How to Bet Proposition Bets at a Sportsbook
Betting sides and totals on major sports like baseball, basketball and football are the most common wagers available everywhere. However, many sportsbooks also offer proposition bets (or props short) for gambling on non-team sports like golf, tennis, boxing and auto racing - including NASCAR - due to their growing popularity. The two main ways of wagering on non-team sports are "Betting to Win" an event and "Matchup Betting" which pits an individual against another individual or a group of individuals.
Betting to Win
Before every major event in non-team sports like golf, tennis and auto racing, futures are set by oddsmakers. These are not fixed and are adjusted by sportsbooks several times leading up to the event and are sometimes released months before an event. The same holds true for major team sports like NFL and college football, NBA and college basketball and MLB baseball.
The main advantage of futures is that you can get appealing odds by betting far in advance of when the event takes place. For example, betting on the 2006 Masters golf tournament now might get you much better value on Tiger Woods, who may be 10/1 at this moment but dip to 6/1 closer to the event if he is on a roll.
An example with team sports would be NFL futures, where you often can get much higher odds on a team by betting before the season starts. A NFL future bet on a team to win the Super Bowl might be 20/1 in the preseason; but by midseason, their odds might decrease to 10/1 if they turn out to be legitimate championship contenders.
"Betting to Win" an outcome event like The Masters is the most common way to wager on individuals competing for a particular non-team title. Unlike team sports such as football, non-team sports also have multiple events over the course of a year, so "Betting to Win" obviously happens much more frequently than a once a year NFL futures bet on the Super Bowl winner does.
It is very important to note that not all the competitors in an event may be listed, so another betting option is on the "field" which includes all other competitors not listed. The odds on a "field" bet are typically comparable to a bet on the favorite in order to protect sportsbooks from taking a big hit if a major upset occurs. In exchange for a lesser payout, field bettors gain the advantages of having more than one entrant that can win for them.
For non-team sports like golf, boxing, tennis and NASCAR, "Matchup Betting" offers an alternative to simply betting on the event's winner. "Matchup Betting" generally involves an individual going up against another individual in a head-to-head event, such as a tennis match, and the odds are determined using the money line.
For example, if Serena Williams faced an overmatched opponent in the U.S. Open tennis tournament, a reasonable money line would require Serena bettors to risk 0 to win 0 while a 0 bet on her opponent would win 0.
Here's how the money line would be listed: Serena Williams -400 / #102 Ranked Opponent +360.
Every 0 bet on Serena nets a 0 profit if she wins (plus the return of the 0 risked). If her opponent pulls off the upset, 0 bet on the underdog would profit 0 (plus the return of the 0 risked). For more information on how this works, be sure to check out How to Read the Money Line.
Furthermore, a tennis match would be considered a tournament-style head-to-head matchup since the competitors involved directly play against each other in the event. An artificial head-to-head matchup involves competitors in an event like a golf tournament or auto race who are indirectly competing against each other since in reality they are competing against everybody in the field, not just one other competitor. These artificial matchups are also fake in the sense that bookmakers are the ones creating them - solely for betting purposes - and different books will often offer different matchups.
Group matchups are another way "matchup betting" is used which is particularly popular in golf and auto racing events like NASCAR, where you can select whether a leading competitor or a few other lesser competitors will finisher higher amongst the group, with the odds again based on money lines. Since golf and NASCAR both have pre-qualifying, not everybody makes the cut to the final day of competition, and these group matchups require all individuals to qualify in order to be eligible for action.
Proposition bets for non-team sports are not limited to "Betting to Win" an event and "Matchup Betting" but those are the primary ways to wager on them. Other examples of props for non-team sports include what racing team will finish highest in a particular NASCAR race (Chevy, Ford or Dodge) or how many rounds will the fight between Mike Tyson and Kevin McBride last (Over/Under 8.5 rounds). Props, also known as exotic wagers, are also extremely popular on high-profile team sporting events like the Super Bowl in Las Vegas . The Imperial Palace Casino's sportsbook is well-known for the enormous number of prop bets offered. For example, you can bet on:
What team will win the coin toss
What player will score the game's first touchdown
What will be the exact margin of victory
As you can see, there's much more to betting than simply totals and sides, especially when it comes to gambling on non-team sports. So be aware of all your wagering options and don't miss out on the excitement non-team sports have to offer with prop betting!
About the Author: RJ Bell is the founder of Pregame.com - Where sports bettors get ready. RJ has been an expert contributor to Maxim Magazine, CNN.com, About.com, and ABC News - and has won 3 world handicapping championships! Located in Las Vegas, the Pregame.com team works at adding to your betting confidence with powerful game insights and sportsbook reviews. FreePicksByEmail.com, the biggest daily sports betting newsletter, delivers help from famous handicappers.