Sportsbooks are going to draw the majority of their action on simply the winner, the loser, and the total. Whether it’s just to win outright, or cover the spread, or go over or under the projected amount of scoring, this will always figure to be their bread and butter. When you look at the line, these are the first things you’ll see because frankly, this is what people find most interesting. But it goes deeper than that. There will often be some proposition a.k.a. prop bets available.
Prop bets are funky little predictions that are focusing on a very specific thing separate from the outcome of the game itself. In a lot of cases, the outcome to a prop bet is settled quickly.
When you go to a new restaurant, while it’s probably not at the front of your mind, you would like for there to be plenty of unique things to choose from. Not “breakfast”, “lunch”, and “dinner” like in My Cousin Vinny. Variety is what’s important. If you ever get tired of something, you can get into something else for a while if you have the selection available. It is simply power in numbers. Maybe you’ve been playing the spreads for too long and have had too much frustration over the last bunch of them. Maybe it’s too complicated. Why not try something that seems a little easier?
Not all of the props are settled within a single game. They can take an entire season. For each sport before the season starts, over/unders are released on every team on how many games they are projected to win. They all start at a vig of -110, but as the money comes in, the win total and/or the vig can change. You can also bet on who will win divisions, conferences/leagues, world championships, or which player will be the season’s MVP. But as you’ll see later, the long term props get far more creative.
It is pretty neat how the sportsbook is constantly playing this psychological game with everyone who walks in there. I’m sure plenty of people aren’t even aware of it, but there is a cat and mouse element to it, so it’s probably no coincidence that plenty of poker players love to dabble with sports, and vice versa. The sportsbook is almost always located right by the poker room. The mind trick going on with prop bets is because many of them are so simple, it may almost make them sound easier to win at. But it all goes both ways. If it’s easier to win at, it doesn’t make it harder to lose at like you would expect. It creates an illusion. It being a new endeavor for a person, because they haven’t done it before means they haven’t failed at it. And if they haven’t failed at it, it creates the belief that success is likely because there have been no failures.
But because the prop bets are so random, and like trying to perform an oddjob, it is going to just raise the fluctuation of the outcomes even more, making it that much more difficult to win the necessary percentage to come out ahead. So as you see, in many ways they are no different than the other sports bets. The sportsbooks study tons of statistics before giving you an opportunity to make money on something. There is still a percentage of how often each prop will happen, and the payout will often force you to be correct more often than you can be. Therefore, in actuality, the biggest difference between prop bets and the typical bets is the prop bets are even harder!
The props that are the very most specific are going to be the short term ones. It can be about a specific player, team, or just about the game itself. Since the outcome you are wagering on is so unique, it adds this element of amusement to the excitement to see if it comes in. The players don’t care about covering spreads any more than something like who will score the first touchdown. But that is going to be thought about even less than just trying to score as many points as you can. Prop bets are also often phrased in the form of a question. Some examples:
Baseball Short Term
Will there be a run scored in the 1st inning?
Will a home run be hit?
Total hits, runs, and RBIs from Manny Machado
Baseball Long Term
Most home runs by any player in the season, over/under 44.5
Most stolen bases by any player in the season, over/under 58.5
Who will lead the league in home runs? (this will include a list of guys and the payout for each one)
Over/under 21, most wins by any pitcher
Basketball Short Term
Will the game go to overtime?
Over/under 23.5 points by Lebron James
Who will win the tipoff?
Basketball Long Term
Al Horford over/under 15.5 Points Per Game
Dwight Howard over/under 11.5 Rebounds Per Game
Jeremy Lin over/under 5.5 Assists Per Game
Football Short Term
Will there be a score in the first 6:30 of the game?
Will the game have a safety?
Who will score the first touchdown?
Football Long Term
Who will score the fewest points?
Which QB will have the most passing yards?
Who will have the worst record?
Hockey Short Term
Which period will have the highest scoring?
