What Is A Prop Bet In Sports Betting?

In sports betting, there are few things as distinctive and amusing as the convoluted art of proposition betting, often referred to as simply “prop bets.” But what exactly are prop bets? Our goal in this article is to explain the details of prop bets. First, we break down the definition and finer points of propping and compare it to more conventional forms of sports betting, such as moneylines and point spreads. From there, we examine the various types of prop bets that can be placed on different sports and events, shedding light on the unique traits of each, the thinking strategies they require and the ways they can aid the seasoned bettor in their quest for profit — not to mention making the world of sports betting that much more diverse, and thus alluring for all bettors new and old alike.

What is a Prop Bet?

Most newcomers to sports betting props understand that there’s more to it than just picking the winner of a game or event (which is known as the moneyline), but they might not know about all the other ways you can bet on sports. One of these additional ways is the prop bet.

Short for proposition bet, a prop bet in sport allows you to wager on aspects of a game or event that don’t have a direct impact on the final outcome. Prop bets can take numerous forms and cover a wide range of scenarios. You might bet on which of two players will score the first basket of an NBA game, for example — or on the length of the national anthem performance at the Super Bowl. Essentially, prop bets are just a way to add a bit more excitement and engagement when watching a sporting event.

Well, one big reason why prop bets have become so popular — especially in the last few years — is that they now allow for much more flexibility. While it used to be that you can only bet on single prop bets, most online sportsbooks will now let you combine multiple prop bets. This is known as a parlay. Parlays significantly increase the potential payout of your bet — but they also increase the difficulty, since now you have to correctly predict multiple outcomes to win.

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How Do Prop Bets Work?

One of the most fascinating aspects of sports betting is the array of prop bets available to punters. Short for “proposition” bets, prop bets do not have an affect on a game’s final outcome or score and instead deal primarily with an event within a sporting event. Whether it be players’ performances, specific statistics, or key moments in a match, prop bets add an entirely new level of spice to the betting props on sporting events.

Instead of focusing on a game’s winner, prop bets require you to focus on specific aspects of a game. We break down some more prop bets information:

  • Narrower Focus: As we mentioned, prop bets require you to really narrow in on specific areas of a game you would not be able to with a normal bet. This can be any number of things, such as a quarterback’s touchdowns thrown or a basketball player’s rebounds.
  • Varied Offerings: Prop bets come in all shapes and sizes, and that is what’s so great about them. There are prop bets that could be as vague as guessing the first player to score in a soccer match and others that could involve determining how many three-pointers will be made between each team in a basketball game.
  • Individual Performances: You can also bet on many individual player performances, such as a running back’s total yards or a certain amount of strikeouts a pitcher will record. This can be a great way to track the progression of specific players and where they placed in the game’s outcome.
  • Moments and Events: You can also guess moments and other events within a game, such as the length of a national anthem or the winner of a coin toss. These can be some of the more random and exciting prop bets you’ll see.
  • Understanding Odds: Like a normal bet, prop bets will typically have some sort of odds associated with them, representing the likelihood of a certain outcome. These need to be taken into account when placing the bet, seeing how much you’ll stand to make and ultimately how good you feel about it.
  • Combining Bets: Some sportsbooks will also let you combine prop bets, in a sort of parlay. While the payouts will be higher, the risk, as you would imagine, is also amplified, as you’d have to hit a number of different, correct outcomes.

Examples of Prop Bets

Prop bets, short for proposition bets, offer a diverse range of options for sports bettors to engage with their favorite games on a deeper level. These bets extend beyond traditional wagering on the outcome of a game, allowing bettors to place wagers on specific events or outcomes within the game. Here are examples of prop bets categorized into four distinct categories: player, game, team, and novelty prop bets.

