Types of Props
There are so many types of props that one could write an entire novel devoted to them. Let me break them down into general categories of basic, intermediate, and advanced. These are loose categories and very subjective but will provide a nice overview for the prop newbie.
Basic propositions are things that are easy to define and bet. Things like “will the coin toss be heads or tails?” or “how many catches will Julio Jones have?” These are very standard and offered at most sites for most NFL games. These types of basic props are usually for short durations (maybe a full game, max).
These props are a bit more involved. They may last for a few months, or even a whole season. They may include questions such as “will any NFL player have over 4800 yards passing this season?”
These advanced or specialized props can include anything the sports book is crazy enough to think up. Especially around Super Bowl Sunday, these props get creative. Questions such as “total number of players to throw a pass” and “Dwayne Wade free throws vs Ben Roethlisberger completions” are asked, bet on, and answered. Again, almost anything you can think of is fair game.
What’s the Juice?
Props usually have higher than usual juice, or house edge, than standard sides or totals. Some sites have higher juice than others. For example, a popular bet is to bet on the coin toss for the Super Bowl. Some sites use the standard -110 for heads/tails, while others have juice as low as -101.
Usual juice ranges from -110 to -120 depending on the sports book. Obviously the lower the juice the better the value, and the easier it is to make money.
Finding Value In Props
With such a wide range of props available, bookmakers don’t always have the time or resources to stay on top of props. This means that if the game line or other factors change, the props related to that game may not be as fast to change as expected. These “underlying” bets or props are also known as derivatives.
So, there may be a prop that lists the total number of touchdowns scored in a game. All the sudden, the total starts dropping fast. The prop may not move at all, and savvy bettors see an opportunity and pounce, betting big on the under. After a few max bets, the book may move the line or adjust the juice. But it’s too late at that point.
Props aren’t as efficient as regular game lines because of this feature. Some sports books take large, five (sometimes six!) figure wagers on game spreads but only maybe $500 or $1000 max on props. This inefficiency can be exploited and profitably bet. However, most books will be quick to limit/ban players who take advantage and aggressively bet props.
Props can be analyzed and overanalyzed to death, and that is another reason books limit their exposure. A player who has specialized knowledge can have the edge over a sports book where the linesmaker may set lots of lines and not devote as much time to each player/team/situation.
Horse Racing Exotics
When betting on horses, there are a few basic exotic bets that punters enjoy placing. These basic bets are quinellas and exactas.
A quinella bet is a wager that two horses will finish 1-2 in the final tally. So if you pick Horse 3 and Horse 5, and the final results are 3-5-x-x, you win. If the final results are 5-3-x-x, you also win. Any other outcome is a loser. The odds for this bet depend on the odds of each horse picked.
An exacta bet is similar, except you must pick the exact finish for the top two horses. So if your exacta is a 3-5 exacta and the finish comes 5-3-x-x, it’s a loser. A quinella with 3-5 would be a winner, however. The odds for an exacta are much higher to compensate for this.
Exotics Can Be Beaten, But Not For Long
Exotics, or props, are easy to beat for professionals who invest the time necessary to do so. However, the sports books are usually quick to limit players who try to do this. It is a cat and mouse game that often results in players and sportsbooks going back and forth trying to cover their true intentions. It is interesting and often profitable one way or another.
Also known as a proposition bet (or prop), an exotic bet is a wager not tied to the final score or outcome of a game. You can place exotic bets on a certain player making a certain number of steals, or it could be something wackier like whether a fan will streak at the Super Bowl.
Prop bets are paid out similar to money line bets or any other bets. Your payout depends on the odds posted with the bet. The most common line for prop bet odds is -110 for each side, meaning you’d need to wager $110 to win $100 in profit.
Proposition betting limits are much smaller than sides and totals. Many online betting sites cap the amount you can bet on a prop bet at $250. However, it all depends on where you place your bets - some sites may accept larger bets, while others may have limits as low as $50.
Prop bets aren’t going to make you rich, but they can be a great source of entertainment for bettors who are new to a sport or want some fun. While serious bettors bet against the spread, casual bettors will take a small punt on something happening and get satisfaction from watching the action unfold.