What Is Prop Betting? Guide to Sports Proposition Bets
If you thought online sports betting was only about which team wins the game, think again.
A proposition bet, more commonly referred to as a prop bet or side bet, is one of the most fun and exciting elements of sports betting and they usually have nothing to do with who ends up winning.
Essentially, a prop bet is a wager on an outcome to occur, or not occur, within a given sporting event which is not affected by or connected to the final outcome. It can be anything from who wins the coin toss to which team scores the first goal.
Gamblers are drawn to prop bets for the extra action and because they often offer larger payouts. That means more opportunities to place wagers that could end up winning big.
On this page we’ll break down everything you need to know about betting props on all your favorite sports including MLB props, NBA props, NFL props and NHL props. For more NFL props take a look at our special Wise Kracks episode with Evan Silva, discussing NFL props and fantasy football.
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How Does Prop Betting Work?
The basic premise of prop betting is that your wagers are not impacted by typical bet outcomes such as who will win, the point spread, or the total points scored. Props allow you to place wagers on outcomes within the game rather than on the game as a whole.
One of the main reasons why props are so enticing is because sportsbooks often set juicier lines to induce action and appeal to the masses. In many cases you can find much higher potential payouts in propositions than in general betting lines.
While the house often takes a larger cut of the action (also commonly referred to as vig, vigorish, juice, under-juice, rake, or take) on props, they also have a tendency to offer higher value than they should on certain outcomes. The reason for this oversight on their part is simply due to the higher volume of side bets offered as compared to the amount of time required by the sportsbook to research the probable outcome.
It’s also because overall props only account for a small amount of the sportsbook’s overall action. That means they don’t spend as much time making sure the lines are dead-on accurate.
That means some proposition bet lines are “looser” than the general betting lines which are more thoroughly scrutinized. Savvy gamblers who can identify these bets stand to win big.
Common Kinds of Prop Bets
There are many different types of prop bets for sporting events. In fact, the possibilities are virtually limitless, especially when you discover what are called “exotic prop bets”.
For example, lines are set for the length of the National anthem at the Super Bowl or what color the Gatorade will be. We predict that as sports gambling evolves, prop betting will continue to grow and develop so we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.
The following is a list of common prop bets we regularly see on most sites:
- Over/Under bets on a player’s in-game point totals.
- When teams will score and who first.
- Anything that can be posed as Yes/No – i.e. Will either team score 3 times unanswered?
- Ways in which a team may score and how many.
- Points one team will get per quarter, half, full time. Can also be combined for both teams or specific to just one player
- Futures bets – these are long term bets on a given outcome. Usually based on how many games a team will win in a season or whether or not a team will win their division, conference, or championship.
- Exotic “non-sports related” bets – i.e. coin toss to start game Heads/Tails
Prop Betting Examples in Major Sports
The following examples show different variations of prop bet offers and how they might look across the four major sports. Remember, there are literally hundreds of different ways a site can present their lines and different websites offer different varieties of props.
What you need to know is how to read the wager offer and also the type of odds format listed.
Examples below show Money Line/American odds, Decimal odds, and Fractional odds. Check out our odds guides for more information on the different ways odds are represented. Most websites allow you to display the odds in whichever style you like best. If you want to bet on college football then you’ll need to find out if your state has legal betting on NCAAF, read our which states have legal College Football betting guide to find out and get started today.
Prop Betting in MLB
A starting pitcher in a baseball game will be given an Over/Under betting line for the total number of strikeouts they earn in a game.
The line could look something like:
- Dereck Rodriguez (Total Strikeouts)(must start)
- OVER 4.5 Strikeouts pays +110
- UNDER 4.5 Strikeouts pays -130
Do you want to get start prop betting on MLB games? First, you’ll have to find out if it is legal in your state, check out our where is betting on MLB legal guide to learn more.
Prop Betting in NFL
A wide receiver in a football game is given a prop bet line for whether he will catch any touchdown passes.
The line could look something like this:
- Jordy Nelson (Touchdown Receptions)(must play)
- OVER 0.5 Touchdown receptions – pays 7/2
- UNDER 0.5 Touchdown receptions – pays 4/9
To get started betting on the NFL you’ll need to know if it is legal in your state. Answer that question by checking out our where is betting on the NFL legal guide.
Prop Betting in NBA
Sometimes a prop bet is on an outcome that happens at a much later date. This is called a Futures Bet and looks something like this:
Picking whether or not a specific team will win the title before the season starts
The line could look like this:
- Warriors win 2018-19 NBA Championship?
- YES pays 1.516
- NO pays 2.550
The first step to betting on the NBA is to find out if it is legal or not in your state. We’ve got you covered with our which states have legal NBA betting guide.
