What is a prop bet?
Prop betting – short for proposition betting – has been around pretty much since man first decided he could win something for nothing.
Prop bets are called prop bets because they ask a question; they put forth a proposition. While prop bets are becoming more widely available, they lend themselves better to high-scoring sports with a variety of counting stats. As such, prop bets on the NFL and NBA are popular.
Examples of prop bets
Prop bets are broadly categorized as player props or game props, though there are also player props available based on the regular season (post-season performances and totals are usually split out).
Whereas main line bets focus on a game’s scoreline (the Moneyline on the winner; covering the Point Spread; or the Over/Under on the Total), props are generally about what happens in the game.
This is where prop betting gets fun, because it allows you to get more granular than the main game lines.
Because it’s so popular, you can get bets on some of the wackier side of things – these are sometimes called exotic props.
Because really, at its heart, sports betting is about entertainment.
NFL Prop bets
Football lends itself to prop markets because of the amount of action, the number of counting stats, and the number of players involved in a game. Any one player on offence will put up running and receiving yards, while any one player on the defence can stack up sacks, interceptions, or force a safety.
A handy rule of thumb for football: If there’s a countable stat in your fantasy league you’ll probably find a prop market for it.
Common regular season game props include:
- First team to score / to score a TD / to 10 points.
- Final match score totals an Odd or Even number (e.g., Even +108. And individual team’s final scores as Odd/Even)
- Longest touchdown – Over/Under 49.5 yards
- A team’s scoring range in the First Half (e.g., 0-6 points at +210)
- Second half points scored (e.g., under 26.5 -165)
- Total receptions / interceptions / touchdowns (player props, regular season).
Football also really lends itself to specific player Over/Unders. We’ve given illustrative names to these bets, but they could exist on any suitable individual. Common player props include:
- Tyreek Hill total Rushing yards (e.g., o/u 25.5 -120)
- Antonio Brown total Receiving yards (e.g., o/u 75.5 -120)
- Zach Wilson total Passing yards (e.g., o/u 224.5 -120)
- Mac Jones, Interceptions thrown (e.g., o/u 0.5 -120)
It’s only natural quarterbacks grab the attention. Props on QBs exist for good reason – fan’s favorites:
- Most QB passing yards – Chose the QB you expect to deliver. Regular season, settles after Week 18. A great way to back your team and ramp up your weekly excitement.
- Most QB passing touchdowns – Individual. Regular season, settles after Week 18.
- Totals: Most QB passing yards – Here you can select a QB and decide on the Over/Under offered for the season. Patrick Mahomes – o/u 5,000 passing yards?
- Totals: Most QB passing touchdowns – Over/Under. Similarly, select a QB and decide on the Over/Under offered for the season. Aaron Rogers – o/u 38 passing TDs.
For the first two bets, you should be able to find equivalents for rushing yards/TDs, and similar bets on different players in the offence. For the Totals bets, once the season starts you should also find those markets for each week.
NBA prop bets
In basketball, there are even more cumulative stats for players to notch up.
Game props include score lines at the end of quarters and the half; winning margins (by period too), and a “Race to 50 /60/ 70/ 80/ 90/ 100 points”.
Popular player props are based on the common headline stats: Total points scored, number of rebounds / assists / steals / blocks / 3-pointers.
- Pat Connaughton o/u 5.5 rebounds
- Jarred Vanderbilt o/u 1.5 steals
- Joel Embiid o/u 4.5 assists
Of course, then there are the game-wining performances when someone posts a Double-double or a truly stand out Triple-double.
MLB prop bets
The most popular props in baseball are game props on pitcher strikeout totals on the defence, and straight-up Yes/No markets on hitters making a homer.
But, like football, you can get prop bets on the season, such as the Home Run Total Over/Under. The Royals’ Salvy Perez headed the list in the 2021 season, along with Toronto’s Vlad Guerrero Jr, on 48, with Angel Shohei Ohtani on 46.
At the moment, most books only offer the MLB 2022 Winner Outright – the Home Run Total market is likely to open closer to the start of the season, once training camps start up and we get a better look at players after the off-season.
Of course, prop bets are on offer in just about every sport that a sportsbook chooses to make a market in. For lower-scoring sports like hockey and soccer, prop bets tend to be around player scoring Over/Unders, or Yes/Nos propositions. In hockey, also penalty minutes, shots and goalie saves. In soccer, aside from scoring bets, there are bets around penalties, assists, corners and yellow/red cards awarded.
Super Bowl prop bets – the Exotic testing ground
As the ultimate marquee sporting event, the Super Bowl brings out the best in the bookmakers when it comes to prop markets. Books often use the event to experiment with new props that they may decide to offer more regularly.
In Super Bowl LV, some online sportsbooks offered over 300 different prop markets. The player and game props are much like those for any other game – so let’s look at why the Super Bowl stands apart…
Some of the best examples of exotic props are found here – completely and utterly irrelevant to the game, but the most fun to be had on a big-day flutter.
Heads or Tails? – Super Bowl coin toss
OK, so this is less an experiment and now more a time honored tradition as Vegas sportsbooks have offered a market on the coin toss for decades. Year after year, one of the most popular prop bets offered is very simple: Heads or Tails. Have you heard “Tails never fails” before? Check out this great article from ESPN Staff writer David Purdum, which also shines some great light on the mindset of Vegas bookies.
Oh say can you see… how long the National Anthem is?
