What are prop bets? Prop betting explained

Prop bets – also known as proposition bets – are betting markets beyond the standard spreads, moneylines, and totals. Prop bets focus on segmented parts of a game, such as individual team or player performances as well as external occurrences and happenings during an event.

What is a prop bet?

A prop bet allows you to wager beyond the standard full-game odds and bet on different aspects of a game or event.

Proposition bets first popped up for Super Bowl XX in 1986, when Las Vegas oddsmakers took bets on Chicago’s famed defensive tackle-turned-short yardage running back William “The Refrigerator” Perry and if he would score a touchdown.

The unique nature and excitement of those alternative markets quickly gained popularity and prop bets became a staple of Super Bowl betting. That demand eventually bled beyond the Big Game and, with the emergence of online sportsbooks, multiple prop markets are now available for regular-season contests in just about every sport.

Prop wagers used to be viewed as “sucker bets” in the past but with the popularity of fantasy sports and advancements in analytics, prop betting generates a growing handle every year and is a market many sharp and professional gamblers look to for variance and value.

Types of prop bets

Prop bets come in all shapes and sizes, but these are the most common variations found at most sportsbooks.

Game props

Game props are decided by events and happenings throughout a game. These prop odds can be set around spreads/handicaps, moneylines, Over/Under totals, or wagered on in a Yes/No format. Game props can be graded on the entire game or broken into derivatives, such as innings, halves, or quarters. 

Some examples of game props:

  • First team to 15 points
  • Will there be a goal in the first five minutes?
  • Total number of rushing yards
  • Team with the most strikeouts

Team props

Team props focus solely on the performance of each team or side. These prop bets are most often Over/Under totals, moneylines, or Yes/No formats. They can be broken into derivatives as well.

Some examples of team props:

  • Over/Under total of three-pointers made
  • Will a team win all four quarters?
  • Will a team score a defensive touchdown?
  • First-half team total points scored

Player props

Player props are decided by player performance during a game or event. These can be bet on via moneylines, spreads, Over/Under totals, or Yes/No propositions. These can focus on individual players or pit two or more players against each other in head-to-head props.

Some examples of player props:

  • First player to score a touchdown
  • Over/Under total rebounds
  • Which golfer will finish with the best Round 1 score?
  • Number of sets won

Exotic props

Exotic props are betting markets beyond the boxscore for a contest as well as odds offerings on events like the Oscars, non-sporting events, and pop culture. 

Depending on where you bet, exotic props may or may not be available, due to regulatory restrictions. For example, you can’t bet on the color of the Gatorade bath given to the winning Super Bowl coach in Nevada but can with many online-based bookies.

Some example of exotic props:

How prop bets work for different sports and leagues

Of course, prop bets vary by sport and league. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular leagues in North America.

NFL props

NFL props present the biggest menu of prop betting options, with books rolling out thousands of props for the Super Bowl. Some of the most popular NFL prop bets are player touchdown markets and Over/Under markets for passing, receiving, and rushing yards totals.

College football props

College football props are not as abundant as NFL props and outside of big games, are often limited to game and team markets with fewer player props available. You will see large menus of prop bets for high-profile rivalry games as well as the College Football Playoff semifinals and final.

MLB props

MLB props are a rapidly growing market with popular prop bets on the total number of strikeouts, hits, and home runs for games, teams, and individual players. 

NBA props

NBA props are powered by the star-driven league, with plenty of prop betting centered on the top talents on the court. Head-to-head props and stats combo props (total points + rebounds + assists) are among the most heavily bet.

College basketball props

Much like college football, NCAA basketball is more often limited to the game and team props, with player props harder to find. That said, books will offer more prop options for rivalry games and NCAA tournament matchups.

Golf

These include individual player performances, head-to-head matchups, and tournament props, such as whether there be a hole-in-one or Over/Under total strokes for the winner.

Tips for prop betting

If you’re starting to bet props for the first time or need to brush up on the basics, here are some tips to remember.

Create a narrative

For example, if you bet the Under on the game total, don’t go and bet the Over for the number of touchdowns.

Look at matchups

When searching for value in the prop markets, dig into both teams’ strengths and weaknesses, and see which props play into those results. A team that struggles to rebound could get beat up on the glass by the opposing center, or an injured cornerback could set up a rival receiver for a huge day through the air. Find out what makes teams tick and where they can be leveraged or exploited in the prop odds.

Shop around

Having multiple sportsbooks is never a bad option, especially when it comes to prop betting. While standard odds, like points spread and totals, will be very similar from book to book, prop odds can vary significantly. If available, shop around for the best props to fit your opinion. 

Money management

With so many props on the board, bettors can get carried away with the number of bets they have in action. This is magnified during big events such as the Super Bowl. If you are regularly wagering on props, designate a percentage of your bankroll to just that. Not only is it a smart way to divvy out your props but also makes it easier to measure the success of your prop picks separate from your other wager types. 

When are prop bets for games released?

Prop bets are coming out sooner and sooner to meet the demand, but sportsbooks still tread lightly with these odds, posting spreads, moneylines, and totals first. 

For NFL games on Sunday, prop odds will start to show up on Wednesday and Thursday. College football games on Saturdays will see props hit the board on Thursday and Friday. And nightly sports, such as the NBA, MLB, or NHL, will see props most often released the morning of the game.

When do prop bets get paid out?

Depending on the time frame of the prop, some prop bets based on derivatives can be graded and paid out as the game plays out and others will be paid out after the game is made official. For example, if you bet on a player to score a touchdown, sportsbooks will often pay that wager out minutes after the player scores. It should be noted, however, that the timing of prop bet payouts varies from sportsbook to sportsbook.

What are the best betting sites for prop bets?

The best betting sites for prop bets can vary depending on your location. When it comes to early prop bets, Pinnacle is one of the first online books to post team and player props. PointsBet USA, which operates in some different states, is also quick to offer prop odds. 

In terms of variety and number of prop bets, Bet365 is one of the best sportsbook providers for alternative odds and offers plenty of props for every sport and event. 

Prop Betting FAQs

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