Betting on Basketball Prop Bets

Complete Guide to Betting on Basketball Prop Bets

Basketball prop bets are one of the most exciting and fun bet types that you can make on a game. Prop bets sometimes referred to as 'specials,' usually refer to the bet types that don't fall into the regular betting categories (who is going to win, etc.).

Yes, that's an extremely obscure definition, but the bets really are all over the place. The best way to describe them is to show you some examples, and then you'll understand.

In basketball, there are two categories of prop bets - skilled bets, and unskilled bets. It's important to point out that you will never see the bets split up this way on a gambling website or in a sportsbook. This is just the way that we like to organize them so that we can show you a few strategy points with each.

Skilled Bets

Skilled prop bets in basketball are prop bets that you can actually use your knowledge and strategies to try and win. These bets require knowledge of the game and the players involved to get correct. While they can have more volatility at times, they're definitely an important key to a lot of winning basketball betting strategies.

Here are a few examples of skill style basketball prop bets.

  • Will Russell Westbrook score over 30 points in this game?
  • Will Kobe Bryant get more than two blocks in this game?
  • Will the Western Conference Championship go seven games?

As you can see, you're basically betting on things that might not directly affect the score of the game. You are betting on how well individual players will perform in the game or how well teams might fare in a series. While these may look tough on the surface, you can definitely apply skill and knowledge to make educated predictions of each.

For example, let's say you are looking to bet if Russell Westbrook will score over 30 points in the game or not. You can bet that he WILL score over 30 points or you can bet that he WON'T score over 30 points. Both sides of the bet are almost always available. Let's say Westbrook usually averages 33 points a game, but you think the defense he will be up against is going to shut him down. In this case, you would probably bet that he won't score over 30 points. If your prediction about the defense shutting him down is correct, you will win your bet.

Skilled prop bets allow you to bet on your predictions and strategy hunches that might not deal directly with the outcome of the game. Westbrook can score under 30 points, but his team can still win the game. Without prop bets, you would have no way of capitalizing on your prediction.

Unskilled Prop Bets

The unskilled prop bets (Also known as the fun ones!) are bets that are straight gambling. You might be able to get a tiny prediction one way or the other, but for the most part, you will be guessing. Here are some examples of fun prop bets in basketball.

  • Will there be over five dunks in the game?
  • Which team will score first in the game?
  • Who will win rookie of the year?
  • How many fouls will there be in the first quarter?

As you can see, it's probably near impossible to predict a lot of these. Some of them, like maybe rookie of the year, might be somewhere in the middle of skilled and unskilled, but you're still probably only going to be betting on these for fun. That's the important thing to remember here. These prop bets should strictly be used for fun gambling and not be part of your money-winning strategy. They're definitely a ton of fun, but you can't beat these bets in the long run. If you use them for what they're made for, they're awesome. Just promise us you won't go and try to be a fun prop bets professional.

How They Work

Prop bets are one of the easiest forms of sports betting you can get involved with. One of the best uses of them is to introduce new people to sports betting. Let's say you have a significant other that is trying to get into basketball and sports betting but doesn't really understand much of the game. You could teach them what a dunk is and tell them that if anyone does that more than five times, they win their bet! You might be pleasantly surprised how this helps not to get the TV channel changed when the game is on.

Regarding how prop bets work, they're about as simple as we've described. There really is no way to complicate them. You are presented with a prop, and then you select which side of the prop you want to be on. For example:

How many points will Russell Westbrook score?
Over 30.5
Under 30.5

If you think he will score MORE than 30.5 points, you bet the over. If you think he will score LESS than 30.5 points, you bet the under. You may be asking why the line is set at 30.5 instead of at a whole number. This is commonly done to prevent ties. Since it is impossible to score half points, you will 100% win or lose your bet and don't have to worry about a tie.

How They're Paid Out

Basketball prop bets pay out the same as all other bets. The odds on the side you are betting are either given in moneyline format, decimal format, or in fractional format. Let's look at our above example real quickly to make sure you understand this.

How many points will Russell Westbrook score?
Over 30.5
Under 30.5

Let's say we bet $100 on the under because we think the defense is going to shut him down. We were right, and he only scores 23 points. We will get paid out at the odds of +125 for our winning bet. This means we will receive $125 in profit for our correct pick.

You may see the odds written in decimal format or fractional format depending on what part of the world you are based in. Here is how those will look just so you're more comfortable when you see them. Remember, these bets are all EXACTLY the same and pay out exactly the same. They're just the same thing written differently. It's the same as if we said "it's hot outside" versus "It's 100 degrees outside." They both mean the exact same thing, they're just said differently.

