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Sports Betting 101: Prop Bets

Matt Brandon Dec 29th 1:30 PM EST.

The betting line and some of the more than 400 proposition bets for Super Bowl LI between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots are displayed at the Race & Sports SuperBook at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino on January 26, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The betting line and some of the more than 400 proposition bets for Super Bowl LI between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots are displayed at the Race & Sports SuperBook at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino on January 26, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Betting on spreads, moneylines, and totals are the most popular bet types when it comes to wagering on sports. However, these types of bets are solely based on the outcome of the game. Perhaps you are more knowledgeable about a specific player than the entire team? That’s where player props can be critical wagering opportunities to take advantage of.

Sportsbooks don’t just offer team-based odds, but they also provide a variety of prop bets for certain players (the more popular and important a player is, the more prop bets are typically available). Player prop bets are available for almost every sport, though they aren’t always available for every single player.

Be sure to check out our Sports Betting 101 page to learn all the important information before you open up an account at a sportsbook.

What Is A Prop Bet?

A prop bet in sports betting, short for proposition bet, is a wager in sports betting not tied to the final score or outcome of a game. Almost anything but the point spread, total, and moneyline can be considered prop bets. Examples include total passing yards by a player, total touchdowns by an individual player, which team will score the first touchdown, the coin toss result, how long the "The Star Spangled Banner" will last, and so much more. Prop bets can be about specific players or can be about other parts of the game such as the total number of sacks a team will record. Sportsbooks offer hundreds of prop bets on all team-oriented sports.

The sportsbook will provide an over/under or provide choices at different odds for each prop. An example of a game prop is which team will score the first touchdown. Let’s say the Giants are playing the Cowboys. Since the Cowboys are the superior team, they might be listed at -130 while the Giants are listed at +170. The first touchdown does not have anything to do with the outcome of the game, which is why it is considered a prop bet.

However, player props are more popular. A player prop lists an over/under for a specific stat. Every play in football offers the chance for several players to accumulate stats. Even a simple run up the middle for one yard gives the running back a carry and a yard gained, while a defender gets credit for a tackle. if it’s a countable stat in fantasy sports, you can probably find a prop bet for it. Popular football props include:

  • Passing yards
  • Completions
  • Rushing yards
  • Carries
  • Receiving yards
  • Receptions
  • Touchdowns
  • Interceptions

Props are a great way to get more action on a game and are often easier to win than point-spread bets. A player prop bet is a wager on a specific player’s statistics or a particular outcome. Player props can be wagered on as part of a season-long bet or on a game-by-game basis. For example, let’s say Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are playing the Kansas City Chiefs. Perhaps the sportsbooks list Tom Brady’s passing touchdowns at 2.5. A sports bettor would have to choose the under or the over, depending on the odds of each bet. If it seems more likely that Brady will throw at least three touchdowns, the over might be listed at -120 while the under might be listed at +120.

Single-Game Player Prop Examples For Other Sports

  • NBA: How many total three-pointers will Steph Curry convert against the Nuggets? [Over 5.5 (-130) / Under 5.5 (+110)]
  • MLB: Who will have more total bases? [ Francisco Lindor (-115) / Pete Alonso (+105)]
  • NHL: How many points will Sidney Crosby have? [Over 1.5 (+110) / Under 1.5 (-120)]

Each player prop reflects a player’s projected statistical outcome for a specific game. Different sportsbooks sometimes offer different projections and have varied odds for each specific prop. While some sportsbooks may offer odds on a larger number of players, others may offer a wider selection of odds just on the more popular players.

Season-Long Player Props

Here are some examples of player prop bets one could find for an entire season from each major sport:

  • NFL: Saquon Barkley – 2020-21 Regular Season Total Rushing and Receiving Yards [Over 1,500 (-125) / Under 1,500  (+105)]
  • NBA: Who will win the 2020-21 NBA MVP Award? [ Steph Curry (+150), Kevin Durant (+250), Giannis Antetokounmpo (+750), Nikola Jokic (+1000), Luka Doncic (+3700) ….)
  • MLB: Who will hit the most regular-season home runs in 2022? [ Shohei Ohtani (+500), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (+550), Fernando Tatis Jr. (+600), Mike Trout (+950), Pete Alonso (+1000)…]
  • NHL: How many points will Alex Ovechkin score in the regular season in 2020-21? [Over 85.5 (-110) / Under 85.5 (+110)]

One big difference between a season-long and single-game player prop bet is the potential payouts. With a season-long prop bet such as who will win an MVP award, there is potential for big returns on your bet given the number of variables that go into predicting such a bet. However, season-long bets that come in an over/under format typically pay out the same odds as an individual game bet would.

