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Betting 101: Understanding how to bet on totals
We have utilized three different types of betting totals with our Tennis Bets picks: game totals, set totals and individual player totals.
Published Feb 12, 2023
WATCH: Get started betting on tennis as TENNIS.com gambling expert Zach Cohen gives his best tips—free of charge.
We’ve already done a deep dive into what it means to bet the spread, but how about betting the total? This is one of the best ways to bet a tennis match, as it doesn’t require you to make a hard stance on which player will win. Instead, you can decide whether you think the match will be close.
Easy enough, right? Let’s get into it.
One of the ways to bet a match is by taking the Over/Under on a game total. If you think a match will be lengthy, you’ll generally want to bet the Over. If you think it’ll be quick, you’ll want to bet the Under.
Using an example, a best-of-three match between Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev might have a total of 22.5 games. So, if you want to bet the Over, that means you think there will be at least 23 games played over the course of the match. That would mean that the match would either need to go to a deciding set, or just be tightly contested through two—in this specific example, a 7-6, 6-4 win for one of the players would satisfy the Over.
One of the beauties of having an Over on the game total is that you find out whether you’re on good pace early on. That’s especially true in a best-of-five match, where you might have an Over of something like 36.5 games and the underdog unexpectedly wins a set—which guarantees at least another 12 games (assuming both players stay healthy). Sure, betting the total will probably result in you constantly doing math in your head throughout a match, but you always feel like you have a chance when you’re specifically on an Over. Betting the Under is a little more stressful, as it almost feels like you need everything to go to plan.
We should point out that the total is an especially interesting bet to make when you have matchups between two big servers, like John Isner and Reilly Opelka. That’s a match in which it’s hard to figure out who will win, as tiebreakers can be a little random. But you do feel confident that both players will force those ‘breakers, making the Over a play that’s a little easier to justify than a side. Tiebreakers are golden tickets for Over bettors.
The set total is very similar and a a little easier to track. With a game total, the numbers involved are a lot higher, but that’s not the case here. In a best-of-three match, you’re simply deciding whether you think a match will be decided in straight sets or not. If you don’t think it will be, you’d take the Over on a 2.5-set total. If you do think it’ll be wrapped up quickly, you’d take the Under.
At a major, things would be a little more difficult on the men’s side. However, the premise stays the same, with you now having a chance to decide whether it will end in three, four or five sets. If you think a match is going the distance, you can take Over 4.5 sets—and you’ll likely get a good payout on that, as it’s rarely going to be the most likely outcome. You’ll most commonly be dealing with a number like 3.5.
Player Game Total
One last way you can bet a total, and it’s a bit of a unique one, is by taking a player’s individual game total. We did this in the Australian Open men’s final, as we backed Stefanos Tsitsipas to win Over 14.5 games on his own. The reason you might want to bet something like this is that you might be confident in a player’s ability to hang around a little, but you’re not confident enough in them winning a set. That’s exactly what the case was with Tsitsipas, and the Greek star ended up winning exactly 15 games to help us cash. He was competitive throughout the course of that match, but he never broke through. That result perfectly justified our reasoning.
On the flip side, you might take a heavy favorite to win less than 12.5 games in a best-of-three match. The reason you’d do that is that the odds could be unplayable to take a Top 5 player against somebody that’s outside the Top 100 in a match you believe will end in straight sets. And dealing with the game spread in a potential blowout is tricky. But if you’re confident your player can handle their business without needing seven games in either of the two sets, you can usually get great odds on these Unders.