A Guide To Prop Bets
Depending on the betting circle that you find yourself in, prop betting can either be harmless and fun wagers that are meant to spice up games and add to the entertainment value, or risky gambles that often favor the sportsbooks more than the bettor. Those in the second school of thought often have a negative view of prop bets and deem them an unprofitable way of betting on sports.
However, regardless of the rep that prop bets have, they are actually an interesting type of wager that — in combination with the right strategies — can prove to be fun. Because of this, we should have an in-depth understanding of prop betting to better comprehend its merits.
What are prop bets?
Prop bets, short for proposition bets, focus on specific occurrences during a game. Sportsbooks simply propose to bettors whether a certain thing will happen, and bettors then can place bets on these events; hence the name proposition bets.
Such common examples of prop bets are: Will player X get more than five rebounds in the game? Who will score the first touchdown of the game? Will player Y receive a yellow card? These incidents do not have a direct link to the end result of the game. As such, they are decided solely on whether the specified event happens, not the final outcome of the game.
Some proposition bets don’t even involve the game. Many top sportsbooks try to feed into the needs of bettors. As such, this makes them offer alluring prop bets on events outside the game. Don’t be surprised if you see bets like how many songs will take place during the Super Bowl halftime show, for instance.
Types of popular sports prop bets
Prop bets vary wildly and can depend on the sport on which you are betting. However, most game-related prop bets fall into the following categories:
- Team score prop bets — These are prop bets that specifically focus on a team’s ability to score points. They can deal with things like a team’s expected margin of victory, or a specific range of points that a team is expected to score. An example could be the New York Knicks to score between 80 and 100 points.
- Player performance/stats prop bets — The main point in such a bet is an individual player’s statistics or something related to the player’s performance. Bets such as how many touchdowns will player X score or how many fouls will player Y give away are both examples of this category.
- Specific time-based prop bets — These prop bets deal with events happening at specified times during the game. For example, at what minute will the first touchdown be scored? Which quarter will see the most points scored?
- “Will X event happen?” prop bet — A few of the above prop bets can also fall into this category. Here, the sportsbooks pick a certain event and place it on the market with a “will it happen?” tag. Bettors then choose yes or no to the events. Examples can include the following:
- Will the game go to overtime?
- Will there be a fight in the game?
- Will there be a red card in the game?
- Will there be a tie-break in the tennis match?
Prop bets explained for major sports
As can be seen, sportsbooks offer a wide variety of props for betting. Now let’s take a look at examples of different prop bets available across major sports categories.
NFL and Super Bowl prop bets
Prop bets are most popular among NFL bettors. They are even more popular when the Super Bowl rolls around since it is the biggest event of the football year. As such, it draws in extra occasional and one-off bettors.
Sportsbooks want to capitalize on this increased audience and will offer many more prop bets to lure in such bettors. Here are some of the most common prop bets for Super Bowl games:
- Which player will have the most rushing yards?
- Who is going to win the MVP award?
- The coin toss
- Which player is going to score the first touchdown?
- First scoring play for team A — field goal or touchdown?
- First scoring play for team B — field goal or touchdown?
- Individual player over/under props — (passing yards, rushing yards, receiving yards, etc.) For example, Tom Brady to go over 298.5 passing yards.
- Which team will commit the first accepted penalty?
- Team A over/under X total points?
- Team B over/under X total points?
As we mentioned before, events like the Super Bowl are magnets for bets on events outside of the game itself. These are commonly known as exotic prop bets. Here are a few examples:
- How long will the national anthem be? Over/under two minutes.
- Which song will the halftime act start its show with?
With regard to the NFL regular season, other common prop bets can include:
- How many points will the teams combine to score in the first/second/third/fourth quarter of the game?
- In total, how many sacks will there be in the game?
- How many touchdowns will team B score?
NBA prop bets
Prop bets in NBA games mostly revolve around a team’s or player’s statistics. They mainly deal with things such as assists, points scored and rebounds. The most common NBA prop bets can include the following:
- Player X over/under Y number of points.