How To Make Player Prop Bets

To make a player prop on a mobile device, follow the steps below:

  1. Log into your sportsbook account
  2. Go to the sport/game you wish to bet on
  3. Look for an option that says “More Wagers” or “Player Props”
  4. Find the player prop you wish to bet on and click on your choice for the correct side of the wager
  5. Enter your wager amount
  6. Click “confirm bet”

Making a player prop bet in person at a sportsbook is just as easy. Follow these steps:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the player prop bets available from that particular sportsbook. This can be done by reading any betting sheets they have available, or by using their app on your mobile device while you are at the sportsbook.
  2. Approach the cashier and tell them the game you wish to wager on
  3. Tell the cashier you would like to make a “Player prop bet”
  4. Identify the specific prop and the side you wish to wager on
  5. Tell the cashier your wager amount
  6. Hand the cashier your money
  7. Take your betting ticket and secure it in a safe place

How Do Prop Markets Work?

Prop markets often derive from other betting markets. For example, let’s say the Chiefs and playing the Chargers. Since both teams have high-powered offenses, the total is set at 52, a fairly high over/under by NFL standards. The sportsbook will likely list Patrick Mahomes’ passing prop at 300.5 yards. This is a high total, but it is because this game is expected to be a high-scoring affair. The market expects the game to be a shootout, therefore, the quarterbacks will likely have passing yardage props that are quite high.

However, let’s now pretend that the New York Jets are facing the New York Giants. And let’s say that the entire Giants’ receiving corps tested positive for COVID-19 and was unable to suit up. The game’s total will be very low and the passing yard prop for Daniel Jones would be incredibly low since he has no receivers at his disposal. His passing prop might just be 199.5 yards. Player props tend to correlate with the implied team total of points.

Why Bet Props?

There are three main reasons to bet on props.

Additional Action 

If you aren’t satisfied with just rooting for a team in a game, props offer a way to stay involved during almost every play. If you bet Cameron Brate to score a touchdown for the Buccaneers during the Super Bowl at +900 odds, you will be on the edge of your seat with your eyes glued to the TV (sometimes screaming), hoping that when Tom Brady drops back into the packet and throws a deep ball, Brate will secure the pass and scamper into the end zone. Or perhaps you bet that Tyreek Hill on the Chiefs will catch more than 5.5 passes. You will be hoping he creates separation so that Patrick Mahomes can hit him on intermediate and deep routes. 

Props Are Exploitable

Because betting limits are low for these props, sportsbooks aren’t as incentivized to get the lines right. Using some basic arithmetic, it’s not as difficult to win prop bets as it is to win game wagers. If you specialize in a certain type of props such as receiving yards or receptions, you should only bet on the props that involve that stat. 

When a game total drops, the prop markets don’t always move. Perhaps the public is betting a ton on the under of a Browns-Ravens game. Maybe the total decreased from 47 points to 43 points because Lamar Jackson is injured and unable to suit up. However, tight end Mark Andrews’ receiving yards prop is still listed at 89.5 yards. In this situation, it might make sense to take the under on the Andrews receiving yards prop since the sportsbooks clearly think it will be tough for each team to move the chains in a low-scoring affair. Do this as soon as possible as the sportsbooks may eventually get around to decreasing the number associated with Mark Andrews’ receiving yards prop.

Line Shopping

It is critical to look at all the different sportsbooks to see which one provides the best odds on whatever type of bet you are about to make. This is a common practice when it comes to spread, moneyline, and total bets, but it is also a great strategy when it comes to player props. While an NFL spread typically settles on a consensus number, prop markets often vary significantly among different sportsbooks. Depending on the prop, you might find that DraftKings is offering a prop that is 10 yards more than another sportsbook such as Caesers on the same running back’s rushing yardage prop. 

FantasySP is currently developing a tool that will help you identify which sportsbooks are offering the best odds on every prop available. 

Good luck with your prop bets and let’s make some serious cash!

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