What Are Prop Bets In Sports Betting?

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Prop bet definition 

Prop bets refer to “proposition” betting options. These include aspects of games other than what a team will win or how many total points will be scored. Stats accrued by particular players, teams or in the game as a whole are various types of props. Here we will look at all aspects of prop betting in detail. This will include the basic question: what is a prop bet? Yet we will also go into how to bet on props, how to parlay props, the various types of prop bets and examples based on popular US sports.

What is a prop bet

A prop bet involves what can be described as micro outcomes within a game rather than macro outcomes, such as who will win or cover the spread (money line/point spread) or how many points will be scored (total [over/under]). A common prop bet involves betting on an individual player statistic. An example would be an over/under on how many strikeouts an MLB starting pitcher will accrue in a game.

There are also team and game props. A team prop might be how many total touchdowns are scored by an NFL team over the course of a game. An NFL game prop might be whether a safety will occur in the contest. Odds will be set on all props based on their likelihood of occurring. For instance, on an MLB home run prop (whether a hitter will hit a home run in the game), a star slugger will have much lower odds to hit a homer than a marginal hitter with little power.

How to bet on prop bets

You might wonder exactly how to make a prop bet. Any top sportsbooks such as those we recommend offer a nice selection of props, all the more so on more popular sports and bigger events. You will find the most props on the Super Bowl every year. 

Betting on props is one of the most lucrative forms of sports wagering since it is difficult for sportsbooks to keep up with the large number of proposition odds available at any given time. You are more likely to spot an inefficient prop line, particularly as it is also easier to handicap micro events using industry projection systems. There is also a greater chance that you might find significant discrepancies between sportsbooks, so it is wise to odds shop for the best prop lines before placing your bet.

Say you have identified a good prop line based on your research. Placing a prop bet is easy; go to your online sportsbook of choice, and you will see a prop menu with many options available. Find which prop you would like to bet on and add it to your bet slip.

You can then populate how much you would like to bet and decide whether you would like to add additional options and parlay them together. Then you’ll be able to see what you would stand to win. Once you are happy with your selections, select submit and your bets will be placed.

Can you parlay prop bets?

You can certainly parlay prop bets together, either with each other or with standard bets such as money lines, point spreads or totals (over/under). An example of betting props together would be to bet on a quarterback to accrue 300+ passing yards in one game, and an NBA player to score at least 22 points in another. You could also bet on an NBA team to win a game on the money line while also wagering that an NHL player will score at least one goal.

One caveat is that with Same Game Parlays (parlays involving multiple bets from the same game), where offered, there will often be restrictions involving props. When attempting to parlay restricted plays from the same game, the sportsbook’s bet slip will tell you that one or more of your selections are not eligible for a parlay. The reason why this will often apply to props is that they can be highly correlated with each other or with a game outcome. This is bad for sportsbooks as it can give the bettor a considerable edge.

Examples would be betting that a quarterback throws for at least three touchdowns while also betting on one of his receivers to score multiple touchdowns. These events are more likely to happen in conjunction with each other. That is an example of two props that are highly correlative, yet there are also correlative game and prop outcomes. A similar example would be that a quarterback will throw for at least three touchdowns while also betting on his team to win.

These restrictions are at the discretion of the sportsbook and will vary. You may be able to find some slightly correlative props and benefit from playing them as part of a parlay, yet for the most part, sportsbooks will not allow anything too advantageous to the bettor.

Types of prop bets

There are a few types of prop bets including player props, team props, game props and novelty props. Here we will go into some detail as to how these various types work.

Player prop bets

Betting on player props is one of the most popular ways to prop bet in the industry. It can also be highly lucrative since many projection systems throughout the industry can allow you to find inefficiencies in prop lines for individual players. Not to mention that it is difficult for sportsbooks to maintain the large number of player prop bets available with the same level of diligence as money lines, point spreads and totals (over/under).

An example of a player prop would be betting on the total passing yards of a quarterback in a football game. An over/under would be set on a number such as 281.5 yards. For a basketball example, a prop that might be an over/under on how many total assists a point guard will accrue in a game. Anyone who has played daily fantasy sports may enjoy player prop betting since you are banking on player performance rather than a game outcome.

Team prop bets

Team prop bets would involve betting on statistics accrued by an entire team rather than an individual player. Yet, these will be unaffected by the overall game outcome. An example of a team prop might be betting on the over/under of a particular team’s points scored, or a more specific statistic such as how many touchdowns a team will score.

Game prop bets

There are also game props that would involve events that occur in an entire game between two teams. For NFL examples, this could be how many total field goals will be scored in a game, or whether a safety will occur.

Novelty and exotic prop bets 

Novelty and exotic prop bets are similar to game props, although they involve more trivial outcomes. You will not see these on every game, yet you will see many of them for huge events such as the Super Bowl. There is often little skill to betting on these, but it can be a fun way to increase the action on a sporting event you plan to follow.

