Prop Bets Explained

While point spread, moneyline and total wagers dominate the sports betting industry, prop betting has started to really take off since betting on sports was legalized in multiple states. These types of wagers immerse sports fans and those looking to make a few bucks while taking the games in live like never before. Instead of taking a whole team’s effort into account, prop bets bring a more fantasy-like feel to the game with the ability to bet on individual and team outputs. So if traditional wager types don’t get you excited about betting on sports, the highly entertaining form of prop betting should definitely get the job done.

Prop betting by definition is a wager based on results occurring or not occurring over the course of a game. From betting on the color of Gatorade dumped on the winning coach of the Super Bowl to the number of strikeouts Gerrit Cole attains in a single start, proposition betting more or less takes a deep dive into every possible outcome of a match.

Unlike traditional bets, outcomes wagered when prop betting don’t necessarily affect the final outcome of the game. Take for instance a NFL prop bet on the New Orleans Saints’ Michael Thomas scoring the first touchdown of a game against the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His touchdown snag likely won’t be the only points scored in the game. With that, the ticket cash likely won’t decide the final outcome by itself; that is unless the Saints go on to win the game 7-0. If that were to occur, you’d kick yourself if you didn’t hit the prop bet of New Orleans shutting Tampa Bay out!

Often times, prop bets are confused with futures bets. However, the two couldn’t be more different. Prop bets pertain to outcomes that are decided at a single game’s conclusion whereas futures bets entail an outcome that will be decided in time. In other words, you’d be placing a prop bet if you wanted to bet the over or under on the combined number of points, rebounds and blocks Anthony Davis logged in a single game matchup. A futures bet on Davis would entail betting the over or under on the total amount of points, rebounds and blocks he averaged for the duration of the regular season.

What was the first prop bet?

The genesis of prop betting occurred way back in 1986 when the Chicago Bears took on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. Linemakers installed the “Monsters of the Midway” as 10-point favorites with the game’s total line at 37.5. Chicago went on to crush the books that day by slaughtering the Pats 46-10 in a carefree waltz to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the lone time in franchise history. However, the guys in Vegas made the game a bit more interesting by offering the first-ever prop bet, which asked whether William “The Refrigerator” Perry would score a touchdown and offered up 20/1 odds of him doing so.

Perry had scored three touchdowns in the regular season, and NFL bettors flocked to get a piece of the new action. Before the game kicked off, the payout was lowered all the way down to 2/1! When the dust cleared on the bloodbath, Caesars Palace ended up paying out over $120K, but developing a brand new betting market in the process. The rest, as they say, is history! Every Super Bowl since has been inundated with copious amounts of prop bet offerings, from the length of the national anthem to the songs the halftime act will sing to who wins the MVP of the game. Needless to say, the  Super Bowl is one of the best sports for prop betting. In fact, the Super Bowl is the most heavily bet game of the NFL season, and it has everything to do with the prop betting market offering something for just about everyone who wants to lay some cash down on the game.

Things to know before sports betting

Understanding what you’re getting into when betting is the most important aspect, whether it be a traditional wager, future or prop. You must understand the language and how the wager works before you can even think about being successful and making money. There are a few different types of prop bets that you can make. Each deals with moneyline odds but is graded differently depending on what you are wagering on. Offerings include single player output prop bets and single player result prop bets. An example of the former would be the number of total bases a baseball player accrued in a game or the number of goals/assists a hockey player logged in a match. A player’s output can even be matched up against another player for a cross-player prop bet. An example of that occurred this past Super Bowl Sunday, pitting the number of Patrick Mahomes’ completions against the number of points LeBron James scored in the Los Angeles Lakers game earlier that day.

The other realm of prop betting — result prop bets — deals mainly with a specific event and how the player performed in said event. Examples include “will a player score a touchdown” in the game or “will a player log a triple-double.” Each of those prop bets come with moneyline odds attached to them. If the end result is likely to occur, the payoff will be minimal. But if a player comes from out of nowhere to score the first touchdown or goal of a game, the payoff could be astronomical!

Super Bowl prop bet example

Take for example Super Bowl LIV, which saw the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs square off against each other. While linemakers figured Patrick Mahomes would go on to have a big game, they didn’t figure him to be a threat to score the game’s first touchdown with all the potent playmakers Kansas City had littered throughout its roster. Be that as it may, the Super Bowl MVP’s saunter into the end zone from one yard out with 31 ticks left on the clock in the first quarter saw him pay out at 21/1 for those who got in on him early and 12/1 for those who got in on him late. Quite the haul! That just goes to show how lucrative prop betting can be if lottery tickets pay off!

Let’s break down the math for the Super Bowl prop bet on Mahomes up above. All proposition wagers deal with moneyline odds. Some are long and some are short. For this example, Mahomes’ odds of scoring the first touchdown of the game were very long due to the fact that he only scored a pair of rushing touchdowns over the course of the regular season. But the stars aligned, and he was put in a position to score his second touchdown of the playoffs when the Chiefs hit the Niners’ one-yard line. Had you placed a $100 wager on Mahomes to hit pay dirt before the line started shortening up on game day due to an influx of public money hitting him to do so, you would’ve grossed $2,200, which includes your $100 stake. If you got in closer to kickoff, you would’ve made $1,300 overall including the original $100 bet, which is still a solid return on a longshot.

Not all prop bets offer the same rates of return. They differ for every sportsbook, so do yourself a solid and have numerous places to play at so as to guarantee yourself the best rate of return should your prop bet come through. Also keep in mind that regulated US-based sportsbooks can’t offer the same type and or amount of prop bets as those located in non-regulated offshore parts of the world. If a prop bet can’t be settled through information and data from the respective league, that type of prop bet won’t be offered in the states, for now. This inconvenience will likely be remedied in the near future once more individual states have opened their doors to legal sports betting.