Never is The Star Bangled Banner open to so much artistic license or interpretation as when it’s sung to open a sporting event. The National Anthem has been famously butchered by Michael Bolton, Carl Lewis and Cuba Gooding Sr. (to name just a few), remixed by R. Kelley (“Clap your hands, y’all!) and bizarrely sexed-up by Fergie.
Christina Aguilera’s vocal warbling at Super Bowl XLV in 2011 live on in infamy.
The Over/Under on the the time taken to sing the National Anthem has proven a huge hit with sports fans. At Super Bowl LV, R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan and country singer Eric Church went for 2:17 – taking the Over at 1:59 by some distance.
The Gatorade Dump
The pre-cursor to the ice-bucket challenge didn’t start as a celebration.
A $100 bet on Blue at Super Bowl LV would have made you $800.
Purple, Red, Green and Yellow all lost.
How to bet props – what you need to know
Prop bets do behave a little differently from main line bets – the Moneyline, Point Spread and Totals. There are a few idiosyncrasies you should be aware of – some good, some less good – before you start prop betting.
Value via Derivative theory – Prop lines generally get less attention
Due to the sheer number of prop lines a sportsbook has open at any given time (imagine an average NFL week, with all the games and all the markets, then remember that’s just one sport on offer), prop lines often have much wider than mainline odds, leaving value on the table for the bettor.
For example, there’s a late injury update on a wide receiver that causes a book to adjust the game Total. However, chances are the prop markets on the quarterback will take longer to respond. If you dig deeper into what that player’s injury means for the QB, then maybe the Totals on the rushing or passing props become more attractive.
This kind of approach is the application of Derivative theory, because prop bets are ultimately derivative from main line markets.
This leaves you, the bettor, with an opportunity to seek value in a line that may not have moved yet. However, sportsbook aren’t dumb, and are aware of this, so:
Prop bets often carry a larger percentage of juice. By now, the concept of vig should be familiar to you – it’s an integral part of sports betting that you need to understand.
The odds on many prop bets carry more vig. To quickly work out how much vig you’re paying, use our Vig calculator.
Most sportsbook set much lower limits on prop bets than are otherwise available on the main market lines. If you have a particularly large prop bet you want to place, you may not be able to do it online and may have to talk to the sportsbook to lay your action.
What this also means, is that sharp bettors can be decentivized to bet on props, supporting the idea that lines are often much wider, and thus hold value.
To put it another way, prop market can be a lot less sharp.
Market and line movement
While we noted above that a prop market may get less immediate attention, be aware that when a prop market does move, it can move quickly. As we’ve seen with market movement, this can be handled essentially two ways – by shifting the line or shifting the odds (adding juice).
Assume enough action is taken on the Under on a running back’s yardage prop to catch the sportsbook’s attention. The book might slash the number from 75.5 to 70.5, or the price on offer shifts from -110 to -150.
Account for Over bias in props
The stats show that recreational bettors display a bias towards taking an Over rather than the Under. After all, on a big game day, doesn’t your positivity want you to bet on someone doing well rather than falling short? Sharp bettors will warn against betting with your heart, or with emotion, but in prop bets, maybe that comes to the fore more than at other times.
Nonetheless, it’s good for you to know this – because the sportsbook knows it for sure.
As a result, a bet on the Over might carry more vig or the line may be shaded to favour the Over.
Armed with thsi knowledge, you can look to take advantage by biasing the other way and looking for value in the Under. That’s not to say Overs never offer value, but it something to bear in mind.
Shop the line – bigger differences than mainline bets
You’ve been told a hundred times to look for the best odds available to you. On prop bets, that advice not only holds, but is doubly true.
We’ve kind of alluded to why already. Firstly, because prop markets don’t get as much immediate attention, it’s possible to find a greater variety of spreads across different books. Sticking with the yardage example above, it’s possible that 5- or even 10-yard differences could be found on the Total.
Secondly, as explained above, prop markets can be late to respond to news, so value can be found. But there’s no point finding that extra value if all you’re doing is giving it back in vig. So as ever, check the odds/vig on your prop.
Player Prop Betting Rules
Finally, it pays to familiarize yourself with your sportsbook’s rules on prop bets. These will differ from book to book, and within the same book, usually from sport to sport.
Where Can I Bet Props?
In the US, prop bets are now available at all legal sportsbook, including all the big online names – including Draft Kings, BetRivers, WynnBet, Fan Duel and Caesars/William Hill. Most have a props page per sport, with game props on the relevant game page. Sometimes props can appear under the tag “Specials”.
Can you parlay prop bets?
Yes. A parlay bet, or an accumulator, constitutes different legs, where the winnings from one rolls on to the next, and the next, and so on. For your parlay to win, all the individual bets must win.
Parlays are a great way to boost your odds and hence winnings.
Is it possible to make decent stable income on sports betting?
Yes – if you know what you’re doing. While you may get lucky one day, you can also find Lady Luck deserting you on an off day. One of the many keys to success is managing your bankroll properly.
Does Fan Duel have prop bets?
Prop betting in the US is available at all legal sportsbook, at Fan Duel but also at all it’s competitors. Sometimes you might have to look under the “Specials” tab to find props.
And remember, always shop the line to look for the best opportunities available.
Are NFL prop bets legal?
Yes. Is legal to wager on NFL prop bets. If you are in the US, you can bet in person at licensed retail sportsbooks, or online on a site available to you in your state.