Examples would be whether the coin toss in an NFL game will be heads or tails, how long the national anthem will last or what color of Gatorade will be dumped on the winning coach after the game. There are other examples of novelty props that are a bit more related to the actual contest such as betting an offensive lineman to score a touchdown or a non-quarterback to throw a touchdown pass. 

There can even be some skill in some of these, like if you note that a particular team was more likely to run a trick play. Some even claim that they may have insight into national anthem length based on who is singing and possibly other factors. Still, these types of bets are mostly just a way to gain some additional enjoyment on a marquee event such as the Super Bowl.

Prop betting examples

Common examples of prop bets vary depending on the sport. Let’s take a look at a small list to get some more clarity as to what type of prop betting options exist.

  • An over/under on an NFL quarterback’s total passing yards set at 289.5
  • An over/under on an NBA shooting guard’s total points set at 18.5
  • An over/under on an MLB starting pitcher’s total strikeouts set at 4.5
  • An over/under on an NHL hockey center’s total points set at 1.5
  • Which NFL team will have more rushing yards in a game?
  • Who will score the first basket in an NBA game?
  • Will there be extra innings in an MLB game?
  • Will there be a shootout in an NHL game?

Football prop betting

NFL football is the most common sport for prop betting as there are simply a lot more prop options. This is true throughout the regular season and even more so during the playoffs and in the Super Bowl. Common player props include total passing yards, rushing yards, receiving yards or touchdowns scored in a game.

The best way to profit at NFL football prop betting is to shop for the best lines for any bet you would like to place but to also access industry player projections that are based on advanced analytics. Many top projection systems will have their own numbers for common props like passing yards, rushing yards and more and they may drastically differ from the sportsbooks. This is a great way to find what may be an inefficient prop line.

You can also use some more broad analytical data such as the DVOA of a team’s defense against the run and the pass compared to the opposing offense. Perhaps you may find a particularly advantageous matchup or one that would be best to avoid. Keeping a close eye on injury reports is also very important as a key injury might reveal an extremely inefficient line, but you will need to jump on it almost immediately before it has the opportunity to move.

Basketball prop betting

You will find a good selection of basketball props throughout the regular season and particularly during the playoffs. Basketball is an excellent sport for prop betting since there are so many individual statistics. Common player props include points, assists, rebounds and three-pointers made. There are also a lot of opportunities to bet on combinations of player statistics such as over/unders on points + assists, points + rebounds, rebounds + assists or even all three combined.

The NBA is unlike any other sport in how often late-breaking news comes out regarding injuries, scheduled rest days and minute restrictions. This makes it one of the best sports for prop betting. It is not common that one of these factors affects the player that is sitting or limited, but that another player’s prop becomes entirely inefficient as their role completely changes. 

A great example is that if an NBA starting point guard is unexpectedly out for a game, the backup point guard’s props will suddenly be entirely incorrect. Even for starters, if a key star that eats up much of the usage for an NBA team is to miss a game, the other starters stand to gain significantly more usage and therefore put up larger stat lines.

Baseball prop betting 

You won’t find as many baseball props as you will for the NFL and NBA, yet, astute betters will tell you that MLB prop betting can be a very profitable option. Common MLB props would include whether a hitter will hit a home run or steal a base, or an over/under on a starting pitcher’s strikeout total. Like in other sports, referring to analytical data available throughout the industry is the best way to find an inefficient baseball prop line.

Hockey prop betting

You will find even fewer NHL prop betting options than you will for the MLB. There aren’t as many statistics, and the sport is among the less popular of major US sports. Still, you will find common options like goals, assists, points and shots on goals in hockey prop betting. Since NHL teams rest their starting goalie from time to time, it is wise to take this into account when betting on props as lines may not fully adjust to account for this.

Why should you bet props 

Other than seeking out arbitrage opportunities and other extremely advanced betting concepts, prop betting is simply by and large far more profitable than betting on sides and totals (over/under). Any professional bettor will tell you that most of the money to be made is on props.

This is due to the fact that it is easier to handicap props and because it is harder for sportsbooks to maintain their prop lines. They are quickly affected by breaking news and there are a lot of them to keep up with. Plus, there is less action on them than money lines, point spreads and totals (over/under), making them less important to the bottom lines of sportsbooks.

On top of all that, it is simply fun to bet on props since you have the opportunity to root for a lot of different outcomes over the course of a sporting event rather than simply for a team to win or cover or for a game to go over or under. Between the excitement and the profitability, it is a no-brainer to get in on the prop betting game. 

Luke Lindholm

Managing Editor for US Media Partnerships

Writer for Pickswise. Luke was born in PA but raised in MA and has been writing about major sports for 2 years. He plays soccer and basketball with a love for the EPL, NBA, NFL and NCAAF. Nothing runs faster than home dogs and betting the under is an act of maturity. Luke is a Liverpool and Patriots fan for life, YNWA

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