this market is that once you understand the premise, you can extrapolate the ideas to any other league that offers the same betting market.
Win totals odds
Understanding season win totals
Whenever the lines come out for season win totals, it’s a big day in the sports betting community. Sportsbooks build each line by looking at how a team performed in the past and any changes it has made going into the season, and building predictive models to give an outlook on the upcoming season.
If a team’s win total line is a round number, and its wins land exactly on that line, it’s a push. If you made a bet, the sportsbook will return your wager to you. If the line ends in a .5 — for example, an NFL team has a line at 7.5 wins — then it’s impossible to push as the team’s total wins must land above or below that number.
One important thing to do before you place your sports bet is to check your sportsbook’s rules on what makes the bet eligible. For most sportsbooks, the entire season needs to take place for a bet to be valid. For example, any bets on seasons shortened by COVID-19 would have been void.
Even if your bet has already succeeded, most sportsbooks need the season to play out in its entirety before they acknowledge bets and pay them out. Thus, even if you had bet on a team to go over a certain number of wins and it did so, if the league suspended or altered the season due to an event like COVID-19, you would not win the bet. While this can be an unfortunate reality if you would have won your bet, it can also be a good thing if your bet was going to lose.
Win totals trends over the last 10 years
When betting on season win totals, it can be a useful exercise to look at the trends over the past 10 years and get an idea of which data can help us predict winners. Because each league has some distinct characteristics, we’ll look at them individually.
The dominance of Tom Brady over the past era of football points to a trend that might seem obvious to some. The quarterback position is the most important across all sports, and having a star there means that a team likely has a greater chance of success. Thus, betting on football teams with talented quarterbacks can give you a high floor for over bets.
The shorter schedule of the NFL betting season also emphasizes the strength of a team’s opponents. Teams that play in relatively weak divisions will have multiple games every year that are relatively easy. If a team has more than one rebuilding team in its division, that’s a huge benefit to consider when betting on NFL season win totals.
With bullpens seemingly playing an ever-more-prominent role, it makes sense to pay increased attention to a team’s bullpen when trying to figure its overall strength.
Additionally, with baseball’s devotion to analytics, numerous metrics will attempt to account for luck and other extraordinary factors. Looking for teams that were unlucky last season but have strong metrics is usually a good indicator of a potential bounce-back. With sportsbooks making use of analytics, you might as well, too for betting on the MLB.
The past decade in the NBA has been one defined by player empowerment and super teams. There are numerous examples of multiple star players joining forces in one city. While these teams always have lots of hype, that doesn’t mean they’ll always live up to expectations when betting on NBA games.
In addition, many star players will often take some regular-season games off. Overall, the regular season has been devalued and teams will accept more losses in return for more energy come playoff time. Beware of teams that have super high lines when deciding your NBA win totals bet.
Analytics have become increasingly influential across all sports. These numbers have helped both bettors and sportsbooks get a better idea of how the upcoming season will go. Static sports such as baseball have seen the quickest analytical revolution, but it’s influencing all sports to some degree.
While the analytics may be less refined in sports such as basketball, they are also less widely used, which could be an advantage for a savvy bettor. Do some research online and look for analytics that could help give you an advantage.
Tips for betting on season win totals
One of the first tips that many people share for betting on season win totals is that there is much more that can go wrong than can go right for many sports teams. Events such as injuries, bad chemistry or a change in coaching or management can completely alter a team’s season and hurt its record. These things happen often and will derail a few teams every year.
Things going perfectly for a team is much rarer. Thus, betting on the under can often be an interesting and potentially sensible pick. There’s a long list of sports teams that had plenty of hype heading into a season and then imploded. The list of teams that vastly overachieved is much smaller.
Another tip for betting on season win totals is to look at teams that have had major changes since the previous season. For example, a team might’ve changed its coach, signed a big free agent or had players returning from injury. Teams that have experienced major changes will be harder for the sportsbooks to judge. Thus, the sports lines that the books release for these teams can be weaker and more easily exploitable. However, these are also more difficult for bettors to judge for the same reason.
Are shorter or longer seasons better?
While different bettors will give you different answers based on their preferences, there are some pros and cons with each schedule format.
A shorter season, such as the 17 games that the NFL plays, ensures that the players bring their all every week. There’s no such thing as a “letdown game” or a “schedule loss” when you are in the NFL. Playing only once a week means that every team is focused and prepared for every matchup.
On the other hand, the longer seasons for baseball and basketball will have games where one team is at a disadvantage because of fatigue or travel, for instance. This can lead to a team losing a game that it might win in other circumstances, negatively impacting your ability to predict a team’s overall performance.
Keeping that in mind, the longer schedule does offer one large advantage to bettors — in a shorter season, variance is much more prevalent. A couple of freak plays can greatly affect the final record of an NFL team. However, for a baseball team, a few losses on unlucky plays will be a smaller part of that team’s overall record.
Therefore, betting on the longer seasons can give you a better chance of getting an accurate representation of a team’s strength, which can make betting on season win totals easier.
When should you bet on season win totals?
Similarly to the question above, there’s no definite answer as to when you should place a bet on total wins. Like most betting markets, the win totals betting lines will become sharper over time as more information becomes available. This will make value tougher to find, but also help you out as you will have more evidence on which to base your picks.
One of the largest considerations when deciding timing on a win total bet is the popularity of your choice. If the public decides to hammer the over for a certain team, then you will see the odds or that line change.
Thus, if you’re going to bet on a selection that you think will be popular, factor the potential movement into when you want to bet, depending on if you will place an over or under bet. If you think that your selection will be going against the public, waiting to bet can help you get a better deal.
As far as popular picks, start by looking at teams with large fanbases. For instance, the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Yankees will always have fans who are willing to bet on them doing well. Another way to check if your bet is going to be popular is to do research online and see the level of chatter about your pick. A high volume of mentions on social media could mean that the line might swing away from you.
The last consideration for bettors is that the earlier you bet, the greater the chance that an injury or other unforeseen event derails you pick. If you bet on a team to go over its line and it suffers a string of season-ending injuries, waiting would have helped you avoid that issue.
When do bets on win totals pay out?
Sportsbooks pay out all futures bets after the season. Sportsbooks will wait until all the games are over before they grade the bets, as they do not want to pay out bets too early. Most sportsbooks will wait for every team to play all of its games, even if the team that you bet on has already finished its season.
Therefore, you will need to wait before seeing any returns on your futures bets like season over/under win totals. On the upside, this is a bet that can provide excitement over a long period and allow you to follow the ups and downs that any sports season brings.
Other futures bets
While win totals are a popular futures betting option, many other futures are also extremely common. Futures bets can offer strong returns because of the difficulty of predicting events so far into the future. Here are some additional popular futures bets that can be found at top sportsbooks, such as Hard Rock Sportsbook, Caesars, DraftKings Sportsbook, and BetMGM sportsbook:
- Major individual awards: Examples include betting on the MVP in different leagues, the Rookie of the Year or other awards on that same level. You can also find specific odds for players to win awards, such as Jimmy Butler’s odds to win MVP, etc.
- Team to make the playoffs: Similar to season win totals, except this time you’re betting on whether a specific team will make the playoffs. Depending on the sport, the varying number of playoff spots changes the risk profile for this bet.
- Team to win a championship: Winning the championship is the goal of any sports team, and for sports bettors, this can be the most common futures bet. Picking the championship team from the entire pool isn’t easy, but the rewards for correctly picking one of the longer shots can be large.