Beyond moneyline and spreads: Prop betting

Mateo Brekalo
Mateo Brekalo
Published: 12. listopada 2023.

Mostly when we talk about sports betting, we firstly and mostly think about moneyline betting, spread betting and totals. As the industry continued to expand, a growing number of customers hopped on the betting bandwagon, leading to an increased demand for a more diverse range of betting options. So, among the numerous betting options available, prop bets, short for proposition bets, have emerged as a fascinating and dynamic way to engage with sports events.

In soccer, for example, prop bets—aside from betting on the first goalscorer or predicting who will receive the first yellow card—enable customers to delve much deeper into the event, adding a heightened level of excitement and entertainment to the match. Prop bets have experienced a surge in popularity relatively recently and have since become a vital component of every bookmaker's offering. Due to numerous regulatory issues and uncertainties regarding which bets bookies are allowed to offer, many bookmakers initially hesitated to incorporate them into their offerings. However, with the growing demand, prop bets have become increasingly important. Nowadays, many customers choose a bookmaker based on the variety of side bets offered per match. This is especially true for major events such as the Champions League finals, World Cup finals, Super Bowls, or NBA finals, where customers expect a wide array of prop bets.

What are prop bets

Prop bets, or proposition bets, differ from traditional bets in that they enable you to place bets on events within the match without having to wait for the final whistle to determine the outcome.

They are nothing more than side bets that enable you to diversify the offer and allow bettors to immerse themselves more in the details of the match. Prop bets include various options such as betting on player performance, events occurring within the match like the first booking or who will receive the first free kick, or team achievements like the first team to earn three corner kicks. It can even extend to metrics such as the distance run by players, and more.

Betting on prop bets

While prop bets are initially offered to enhance the entertainment value of bookmakers' offerings, as a bettor, you can certainly find value in betting on prop bets. By thoroughly studying statistics, players, their history against teams in the past, their current form, and other relevant data, you could gain an edge and utilize prop bets to increase your chances of winning when betting.

You should be aware that most props will not be available until the day of the match, and the betting limits will not be as high as those for moneyline bets. Therefore, if you are keen on capturing value, you need to act swiftly and conduct your research soon after the opening of the props. These lines can shift rapidly; for instance, a line for a basketball player that initially opened at 24.5 points can quickly move to 27.5.

Using information to place prop bets

If you're not just in it for the entertainment value of prop betting, you need to gather as much information as possible. You'll want to know which players are injured, who has poor statistics against the defense of other teams, and many other factors

Let's consider a scenario where the Lakers are playing against the Detroit Pistons. Suppose we choose Detroit because LeBron James has the lowest average points scored against the Pistons compared to all NBA teams, standing at 24.1 PPG. But why did every bookie offer 27.5 when his average is more than 3 points lower than 28.5?

There will be many variables which will decide the expected value for the over under line for James:

1. Pistons best defensive player might skip the game because of an injury
2. The second best Lakers scorer Davis is not in the squad
3. James is in good form, scoring 30+ in the last 4 out of 5 games.
4. James season average is currently above 30.0 points
5. It is an important match for the Lakers to catch the playoffs

So, obviously, I just created a hypothetical scenario and provided examples of information that can influence the offered lines. This information can assist bettors in making informed decisions when placing bets and identifying value in the offered lines.

Fun fact

One interesting fact for you as a bettor is that, in most cases, the lines are slightly inflated due to a bias towards the over outcome. This could be a psychological phenomenon, where customers prefer to see more points and cheer for events to happen rather than not to happen. Based on my experience in the industry, I can tell you that the focus and money are often placed on the over outcome. This presents an opportunity for value on under bets, which you might consider incorporating into your betting strategy.

Bet void

Stay aware that prop bets are more sensitive to being void, as there is a higher chance of a completely wrong estimation or a human error in entering the margins. In such cases, bookies will be protected by the authorities, allowing them to cancel the bets if an error occurred. For example, if you place a bet on LeBron scoring more than 15.5 points instead of 28.5, it will be considered an obvious error, and the bet would be canceled.

But there are changes happening in the customers favor, as now many regulatory bodies in certain countries are starting to apply the fair play rule and will not allow the bookies to cancel this kind of cases anymore. It is still not applied in many countries, but the change is slowly happening. This makes the bookies open the props very late or apply strict limits to prop bets.

Value that prop bets offer

When prop betting started to gain popularity, it provided value to both the customer and the bookmaker. Bookies became more entertaining for customers, increasing their engagement with the website. This resulted in customers spending more time on the website, particularly when there is a visualization of event points during an event. The engagement in events within the match increased as customers delve deeply into the actions they placed bets on. Your bets have the potential to be decided well before the end of the period, and faster-paced bet settlement provides more excitement.

Aside from the entertaining aspect, if you are deeply engaged in researching, you can also gain a significant advantage in placing bets on prop bets.


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