How Betting on Season Win Totals Works

The offseason is a chance for sports teams to make adjustments in hopes of improving. Free agency, trades, and the draft offer a chance to add new players to a roster that may be struggling.

That time of year has become a major event on the sports calendar, and the media covers it endlessly. Coverage will focus on how an impact player may take a team to another level or perhaps the arrival of a shrewd draft pick will result in a team squeaking out a few more wins.

For sports bettors, all these offseason events are important for another reason, and that is betting on season win totals. Season win totals are one of the highlights of the gambling year for any sport. They work much as the name suggests: You are betting on how many wins a team will get during the upcoming season.

The oddsmakers will set a line for all teams predicting how many wins they will get. From there, you can bet on whether a team’s actual win total will be over or under the sportsbook’s line. You’ll find season win totals across a variety of sports, and they are a favorite for many bettors. Read on to learn more.

Season win totals betting explained

Season win totals are a common futures bet available at many sportsbooks, and as mentioned above they use an over/under format. These bets allow you to bet on how a certain team will perform in the upcoming season, across a variety of sports.

Sportsbooks will release the lines well before the start of the season, giving you a chance to look them over for any bets that catch your eye. And if you do place a sports wager, you’ll be in for extra enjoyment and excitement over a whole season for only a single bet, especially if your wager comes down to the wire.

While the odds for season win total bets will often be -110 on each side, they can differ, as well. It’s important to consider the odds that you are accepting when you make a wager, as they will of course impact your potential return.

Key aspects of betting on win totals

Betting on season win totals is a type of futures bet that spans the entire season. Futures bets offer their own set of advantages and disadvantages when compared to bets that occur over a shorter time frame.

The inherent long time between placing your bet and seeing the result means there is plenty of time for something to occur that is out of your control. Sports are unpredictable — sometimes these events can spell good things for your selection, and other times they can hurt your chances. This is a risk you accept when you make a futures bet.

One thing about win totals for a full season that is important to understand is the concept of finding strong odds. Because of the extended time frame, season win totals odds can shift quite significantly.

For example, let’s say at the start of the offseason the New York Mets are coming off a disappointing season and are not expected to be very strong for the upcoming season. Their win total line will be relatively low. If they make a large impact in free agency and sign some big-name players, the line can shift wildly, and you could be left kicking yourself for not betting at the original line.

The odds for your bet are locked in at the moment you place your wager and will not reflect any changes in the market afterward. Thus, finding good odds for your bet is almost as important as picking the right team.

While it’s difficult to predict how a team will act over the offseason, any insights can be helpful. Examining rumors for any nuggets of information that can help you guess how the odds will move can make or break your bet.

How early do sportsbooks release new win totals lines?

Sportsbooks will release their win totals lines long before the actual season begins. They usually release them not long after the championship for the previous season has concluded. This allows sports bettors plenty of time to examine the lines and take a look at any possible selections they may like.

These win totals may have more vigorish built into the lines due to the increased level of uncertainty from the sportsbook. Thus, you may have to pay a slight premium to bet these lines early, but it may be worth it if you can find a large enough advantage.

Listed below are the approximate timelines for when season futures bets are released for each major North American sports league:

  • NFL: Spring
  • NCAA football: Spring
  • NBA: Summer
  • NHL: Summer
  • NCAA basketball: Summer
  • MLB: Winter

As you can see, most of these are directly after the championship has occurred for that sport but before the majority of the offseason has happened. This leads to the large swings in odds that are typical with many futures bets, which allows bettors a chance at finding a steal of a selection at good odds.

How soon do sportsbooks pay out win totals bets?

Even if your selection goes over the posted season win total before the season has concluded, most sportsbooks will wait until every team has finished before grading these bets. However, every sportsbook is different, and this is only a general rule.

Season win total bets can be voided due to extraordinary circumstances, which is something that happened recently. Many major sports leagues had to cancel or truncate their regular seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic, and this resulted in many season totals being voided.

This was devastating to some gamblers who had made shrewd selections and had to see their potential winnings disappear. For others, it was a blessing that helped return their money that was likely to be lost.

Advice for betting on season win totals

There are a couple of tips that are important to keep in mind when betting on season win totals. Here are some of the most common ones that could help you win a few more bets.

Under bets instead of over bets

When it comes to a sports season, there are a lot more things that can go wrong compared to a season going smoothly. Thus, it’s often smarter to look for under bets. Injuries and other catastrophes are a part of sports, and these are events that could lead teams to underperform their projected win totals.

Know when to bet them

The lines for season win totals can shift throughout the offseason as news is announced and things change. Knowing if you should be placing your bets early in the offseason compared to later is an important distinction for getting the best odds possible.

Earlier in the offseason, both gamblers and oddsmakers have less information to base their projections on. Later, more information will come to light that will make the lines sharper. Striking a balance between finding good odds and having a strong base of information is key.

Go for quality over quantity

This applies to many bet types but especially season win totals. It’s much better to pick a few that you feel strongly about and bet those more heavily compared to spreading yourself too thin.

Look for advantages that you might have over the sportsbook and attempt to exploit those instead of trying to beat the sportsbook many times. It’s difficult enough to win a bet; it’s much harder to win many bets.

What is strength of schedule?

One of the major factors that affects how a team will perform in the upcoming season is its strength of schedule. This makes sense when you think of the fact that a team’s opponents are going to play a large role in its record.

Determining every team’s strength of schedule is an important step in betting on win totals. Thankfully for everyone, much of this work is done by a variety of online outlets.

These companies will all have slightly different ways of calculating strength of schedule, with the most basic reflecting the previous season’s records for a team’s opponents. More advanced models may take into account other factors such as the amount of rest teams will get between games or where the game is being played, among other aspects.

Most of these strength of schedule numbers are available for free online and a Google search will return a plethora of options. It’s a good idea to go through these numbers and determine how much of a struggle each team will face in the coming season. These can help reinforce a decision or provide a sobering second thought before you bet.

Examples of season win totals

Suppose an oddsmaker has set the New York Yankees’ season win total line at 91.5. You do your research and have reasons to think the team will win more than 92 games. The odds offered by your bookmaker are -110 for each side, so you take the over for $110 and follow closely as the Yankees play out their season.

When the regular season has finished, the Yankees have won 102 games. Congratulations, your bet is a winner! You’re returned your original stake of $110 plus winnings of $100, for $210 in total.

For NFL season win totals, it works much the same way. Maybe the New York Giants made a big offseason acquisition and that has led you to believe that they will have a good season. You check their season win total, and your preferred sportsbook has it at 8.0.

The odds are listed at -125 for the over but you still feel as if it’s a strong bet so you take it for $125. The offseason acquisition makes a large impact on the Giants, but in the end, they finish 8-8.

Because the win total landed exactly on the line, the bet is a push. This means that the sportsbook returns your money, and you can think of it like a tie — no harm, no foul.