Skip to content

NBA Totals Betting Strategy

With enough experience and obviously a certain degree of chance, money line wagers may turn out to be profitable in the long run. Even point spread wagers can give the bettor an edge over the bookmakers given the right strategy but when it comes to TOTALS, more often than not, the bettor walks on very shaky ground.

Some say whoever bets on the Totals is virtually playing with fire – a true statement by all means yet didn’t mankind tame fire some 1 million years ago? So why not try to tame these volatile wagers and eventually, try to use them to our own advantage? More options means more chances to win right? That’s why we encourage you to stick around and read the next lines as you may learn a thing or two that may ultimately help you become a profitable bettor.

How To Wager On The NBA Totals?

First things first: what are these Totals? Or as you may find on some other sites OVER/UNDER bets?

The NBA Totals usually refer to the total points scored in an NBA game on any given regular-season or playoff day. That’s the total points scored by BOTH teams, not just one or the other.

On your favorite bookmaker’s website, these bets could look like the following:

Los Angeles Lakers @ Golden State Warriors

OVER 218 (-110)

UNDER 218 (-110)

Obviously, this is just an example but you already knew that. What you may not know is how to use this OVER and UNDER. It is quite simple: 218 is the magic number in this case. If you are a true NBA stats geek and see the Warriors are scoring on average around 114 points per game while the Lakers are averaging 110, then you could bet on the OVER. If both teams hit that average in the matchup and score a total of 224 points combined (114 -110 Warriors), then you will win an extra $100 on any $110 bet. On the other hand, if the Lakers have an off-night and score only 96 points while the home team finishes with 116 for a total of 212, then you will lose that $110.

What happens when the two teams score exactly 228 points (118 – 110 for example)? In betting terms, the situation is called a PUSH. Your initial wager is returned and you win nothing. You also don’t lose anything to be fair.

Other NBA Totals

These Totals are the standard during the regular season and the NBA Playoffs. In pre-season however, you may encounter some totally different Totals. Something like this:

Golden State Warriors

OVER 61.5 (+125)

UNDER 61.5 (-155)

These are in fact the season totals and are very common bets just before the start of the NBA regular season. In our example, the over means the Warriors win AT LEAST 62 games in the regular season. The under means the Warriors win AT MOST 61 games. The over gets you a $125 profit for every $100 bet WHEN Golden State wins 62 or more games. When the Warriors win just 58 games out of 82, the under will make you $100 richer given a $155 wager.

Individual OVER/UNDER Wagers

During the NBA season, a few hours before every game, the bookmakers usually introduce another type of OVER/UNDER wagers linked to one’s player performance. Performance in terms of points scored in the game, rebounds made, assists, steals, and blocked shots.

Such wagers could look like this:

Russell Westbrook

OVER 25.5 points (-120)

UNDER 25.5 points (+105)

To understand, you only need to apply what you’ve learned so far. If you bet on the OVER, Westbrook must score AT LEAST 26 points and you could cash in $100 as profit from your $120 bet. On the other hand, if the point guard comes after an injury and is rusty, you can very well bet on the UNDER. Russ scores 18 and voila, you have an extra $105 from your $100 wager.

Since today’s mainstream media is focused on Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and fantasy basketball, you could use all the free information and apply it to your betting strategy.


Like any informed bettor who want to minimize the costs and also maximize the profits, you could combine all these totals presented in the previous section and link them together in a super bet. You already know what we are talking about and that’s our (and yours for that matter) favorite bet, the underrated parlays.

But an OVER/UNDER parlay? This could be a lot of fun. And an example could prove our point.

In the next 3 hours, 6 NBA teams will jump ball half-court to get things started: Golden State Warriors will take on the Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks will meet the Denver Nuggets, and the San Antonio Spurs will face the Los Angeles Clippers. Pretty interesting matchups with lots of interesting totals. You pick the following:

Golden State Warriors – Houston Rockets

OVER 220 (-110)

Atlanta Hawks – Denver Nuggets

Nikola Jokic (DEN)

OVER 9.5 rebounds (-109)

San Antonio Spurs – Los Angeles Clippers

UNDER 219.5 (-110)

In a parlay, your picks could get you 6 to 1 winnings odds. Bet $100 and you get $600 as pure profit. Plus EV right? Compared to standard betting where you have to wager on each and every pick, so a total of $300 ($100 each) can get you a total payout of $574 ($274 profit).The choice is clear right? Do remember though, the chances to lose your wager increased significantly in a parlay as ALL picks MUST be correct. Get one wrong and you are in the red territory.

