With sports betting becoming more popular by the day, Super Bowl 55 is in line to be the event with the largest volume of wagering in history. It should be noted that sports betting is not legal in every state in the U.S. just yet, but with more and more states adding legal wagering to their docket, the level of interest is sky-high.
To that end, we are continuing a series of explainers on sports betting, following up on a general introduction to the space that explains different kinds of wagers, how odds are calculated, and much more. The second installment is timely when considering the Super Bowl as the backdrop, and it centers on the wide world of prop betting.
What is a prop bet, exactly?
The most common wagers on a sporting event are covered in our general intro, and they are directly linked to the outcome/score of the game. Those wagers include point spreads, over/under totals, and money lines but, again, they are focused on the actual result of the contest in a big-picture sense.
Prop bets (or proposition bets) are wagers that are not directly linked to the overall score or outcome. There are many ways to examine this space, but prop bets gained notoriety from the Super Bowl in many cases, with all eyes fixed on a single game and bookmakers looking for creative ways to entice the public into sinking more money into the action. Prop bets are still far less common than standard point spread bets or total bets, but they are gaining steam, especially in the world of offshore betting, and can be a lot of fun.
Standard Game Props
At this point in 2021, game props are available well beyond the Super Bowl, but they can be quite simple and also a bit more complicated. One type of game prop would be an over/under listing on the longest pass play of the game (over/under 27.5 yards, for example). That means a handicapper could wager on either side of that number for the longest pass play, and the same applies for wagers like shortest touchdown, longest touchdown, total penalty yardage, and more.
That encompasses a great deal of the game prop market, but there are others to consider. For example, a prominent Super Bowl bet is whether the game will go to overtime, with “yes” and “no” offered. These yes/no bets are very easy to track, simply because it is clear whether the event takes place or not. Finally, there are team vs. team wagers that fall under a similar umbrella. Which team will have more rushing yards? Which team will score first? Which team will score last? Which team will kick more field goals? All of these bets could be (or have been) available for any game, with the bettor given the option to choose a side.
This may be oversimplified, but player props basically encompass any wager dictated by the performances of individual players. For example, a popular Super Bowl bet is which player will score the first touchdown, with sportsbooks offering sometimes long odds on various players, with only one able to cash a winning ticket. This could also be applied to basketball with which player scores the first (or last) point of the game, or to baseball with the first/last/most home runs of the night.
Those are broad bets that could pay lofty odds if things break just a certain way, but there are also more common over/under bets. The Super Bowl is, again, a good example here, with the ability to wager on the over/under for passing yards from Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes. Bookmakers build lines for yards (passing, receiving, rushing, etc.), receptions, completions, carries, touchdowns and much more in the football space, with points, rebounds and assists in basketball and hits, strikeouts, and home runs in baseball. This is a more efficient market in recent years, simply because many smart people are now finding value, but these can also be entertaining and a way to track a “game within the game.”
This is the area where a gigantic game, i.e. the Super Bowl, really shines. One of the more famous examples is a large market on just how long the national anthem will be, from start to finish, before kick-off. Another could be tied to the coin toss, with people able to wager on “heads” versus “tails.” It can even be as weird as tracking what words the announcers say, or what color someone’s shoes are, or whether the Gatorade poured over the winning coach’s head is green, orange, blue, or a different color.
Yes, this is hilarious and often weird. Yes, it can also be delightful, but it certainly trends more to the “entertainment purposes only” genre of sports handicapping.
As with anything, it would be wise to take it slow when learning the ins and outs of sports betting, and not going overboard for one particular event (i.e. the Super Bowl) is key to managing things in a responsible manner. There are a ton of ways to handicap a big game, though, and they go well beyond the point spread and total, and into the prop market.