Player Prop Bets

A player prop bet revolves around predicting how a specific athlete will perform during a game. Here are a few examples:

  • NFL Quarterback Touchdowns: You can bet on the number of touchdowns an NFL quarterback will throw in a game or even throughout the entire season.
  • NBA Point Guard Assists: This prop bet involves predicting the number of assists a starting point guard will finish with in an NBA contest.
  • MLB Pitcher Strikeouts: You can wager on the number of strikeouts a particular MLB pitcher will record in a baseball game.

Game Props

Game props focus on team-based outcomes rather than individual performances. Here are some examples:

  • Total Points Scored: You can bet on whether the total points scored in an NBA game will be over or under a certain number.
  • Overtime: This prop bet involves predicting whether a particular NFL game will go into overtime.
  • First Team to Score: You can wager on which team will score the first goal in a soccer match.

Team Props

Team props are similar to game props but focus on the performance of a single team. Here are a few examples:

  • Total Runs: You can bet on the total number of runs scored by a specific MLB team in a baseball game.
  • Total Touchdowns: This prop bet involves predicting the total number of touchdowns scored by a particular NFL team in a game.
  • Total Goals: You can wager on the total number of goals scored by a specific NHL team in a hockey match.
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Sports and Prop Bet Examples

Prop betting adds an extra layer of excitement to sports wagering, allowing bettors to delve into specific aspects of a game beyond the final score. Below, we’ve compiled examples of prop bets across various sports, shedding light on how they work and what they entail.

NBA

Prop bets are all the rage within the NBA world, as bettors are presented with an array of tantalizing opportunities for each tilt.

  • Double-Double or Triple-Double: Whether a player will achieve a double-double or triple-double on any given night, as it speaks to versatility and impact on multiple statistical fronts.
  • Three-Pointers Made: The total number of three-pointers made by both teams over the course of a game, as it summarizes long-range shooting prowess and how it impacts the dynamics of a game.
  • Player Rebounds: A set number of rebounds for a specific player, as this type of wager captures one’s dominance in the paint and command of the boards.
  • Total Points by a Player: Whether a specific player will surpass (or fall short of) a predetermined points threshold, providing insight into individual scoring proficiency and supplementing a singular offensive ability.
  • Team to Score First: The squad that will break out in front with the evening’s first basket, emphasizing the importance of early momentum and the reopening of narratives surrounding a specific game.

NFL

Because of its huge following, the NFL has a long list of prop bets each year. Here are just a few.

  • Player to Score First Touchdown – You can bet on which player will score the first touchdown.
  • Over/Under Total Passing Yards – Bet on whether the total passing yards in the game will be over or under a specific total set by the sportsbook.
  • First Scoring Play – Will it be a touchdown, field goal, or safety?
  • Team with Most Rushing Yards – Which of the two teams will have the most rushing yards at the end of the contest.
  • Total Interceptions – How many interceptions will a defense come down with on the day.

MLB

Baseball’s leisurely pace lends itself well to prop betting. Here are some examples:

  • Home Runs: Bet on the total number of home runs hit by both teams combined.
  • Pitcher Strikeouts: Predict the number of strikeouts recorded by a specific pitcher.
  • Total Runs Scored: Bet on the total number of runs scored by both teams combined during the game.
  • Player Hits: Wager on the total number of hits by a specific player in the game.
  • First Inning Runs: Bet on whether there will be runs scored in the first inning.

NHL

Hockey enthusiasts can also get in on the prop betting action. Here are a few examples:

  • First Team to Score: Bet on which team will score the first goal.
  • Power Play Goals: Wager on the total number of power-play goals scored by both teams combined.
  • Total Saves by a Goaltender: Predict the total number of saves made by a specific goaltender.
  • Total Goals Scored: Wager on the total number of goals scored by both teams combined.
  • Player Points: Bet on the total number of points accumulated by a specific player.

Golf

Golf, with its year-round tournaments, offers a plethora of prop betting opportunities, especially during Majors and elevated PGA Tour events. Here are some examples:

  • Head-to-Head Matchups: Bet on the outcome of a matchup between two golfers, predicting who will have a lower score at the end of the round or tournament.
  • Hole-in-One: Bet on whether a golfer will hit a hole-in-one during the tournament.
  • Top Finishing Position: Choose the golfer with the highest finishing position among a selected group, regardless of winning the tournament.
  • Tournament Winner: Wager on which golfer will emerge victorious in the tournament outright.
  • Winning Margin: Predict the winning margin in strokes between the first-place golfer and the runner-up.

