A Brief Guide to Prop Bets

You probably don’t want to place quite this many. It’s arguably a bit excessive. (Jed Jaco/SB Nation)

You probably don’t want to place quite this many. It’s arguably a bit excessive. (Jed Jaco/SB Nation)

Not too long ago, we gave you a complete guide to sports betting for beginners. And while we mentioned several different types of wagers in this guide, we did not cover them all at equal length. For instance, we mentioned that prop bets exist, and we gave a short explanation of what they are, but we did not go into too much detail about them. Part of the reason for this is that prop bets aren’t really a major part of our services. That said, we understand that some people might be interested in exploring them as an option.

And if you want to go ahead and make some prop bets, whether because you think you might be able to make some extra flow or because you just think it might be kind of fun, then we aren’t about to stop you. But if this is the case, then you are going to need a bit more of an expansive guide than we gave you the first time around. As such, this page should explain to you what prop bets are, while giving you a few examples of different types of prop bets that are often made and a few different strategies you might utilize if you decide to make them yourself.

Again, bear in mind that prop bets are not a core aspect of our business. As such, it is unlikely that more detailed guides to prop betting will follow. There is a lot of extra information out there if you choose to investigate the art of prop betting in a bit more detail, but this should be enough to get you started.

What Are Prop Bets?

Prop bets, or “proposition bets” as they are more formally called, are bets about specific occurrences that might occur during a game. These occurrences usually revolve around events that do not necessarily influence who will win or who will lose, but rather have an impact on various stats or expected events. This means that placing a prop bet generally has nothing to do with who you think will win or lose the game, but rather simply how you think the game will be played.

Some people choose to classify prop bets and futures as a part of the same category, but this is not quite accurate. Futures are often wagers on specific events such as who will win the Super Bowl. These types of wagers are placed well in advance, and almost always revolve around who will win a major event such as a league championship or a conference title. While there are definitely prop bets which are placed well in advance, the type of wagers with which we are currently concerned are those which specifically do not try to guess a winner.

That said, even if prop bets do not attempt to decide the winner of a game, there are some prop bets which are concerned with how a game will be won. Another similarity between prop bets and futures is that some prop bets are concerned with long-term occurrences, such as the stats a certain team or player might accumulate over the course of an entire season. These types of wagers are naturally much more difficult, but will possibly pay off well if the outcome is in line with the bettor’s predictions.

Most prop bets, however, are concerned with more short-term occurrences. These bets will be placed on a single game, and will often revolve specific numbers for various stats or will answer various yes or no questions regarding occurrences that may or may not happen. Short-term prop bets can be a little bit easier since there are some that still carry a roughly 50/50 chance, but these types of bets are often still more difficult than straight bets since the occurrences in question are generally less predictable regardless of the amount of research put into them.

You can place prop bets on just about any sport, although baseball is arguably the most popular sport for proposition betting by far. Baseball is already pretty concerned with player stats, so it makes sense that many sports bettors would see baseball as one of the better sports for prop betting. In fact, it is actually believed by some that prop betting began as early as the nineteenth century, when people would bet on such occurrences as the number of strikes thrown by a pitcher or whether or not a batter would manage to make it to first base.

If you look at the page linked above, then you will see that prop betting is not technically limited to sports. There is also a form of exotic betting known as “novelty betting” in which bettors place wagers on non-athletic events. According to the above article, novelty betting supposedly began with bets on who shot the character of JR Ewing on Dallas. Many Vegas sportsbooks have also published odds on such issues as the winner of Survivor or the most likely candidate to win a presidential race. However, since wagers on non-athletic events are not exactly legal, the aforementioned sportsbooks do not actually collect wagers on the lines they set.

Examples of Prop Bets

There was a prop bet for the 2015 Super Bowl about whether or not Katy Perry would show any cleavage. The sharks were less anticipated. (Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

There was a prop bet for the 2015 Super Bowl about whether or not Katy Perry would show any cleavage. The sharks were less anticipated. (Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

There are many different examples of short-term prop bets that you might consider if you are looking to get into this form of betting. For instance, many prop bets revolve around firsts. You might bet on who is going to get the first shot in a basketball game, or which team will score the first touchdown in a football game. In baseball, you might bet on which team scores the first run or even which batter will be the first to get to base. You might make similar prop bets in hockey, such as who will score the first goal. Other prop bets involving firsts might involve who will attempt the first shot in a basketball or hockey game, rather than simply who will score first.

Then, there are bets on specific numbers. In baseball, you might bet on how many bases a team will make or how many strikes a certain player is going to throw. In basketball, you might bet on how many times a specific player is going to foul or how many three-pointers they’re going to throw. In hockey, you might bet on how many pucks a goalie is going to block or how many they’re going to let by. In football, you could bet on the number of passing or rushing yards a specific team or player is going to get.

