What Propositions Are and How They Work

Proposition bets are one of the five standard types of wagers. As sports betting is fully underway in Ontario (and elsewhere in Canada), propositions are now a part of daily life.

Believe it or not, proposition wagers hold the distinction of being the most common bet in all of sports betting in terms of the number of wagers placed. It is also quite likely that the first type of bet you ever made was a proposition bet.

Obviously, both of these statements deserve some explanation. So, read on to find out all about proposition bets.

What are propositions?

Proposition bets are wagers about particular aspects of a game or match, rather than its outcome. In essence, a “prop bet” is a yes/no question that the sportsbook asks about an event that may come to pass during the contest. Perhaps a bit more vaguely, props are a sort of catch-all category for wagers that don’t fit comfortably into one of the four other types of bets. 

Although you probably didn’t realize it, you’ve likely been making prop bets all your life. A dare – the playground challenge – is, in a sense, a form of proposition. The only difference is that you’re betting your social status instead of money. 

Even gentlemen’s bets or informal “how much you wanna bet” wagers between friends could be classified as props. The term fluidly applies to most disputed questions with a yes/no answer.

Finally, prop bets are usually the only wagers worthy of storytellers and lore. If you’ve ever heard about crazy wagers between professional gamblers, celebrities, or your grandfather, you’re hearing about a proposition. If someone shows up to the office wearing their archrival’s uniform or with baked goods from a rival location, they have been prop betting – even if they never entered a sportsbook to do it.

Of course, sportsbook prop bets tend to be a bit more formal than the ones described above. No Canadian sportsbook is going to dare you to run through a snowbank in your underwear for money. Instead, the types of props you’ll find with professional sportsbooks will usually come in one of a few varieties. However, we need to describe one important subset of props before we talk about common props you’ll see.

Live betting

Most sportsbooks will have a wide selection of props available to wager before a game or match begins. However, there is an entire category of propositions that you’ll find after the opening action of the contest.

Live betting, or in-game wagering, occurs only after a game is underway. These types of bets tend to deal with questions about small, bite-sized portions of the game, rather than events with any kind of macro effect on the game itself. 

As a consequence of their hyperfocus, opportunities for in-game wagers also come and go at incredible speeds. If you’re used to preparing for your sports wagering extensively and carefully, live betting is the antithesis of that approach. 

However, should you choose not to bet them, you may find yourself watching more than one hundred betting options go by during a single contest. Thus, live betting is responsible for more betting opportunities than any other type of wager. 

Because of its speed and complexity, live betting is almost entirely confined to online sportsbooks. The logistics of facilitating in-game wagering with tellers is simply too difficult to achieve.

Common propositions

Between pregame props and in-game wagers, there are a few types of questions you’ll encounter commonly when you look at the listings. Although there are always some oddball selections, the majority of props you find will be in one of these categories.

Statistical milestones

Many props focus on the achievement of statistical milestones during the course of the game. Since every sport on the planet generates statistics of some kind, it is simple enough to conjecture about the degree to which certain statistics will go. Statistics for both teams and individual players are valid subjects for prop bets.

So, common prop bets that you’ll find for most games will be questions like:

  • Will Player X achieve a hat trick?
  • Can Superstar Player score 30 points tonight?
  • Is either team going to score more than one rushing touchdown?
  • Will Pitcher Y be named as the winning pitcher for the game?
  • Is anyone going to receive a red card during the match?

Prop bets offer endless possibilities such as these examples. In fact, some top sportsbooks offer you the capability of proposing your own wagers. Unless there has been a glaring oversight, your proposal is almost always going to be a prop bet. 

You may also see live betting opportunities appear in this category with regard to patterns that teams or players seem to have established during the game. In other words, if a team or player is generating a stat at a particular rate, you might be asked whether you believe the rate will continue. Here are some examples of this type of prop:

  • Team A scored 35 points in the first half. Will it score 70 or more for the entire game?
  • Player X has 7 points and 8 rebounds through three quarters. Will she score a double-double?
  • Team B has been perfect during power plays this season. Is a goal going to come during this one?

You get the idea. As is the case with the pregame version, the possibilities for these propositions are limited only by the sportsbook and/or your own imagination.