Football

Football, being a global sport, offers numerous prop betting opportunities across various leagues. Here are some examples:

  • Yellow Cards: Wager on the total number of yellow cards issued during the match.
  • First Goal Scorer: Bet on which player will score the first goal of the game.
  • Total Goals Scored: Wager on the total number of goals scored by both teams combined during the match.
  • Player Assists: Bet on the number of assists recorded by a specific player in the game.
  • Total Corners: Predict the total number of corner kicks awarded during the match.

Tennis

Tennis, like golf, boasts a year-round calendar with plenty of prop betting opportunities. Here are some examples:

  • Total Games: Predict the total number of games played in the match.
  • Set Betting: Bet on the exact number of sets won by each player or predict the match result.
  • Total Aces: Bet on the total number of aces served during the match.
  • First Set Winner: Wager on which player will win the first set.
  • Match Tiebreak: Predict whether the match will go to a tiebreak set.

Boxing

Boxing offers an adrenaline-fueled experience for both fans and bettors, with a wide range of prop betting markets. Here are some examples:

  • Fight Outcome: Predict the exact outcome of the fight, including the method of victory.
  • Round Betting: Predict the specific round in which the fight will end.
  • Over/Under Rounds: Wager on whether the fight will end before or after a specific round.
  • Method of Victory: Bet on how the fight will end, such as knockout (KO), technical knockout (TKO), or decision.
  • Total Knockdowns: Bet on the total number of knockdowns during the match.

Formula 1

Formula 1, gaining popularity in the US, offers an array of prop betting options with each season. Here are some examples:

  • Head-to-Head Matchups: Bet on the outcome of a matchup between two drivers.
  • Race Winner: Wager on which driver will win the race outright.
  • Fastest Lap: Predict the driver who will record the fastest lap time.
  • Podium Finish: Bet on a driver to finish in the top three positions.
  • Number of Safety Car Periods: Wager on the total number of safety car deployments during the race.

Pros and Cons of Using Prop Bets

Proposition bets are a unique twist on your typical sports wagers, allowing you to put money down on everything from the next player to score a goal to the final number of points in a game. Whether you use prop betting to bring even more excitement to your sports betting experience depends on if the pros can outweigh the cons.

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Pros:

  • Enhanced Engagement: Prop bets often allow you to have something else to focus on (or to sweat) while watching sports, allowing for even more engagement in what you’re watching and betting on.
  • Diverse Options: Proposition bets offer up one of the most diverse betting menus, stretching from how an individual player will perform, to absurdities like the over/under on the national anthem.
  • Strategic Betting: Proposition bets require some different kind of attention than traditional wagers, giving the opportunity for bettors to show off their strategic analysis and research to find an advantageous bet.
  • Entertainment Value: Prop bets often bring a much-needed sense of fun to the sports betting world. They tend to focus more on the entertainment side of things and it’s a lot easier to understand and enjoy for more casual bettors than traditional betting markets.
  • Potential for Higher Payouts: Because prop bets can often involve higher odds, and sometimes a lower likelihood of that prop actually hitting, you could end up with a higher payout for a modest online wager.

