Prop Bets Explained

Prop Bets Explained

How Prop Bets Work

A prop bet, which is short for proposition, is essentially any sports bet that doesn’t revolve around the winner or final score of a game. Prop bets were most frequently discussed around the time of the Super Bowl, where the most popular prop bets involve things as silly as “how long the national anthem will take” or “will the game’s coin toss be heads or tails?”, but can also include game-specific prop bets, such as “the first player to score a TD in the game” or “how many yards will a specific player gain?”

Today, prop bets are incredibly common, and the most popular sportsbooks could have hundreds of props to offer on any given night depending on which sports are currently in-season. In a single NBA game, you can bet on how many points, rebounds, assists, threes, blocks, or steals most players in the game will have. And that’s not even getting into the different stat combo props you can additionally bet on.

One reason that this betting format is so popular is that it gives fans something to root for even if they have no skin in the game and don’t particularly care for either team. Games become instantly more watchable. You may not have any interest in watching the Orlando Magic play the Detroit Pistons but if you have money on Franz Wagner scoring over 19.5 points, you’ve now got something to watch for.

In general, as a rule the bigger a sporting event is, the more prop bets there are for you to choose between. So, while the Super Bowl will have thousands of fun prop bets, like “which team will punt first”?, it will be harder to find prop bets on an early regular season college basketball game.

Other prop bet examples are live in-game betting, where you can bet on something happening during a game, for example, betting during the top of the fifth inning on whether or not the Dodgers will score a run during the bottom of the fifth inning. Live odds present truly endless opportunities for in-game betting, though the odds frequently are changing by the minute.

What Are Prop Bets?

A prop bet is a bet on a particular player or occurrence within a game, as opposed to a standard bet, which would generally be about the winner or loser of a game, or the total score of a game.

Suppose you were interested in betting on NBA prop bets. Here are some prop bet examples you could find:

  • Who will score the first basket in the Grizzlies-Bulls game?
  •  Will Luka Doncic score over/under 30.5 points in the Mavs-Hawks game?
  •  Will LaMelo Ball be the highest scorer in the Hornets-Pistons game?

Let’s look at some NBA prop bet odds to give an example of how to bet on props.

Suppose you wanted to place a bet on LaMelo Ball to be the highest scorer in the aforementioned Hornets-Pistons game. Say Ball’s odds are +400, meaning you would earn four dollars in profit for every dollar you bet on him. However, if you wanted to bet on someone who is more of a longshot to be the game’s leading scorer, you could bet on Pistons rookie point guard Killian Hayes, who is +800, meaning you would earn eight dollars in profit for every dollar you bet on him. You could also bet on a real longshot like Hayes’s rookie teammate Saddiq Bey, whose odds are +6000, which means you would earn sixty dollars in profit for every dollar you bet. The odds aren’t good, but it might be more fun to root for a player like Bey to have a great game, and the payout would be much larger.

How are prop bet odds calculated?

There are multiple popular ways to calculate odds, and while they all look very different, they ultimately all get to the same numbers.

American, or moneyline, odds are basically numbers that look like +1000 or -100. They are numbers that are always at least three digits and have a negative or positive sign in front of them. American odds are always based on a bet of $100, no matter how much someone actually intends to bet. As explained above, a bet on LaMelo Ball to be the game’s highest scorer at +400 means that you would earn four dollars in profit for every dollar you bet on him. So, a $100 bet would net $500 total, $400 of it in profit.

It may look complicated at first, but converting prop bet odds from American odds, to other forms, like decimal or fractional odds, is rather simple.

To convert the moneyline odds, simply remove the plus symbol, divide that number by 100, then add 1. Therefore, if LaMelo Ball is +400, you would divide 400 by 100, which makes 4, then add the 1 to make 5. The decimal odds for LaMelo would be listed as 5.00. In fractional odds they would be listed as 4/1, because you would earn four dollars for every dollar you bet. The implied odds of this bet are 20%, since it is expected to have about a one in five chance of being successful.

If you were betting on a favorite, the odds calculation is slightly different. Suppose, LaMelo gets off to an extremely hot streak to start the season and starts averaging over 30 points per game and becomes a -300 favorite. To convert a favorite’s moneyline odds, take away the minus symbol, divide 100 by that number, then add one. So, 100 would be divided by 300, making it .33, then add a 1 for 1.33. So, 1.33 would be the decimal odds, while the fractional odds are ⅓. That means for every dollar you bet, you stand to earn 33.3 cents in profit.