Prop Betting in NHL
You can even bet on whether you think a player will take any penalties in a game. For example:
- Brad Marchand (Penalty minutes)(must play)
- OVER 1.5 minutes pays 1.855
- UNDER 1.5 minutes pays 2.455
Prop Betting Strategy and Tips
With prop betting you need to remember that there is a trade-off in value. On the one hand, sportsbooks generally charge a higher commission (vig) on proposition bets. This means that when you win a bet you are paid slightly less than what they would offer on a “standard” general-bet.
For example, on an event with an expected even-money outcome (coin flip), a correct wager on a general bet (i.e. Over/Under) will pay you more than an even-money outcome for a prop bet.
On the other hand, because there are so many prop bets set every day by the sportsbooks, there is a much higher likelihood that some of their lines are less accurate. That means you have a chance to take advantage and win more.
To get that edge and shift the likelihood of success in your favor, work hard on developing the following habits:
Study, study, study
Bookmakers spend the majority of their time setting accurate general bet lines for favorite/underdog, projected point spread and Over/Under. Since they have less time to spend on the long list of prop bets, you, as the savvy bettor, have the opportunity to find very favorable lines.
Find Reliable Sources of Information
The internet is a virtually infinite data well. The amount of bloggers, vloggers, websites, journalists, data analytics, etc is vast. Not everyone has valuable insight so spread your view, be objectively critical, and keep track of your sources.
Over time you can find people who are tapping into the right types of details that can help you make smart wagers.
Think Outside the Box
Are there some intangibles in the game that will have a big impact? Is the event outdoors? What will the weather be? Are the star players on a hot streak? Cold streak? Is there a favorable match-up that one player is likely to exploit? Is someone injured but playing or returning from injury?
Pay Attention to Non-Superstar Players
Many prop bets will focus on the star athletes. Secondary players, who aren’t reported on as thoroughly, might be an angle for you to take advantage of.
Look for Moving Lines
Point total lines for star athletes tend to move upwards as casual bettors tend towards betting they will exceed the given line. This pushes the line higher up. You can learn to spot this with a keen eye and take advantage with an Under bet.
Super Bowl Prop Betting
For gamblers who love betting props, the Super Bowl is like unleashing a swarm of kindergarteners into a candy shop.
There are props for almost anything you can think of. The exotic bets, as mentioned above, sometimes have nothing to do with the game at all. In 2010, for example, there was a line for how many times The Who’s Pete Townshend would do his patented windmill arm-swing move on his guitar. It really does show how limitless prop betting can be. If there is action, people will gamble. Simple.
There are lines for every single player. There are lines for every possible points spread and point total outcome. There are lines for how many yards the first play will be and how many yards for the first score. Want to talk about the first score? There are lines for literally every possible way a team can score first.
Lovers of the long-shot were jumping out of their seats just four years ago, when Payton Manning’s Broncos conceded a safety just 12 seconds into Super Bowl XLVIII. In case you were wondering, that paid +4000 (a $100 bet netted a $4000 win).
Basically every single statistic you can measure, you can bet on. And then there are the exotic bets which are even wilder. They run the spectrum from what topics the announcers will talk about to what color shirt the coaches will wear.
Wildest Exotic Prop Bets
Every so often the internet will burn bright with news of something so audacious it requires photographic evidence (presumably not photoshopped) to prove validity.
We saw a perfect example of this in 2011 when an anonymous punter in St. Louis decided to wager a combined $500, on two separate bets, that his beloved Cardinals would make it to the World Series and that they would win it all. What made the prop bet so fascinating was the fact that the Cardinals were five games out of a wild card spot with just 15 games left in the season. Talk about a longshot.
The first $250 bet paid 250:1 and the second paid a hefty 999:1. All told, he won a combined $375,000.
Here’s another good one.
In 2005 a man in Liverpool bet £200 at 125-1 odds that Xabi Alonso, at some point during the season, would score a goal from his own end. The bookies loved it and even claimed publically afterward “When he placed the bet we thought it was the easiest £200 we had ever made.”
Can you guess what happened next? This:
That original £200 paid out $43,880 USD.
Get In on Prop Betting Action Now
While these wacky and fun stretches of the gamblers imagination run rampant on Super Bowl Sunday, it isn’t too much of a leap to think that someday soon these large-list prop events will become more prevalent. And when they do, we will be here to smile and talk about all of it with you.
With technology evolving at a rapid pace, and as more people enter the sports gambling space, we’re certain to see this niche of in-game betting grow into an expansive ecosystem.
What is more, with the speed of the internet and broadband connectivity, live-betting prop bets will get even more sophisticated and attract even more gamblers.
Similar to how Fantasy Sports have given the casual fan more reason to follow a full season, advances in prop betting technology and creativity will yield higher overall bettor numbers across a wide variety of sports and sporting events.
Do yourself a favor and learn the skills you need to win at prop betting before it gets even more popular.