Propositions Bets and Why Sharp Bettors Play Them

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Pinnacle Pulse 9/28/05
The inside line from by Simon Noble

In earlier columns we’ve discussed the effect of discounted vigorish on major sports. This week, I’d like to take a closer look at proposition bets. A proposition (or prop bet) is simply a wager on something other than a Game spread or total. It can cover anything from which of two batters will get more hits, to who will win the next Heisman trophy. Proposition wagers are typically available on any major sport.

Why should you bother with propositions? The answer is simple – these are the easiest for a player to beat. Most bettors will be shocked to learn this, but sports books routinely lose money on props and oftentimes a break-even day is considered a small victory.

When you see a spread on an NFL Game, that spread is the result of at least a dozen separate odds makers whose collective opinion is merged to form the market. When you wager on a proposition, it’s typically your opinion versus one odds maker. If you know more than that one odds maker, you are going to get the best of it.

Sports books know that propositions are dangerous. Many try to protect themselves by using 30 or 40 cent lines with low wagering limits. Some will even force prop players to mix their action by playing regular lines as a condition of continued proposition wagering. Many professional players will confirm this – for the smaller players, betting on props is one of the best ways to win long-term. And by playing at low juice, the odds will be even more in your favor.

At we use a 16 cent line on props, which offers up to 60% greater value than other books. With hundreds of propositions to choose from including props on every major sport as well as fantasy football player match-ups, reality TV shows, poker Tournaments and even the World Chess Championships, there is literally something for everyone.

Why do sports books continue offering props? At Pinnacle Sports we have noticed two things that make props worth offering: 1) new players drawn by props never leave after trying the rest of the site; and 2) prop players branch out to the rest of Our discount-priced wagering like on the Games below, which have seen interesting betting patterns early in the week.

Florida (-4 +106) at Alabama

Urban Meyer has won his last 20 Games as a head coach, a streak beginning on November 1, 2003 while coaching Utah. He hopes to earn his fifth win this season leading the Gators into Tuscaloosa. This match-up features two of the strongest defenses in the country; Florida allowing 232.5 yds/Game, and Alabama permitting 223 yds/Game.

Beware the early money, as it is usually sharp. This Game was no exception with regular sharps all over Alabama early. This opened at Alabama +4 +105, and was bet down to +4 -116 (or +3.5 -110). We are seeing some opposition at -4 -101, but we are unsure which way this Game will head closer to the weekend.

Notre Dame (+3) at Purdue

Weis’s Irish have opened up their offense, averaging 295 passing yards per Game, and 475 total yards per Game. Notre Dame has not generated that much offense in any of the last 10 years. Purdue has pursued a more balanced attack, averaging 218 passing yards, and 210 rushing yards per Game. Both defenses seem soft and each allows roughly 300 yards per Game. Statistics are a dangerous tool to use for odds making in NCAA football, especially in the early season. Statistics get distorted when a high tier team plays down (like Notre Dame against Pittsburgh and Washington, or Purdue versus Akron).

We opened this Game at Purdue -1.5. Around 5:00pm on Sunday, other books opened at Purdue -3.5.The sharp players moved in like vultures, picking off the gap. Able to take Purdue -1.5 -105 and Notre Dame +3.5 at other books, the market squeezed to a neutral point around -2.5 / -3. Due to Our opener, a majority of the early money was on Purdue. Once the price stabilized, we were still seeing sharp action on Purdue at -2.5/-109 and -3/+107.

Dallas (+3) at Oakland

The Raiders are 0-3 after losing competitive Games to New England, Philadelphia and Kansas City. Oakland is still favored at home though against the 2-1 Cowboys. Dallas struggled to win last week against San Francisco, scoring two 4th quarter TD’s to win 34-31.

Games lined on a “3” are both interesting and frightening for a line manager. We opened the Game at +3 +105, and are seeing the sharper players divided on this Game. Raiders backers are using point buy/selling to play -2.5, -3 and -3.5. We have other professional players on Dallas +3 and +3.5 but none are selling down to +2.5. If the Game lands on the “3”, we end up paying wagers on both sides of the Game.

Indianapolis (-7) at Tennessee

Indianapolis disappointed its backers last week. After getting first and goal from the Cleveland 7 with 88 seconds left, Indianapolis knelt on the ball 3 times. This secured an injury-free win for the Colts and a loss for those betting Indianapolis at -13.5 last week. The Colts defense has played well allowing only 16 points the entire season. Meanwhile, Tennessee has had offensive problems, managing only Four offensive touchdowns in three Games.

We opened this Game at -6.5 flat, and all the early action was on the Colts. When it was bet down to -6.5 -109, we started to get money trickling in on the dog, mostly bought up to +7. For now, we are siding with the dog bettors and accepting Colts money by holding Our price. As with all Games lined on the “3” and “7”, we are seeing a lot of point buying through the key number.

San Diego at New England O/U 47

This year, Games with these two teams have averaged 49 points per Game. It is early in the season though, and team statistics tend to revert somewhat towards the mean.

We opened this with a total of 45 and were flooded with over money at a ratio of eight wagers on the over for every one accepted on the under. Even after we moved to 47, there is still upward pressure as part of the market is trading at 47.5. Those who played over 45 got great value, but how much? The 45 hits about 3% of the time; the 46 hits 1.5% and the 47 hits 3% of the time. Therefore over 45 should win a little over 55% of the time. Thanks to -105 pricing, those early sharps netted at least an 8% theoretical yield on their bets.

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