Can you parlay prop bets?

A parlay is a sports bet that ties multiple bets together into one bet. You can bet on two different props, or twenty different props, but they would all need to be successful for your bet to win. Parlaying prop bets increases your potential winnings, since multiple bets will have longer odds than just one traditional bet, but obviously the more bets you add to a parlay, the harder it will be to win, since you need to win on 100% of the bets in your parlay.

Suppose you wanted to bet on the NFL by wagering multiple QB props on a football Sunday. You parlay a bet on Patrick Mahomes to throw for over 315.5 yards, which is -112, and Phillip Rivers to throw for under 269.5 yards, which is also -112. When you parlay the odds of this bet, the odds change from -112 from each individual bet, to a +261 bet. So, if you place a $100 bet on this parlay, and you win both sides, you would get back $361, or $261 in profit. Of course, if Mahomes reaches the over but Rivers does not go under, or vice versa, you would win nothing for winning half of the parlay.

Prop bets are one of the most novel and exciting ways to bet on the NFL and are currently experiencing a boom in popularity with sports bettors, both casual and avid alike. With the added ability to parlay multiple props into a single bet, odds comparisons on individual props are becoming more important than ever. With PropShop, bettors can swipe through the hottest props from all major sports leagues, all while getting the best odds on each prop from the industry’s leading sportsbooks.


What is the difference between future bets and prop bets?

Prop bets and future bets are both bets about action surrounding the game, rather than bets about who is going to win a particular game. But prop bets are generally bets about specific games, often in the near future, while future bets can often be bets about a season that has not yet started.

Some prop bet examples:

Will Derrick Henry rush for 87.5 or more yards?
Will James Harden score more than 35 points in a particular game?
Who will score the first touchdown of the Jets-Dolphins game?

Some future bet examples:

Which team will win the next World Series? Betting before the season on which college football teams will make the college football playoff. Who will be the NBA’s defensive player of the year next season?

Is there a strategic approach to prop bets?

While prop bets frequently occupy the “fun” corner of sports betting, the money you can win on prop bets is just as real as if you bet on a moneyline winner or the spread. There are definitely effective prop betting strategies, and for someone who knows how prop bets work, there are really opportunities for winning.

There are some prop bets that are pure guesses. No matter who you are, you have zero inside information about if a coin toss is going to wind up being heads or tails. Similarly, betting on whether a Kentucky-Richmond college basketball game ends up with an odd final score or an even final, is pure guesswork. It’s fun to bet, but you are essentially flipping a coin.

But there are many prop bets that require copious amounts of research. Suppose you want to bet on whether DeAndre Hopkins will have more than 73.5 yards receiving in a game against the New England Patriots. Your research shows you that Hopkins has topped that number in five of his ten games this season, which makes this seem like a 50-50 bet. However, when you crunch the numbers you realize that Hopkins sailed past the numbers all five times, while he narrowly missed the mark twice, with 68 and 73 yard outings. Additionally, while the Patriots were historically good defensively the previous season, their pass defense is among the league’s worst this season, but you think the market hasn’t caught up with that. That level of research might make this a winning prop bet.

What should you investigate before placing a bet?

There are a number of factors that can greatly increase your chances of winning your prop bets, including scouring social media properly, comparing odds on various sites, taking advantage of new information, upping your research on props significantly, and learning how to parlay props.

Factor 1: Using social media to your advantage

Say you want to place a bet on Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette’s rushing total for a specific game. The over/under number for his rushing yards is 28.5. The Bucs starting RB Ronald Jones has a line of 57.5, almost exactly double that of Fournette. But you see on social media that some of the Bucs beat writers are speculating that the team will alternate series for the pair, so perhaps Fournette’s number should be higher and the Jones figure should actually be lower, so you immediately go place a bet on the over for the Fournette prop and the under on Jones.

This is an example of using social media to your advantage. Sometimes the information is ahead of the oddsmakers, even if only by a few minutes. Your goal should be to follow every team in the sports you bet as if they are your favorite team. If you follow the beat writers and the national reporters and are ultimately as informed as the team’s most knowledgeable fans, you can bet like an expert on every team.

