What is Prop Betting?

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Proposition bets (or props, for short) have taken the world of sports betting by storm in the last several years. Instead of relating to the outcome of a game or competition, prop bets focus on specific statistical milestones within a game or season.

We’ll explain how prop betting works, how it compares to pre-game betting, how prop bets differ from one sport to the next, and what the general rules are surrounding these types of bets.

What is a prop bet?

Simply put, a proposition bet is a wager relating to something that will or will not happen during a sporting event which does not directly affect the outcome of that event.

For example, predicting which team wins an NBA game is not a prop bet. But guessing whether a particular player in that game will score more or fewer points than the line posted by the sportsbook can be considered a prop.

Prop bets were invented to make sports betting more exciting and provide activities for the sportsbooks when there’s little interest in the standard betting lines. The idea came in the mid-1980s when the Super Bowl was the only game in town for many bettors. The first-ever Super Bowl prop bet dates back to 1986 when the owners of Caesars sportsbook in Vegas tried to attract casual bettors.

The bet involved a charismatic defensive tackle you might remember named William “The Refrigerator” Perry, who played for the Chicago Bears. The Bears were by far the most dominant team that season, so betting on them to win wasn’t bringing much value.

The sportsbook offered a prop bet that he would score a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Even though it was a risky bet to take, many curious bettors wagered on the Fridge to score and he did score a touchdown late in the game.

Caesars had to pay a lot of money to Vegas bettors that day, but proposition bets were officially born. They were later embedded into many other sports, and today, you practically won’t find a sport that doesn’t feature prop bets.

The pros and cons of prop bets

Proposition bets are a way to make your sports betting in Maryland experience more versatile and exciting. Of course, this is not to say that making other bets isn’t exciting at all.

Whether you decide to make prop bets your primary way of betting or not is up to your preferences, but also your skill level as a bettor.

Advantages of prop bets

  • Volume: Any game of any sport might feature dozens of prop bets.
  • Good odds: With so many prop bets to choose from, you will run into plenty of those with good odds.
  • They make every moment exciting: Props are short-term bets, meaning that you can win or lose even before the game finishes. Some prop bets are over in minutes.

Disadvantages of prop bets

  • More difficult to predict: Many prop bets are no different than a coin flip. They can easily go either way.
  • Not consistent: Unless you’re a die-hard fan of the sport and know the ins and outs of every game, having any consistent success on prop betting is unlikely. This is why these bets are recommended in small doses.

Prop betting vs. daily fantasy

While prop betting and daily fantasy share a few similarities, they are pretty different from each other. Generally speaking, you’ll be predicting how individual players perform in both instances, but that’s where the similarities stop.

The biggest similarity can be seen when comparing daily fantasy sports to player props, a sub-type of prop bets where you’re tasked with guessing how an individual player would perform. On the other hand, the goal of daily fantasy is to create a fantasy team filled with individual players and establish a rating based on their collective performance.

In daily fantasy sports, your success is measured by a formula that gives a certain number of performance points to each player on your fantasy team. Prop betting is much simpler than that, as you would just be picking whether a player would reach a particular milestone or not.

How do prop payouts work?

Prop bets pay out in the same way as any other bets. Your potential payout will be associated with the odds posted by the sportsbook. For example, if the odds on the Baltimore Ravens to win the coin toss are -110, that means that you will need to bet $110 to get a $100 profit.

In this specific example, you will already know whether your bet was successful or not at the very start of the game. However, you will still need to wait for the game to end for the bet to be officially settled and for you to be able to withdraw your winnings or use the money won for future bets.

Common prop bet types by sport

Every sport has its own set of proposition bets. Some of the same props can work across different sports, but you will also see specific props exclusive to a particular sport.

With that said, here is a list of the most popular sports in the US and some of the most common prop bets associated with them.

NFL prop bets

  • Team to score first
  • First scoring play
  • Is the first turnover going to be a fumble or interception?
  • Player to score the first touchdown
  • Anytime touchdown scorer

NBA prop bets

  • Team to win the opening tip
  • Players props on points, rebounds, or assists
  • Race to a certain number of points
  • Match result and total
  • Winning margin

MLB prop bets

  • Inning bets
  • Total hits
  • Winning margin
  • Player runs
  • Player total bases

NHL prop bets

  • Individual period bets
  • 10-minute bets
  • Anytime scorer
  • To score two or more
  • Does the game go to overtime?

Golf prop bets

  • Player to win the tournament outright
  • Top senior player
  • Will there be a hole-in-one?
  • Will there be a playoff?
  • Top player from the US, Canada, Europe, etc

Tennis prop bets

  • First set winner
  • Correct set score
  • Total games played
  • Number of aces
  • Will there be a tiebreak?

MMA prop bets

  • Method of victory
  • Fight to end in a particular round
  • Will the fight go the distance?
  • Point spread
  • Round betting

Soccer prop bets

  • Half-time bets
  • Corner bets
  • Card bets
  • Anytime goalscorer
  • Correct score

Super Bowl prop betting

The Super Bowl is the granddaddy of all proposition betting, and it’s still the event in which you can find the most diverse betting offers.

