Sides vs Totals: Where Should You Place Your Bets?

Posted by Alex Murphy on July 15, 2015 in

Should I bet sides or totals? This is the question that is on the mind of a lot of sports betting fans, especially those that are just starting out. The problem with the question is that there is no real answer. Some people have been very successful betting sides, while others have had as much success betting the totals.

When it comes to placing bets, each sport is different. For example, most people that bet on basketball games claim to have more success betting the totals than they do betting the sides, whereas, most people that bet on football, claim to have more success placing bets on the sides than on the totals. This tells us that there is no real advantage using either of these betting strategies, and that you should use what works for you.


For some people, betting sides makes more sense, because they get to pick which team will win an event, and in almost every sport, there is always a favorite and an underdog. Betting on the favorite is a safe approach, because the favorites win more often than the underdogs. The only problem with that strategy, is the fact that the oddsmakers know that the betting public loves betting on the favorites, which is why the profit margin is very low when picking favorites to win straight up. For example, a game featuring the Seattle Seahawks and the Oakland Raiders will likely have a money line of -1200 for the Seahawks to win, and +1100 for the Raiders to win. This means that you will have to spend $1200 on the Seahawks in order to win $100, and if you bet $100 on the Raiders, you will win $1100.

Looking at that example, it is clearly not profitable to bet on the favorite, even when you win. This is why the oddsmakers try to entice sports bettors with the point spread. The point spread offers you a chance to win more money betting on the favorite, because the line is usually set from -105 to -130. If you win with those types of odds, you can still turn a decent profit betting on favorites.


When you are placing bets using the point spread, you have to be careful with your picks, because these spreads are set in order to entice you to pick the favorite. If you have been placing bets for a while, you should already understand the tactics, and if you are new to betting, it simply means that they know that people will rather bet on the teams that they see winning on television all the time, and ignore the underdogs, who actually provide the best value in some cases.

If you are able to remain impartial when making your bets, and are able to look beyond the favorite and find the best value, you will be successful betting on the sides.

When it comes to betting on totals, the winner doesn’t matter, which takes some of the pressure away from your decision, because you don’t have to worry about picking the favorite or underdog to win the game. While the pressure of picking the winning team has been removed from the equation, you still have to bet on if the two teams will go over the amount of points provided by the oddsmakers or if they will be under it when the game is over. This seems simple enough, but like when you are picking sides, it is easier said than done.


Most people use statistics to help them determine if a game will go over or not, but it isn’t an exact science, so you can only get so much from the statistics. One trend that oddsmakers have noticed, is the fact a lot of people who bet on the totals tend to go for the over instead of under. The most common reasoning behind this is that people prefer offense to defense, and bet accordingly. Since oddsmakers know people tend to bet the over more often, they have started setting the totals in a way that exploits the tendency to their benefit.

The advantage of betting the totals in games over picking the sides is the fact that you can afford to be wrong and still be right. If you think that a game will go over the total because one team is going to have a very good day, but it turns out that that team struggles, you can still win your bet if the other team has a good day.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, neither betting strategy has an advantage over the other, you just have to find a good balance between the two of them to maximize your chances of winning your bets.