Prop Betting in Virginia
One of the biggest shifts in sports betting over the past few years has been the rise of proposition betting. Proposition bets, or prop bets, have quickly become one of the dominant forms of betting on sports.
Since sports betting is so new in Virginia, it’s understandable if sports bettors in the commonwealth need a refresher on what prop bets are and how you can find your best prop bet options at legal online sportsbooks and sports betting apps.
What is a prop bet?
A prop bet is a bet on events ancillary to the outcome of a game or match. However, in practice, prop bets are a catch-all term for any bet that does not fit comfortably into one of the other main categories.
Without knowing it, you have probably engaged in prop betting in the past. Most friendly bets, side bets, or dares are prop bets, even if they don’t involve money.
Types of prop bets explained
Within the context of official sports betting, prop bets tend to come in three varieties. Each type of prop bet comes with its own merits and challenges, whether you’re betting on the NFL, the NBA, MLB, NHL, or any other of the most popular sports for prop betting.
Milestone prop bets
The first type of prop bet you’ll likely encounter is a milestone prop during the game or match. The sportsbook will offer odds about whether a player or team will achieve a specified milestone before the game ends.
These achievements can be related to almost any statistic or quantifiable event imaginable. They can involve game, season, or career-long achievements.
So, examples of typical milestone prop bets include:
- Will a particular player score a certain number of points?
- Will a team have a certain number of hits in a baseball game?
- Will a certain golfer shoot under par in the opening round?
- Can a player continue his streak of double-doubles in tonight’s basketball game?
- Will a certain player score a hat trick in this game?
Milestone achievement bets can also pop up in live betting if a player or team seems to be on the way to reaching a particular statistic. For instance, if a player scores two touchdowns in the first half, the sportsbook might offer odds that he will score two more in the second half.
These types of props are so common because they’re simple to understand for everyone involved. The achievement will either occur or it won’t, so there’s no question about what’s at stake.
“Something happens” props
The second type of prop bet you will find at most sportsbooks deals with the occurrence of events during a game.
These bets can be fun for bettors, however, because they don’t always cater to the team with the best chance to win. Instead, things will happen that are much more at the whims of a chance than any kind of underlying issue.
Examples of events that you might be able to bet include:
- Which team will be the first to score?
- Will the total number of points, runs, or goals are odd or even?
- Which player will hit a home run during the game?
- Which player will be drafted first?
In many cases, there’s simply no way to tell what the outcome will be. So, these kinds of props end up being a guess.
Live prop betting
Live betting, as its name implies, involves betting on games that are already in progress.
The advent of live betting has been nothing short of a revelation for American sports bettors. Players have found their options for betting have moved far beyond the days of old when you could only bet the spread, moneyline or over/under.
Instead, the technology of today allows sportsbooks to offer action on micro-events throughout the game. It’s possible to bet on events as minute as individual plays and shots, both in terms of their strategies and their outcomes.
Examples of these types of bets include:
- Will the next play be a run or pass?
- Will the next basket be a two-pointer or three-pointer?
- Will the team score during this power play?
- Will this batter strikeout, walk, get a hit, or get hit by a pitch?
- Will the next score in a tennis match be 40-15 or 30-30?
Since these events occur so often in a game, sportsbooks have managed to increase the number of available bets on a single game greatly. It is now fairly common to have over 100 betting opportunities in a single game.
Live betting can also offer the other two types of prop bets without any problem. Both milestone achievement and event occurrences are available once the game starts. In many cases, bookmakers can demonstrate their flexibility and creativity with live bets of these two types.
Also, live betting allows for a fourth type of proposition wager on its own. Live betting allows the sportsbook to continue the standard pre-game bets like spreads, moneylines, and totals into the game. The only difference is that the lines for those bets are now dynamic and adjust according to the progress of the game, so they are prop bets.
Of course, live betting is much more difficult to execute in retail sportsbooks. However, given that the vast majority of sports bets now happen online, live betting is here to stay.
How do prop bet payouts work?
Prop bets are often yes/no questions. In other words, the resolution of the bet is usually whether the event happened or it didn’t. However, a prop bet is rarely a 50/50 scenario. In most cases, one outcome is far more likely than the other to occur.
Sportsbooks handle this discrepancy by borrowing the payout ratios that moneylines employ. In doing so, they can offer odds-based payouts for successful predictions and keep a sliver of the profits for themselves. If you’re unfamiliar with moneylines and their three-digit notation, here’s how they work:
- Positive moneylines are the amount that the sportsbook will pay for a successful $100 bet. A positive moneyline means that the sportsbook believes the event is more likely not to occur. In other words, it’s the underdog.
