Complete Guide to Understanding Prop Bets
It’s hard to argue that prop bets (short for proposition bets) aren’t the most exciting and entertaining form of sports betting available.
They’re so popular that almost all the top online sportsbooks offer a huge range of prop bets for virtually every sport.
While prop bets are awesome for entertainment value, a lot of people are surprised to realize that they can also be extremely profitable and a key part of a long term winning sports betting strategy.
A lot of props are just for fun with no strategy involved. This is especially true around big events. For example, many Super Bowl prop bets are purely for entertainment value.
The key to winning money with prop bets is being able to distinguish between the skilled bets and the fun bets.
Today, we’re going to cover this in full as well as the basics of prop bets including what exactly they are, how they’re paid out, and some of the benefits that they bring to the table.
What is a Prop Bet?
The chances are that you’ve made a lot of prop bets in your life and might not be aware of it.
For example, if you’ve ever said, “I bet you $5 that you can’t jump over that,” you’ve made a prop bet. If you’ve said, “I bet you $10 I can eat more than five slices of pizza,” you’ve made a prop bet.
In this contenxt, a prop bet is a proposition that you can or cannot do something that is wagered on.
In our two examples, you proposed that your friend couldn’t jump over something and that you could eat more than five slices of pizza. You attached a wager amount to it, and voila, you’ve made a prop bet.
Prop bets, sometimes referred to as ‘specials’, come in all shapes and sizes and are usually offered in some form or another for all sports.
Prop bets will typically not have a direct effect on the final outcome of a game (though they sometimes can).
EXAMPLE OF A PROP BET IN SPORTS
A popular prop bet in most sports is ‘who will score first’? While the team that scores first might have a better chance of winning the game, they can easily score first and still lose.
But, if you make a prop bet that team will score first, you will still win regardless of whether they win or lose. The outcome of the game does not matter for most prop bets.
Types of Prop Bets: Fun vs Skilled
Prop bets serve two purposes in the sports betting world. First, they can be a great source of entertainment and fun especially for bettors who are new to a sport or don’t fully understand all the nuances of the games. Second, they can be a crucial piece of a long term profitable and winning sports betting strategy.
A prop bet will usually lend itself more to one of these two goals and sometimes to both.
Fun Prop Bets
The first kind of prop bets that exist are the fun bets. These are bets that require zero skill to place and are effectively just gambling.
For example, if you were to place a prop bet on whether the coin toss at the Super Bowl would be heads or tails, you would be making a prop bet that falls into the fun category.
Another popular example (also from the Super Bowl) is whether or not the singer of the National Anthem will sing over or under a certain length of time. There really isn’t a whole lot of skill you can put into predicting these outcomes.
For those interested, here’s a list of some of the fun prop bets from the 2021 Super Bowl.
These fun prop bets are great if you’re just looking to have a good time. But there really is no way that you can be a long term winner guessing the flip of the coin toss. Why? Because you are guessing. You are using no skill to make that bet, and therefore you are at the mercy of luck which is the definition of gambling.
These bets could be equivocated to the same thing as spinning the roulette wheel.
Skilled Prop Bets
The second type of prop bet category is the skilled prop bets. These are going to be prop bets where you can leverage knowledge and skill to make a more educated prediction of the outcome.
EXAMPLE OF SKILLED PROP BET
If you were to place a prop bet on whether an NFL player will score over or under 2.5 touchdowns, you could use skill and your knowledge base to make a better prediction.
You would look at who he is matched up against, the likely game plan for his team and their oppononents, and any other factors that could help to tell you if he is going to have a great game or not.
If you bet that he would score over 2.5 touchdowns and he scores 3 or more, you win the bet. Again, it does not matter whether or not his team wins the game.
Yes, there is a lot more variance in bets like this, but you are still using knowledge, skill, and predictions to figure out what you think the outcome of this bet is going to be.
Skilled prop bets are beatable over the long run and can be a part of a long term winning strategy.
The Importance of Knowing the Difference
Unfortunately, when you go to a site to make your bets, the prop bets are not going to be neatly organized into a skilled and fun section. They will all be mashed together, and it will effectively be up to you to figure out the difference.
Whether or not you need to be able to tell the difference all comes down to what your goals are. If you are merely looking to have some fun and get the gambling juices going, then it really doesn’t matter to you which category the bet falls into. All you are hoping to get out of the bet is some fun and the possible gamble chance of winning your bet.
If you’re someone who cares about your bottom line, though, you’re going to want to know the difference. Fun prop bets are straight gambling and should not be anywhere part of your profitable strategy. You’re going to want only to be betting on the prop bets that require some skill to predict.