Westbrook ScoreMoneyline
Over 30.5
Under 30.5
Westbrook ScoreDecimal
Over 30.5
Under 30.5
Westbrook ScoreFractional
Over 30.5
Under 30.5

Benefits of Basketball Prop Bets

Flexibility of Betting

Before prop bets were invented, you really could only bet on the outcome of the game. If you knew of something that you thought was going to happen during the game that might not directly affect the winner of the game, you were out of luck. Sure, if you thought from our above example that Russell Westbrook was going to have a bad game you could bet against his team, but someone else could step up, and they would still win. You would have been spot on with your prediction, but not rewarded for it. Now you can really pinpoint your predictions and take full advantage of the little things that you notice about individual situations or players in a basketball game

The Money Making Potential

As we touched upon in the flexibility of betting section, prop bets open up a whole new avenue of bets that you can work with to build your money-making strategy. They allow you to vary what you're betting on and attack situations that you pick up on that, you think the public or the line makers are wrong about. All of this leads to a better money-making opportunity for you. Remember, though, we are only talking about the skill based prop bets here. If you're constantly betting on how many times someone will trip during a game or what will happen in the halftime show, you're probably going to struggle to show a long term profit.

Entertainment Value

Prop bets are insanely fun. There really is no denying that. We are not just referring to the unskilled ones, but the skilled ones as well. Prop bets give you things to root for no matter what is going on in the game. The game could be a blowout, and you could still be cheering for a certain player to make one more three-pointer so you can win your prop bet or you could be cheering for one more dunk to win your bet. When you only bet on the score of the game, you find yourself in a lot of situations where you may be out of the running for a win fairly early in the game. Props keep the rush going as well as the money-making opportunity.

Tips and Strategy Advice

Regarding the fun, unskilled prop bets our only piece of strategy advice is to have fun. Don't kill yourself trying to find a way to determine how many times players will fall over during the game. That being said, if you do find a way to determine that, please let us know and we can all go retire together :)

Regarding skill prop bets, there is quite a bit you can do to try and gain an edge. Here are a few tips that might help point you in the right direction. As every prop bet is so different, we can't really give you a ton of specific tips, but what we can do is help to shape the way your mind thinks about prop bets. This will allow you to approach any prop bet and work towards making an educated prediction that hopefully results in a money-making win.

Bet on Who You Know

Our common tip for sports betting is to only bet on the teams or sports that you know. While that continues to be true with prop bets, it goes a step further as you are now betting on individual players in a game. This will require you to be even more knowledgeable about specifics. For example, let's look at our Russell Westbrook example from earlier. You won't need to just know about his team and the team he is playing, but you'll need to know about him specifically and the person or persons that will be guarding him. While this will require more work, it opens up some new opportunities. The more data that is present, the more chances there are for the line makers and for the public to make mistakes. If you can spot these mistakes, you can capitalize. It all begins, though, with making sure you are knowledgeable on what and WHO you are betting on.

Use the Correct Data

As we just discussed, there is a lot more data that comes into play with individuals. You have to make sure that you are looking at the correct data that is pertinent to the actual bet you are making. For example, if you are betting on how many three-pointers someone is going to make, their total points average for a game is pointless. Also, the other team's basic defensive stats are not worthless, but there are more accurate data points you can look at. Instead of looking at regular defense stats, look at stats specifically against the three-point shot.

The key here is to get as exact and specific in your research as possible. The more you can dial in on the exact thing you are betting on, the stronger and more accurate your prediction is likely to be.

Make Sure Your Bets Work Together

One of the biggest blunders sports bettors tend to make when making a lot of bets is not making sure their bets are working together. This means that you are not limiting the amount you can win through bets that are contradictory to each other. Still confused? No worries. Let's give an example.

Let's say you are betting that Russell Westbrook is going to score under 30 points and will be shut down by the other team's defense. If you were also to bet that Westbrook's team was going to win the game, these bets would be working against each other. If a team's leading scorer is getting shut down, you can't in good conscious bet on that team to win the game. You'd most likely be wanting to bet that they are going to lose the game or not place that bet at all if you thought Westbrook was going to get denied the whole game.

This is a bit of an extreme example, but it should get your head moving in the right direction. A less obvious example might be betting that two players on the same squad are going to score over the line set for them. They're going to be basically stealing possessions from each other the whole game, and it's really hard to win both of these bets. Try and make sure your bets all work together so your potential win ceiling is the highest it can be. The best way to do this is to ask yourself before you place a bet how it impacts all other bets on that game. It doesn't take a lot of rocket science to see when you may have accidentally set something against yourself.
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