Some prop bets do not concern themselves with how many times a certain event will occur, but rather whether or not it will occur to begin with. For instance, is a specific baseball player going to get a home run? Is the last basket in a basketball game going to be a buzzer beater by a specific team? You might even bet on whether or not a fight is going to break out in a hockey game, or whether you think a specific football team is going to attempt a two-point conversion at any point (although you would be more likely to bet on how many they will attempt). Various sportsbooks might offer similar prop bets that are more competitive, such as whether or not a specific player will score more points than another player on the opposing team.

Long-term prop bets will usually fall into the same categories as those above, with a few more specific stats involved. For instance, you might try to guess which player will get the most passing yards on a certain football team or even in the NFL (or NCAA) at large. You might try to guess which baseball player will get the most home runs in the MLB, or which NBA (or NCAA) team will have the best percentage in terms of three-pointers or free throws. You might also try to guess which NHL team will have the best scoring rate, or whether a certain player will manage to get a hat trick at any point during the season.

Keep in mind that these are just a few examples. There is a multitude of possible prop bets that might be offered, and the betting lines may be different for just about any one of them. The more difficult the bet, the more payout will be offered in accordance with the lines set by the sportsbooks. Also note that the number of choices will be affected by the prop bet in question. For instance, betting on whether or not a certain player will manage to score a home run in a game will not have as many lines as a bet on which NFL player will win Offensive Rookie of the Year.

There are also novelty bets that technically pertain to sports, but that are still considered illegal by the Nevada Gaming Commission because they do not actually have anything to do with athletic performance. Such bets might include the type of Gatorade used the shower the coach at the end of football game, or whether or not a basketball coach will get into an argument with the ref at any point. Some have even placed comedic bets on the anticipated duration of the national anthem, which is a running joke among baseball fans. Even the example given above regarding whether or not a fight will break out during a hockey game might technically be considered illegal, as there is no athleticism involved in the outcome of the wager.

Prop Betting Strategies

We hope you liked math when you were in school, because you’re going to be doing a lot of it. (Sal Falko/PhotoPin)

We hope you liked math when you were in school, because you’re going to be doing a lot of it. (Sal Falko/PhotoPin)

While prop bets can be a bit more difficult to win than more general types of sports betting, the strategies involved are arguably about the same. The most important thing to remember is that you need to do as much research as possible on the teams and players involved. This can make long-term prop bets somewhat cumbersome, since there will often be more players to consider when placing bets on such issues as which NBA player will be named the league MVP at the end of the year.

Even though the actual amount of research involved may be overwhelming, the actual information to process will generally be similar to the information assessed by handicappers when picking a favored team for a normal wager. For instance, you will likely want to check out such things as injury reports, player stats, performance at home versus on the road, etc. As with standard bets, you will want to go as far back with this information as you can in order to paint a fuller picture of the team’s or player’s abilities.

The one benefit that you do have when doing this research is that you may not need to look at quite as many stats as you would usually look at when handicapping a game. Of course, if you still plan on placing a straight bet, then be sure to do the usual research while simply paying extra attention to the stats needed for your prop bet. But if prop bets are your major concern at the moment, then you can focus on just the relevant stats. It can still be hard to predict the outcome of your wager, but it’s always better to be safe and avoid going in blind.

There are some other benefits to prop bets, which revolve around the sheer fact that there are so many of them. Basically, since there is no shortage of available props, you can place a number of them at different sportsbooks to try and increase your chances of winning. You can try to place a few different props on the same game, which gives you the ability to split your chances a bit. This also gives you the opportunity to shop around a bit for the best odds, which is something that online sports bettors should really be doing anyway.

In fact, finding the right sportsbook is a big part of the strategy for prop bets. This is true for two reasons. First, you want to be able to find a sportsbook that offers the type of props in which you might be interested, not to mention a few props that will give you a fair chance of winning. Second, you want to be able to find a sportsbook that isn’t putting as much juice on some of those prop bets as their competitors. This will give you something of an edge, as it will not increase your chances of winning but will at least lessen the risk you take by placing your bet.

Prop bets are not generally the best or most popular way to go in terms of sports betting, but they can be a lot of fun for those who are looking to revitalize their interests in the hobby of sports betting at large. With the amount of variety that is available to you in terms of which types of props you might place on various sports, it can be hard to get bored. Of course, it can also be hard to get good at it. If you want to start making prop bets as anything other than a casual bettor, then you had better learn to start immersing yourself in research. Otherwise, the risk might outweigh the excitement.