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prop betting

Proposition bets are a great way to expand your betting experience beyond the standard moneyline and point spread bets you’re likely already familiar with. They are an ideal way to mix things up by allowing you to wager on more than game outcomes, infusing a bit of novelty to the sports betting experience. This guide provides a detailed explanation of how prop bets work, and whether or not there’s value to be fund when wagering on props. 

What Is a Prop (Proposition) Bet?

Prop betting, or propositional betting, allows you to bet on events that occur within a game, series, or season. These events do NOT include the outcome of the game itself. Instead,  you can wager on the performance of individual players, a wide range of statistics, or even lighthearted propositions that honestly have very little to do with the game at hand (think – how many times will the announcer say ‘dynasty’?).

Prop bets vary from sportsbook to sportsbook in terms of what you can bet on. That said, there are a few standard bearers that you’re likely to find wherever you prefer to stake your wagers.  Props such as which team will score the first goal of the game or if a star player will score a goal/point, etc., are nearly unanimous across sportsbooks.

If you prefer to focus on individual players or more obscure elements of the game, you’ll likely enjoy prop betting.

Prop Bets in Action

Because prop bets vary so much in terms of content, there’s not really a standard way of presenting the odds on the line. That said, prop bets are almost always a yes vs. no or a vs. b option, so the line will be simple and easy to understand. As an example, you might see a proposition bet on how many points Sidney Crosby will score in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. The bookmaker will either set a total or leave it as a yes/no outcome. Here is what that might look like:

Prop bets example

As you did with totals bets, you can decide whether Sidney Crosby will score more or fewer than 1.5 points in the game. The prop could also be as simple as, “Will Sidney Crosby score a goal in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals?” In this circumstance, you would simply choose between “Yes” and “No.”

As long as you understand the fundamentals behind reading and interpreting odds, you’ll have no issues reading the line when you begin exploring the world of prop bets.

Super Bowl Prop Bets

Prop bets are found across all major sports, but they are most commonly associated with NFL betting. Unsurprisingly, the Super Bowl is far and away the most popular event for proposition betting.

Some of these props relate directly to what’s happening on the field:  how many passing/rushing/receiving yards a particular player will accumulate, how many touchdowns will be scored by a particular player, total number of sacks in the game, and so on. Just about any meaningful stat football fans pay attention to will have a proposition line during the year’s biggest game.

But the Super Bowl appeals to a wide audience, and the sportsbooks want to capture it with a few props you wouldn’t see on a typical NFL game. Here’s a list of a few of the more interesting Super Bowl props we’ve seen on the line over the years: 

  • First play of the game (pass, play, or sack)
  • Brandin Cooks’ receiving yards: Over/Under 67.5
  • Will both teams make a field goal from 37 yards or longer?
  • Player to score first Eagles touchdown
  • Nelson Agholar total receptions: Over/Under 3.5
  • Will there be a successful 2-point conversion?
  • Total sacks in Super Bowl 52: Over/Under 4.5
  • Player to score first Patriots touchdown
  • Length of national anthem: Over/Under 2 minutes
  • Will Donovan McNabb’s vomiting incident from Super Bowl 29 be mentioned during the broadcast?

Are Prop Bets a Smart Bet?

Some “sharps” think that proposition bets are meant to take “square” money from uninformed, casual bettors. Without question, the “juice” on proposition bets is slightly higher than moneyline, spread, or totals bets. This means that you need to pick correctly more often to enjoy long term success with prop betting. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any value to be found in proposition bets.

Bookmakers don’t spend a lot of time or resources to generate the most accurate and sophisticated lines for proposition bets. The majority of their time is spent generating odds on higher volume lines. Subsequently, the odds attached to “over” or “under” on a proposition bet are usually generated from a very basic reading of a player’s stat line. If you are motivated to perform detailed research on these statistics, it’s possible to gain a leg up over the sportsbook on proposition bets. 

Take the example of “Will Sidney Crosby score a goal in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals?” If you knew that Crosby was going to move to a line with Malkin and Kessel in Game 5 (all three of whom are very strong players), the probability of him scoring +1.5 points would likely be higher than normal. You would want to pounce on this line, as it offers what is referred as “value”, or a higher actual probability than the probability implied by the odds. 

Conversely, if Crosby suffered a serious injury in Game 4 and decided to play through it in Game 5, there’s a good chance it would adversely affect his performance. The probability of him scoring under +1.5 points would likely be higher.

It is highly doubtful that the odds assigned to a proposition bet would take such specific information like in the examples above into consideration. As such, there can be tremendous value in proposition bets for bettors who are able to research the specifics of player performance within games.

If you’re the kind of person who researches their players before a big game, prop betting may be an ideal choice for you!