More picks? Higher odds however lower winning chances.

2 Picks 2.65 to 1 $365 $265
3 Picks 6 to 1 $700 $600
4 Picks 12.3 to 1 $1330 $1230
5 Picks 24.5 to 1 $2550 $2450

Worth noting is that the odds and payouts are based on -110 money line picks. The money line can be up or down that number especially if you pick individual or season totals.

NBA OVER/UNDER Tips & Tricks

Getting back to our ever-decreasing winning chances, picking two random NBA totals events and linking them together in a parlay would mean we will win 1 out of 4 times on average. Picking randomly 3 NBA events in a parlay can get us 1 win out of a total of 8 tries.

To break even, the odds must be 3 to 1 for a 2-pick parlay, and 7 to 1 for a 3-pick parlay, as presented in our NBA Parlay Betting Guide. The bookies however give us worse odds so we can’t quite win without a significant-enough edge.

In the TOTALS aka OVER/UNDER category, that edge is pretty hard to come by, making this type of wager very risky. Very risky as in low chances of actually winning especially when you pick multiple ones in a parlay. That is why we advise AGAINST placing exclusive totals or Over/Under parlays. As an alternative, try to use the totals in combination with point spread or money line picks. Optimally include only ONE over/under wager in your parlay to increase your winning chances.

Of course this is only if you are randomly picking teams on the OVER/UNDER bet without any significant research. When you live and breath the sport as we do then you will come to understand when a OVER/UNDER bet is worth gambling on. For example we placed a 9 game parlay with 9 UNDER bets in early November 2018 and won! Thats $2000 return from a $100 wager, so it can be done however this doesn’t happen often.

Remember the bookmakers are always one step ahead adjusting the totals on a daily basis so that they can get a hefty profit. Those adjustments are made to lure the bettors into thinking they actually have an edge when in reality, they don’t.

A Look At The NBA Basketball Trends

To prove our point, let’s take a closer look at the NBA trends when it comes down to standard totals (the total points scored in a game).

According to, since 2003 till November 2018, only one NBA team passed the magic 52.4% threshold (the breakeven point for the bettor given one single bet with a -110 money line – read NBA Point Spread Betting Strategy for more info) in the OVER category: the Milwaukee Bucks (52.8%). In the UNDER category, only Orlando Magic got past the breakeven point at 53.1%. All the other 28 were basically losers.

If we slide forward to November 2018, shrinking the timeline more and more, the deviations are far more compelling. Let’s take the 2017 – 2018 season as our use case: 6 NBA teams had a ‘profitable’ OVER with the same Milwaukee Bucks leading the league (58.4%). Even more interesting, 17 NBA teams passed the 52.4% in the UNDER category. This means the bookies (and the bettors alike) overreacted to the offensive-driven trends of the league offering way too many high-scoring totals. Could the trend continue going forward?

Another very interesting trend this time much more significant has to do with resting days a team has between games. From 2003 to November 2018, when the team has at least a 4-day gap between games (usually happens in the playoffs), the beyond-the-breakeven-point OVERs are much more prevalent. 19 NBA teams have a ‘profitable’ OVER leading up to 1st-place New York Knicks with a 73.9%. Only 6 have above 52.4% UNDERs with Toronto Raptors leading the pack (72%).

A Word About Today’s NBA Stats

From resting days to the ever-increasing stats category, all can help you get the much-needed edge to conquer sports betting. What about NBA stats? Very useful tools that grow more complex with each passing season. We’re not talking just about the old-school averages but about the most recent Offensive/Defensive Ratings, Adjusted Net Rating, plus/minus, and so on.

But how much is too much given today’s information overload? Indeed, you might get confused looking at such complicated formulas and stats and miss the big picture: sometimes going back to basics and using the simpler indicators is the way to go forward. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the numbers and stick to just a few that you can understand clearly.

A simple NBA betting plan can do wonders sometimes and even work better than a complex one. Don’t take our word for it, just use these simple words whenever you get stuck or your sports betting bankroll is getting thin.

Also, DO remember to come back daily and see our NBA expert picks for your next winning parlay. Who knows, you might thank us later.

Good luck!