Will both teams score?
Margin of Victory – i.e. Blackhawks by 1 goal
Hockey Long Term
Who will have the better save percentage this season? Cory Schneider or Roberto Luongo
Who will lead the league in total points?
These props are not directly concerning the outcome of the game. The payouts will vary on how likely the prop is to take place. The ones that are very much just “yes” or “no” will fall on or near the standard -110 range. It’s interesting to see props of determining if a player can outdo another. Like in the case of the 2 hockey goalies. One will be a favorite and pay -110, and the other will be the dog and pay a little better. The availability of which props you can play will depend on which casino you go into, or whichever site you’re using should you dabble with this online.
I was blown away the first time I looked at a Super Bowl props list. It goes on for pages. Most of these games are going to have a nice little selection of props available to give the game some extra zest. But come Super Bowl time, it reminds you of what it’s like to hear a server at a fancy restaurant recite to you all 25 specials. Except you don’t remember any of them so you still have no idea what to get. The Super Bowl is hands down the most heavily bet on game and largely because of the props. A sporting event that is practically a holiday, everybody wants a piece of something.
Anything you can think of that is somewhat within reason of taking place in the game, you can probably bet on it. Over/unders on team sacks and turnovers. Who will be the MVP of the game? An over/under on the longest field goal of the game. Picking the exact number of points each team will score. This is a drop in the bucket of what you can bet on. I’ve seen that if you pick one of the teams to score exactly 4 points, the payout is 8000/1. You can even bet on the coin toss, both offering -105. This is obviously a pure profit for the casino, and this will be the case for lots of the props. It’s got something for everybody. Props for people who love to study football, and for those who don’t want to give it much thought, but are still interested in having a little action on it because it’s the Super Bowl.
With there being hundreds of props to choose from, there have to be some good ones, right? It seems pretty plausible. But how do you find them? It’s like betting on any other game. You’re looking for sleepers; something that hasn’t been given a lot of expectation to do, and then picking it to be done. For instance, in 2014, Super Bowl XLVIII, Broncos and Seahawks, I remember seeing Will Percy Harvin have a rushing attempt?
Percy Harvin was a dynamic offensive player. He is explosively fast and has the ability to get in the end zone from anywhere on the field. He hits you like a bolt from the blue. A most exciting player to watch. I really felt like, okay, this is the super bowl. How could the Seahawks not want to get Percy Harvin involved? I wasn’t heavy into sports betting. I was looking at the props out of curiosity more than anything. Out of all the million choices there were, that one stood out so vividly to me. Naturally I didn’t bet it, naturally he was given a handoff on a reverse in the 1st half, and naturally I lost some money on the game combined from all the other things I did decide to bet on.
If you feel like it’s going to be a really high scoring game, you might be tempted to take the under on the punts, which probably won’t be lower than 7.5. It’s not something that people pay close attention to because who wants to see punts, but there are those shootout games that wind up with very little punting, maybe between 2 and 4.
The very fine specifics of each prop bet, no matter what the sport or occasion make it highly difficult to pinpoint where some legit value really does exist. A lot of them are 50/50 putting you behind the 8 ball since they’ll be -110 or worse. I think it comes down to just trying to find a task that plays right into a team’s strength, or something they tend to do habitually. Or perhaps just their opponent’s weakness and how that might affect the way the team you’re betting the prop on will play them. But there’s always the reverse side of thinking.
Maybe you like a certain prop because of how infrequently it takes place. In which case you know you’ll be getting an above even money return if you win. I guess the number one thing you can do is not overthink the props. A lot of them are so simple, that maybe a less is more way of thinking is the most optimal approach. The simpler something is, the less thought it should have allocated to it. Props have certainly been a very exciting addition to sports betting. It allows you to have fun with something without having to rack your brain about the outcome. It makes it harder for you to get bored of what your options are. As long as there are props, you’ll have plenty of things to entice you to make guesses on.