What is Prop Betting?

In the new legal sports betting environment, there are plenty of ways for fans to lawfully and safely place wagers, and many sports are seeing a surge in interest.

You have several options to make with wagers, all of which have their own pros and cons. Prop betting is one area that has been really moving the needle in the US market. Here’s what you need to know.

Latest props for NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL

There is plenty of evidence of the popularity of prop betting. Legal US betting sites will list scores of options for the various games and events, so much that the number of choices can appear overwhelming.

You can see what is available across the industry on the props you’re interested in with our props tool below.

What are prop bets?

A prop bet is basically a wager on a game not directly tied to the actual outcome of the contest. There are props that have to do with a game as a whole, as well as on the performance of the teams involved. Many of the most popular props revolve around the accomplishments of individual players.

For game-based props, you can find what’s available for the individual contests by clicking on the game listing or relevant tab at online sportsbooks. The actual offerings will vary, but there’s usually a good assortment available. As a general rule, the more popular the game is for wagering, the more props you’ll see.

A prop bet can be a simple two-sided wager that resembles a moneyline bet with odds on both sides. There are also multiple-choice props that will have odds for all possible options. We’ll walk through some detailed examples of prop bets shortly. For now, let’s look at how the lines work for these wagers.

How prop betting odds work

Unlike a moneyline or point spread bet in which the listing follows the same format every time, there are differences in how sportsbooks present prop bets. For some props, there are simply two choices to make.

How many TDs will Patrick Mahomes pass for?

  • Over    2.5 (-125)
  • Under 2.5 (+105)

The example above resembles a standard prop bet. Oddsmakers have set a benchmark number, with odds for the two choices. There are also prop bets that have multiple choices.

Who will be the leading scorer for the Los Angeles Clippers?

  • Kawhi Leonard            -130
  • Paul George               -115
  • Any other player         +120

The multi-sided wagers look like a futures wager. This example is a simple one, but there are some props that have a really wide range of choices, such as which player will hit a home run in an MLB game.

Just like other wagers, odds for prop bets are subject to change in response to betting action. If one choice emerges as the overwhelming preference of the betting public, then books will likely adjust the numbers in a bid to level out the action.

Do sportsbooks charge a vig on props?

For a standard point spread or totals bet, the vig being charged is pretty clear-cut. Most sportsbooks start with odds of -110 for these wagers and adjust from there in response to betting action. If you win a $100 bet at odds of -110, you’ll get back $90.90, meaning the vig checks in at 9.1%.

On two-sided props, the vig is also discernible, but it’s not quite as clear. These bets work like a moneyline wager, with one side the favored outcome and the other the underdog. It might look like you’re only paying vig on the negative side, but it’s factored into the overall equation on both sides.

For multi-sided props, the same applies. Since many choices will have positive odds attached, it could look like the book isn’t charging much juice. However, if you compare all of the possible choices by their odds and what that translates into for implied probability, you’ll see that the sportsbook certainly has included vig.

The amount of vig the sportsbook charges on your wagers will directly impact returns. As such, it’s vital to have a grasp of the overall concept and how the odds translate from a probability standpoint. Additionally, remember to shop around for the best possible prices on props, as those small differences can add up over the long run.

Shopping around for the best props

Many of the prop bets you’ll come across are standard across the industry. For example, for the average NBA game, there will be a lot of similarity in what’s available for team, game, and player props. Most books will have an assortment of each that revolve around key facets of the game, such as scoring, assists, and rebounds.

However, that doesn’t mean that there will be a mirror image of props across the landscape. There will be differences in what’s available, as well as on the odds attached to the wagers. That being the case, line shopping is a good habit when you’re looking to wager on props.

Generally speaking, the more popular a game or event is, the more props you’ll see. Betting Super Bowl props are available by the hundreds of props to sort through, while the average NHL game will have a few dozen to consider.

When shopping around, you should also make note of the layout for available props as some operators do a much better job on this front than their competitors. Having everything laid out in clear-cut fashion can be a real time-saver.

Prop bet examples

Prop bets are available for the majority of sports that you can bet on at legal US sportsbooks. Naturally, the sports that attract the most betting volume will have the widest variety of bets attached, while wagers can be scant in other markets. For the biggest revenue generators, here are some common examples of the types of bets you’ll come across.