You can be betting a profitable and winning strategy and still enjoying the sweat and the fun of sports betting. The point is, though, that all of your bets are placed with the goal of winning and are backed by some solid research and expertise.
So how do you go about figuring out what category that the bets fall into? For the most part, it should be pretty easy to spot. If the bet requires no research or can’t be analyzed, it’s probably going to be a fun based prop bet.
Putting bets into one category or the other should be fairly simple with some basic common sense. Where things get trickier, though, is figuring out where a bet falls within the level of skilled bets.
For example, betting on how many touchdowns or catches a receiver in football will have requires a lot of skill.
You can assess so many different factors to try and figure out what kind of a game that player is going to have. This is a no brainer that you can safely include this type of bet in a profitable winning strategy because it requires skill.
But what about betting on who will score first in a football game?
Yes, you can predict which team is a stronger starter and will come out firing, but you can’t predict the coin flip or who will get the ball first.
This is an example of a bet that is still skill-based but might not be AS skill-based as some other props.
You can still include this one in a long term winning strategy; just be aware that there may be some more variance involved.
What about betting on will there be overtime or not in a game? Technically, you could make an argument that you can skillfully predict this by masterfully knowing exactly how the game will go. In reality, though, this sort of bet is way too close to a fun type prop bet to be included in a winning strategy.
How are Prop Bets Paid Out?
Prop bets will be paid out according to the associated odds posted with the bet.
For bets that have an over/under line, it’s common to see these paid out at -110 on both sides of the bet.
Prop Bet Odds and Payouts – Example 1
If you placed a bet on a football player to score over or under 1.5 touchdowns, both sides would likely pay out at -110.
This means that for a $100 bet, you would get paid out $90.91 in profit. Sometimes these bets will have varying payouts as well, so don’t be shocked if you see that.
Sometimes you will also see these bets with multiple different lines you can bet on.
For example, you might be able to bet on the same player to score over or under 1.5 touchdowns or over or under 2.5 touchdowns.
These would both pay out at different rates as one would be much more likely to happen than the other.
Prop Bet Odds and Payouts – Example 2
For prop bets that are whether or not something will happen, you will see varying odds.
If you are betting whether or not there will be a hole in one during a golf tournament, you might see that at +800 or something like that.
This means you would get $800 in profit for making a $100 bet. The number will vary based on how likely or unlikely something is to happen.
Benefits of Prop Bets
Should you include prop bets as part of your approach to sports betting?
This is ultimately up to you, of course, but here are some of the advantages of props to consider.
Sports betting would be pretty limited if you were only able to bet on who will win or lose the game.
What happens when you have information or a prediction on a certain part of the game that might not have a direct impact on the final outcome? Well, before prop bets, that information was effectively useless.
Prop bets now allow you to use every piece of knowledge and every prediction you have about how a game will be played to your advantage. Think one player is going to blow up, but the team is still going to lose? Now you have the flexibility to profit off that prediction. Prop bets open things up and stop you from being handcuffed to only one type of bet.
This flexibility can be crucial for bettors that are great at analyzing individual players, but might not be the best at picking outright winners.
Entertaining Intro to Sports Betting
We’ve already mentioned a handful of times how entertaining prop bets can be. There is nothing like the excitement of waiting for the coin flip at the beginning of the Super Bowl with all of your friends in nervous anticipation. Prop bets are not only great for your personal entertainment but are great ways to get new people introduced into the hobby.
Got a significant other that doesn’t understand basketball but wants to start enjoying with you? Place a prop bet that a certain player will get a certain amount of steals and now they can root for that to happen. They don’t have to understand the game fully but they know that every time a certain person takes the ball away, it’s good.
If you’re learning a new sport, prop bets are also a fun way to get some entertainment while keeping yourself interested in the action without knowing a ton about what is going on.
The top benefit of prop betting is profitability. These bets are fantastic ways for you to leverage your more specific predictions to make some serious cash. Knowing how a team or person is going to win is great, but when you know how they are going to do it specifically, you should be able to be compensated for that.
For example. let’s say that you know an MMA fighter is going to win a fight. You are sure of it because you know that the fighter is going to knock out the other fighter. Without prop bets, you could only collect on a win bet which pays decently usually.
But with prop bets, you can make a bet on how the fight is going to end. So you bet on the fighter to win, and then you bet on the prop bet of them to win by knockout. This prop bet pays way better than a traditional win bet so you can double dip on your expert prediction.