Combined conditions

Another favourite type of prop bet that you’ll often find revolves around combining two conditions for a win. The sportsbook may ask a question about a player’s individual performance and the team’s performance overall. So, you may see props like:

  • Does Player A hit a home run and Team A (his team) win the game?
  • Will Player B score a rushing touchdown but Team B loses the game?
  • Does Player C score 30 points and Team A wins by 20 points or more?

In this case, the selected player is usually going to be the team’s top star. So, it’s conceivable that the two events would go together, but it’s not always true. As usual, you bet whether you think the answer is a “yes” or a “no.”

Nongame or unpredictable events

The last type of prop you’ll see fairly regularly will involve the outcome of events that are ancillary to the progress of the game. They are elements of each contest, and they’re certain to occur, but they don’t usually affect the game’s outcome directly and they are based entirely on random occurrence. So, you might see props for questions like:

  • Will the opening coin toss be heads or tails?
  • Which team will be the first to be sent to the penalty box?
  • Will a fight break out during the game?
  • Which team will hit the first home run?
  • Which player will score the first three-point basket?

None of these questions is dispositive about the outcome of the game, you see. But, for instance, there’s no question that every football game involves a coin toss, so you can bet on the eventual outcome. There’s no real way to research or predict most of these events, but they are still valid fodder for wagers.

Continued pregame wagers

This type of prop is exclusively found with in-game wagers. You may notice that the moneylines, totals, and spread bets that were available before a contest began continue to accept bets. 

Don’t be fooled. These bets are no longer what they seem to be. Instead, they are propositions.

The primary difference is that the lines offered through these bets are now influenced by the progress of the game. So, for instance, if an opening line foresaw a much tighter game than the initial period reveals, you may see the spread escalate dramatically from its pregame position.

The reason why you should be careful is that one of the primary sources of bettor value in pregame markets is the perception of discrepancies between the estimate and how the game is likely to go. If you can predict that oddsmakers are off-base about a game beforehand, you have a better chance of realizing profit.

However, since the game gets underway, the automatic adjustments remove the value of your insight. In fact, they change to agree with your assessment. 

Now, that’s not to say that you cannot make a decent wager with these types of props. There may still be some value that you foresee later in the game if, say, a team has a reputation of starting slowly or fading down the stretch. 

It’s important, though, that you don’t rely upon your pregame assessments as confidently as you did before the game got underway.

Propositions and payouts

Payouts for proposition wagers are determined by the ratios listed next to your chosen bet. If you are a seasoned sports bettor or are already familiar with the moneyline or American odds format, you should have no trouble. However, if you’ve never dealt with this type of listing before or have forgotten how they work, here’s a brief primer.

Each payout appears as a three-digit number. Each number will have a + or – sign next to it. The location of these symbols gives us insight about both the expected payout for a bet and how the sportsbook’s oddsmakers expect the wager to resolve.

A payout ratio with a negative number is the most likely outcome. What you’re seeing is the dollar amount you must pay in order to receive CAD$100 in profit on a successful bet. Because the book judges this position to be the more favourable of the two, you pay a premium for the privilege.

By contrast, a payout ratio with a positive number is the less likely outcome. The number listed is the amount of profit you’ll receive if you make a CAD$100 wager. You’re not going to win your bet as often on this side, so you get some extra compensation for the risk.


Will Player X score a goal tonight?

  • Yes +170
  • No -150


In this situation, the book feels that it is less likely he will score. So, you must pay CAD$150 to be eligible to win CAD$100 on a No bet. If you decide to be optimistic about the situation and he does score, then you’ll win CAD$170 for every CAD$100 you bet.

Bear in mind that these are ratios, and you don’t have to bet in the prescribed amounts. The book will scale the ratio to match the size of your wager. 

If you do win, understand that your payout will consist of both your profit and the amount of your wager. So, if you bet according to the ratios above, you’d get CAD$270 ($170 in profit plus your $100 wager) back on a Yes bet and CAD$250 ($100 in profit plus your $150 wager) back on a No bet.

The positives of propositions

Propositions have been popular wagers as long as sports betting or, for that matter, gambling has been happening in human history. If you’re interested in giving them a try, here are some of the things that you’ll enjoy about them.