Factor 2: Comparing odds on different sites

If you want to bet on how many passing yards Bills QB Josh Allen will have in his next game, you might see different numbers across various sites. Perhaps the site you use most frequently has set his passing yards over/under at 285.5 yards, but you see another site at 282.5 yards, and a third site list the number at 280.5. Of course, you are going to want to place the bet on the site with the lowest number. This strategy works particularly well for prop bets, where the numbers may have a large variance from site to site, particularly when dealing with stats like passing yards where the totals end up being in the hundreds.

The difference between 300 and 307 may seem negligible, but if you can get the same odds at a different site with the same payout, you are essentially getting those extra 7 yards for free. Additionally, if a prop is consistently the same number across the board, it’s a sign that there is a high level of confidence from the oddsmakers in that number and perhaps you should shy away from the true 50-50 bet.

Factor 3: Take advantage of new information

Sometimes there are hundreds of prop bets about just one game. There are times where you can take late-breaking information from a reporter and use that to bet on a game. For instance, a college basketball player is rumored to be in trouble for a minor infraction and could be benched to start his next game. You place a bet on the under for his points, say 12.5, for that game. The oddsmakers are not always up to the second on the newest information.

Worst case, they decide to refund your bet, and you don’t lose any money. Best case scenario, you have bet the under on a 12.5 number that gets changed to 7.5 minutes later. The less high-profile the game, the easier it will be to use breaking news to your advantage. For example, there are no secrets when it comes to a major NFL game, the oddsmakers are attuned to every key piece of news. But there could be value in scouring the news for a Bowling Green versus Ball State college football game.

Factor 4: Do even more research on prop bets than you would when betting on the spread

Here’s the thing about betting games against the spread- the oddsmakers are really, really good. If a college football line is 7 points in the first place you look, it is likely to be 7 points, give or take a half of a point, in every single reputable book. The chances to find value are much slimmer, the experts have been setting odds for decades and they know exactly what they’re doing.

With prop bets, we are in a newer frontier. While props have existed for decades, the level of props available on regular season games has grown astronomically in the past few years. If you wanted to bet on how many rushing yards Cam Newton will have this week you had virtually zero options, just a few years ago. Now, you can bet that number (say, 42.5 yards) on a plethora of sites from your phone within seconds if you want to.

But there is more variance in the Cam Newton number than there would be on the line of the Patriots game he is playing in. Perhaps he has topped that 42.5 number only four of ten times this season, but all of them happened in the past month. Maybe you just read that the top run defender on his opponent this week is questionable, but is leaning towards not playing, and the line has not yet been adjusted in the direction. There’s actually more value to find in prop bets than betting spreads or moneylines, but you need to do the work to find the value.

Factor 5: Learn how to parlay props

The beautiful thing about props within the same game is that they are often connected. If Patrick Mahomes throws for more than 315.5 yards, then his running backs are ostensibly less likely to top their rushing yard totals. If you are betting on Matt Ryan to go under 299.5 yards, and he does, then the odds are that Calvin Ridley probably did not go over his total of 75.5 yards.

If you have reason to bet on a certain team either succeeding or struggling in one facet of the game, then parlaying multiple players to either exceed or fall short of that number can earn you far more money than just increasing your bet on say, only betting on the Matt Ryan under. Because those numbers are related, there could be a greater chance of success than just betting Matt Ryan’s under for passing yards, and parlaying that with Kyler Murray’s passing under in a separate game on the schedule. If you have actual data that shows, say the Buffalo Bills will struggle to run the ball, then perhaps parlay the unders of Josh Allen’s rushing total, plus the run totals of their top two running backs.

Time to place your bet

One thing that an experienced bettor learns is that each sports league has different specifications and options when it comes to prop bets, especially when it comes to more “fun bets” like how many times an announcer will say a certain word.

For the NFL, you can bet hundreds of props on every single game, whether it is Sunday Night Football or a pair of 3-7 teams facing off. In college basketball it might be more difficult to find a variety of props, particularly early in the season, but by the time you get to March Madness you will have no shortage of college basketball prop bet options.

One difference is there are dozens of players in football that you can bet on while a basketball game might feature 10-12. Football generally requires more research than basketball, but no matter what sport you are making prop bets on, make sure to do your homework.

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August 8, 2022
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