Cons:

  • Higher Risk: Many proposition bets are higher variance bets and come with higher risk than your typical wagers, mostly because you are betting on a specific outcome that is extremely difficult to predict.
  • Limited Control: Whereas much of what gives seasoned bettors the upper hand in traditional sports wagers is the edge they may have through control over certain parts of their bet (for example, through live betting or hedging a moneyline), the same is not the case with proposition bets. The control factor is limited to the choices you make before the bet or the knowledge you have going into the wager.
  • Complexity: Whereas typical straight wagers or even parlays are pretty self-explanatory, many proposition bets are quite a bit more involved and require a bit more knowledge of the sport and even a bit more strategy (or just more thought and attention to detail) than the other types of bets. With this complexity can come a little bit of fear for novices.
  • Potential for Addiction: As with any form of gambling, prop betting has the potential to become addictive. Problem gamblers could have a hard time not giving in to these addictive tendencies and could find themselves slipping deeper into their gambling habits.
  • Lower Limits: For those thinking of using prop bets as a cash cow, careful: many, if not most, sportsbooks will have lower betting limits on these types of bets compared to traditional markets.

Tips for Prop Betting

Prop betting, short for proposition betting, offers an intriguing alternative to traditional sports wagering, allowing bettors to speculate on specific events or outcomes within a game. Here are some tips to help you navigate prop betting effectively:

1. Understand the Meaning of Prop Bets:

Before diving into prop betting, ensure you grasp the concept thoroughly. Prop bets focus on specific occurrences within a game rather than the game’s final outcome.

2. Explore Different Props in Sports Betting:

Familiarize yourself with the various types of prop bets available across different sports. These can range from individual player performances to game-related events or even novelty props.

3. Do Your Research:

As with any form of betting, research is key. Analyze player statistics, team dynamics, and other relevant factors to inform your prop betting decisions.

4. Start Small:

If you’re new to prop betting, start with smaller wagers to get a feel for how it works. This allows you to learn without risking significant amounts of money.

5. Focus on Your Interests:

Prop bets offer a wide range of options, so focus on the sports, teams, or players you know best. This will enable you to make more informed decisions.

6. Analyze Prop Bet Odds:

Pay attention to the odds offered for each prop bet. Understanding the odds helps you assess the likelihood of a particular outcome and determine the potential payout.

7. Consider Combining Bets

Some sportsbooks allow you to combine multiple prop bets into parlays. While this increases the potential payout, remember that it also increases the risk.

8. Stay Informed During the Game

Keep an eye on the game as it unfolds. Prop bets often involve specific in-game events, so staying informed can help you make timely decisions.

9. Manage Your Bankroll

Set a budget for prop betting and stick to it. Avoid chasing losses or betting more than you can afford to lose.

10. Practice Responsible Gambling

Lastly, practice responsible gambling habits. Remember that prop betting should be enjoyable and entertaining, so gamble responsibly and seek help if you feel it’s becoming problematic.

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FAQ

As we delve into the realm of Prop Bets, let’s address some common queries to help demystify this aspect of sports betting.

Is a Parlay a Prop Bet?

No, a parlay is not considered a prop bet. While both types of bets offer unique ways to wager on sports, prop bets focus on specific events within a game, whereas parlays involve combining multiple traditional bets into a single wager.

How Do You Win a Prop Bet?

To win a prop bet, you must accurately predict the outcome of a specific event or occurrence within a game. This could range from predicting the number of touchdowns a player scores to guessing the total points scored by both teams combined.

When Do Prop Bets Get Paid Out?

Prop bets are typically paid out shortly after the event or game in question concludes and the outcome of the prop bet is determined. Once the result is confirmed, sportsbooks calculate winnings and distribute payouts accordingly.

The Final Words

Navigating the world of prop betting can add an extra layer of excitement to sports wagering. By understanding the nuances of prop bets and how they work, bettors can enhance their betting experience and potentially reap rewards based on their predictions.

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About the Author

Born in London in 1986, Samuel Gray is a distinguished betting expert with a Master’s in Sports Analysis from the University of Leeds, obtained in 2011. From 2012 to 2019, he worked closely with multiple athletic federations, specializing in performance metrics across various common sports. Gray has authored 15 academic papers, predominantly on the optimization of training regimes and injury prevention. Transitioning from research in 2020, Gray began a journalism career. He now pens analytical pieces about the nuances of common sports and contributes regularly to several sports-focused platforms, shedding light on contemporary tactics and athlete assessments.

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