Fun and social

The first element to notice about props is that they are fun. Propositions are games of truth or dare, bar bets, or challenges between friends, and can lead to some wacky and unique life experiences. While sportsbook props aren’t going to be too nutty, they still allow you to focus on a different portion of the game than you usually do. You may also find camaraderie with fellow prop bettors or, if word spreads, have a room of people cheering for whatever random event might win you the bet.

Change of pace

Props can also represent a palate cleanser for sports bettors who do heavy amounts of research and study. The outcome of some propositions simply cannot be foreseen, and while it would be foolhardy to make these bets the staple of your sports betting activities, betting them on occasion can help you to avoid burnout or stagnation in your efforts. You may even gain some insight about your other wagering because of the different perspective.

Portfolio flexibility

Finally, prop bets afford you a greater degree of flexibility over your entire betting portfolio than the other types of wagers. 

Pregame wagers like spreads and totals bear a “bet it and forget it” quality, in that you make your wager and wait to see what happens. Modern sportsbooks, with their cash out options, have negated this quality somewhat, but the basic concept remains at the core of these types of wagers.

However, prop bets can allow you to augment your positions or hedge against losses in your pregame portfolio. Because there are so many prop bet options – particularly in-game – you don’t have to sit on your hands and either miss out on extra value or watch your entire wager go down in flames.

Instead, you can find some fruitful prop betting options to make a good day great or a bad day a little less painful.

Reasons to avoid propositions

Inasmuch as there are plenty of reasons to bet props, there are also some concerns about betting them. If you see yourself in any of the descriptions below, you may want to reconsider moving forward with prop betting.

You’re risk-averse

If you aren’t interested in increasing your risk profile, props may not be right for you. Propositions are riskier than other types of wagers because they don’t deal with statistics or game events like the others. Most sports bets don’t concern themselves with whether an event will occur, but the degree to which it will occur. Props aren’t even sure that the event will happen at all, in some cases, and you’re often making nothing more than a mildly-educated guess about whether it will come to pass.

You don’t like to rush

Propositions are not a bet for the plodding sports bettor. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be cautious, meticulous, and deliberate in your sports betting, but props often require a much faster answer than others. In particular, in-game wagers may only be available for a few seconds before they disappear. If you don’t want to make decisions quickly or on the fly, prop betting might not be your cup of tea.

Your bankroll management is shaky

As mentioned, props are also the most numerous of all wagers. You may have the opportunity to bet on more than one hundred different props over the course of a single game. As mentioned, you may also be looking for opportunities to increase your win potential or hedge against your losses. 

However, adding additional bets to your open portfolio means adding additional exposure to your bankroll. If you usually bet no more than CAD$10 at a time, but you make 1 pregame wager and 3 in-game wagers, you’re actually betting CAD$40 at a time. 

Because props are available almost to the final whistle of the game, you may also be at risk of chasing your losses or throwing good money after bad. If you fall into this trap, you are in danger of turning a slight loss into a major one, or a bad day into a catastrophe.

If you ever struggle with your impulse control with respect to wagering, prop bets are probably not for you.

A few tips for betting propositions

Now that we’ve discussed all the ins, outs, ups, and downs of props, let’s finish with a few helpful tips for how to make your prop betting experience a positive one.

  • No serious bets – The risk profile and wackiness of props makes them a poor choice to be a major focus of your sports betting life. You should not commit tremendous amounts of time or money to prop betting. Instead, use them as a fun diversion from the humdrum of the other wagering you’re doing, or bet with money that means absolutely nothing to your life or bankroll.
  • Study as much as you’re able – Although your opportunities to prepare for props are much shallower than they are for other types of bets, you should still try to find bits of value where you can. Look for patterns within players’ or teams’ past performances to help guide you in making your answer. There’s always going to be an element of uncertainty, but you should try to reduce it as much as you can.
  • Handle in-game betting with extreme caution – In-game wagering is a popular and seductive type of wager because some of the questions are so mundane and minute. A bet about whether the next batter will get a hit is both simple and fun, but the dollars you wager are both serious and real. There are so many opportunities to bet during a game that you can quickly get in over your head. Be very careful after the opening whistle, bell, tip-off, puck drop, or kickoff.
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