- Negative moneylines are the amount that the bettor must pay to win $100. A negative moneyline represents the event that the sportsbook is expecting to happen. To put it another way, it’s the favorite.
However, unlike moneylines, prop bets don’t always have two discrete outcomes. In many cases, the betting options are underdogs against the usual outcome. Consider this list of tournament props from a recent PGA event:
- To be decided by a playoff: Yes +450; No -770
- To be decided by a three-man playoff: Yes +2,200
- To be decided by a four-man playoff: Yes +5,500
As you can see, the tournament having a playoff at all is already an unlikely scenario. The odds on a playoff with more than two golfers are even steeper. Those odds are weighed against the likelihood that the tournament will not have a playoff of any kind and that, even if there’s a playoff, it will have a specific number of competitors.
If all that is confusing, consider this handy tip: you can always divide positive moneylines by 100 to get the straight odds that the sportsbook is offering. So, if you want to bet that the tournament above will have a three-man playoff, you’re getting 22:1 odds on your money (2200/100 = 22).
Pros and cons of prop betting
Prop betting isn’t for everyone, and it’s not a perfect type of bet, either. There are both pros and cons to prop betting, and it’s good to understand what you’re getting yourself into when you start looking at props.
- Exciting and fun: Prop bets are a great way to add some excitement and fun to your sports viewing experience. If you have a bet on a particular player, team, or milestone, you end up rooting for things very different from what the score says. It’s fun to root for an odd side event to happen during a game.
- Hedge against other bets: You can also use prop bets as a way to hedge against your other bets. Keep in mind that you don’t want to hedge regularly because you are paying the vig twice when you do. But it is a tool at your disposal to use from time to time.
- Augment complimentary bets: On the flip side, you can also find prop bets that dovetail with your existing bets. You can use the prop bet to get some extra value that goes hand-in-hand with your prediction for the game overall. Augmenting your pregame bets is especially effective for live betting if it seems like your predictions are proving to be correct.
- A higher degree of chance: Many capable sports bettors can turn a consistent profit on their spread bets and moneylines because they’ve developed a betting system to synthesize the relevant data for those types of bets. Unfortunately, many prop bets are resistant to this level of preparation and prediction.
- Time sensitivity: Prop bets can also have a shorter shelf life than some of the other bets. Many spreads and moneylines are available for days before a game, which allows bettors to do their research and homework before betting. By contrast, it’s impossible to know what offers are coming for some types of prop bets, particularly if the bet comes while the game is in progress. You may also have a shrinking window of opportunity with prop bets that you don’t have with other types of wagers, and the stress from the time pressure could impair your decision-making abilities.
- Undermining good bets/augmenting losses: One last con of prop bets is the flip side of two advantages listed above. Gambling is never a sure thing, and it’s possible that making prop bets alongside your other types of bets could enhance your losses rather than your wins.
Prop betting tips
Like all gambling, prop betting can put you on the wrong side of the ledger fairly quickly if you don’t exercise care. However, if you use the following tips, you should find prop betting to be a welcome addition to your sports betting toolkit.
1. Play for fun, not for money
Prop betting can be quite lucrative, but the truth is that there is more chance and variance with prop bets than with other types of sports bets. Don’t make prop betting your primary focus. And don’t bet with large or important sums of cash.
There are simply too many elements at play in prop bets to make solid predictions. If you want to throw a few bucks down on a proposition bet, such as the many popular Super Bowl prop bets available each year, that’s fine, but don’t start betting rent or food money on them.
2. Do as much research as you can
Prop bets are less predictable than other sports bets, but they’re still grounded in the realities of the game in which they’re involved. If you plan to make some prop bets, do as much research and homework as you can.
Even if you only manage to improve your predictions by 10%, that’s still a significant change to your prospects for success. Don’t just start prop betting on a game cold. You could likely identify which bets might be more attractive than others if you put in some time beforehand.
3. Be very careful with live prop betting
Live betting is the new fad for sports betting, and it adds an exciting element to any game that a sportsbook offers. But you need to be extremely cautious if you want to give live betting a try.
For one thing, live betting is much harder to anticipate by its very nature. If the bet didn’t exist until the game started, it’s unlikely that there was a way to plan for it. So, live betting can easily generate some outcomes that are harder to predict, and you should prepare yourself for that uncertainty.
Live betting can also swallow your betting budget quickly because there are so many opportunities. With the possibility of more than 100 bets on a single game, you can find yourself running dry faster than you might anticipate.
Truthfully, with all types of prop bets, you should exercise caution. Avoid the fun bets and stick to the ones that have more of a basis in the gameplay. At the end of the day, the most fun thing is to win money, regardless of how boring the bet was.