Super Bowl props include all of the same prop bets that you can bet in any regular NFL game plus a few special ones like Super Bowl MVP. But where Super Bowl prop betting shines is in the hundreds of one-time “wacky” props and lines added to the mix

Certain sportsbooks take the liberty to be very creative when making Super Bowl props, so you can bet the color of the Gatorade thrown on the winning coach. You can bet the Fat Man TD, opening kick return for a TD, and even crossover bets, like who will have more points between the Super Bowl and an NBA player.

In-play prop bets

What we discussed so far mainly relates to pre-game prop betting. However, every modern sportsbook also offers props for in-play betting.

Here, the prop bets get dissected even further. For example, you can predict how many points would be scored in the next quarter of a basketball game rather than the whole game. If the first goal has already been scored in a soccer match, you can bet on who the next goal scorer will be.

This works the same for football, like which team will make the next scoring drive, etc.

The number of in-play prop bets depends on the sport, the popularity of a given game, and how imaginative the sportsbook is. Some sportsbooks will allow you to bet on things that you’ll have no way of predicting like if the total number of points scored would end up being an odd or even number.

Many in-play prop bets are now referred to as “micro betting.” Learn more about micro bets on our dedicated page.

What sports are best for prop betting?

Team sports are typically best for props, as the games are long and there are dozens of individual players that you can place bets on.

On the other hand, sports like MMA don’t provide that much versatility in prop betting markets. The only prop bets for MMA are the method of victory, whether a fight will reach a specific round, individual round betting, and method + round.

While this may seem like a healthy amount of prop bets, you will have the ability to put money on dozens of other props in other sports. Those include:

In other words, as part of your prop betting strategy, remember that team sports provide much more prop betting opportunities than individual sports. That said, you can also find plenty of golf prop bets and tennis prop bets before and during tournaments.

Does early cashout work for prop bets?

Many online sportsbooks offer early cashout to those who want to cash in on their bets before they are settled.

For example, if you bet on the Baltimore Orioles to win and they have a lead into the 7th, thus giving you a potential to win $200, you can cash in the bet early and win a smaller amount (exact figures will depend on the current score, time of the game, and the sportsbook). Therefore, if the Orioles end up losing, you would still get your guaranteed payout at a lower rate than originally booked.

The same system can be applied to specific online prop bets. However, the cashout option’s availability will depend on the prop type and whether the sportsbook even offers a cash-out option for that bet.

Biggest prop betting mistakes to avoid

If you’re a beginner bettor just starting to understand how prop bets work, there are some traps that you can fall into. Here are some prop betting mistakes you should always try to avoid:

  • Making “sucker” bets: A typical example of a “sucker” prop bet is the coin toss. The odds here are 50/50, and there’s nothing you can do to predict the outcome. Meanwhile, the sportsbook will offer odds of -110 on either of the outcomes so you’re paying to get less than even odds. Sure, it’s a fun bet. But bets at those lines won’t lead to profitability long term
  • Letting emotion get in the way: This can be applied to all betting types. You may have a favorite player you wholeheartedly want to score, but try not letting emotion get in the mix. It’s also interesting to see that people usually bet on the over for “over/under” player props, even though the outcome of these bets is roughly 50/50. Be unbiased or simply bet on a player you have no interest in other than the bet itself.
  • Betting on props too much: There are dozens of prop bets you can make in almost every game, and we admit that all of these can be rather exciting. But don’t get carried away and bet on them too much. Your decision-making might get murky after a while, and you’ll start to lose on most of your best. Sometimes it’s best if you take a step back, place a good old moneyline bet, and see how things play out.

In-house sportsbook rules for props betting

Before you take any prop bet, you must be sure that you understand all the rules that are applied to it. Every sportsbook site should have a rulebook page that you should read through carefully.

Generally speaking, prop bets are very simple to understand, and in most cases, it will be clear what rules are and aren’t applied to them. But there might be specific situations where you might not be sure whether your prop bet will count or not.

For example, let’s say that a basketball player scores 20 points in regulation, and you placed a bet on him to score over 21.5. However, the game goes to overtime, where he scores two more points. Do you win? The over/under player bets will include overtime unless stated otherwise, so the answer is yes.

How about if that same player is injured? Well, if the player got injured before the game and isn’t available to play, it will be a no-action bet, and you’ll receive your full stake back. On the other hand, if the player got injured after only a few minutes of play, it will still count as if he played the game, so the bet will be active.

In tennis, for example, if the match isn’t completed, all full-match prop bets are no-actioned. The exceptions here are set and game bets like if the first set was completed before a player was forced to withdraw, those bets would still stand.

How much you should bet on props

How much you’re willing to bet on prop bets depends on the size of your bankroll. However, a good tip is to try not to go all out on the first couple of prop bets you see.

Remember that these are short-term bets, meaning that they can be settled before you know it. Therefore, betting only a small percentage of your bankroll on props is the smartest approach.