- How many 3-point attempts will player X have at the end of the game?
- Race to X number of points; e.g., which team will be the first to reach 30 points?
- What shooting percentage will team X have?
- Player X over/under 11 assists in the game.
- Which team will take the first timeout?
Just like the NFL with the Super Bowl, NBA prop bets spike in popularity during the NBA Finals.
MLB prop bets
MLB prop bets are available at most sportsbooks. The most common are stats-based, focusing on things like earned run average, strikeouts, hits and home runs. Just like NFL and NBA prop bets, these statistics can be based on a specific team or an individual player. Other prop bets can be based on specific periods of the game. A few of the most common MLB prop bets are:
- Will there be a run scored in the first inning?
- Will player X hit a home run?
- Which team will score first in the game?
- Player X total strikeouts.
NHL prop bets
The majority of NHL prop bets deal with goals and assists, or the number of saves by a goalie. Team props instead of player props also see a good deal of interest. Some of the most common NHL prop bets are as follows:
- Which team will score first?
- How many goals will there be in the first period?
- Team goals scored, over/under.
During the Stanley Cup playoffs, sportsbooks offer a wider variety of NHL prop bets.
Soccer prop bets
Prop bets are also common in soccer, especially in European soccer leagues like the English Premier League. Team props in soccer deal with statistics like total team goals, fouls, cards, corners and even events like the time of the first substitution.
Player props focus on a player’s performance during the game with regard to statistics like goals, assists, fouls, cards, etc. Here are a few examples of common soccer prop bets:
- Team A over/under 5 goals.
- Team A to win by two goals or more.
- Team A over/under X number of corners.
- Will there be a red card in the game?
- Will there be a penalty?
- Player X over/under 0.5 goals.
- Will V.A.R. be used in the game?
Tennis prop bets
Since tennis is an individual sport (most tennis bets are on singles matches), a majority of the prop bets deal with an individual player’s statistics or achievements. Some of these are as follows:
- Which player will win the first set?
- Player X to win the match in straight sets?
- Player X to win over/under X number of games.
- Player Y to win the tournament?
- Which player will be the first to convert a break point?
Other common prop bets that aren’t player-focused include:
- Will the match have two or three sets?
- Will there be a tiebreak?
- Over/under X number of games in the first set.
- Over/under X number of aces in the match.
- Over/under X number of total breaks of serve in the match.
How do prop bets pay out?
A prop bet always pays out after the completion of the game or the event, and its payout depends on the odds from the sportsbook. Here is an example using a previous Super Bowl:
Super Bowl LV MVP odds:
- Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs): -120
- Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): +200
- Tyreek Hill (Kansas City Chiefs): +1300
- Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs): +1400
Tom Brady ended up winning the MVP award during that game. Therefore, if you placed $100 on him to clinch the award, you would have made a profit of $200 and have a total payout of $300 at the end of the game.
Pros and cons of prop betting
Every type of bet has a positive and a negative. The same is true with prop betting.
One of the positives that prop bets have is the additional entertainment value that they bring to games. If you’re watching a game and decide to add a fun prop wager — like a player to score a certain number of points — your interest in the game immediately becomes heightened. Certain plays that you wouldn’t have paid any mind to suddenly turn into exhilarating affairs. For this reason, many gamblers think of prop bets as fun wagers that they occasionally place on the side.
Another positive of prop bets is the hidden value that some prop bets hold. Though some of these may be harder to spot, there are many occasions when valuable prop bets prop up in the betting markets. As long as you conduct your due diligence and analysis, such prop bets can prove to be great occasional alternatives to the other more common wagers.
However, the above point ties into one of the negatives. Relying on prop bets alone is an almost impossible betting strategy due to the varying success rates associated with prop betting. It can even be more destructive if you fail to adhere to your bankroll management.
The sportsbooks also hold a greater edge in prop betting. They sometimes offer markets with lines that change drastically from week to week, often relying on the lack of knowledge that bettors have. Also, since prop bets have no limit to what they can be, sportsbooks take advantage of this and craft bets with the aim of luring bettors from other, more profitable markets.