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What are Prop Bets in Sports Betting?

by September 26, 2018

I have a friend who loves prop bets. They are his favorite type of wager. Whenever a group of us are discussing betting on a game, he’ll chime and go, “Let’s look at some props!”

A prop bet is kind of a gimmick wager when compared to traditional bets. A prop is a bet on some sort of ancillary event that will occur in or around a game. Props can vary greatly in seriousness. The most notable time to bet props is in the Super Bowl. There are so many Super Bowl props. One of the most popular Super Bowl prop bets is the total time on the National Anthem. At this point, you’ve read my primer on the basic types of bets and have an understanding of what totals are. Just like you can bet over or under the amount of points scored in a football game, you can bet over or under two minutes for Pink to sing the National Anthem (she went under by the way with a time of 1:53). The Super Bowl comes with all sorts of fun options ranging from how many receptions Brandin Cooks will have all the way to what color Gatorade will be dumped on the winning coach. A prop is typically a fun way to place a little money on something in a game without being overly invested.

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Not every prop is completely ridiculous, though. For every football game, you will be able to bet a bunch of more practical things. In the 2018 opener, for example, you will be able to bet on the amount of receptions Julio Jones has, the amount of rushing + receiving yards Jay Ajayi has, and whether the first score of the game will be a touchdown or a field goal/safety. Let’s break this down a little more.

Within the category of props, there are different types of props. We have the aforementioned classic gimmick props, which are basically nonsense and have little to do with actual football (examples are betting on the coin toss, how many times they’ll show Jerry Jones at a Cowboys game, and what color hair the halftime performer of the Super Bowl will have). We have event based props, which focus on whether something will happen (examples are if there will be a score in the first few minutes, if there will be a defensive score in the game, and if either team will score three times unanswered). We have individual player props (examples are over/under the amount of receptions/yards/touchdowns for a player). We have player vs. player props (examples are whether Nick Foles or Carson Wentz will throw for more yards than Matt Ryan, whether Julio Jones will have more receiving yards than Alshon Jeffery, and whether Jay Ajayi will have more rushing + receiving yards than Devonta Freeman). We have coaching/officiating props (examples are which team will commit a penalty first, which coach will throw the challenge flag first, and which team will call a timeout first). There are potentially hundreds, if not thousands of different props that could exist and some of them can probably fall into multiple categories. Props are a fun way to get a little action on a game without having to put too much thought into it.

There are some drawbacks to props. Since they are more precise outcomes than more traditional bets, they often come with bet limits. In other words, books will cap the amount of money you can risk on a prop whereas a bet on the point spread, money line, or total is usually uncapped or, at the very least, significantly higher. Even if you are extremely successful at betting props, often times the bet limits are so low that any profit  would be minimal.

Many gamblers are opposed to betting on props because many of them come down to pure chance. When it comes to the outcome of entire games, savvy gamblers can do research, study line movement, look at relevant trends, etc. When it comes to whether there will be over or under nine total punts in a game, you’re pretty much guessing. But that’s not to say there aren’t edges to be found on certain props, though. One of the reasons the NFL is the most difficult sport to bet is because the oddsmakers have ample time to carefully release the lines and fine tune them over the course of the week. When it comes to props, the lines aren’t nearly as sharp. Oddsmakers will spend far more time perfecting the point spread and total for a game than they will (not so) meticulously determining how many receptions they think Tevin Coleman will have.

If you are an advanced gambler, then props are definitely an area you can try and exploit the books because you will know the correct props to bet and be able to take advantage of the lines not being as sharp. If you are more of a novice, then treat props like the novelties they are. Have fun with them. Get some action on the game. But don’t go overboard. As always, wager responsibly and never bet more than you can afford to lose.

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Jason Katz is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Jason, check out his archive.