What Does Over/Under Mean in Sports Betting and How to Read It?
Betting on the over/under goals markets in football is just betting on the number of goals in the match. The most popular of these is the over/under 2.5 goals market as this is the closest to most leagues’ average goals per match. It’s that half a goal that confuses many punters new to over/under betting – but really it’s there to make things clearer! Let’s take a look at an example:
If you place a bet on the over 2.5 goals market in a Premier League match between Liverpool and Everton, you will win if there are 3 goals or more scored in the match.
If there are 0, 1 or 2 goals in the match, the bet loses. The number of goals has to be “over 2.5”. If the market was called “over/under 2” then would 2 goals be over or under? Neither!
For most matches, over/under 2.5 tends to be closest to the expected goals for the match so you will probably find the prices to be something like this:
- Under 2.5: 1.92
- Over 2.5: 2.06
In a one-sided match between a team that scores a lot of goals and one that concedes a lot, the odds for over 2.5 will be much lower, perhaps 1.45, reflecting the higher probability of there being 3 or more goals.
Most sportsbooks will offer over/under betting markets ranging from over/under 0.5 goals to over/under 5.5 goals, even higher on some occasions.
(Note that the price for backing under 0.5 goals should always be the same as the price for 0-0 in the correct score market. If it isn’t, you have an arbitrage opportunity!)
How to Read the Over/Under Markets
The first thing to realise when reading the over/under markets is that the betting odds represent the predicted probability of that number of goals being scored.
You can convert any decimal price into percentage probability with this formula: Probability = 100/Odds. So betting odds of 2.0 mean there is a 50% chance of that outcome occurring. Odds of 2.5 mean there is a 40% chance.
The next thing to consider is that nothing is guaranteed! You might have a match featuring a high scoring side against a weaker team that has been shipping a lot of goals. There will probably be a lot of goals but it’s not definite.
In the 2018/19 season, Manchester City smashed Chelsea (who finished 3rd in the league) 6-0. The following week they could only beat West Ham (who finished 20 points behind Chelsea) 1-0. Both matches at home. There would have been a lot of people expecting way more goals in the West Ham match.
Anything can happen, so don’t stake too much thinking something is guaranteed and consider the price and probability to make sure you’re getting value.
Reading the Over/Under Markets In-play
Keeping an eye on the over/under markets is the best way to become familiar with how the odds change during a football match.
As you’d expect, the odds for over 2.5 goals will shorten drastically as soon as a goal goes in – but the odds increase as the clock ticks down.
That means that a bet on unders will become profitable after just a few minutes of goalless play. Learning how to time your entry into the under/over markets can prove very rewarding.
Another thing to monitor is overreactions in price movements. If a game starts slowly, the price for over 2.5 goals will often move out further than usual after 10 minutes of play. If you see the game pick up and the players show more attacking intent, and the odds are still lengthening, you can take advantage of the higher odds by backing goals.
Overreactions can occur when goals go in too. The price of overs will often crash as everyone rushes to bet on more goals. After a few minutes, this price stabilises at a slightly higher price.
This overreaction gives you the opportunity to jump in and out of the under/over betting markets, scraping profits as you go.
There are many opportunities to win from under/over betting and the more time you spend watching the markets, the more opportunities you will see.
How to Bet on the Over/Under Markets on the Betting Exchange
The over/under betting markets are perfectly suited to trading on the betting exchanges. The prices change so quickly and you even have the possibility of winning your bet before the match is over.
As mentioned earlier, the price for overs gets bigger as time passes – providing no goals are scored. As soon as a goal goes in, the price drops drastically. The opposite is true for the “under” markets.
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With the vast majority of football matches on Betfair going in-play, you can ramp up your profits by trading in and out of the over/under markets. Success in over/under betting is mainly about timing. Research that day’s games and look for the likely number of goals. You also want to know when the first goal is likely to go in. Take a look at the previous 5-10 home and away matches for both sides to get this information.
Let’s say you find a football match where the stats tell you to expect 3 goals, with the first coming around the 30th minute. The starting odds might be:
- Under 2.5: 2.2
- Over 2.5: 1.84
After 25 minutes you check in with the match: it’s 0-0 and the price for overs has moved to 2.3 (unders is at 1.78). Now you place a £20 bet on over 2.5. A goal goes in on 40 minutes – 1-0 at half-time. You could trade out now for a profit but decide to keep the bet. Another goal goes in on 65 minutes to make it 2-0 and the away team get a late consolation in the 86th minute.
2-1 and you’ve won your bet, making £26 profit instead of the £16.80 you would have made by taking the pre-match price. And there are ways to make even more money betting on the over/under markets. Knowing that early goals were unlikely, you could back under 2.5 before the game starts and trade out at 25 minutes, banking some profit before backing over 2.5.
You could trade out evenly so you lose less if there are under 3 goals, or you could adjust the numbers so all the profit from this trade is put on overs, giving you the chance of a much bigger win.
There are many ways to bet on the over/under markets on the betting exchange – the most important things to consider are the expected goals stats and timing of the goals.
Hedging Your Bets with the Over/Under Betting
Another way over/under betting can help your betting profits is to use it as a hedge for your other bets.
Let’s say you’ve backed Chelsea -1.5 in the Asian handicap markets in a match against Arsenal. For the bet to win, Chelsea must win by 2 goals. That means you need at least 2 goals in the game – if Arsenal were to score, you would need at least 4.
To reduce your risk, you could place a bet on under 2.5 goals too. This isn’t a perfect hedge as it’s possible for you to lose both bets (if the match ended 3-2, for example), but it does show how you can use under/over betting as a safeguard if the match doesn’t go the way you want.
Another possible use is in a match where you expect the home team to thrash the other side but want a safety net in case things don’t go as expected.
For instance, the Man City vs. West Ham match mentioned earlier. You could back City to win by “Any unquoted home” score (win and score 4+) and back under 2.5 goals in the match. The first odds would be around 3.4 and the second around 3. If Man City win and score 4, you win. If West Ham keep them out, you win too!
Should Over/Under Betting Be Part of Your Strategy?
Over/under betting offers you some great opportunities to make profits and should certainly be considered by serious punters. You might just want to place pre-match bets on the under/over markets but the real rewards come from trading your position in-play.
To be successful with over/under betting, you should become adept at estimating the expected goals of a match and know how to convert this to the probability of each outcome. If you’re trading or placing your bets in-play, make sure you have an idea of how early the first goal is likely to be.
If you want to use the over/under goal markets for matched betting, make sure you choose a market with high odds, something like over/under 5.5. You will get more profit out of your free bet if the odds are higher (ideally 8+) and closely matched between bookmaker and exchange.
Over/under betting is one of the fastest moving and most fun markets, but remember that you’re here to win! Always have a plan, know when you want to get in and out of the market and do your research on expected goals and you have every chance of success.