NFL prop betting examples

  • Will there be a safety in the game — yes/no?
  • Which team will have more rushing yards — Pittsburgh Steelers or Cleveland Browns?
  • How many total receptions will DeAndre Hopkins have — over/under 6.5?

NBA prop betting examples

  • Will the game go to overtime — yes/no?
  • Margin of victory — one to three points/four to nine points/10 or more.
  • How many total points plus assists for James Harden — over/under 37.5?

 MLB prop betting examples

  • Will extra innings be necessary to decide the game — yes/no?
  • Which team will score first — Boston Red Sox or Los Angeles Dodgers?
  • How many total hits plus walks for Mike Trout — over/under 2.5?

NHL prop betting examples

  • Will the game go to a shootout — yes/no?
  • Which side will have more shots in the game — New York Rangers or Vegas Golden Knights?
  • How many total points for Patrick Kane — over/under 1.5?

For college sports, props are available, but this is a key area to watch as there can be variances in what’s allowed in various states. We’ll cover what you need to know on that in a bit. You’ll also find props available in the following sports:

  • Golf props: How many birdies for Justin Thomas in round two — over/under 3.5?
  • Tennis props: Will Novak Djokovic lose a set — yes/no?
  • UFC props: What will be the exact outcome of the fight — KO/submission/stoppage/decision?
  • NASCAR props: Which driver will record the fastest lap time in the race?

Interest in prop bets continues to grow. There are a lot of parallels between player props and fantasy sports. For fantasy players looking to expand their horizons into sports betting, props make for a natural entry point.

State rules and regulations for props

There are variations in some state betting laws, including the legal age to play, which is set at 18 in a few spots and 21 in other states. States have agreed on things like blocking those on restricted lists from wagering and preventing those with a close association to a sport from betting on those contests.

Prop bets are permitted and available in legal states. The main requirement is that they have to do with an actual sporting competition. You won’t see props available for entertainment-related bets as a result. One key area to keep in mind is how props are handled for college sports as there may be restrictions in place.

For pro sports, there are no such prohibitions in place.

House rules for props

All sportsbooks have house rules in place. There are general ones that cover the placement and settlement of all bets, as well as sport-specific rules. House rules will also cover circumstances that can impact wagers. How a sportsbook handles props is a key area to dig into.

On the straightforward side, sportsbooks will pull prop bets on players who are ruled out prior to a game starting off the board. In such instances, books will also void and refund any placed bets. Areas to examine further include what happens for player injuries or shortened games.

There’s a lot of crossover throughout the industry, such as props being settled based on official league data and statistics. However, there may be some quirks to consider at certain books. Whenever you get set to play at a new legal sportsbook, it’s good practice to take the time to review the house rules so you know what to expect.

Legal vs. illegal prop bets

In legal sports betting states, there are clear rules on what you can and can’t bet on. As mentioned earlier, certain states block prop bets on college athletes, for example. Additionally, props are limited to being based on actual sporting events.

At offshore betting sites, there are no such limitations, or anyone holding them accountable for that matter. As such, you might see prop bets for things that wouldn’t be allowed here in the US, such as on entertainment programming. You also might see some along these lines:

  • Will there be any nudity during the Super Bowl halftime show?
  • How many gambling references will be made during the World Series broadcast?
  • Will fan interference lead to a delay in play?

While there might be more variety at offshore sites, that doesn’t make them a good place to take your business. In legal sports betting states, customer funds need to be segregated and protected. There are no such protections in place for offshore customers. For that fact alone, taking your business to an illegal shop is a risk.

Prop betting handle at legal US sportsbooks

States release revenue reports each month, and we track the developments here. The simple takeaway is this: The legalization of sports betting has been well-received to date.

While prop betting isn’t broken out from revenue on an individual basis, here’s what we know: It’s a popular way to wager that drives a notable amount of action for sportsbooks.

Generally, the more popular the sport, the more prop betting that comes in. Props are one of the top bet types at legal sportsbooks, and also a very popular entry point for those who are new to sports betting.

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