How Bookmakers Calculate the Odds For the Craziest Prop Bets

The "juiced" odds on the National Anthem length might be in your favor.

Flickr / NYCMarines

The most fun thing about betting on sports — besides winning in the final seconds — is placing a prop bet. There’s nothing like a weird and wild wager to take the edge off a more serious, analytical prediction. Regular gambling enthusiasts will often describe prop bets as having “juiced” odds, in that they are long — too long, some say — to be worth it. Sure, proposition bets have longer odds, but the payouts are higher, making them enticing to both bettors and bookies.

But the secret about prop bets, if you ask regular gamblers — or if you just happen to take a look at the odds — is that they seem sort of, well, random. That’s because bookmakers often don’t put as much resources into setting the odds for a prop bet as they do for major markets like a scoreline, or spread, or a result. Arguably, more time is spent devising creative prop bets for big games that have celebrity appeal, like the Super Bowl or NBA All-Star Game. Those bets célèbre take much more knowledge and foresight of the situation on which a wager is placed in order to be successful.

If regular betting odds are the result of statistical analysis, probabilities, and of course, how the bets are are coming in, prop bets are sometimes irresistible add-ons, good for a small wager and a big payout if they come true.

However, prop bets can result in big paydays. One such NFL Week 1 prop bet came to fruition, too., the media outlet that covers New Jersey news, reported this prop bet ahead of Week 1:

“Odds Donald Trump Tweets about the NFL/anthem between Sept. 6-9: 1/5.”

Those fractional one-in-five odds would pay out $5, plus your $1 stake back, if the commander-in-chief tweeted about the NFL or the National Anthem between September 6 and 9.

Of course, that prop bet paid out for anybody who put money down, as the president tweeted about the NFL and the anthem at 10:42 a.m. on Sunday, September 9.

An analysis of Prop Bets by sports gambling news site Sports Betting Dime offered this take recently: “Bookmakers don’t spend a lot of time or resources to generate the most accurate and sophisticated lines for proposition bets. The majority of their time is spent generating odds on higher volume lines. Subsequently, the odds attached to “over” or “under” are usually generated from a very basic reading of a player’s stat line.)”

The Super Bowl of prop bets is, well, the Super Bowl. Bets on the length of the National Anthem can be placed by someone with a knowledge of Kelly Clarkson’s singing style (as they were in 2012), instead of, say, the quality of the New York Giants quarterback (which was also very good that year.) Prop bets can be a very good call if you’re knowledgeable about something that’s only tangentially related to the action on the field. Prop bets are the perfect bet for friends who attend your Super Bowl party for the food and the commercials.

There are also prop bets for on-the-field-action; statistical achievements by individual players are popular prop bets. First-scorer or time until the first throw-in in soccer, or bets on penalties — “roughing the passer” in the NFL, for example — or the number of strikeouts in baseball. The odds for these prop bets are not as long as more celebrity-centered bets — there’s historial patterns to analyze and act on, after all — and the odds reflect that.

Because winning the prop bet often requires specialized knowledge about a specific individual situation, bookmakers calculate long odds. Those long-shots can pay off — if you know the routines of an individual player, tweeting habits of a president, or vocal stylings of an American Idol contestant.

This story is a partnership between MyBookie.Net and Inverse. With odds on every game, MyBookie offers fast payouts on spreads, totals, money lines, teasers, parlays, and yes, props.

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