Monday Mailbag (sort of): a beginner’s guide to betting on prop bets

We’re taking a break from our normal Monday Mailbag programming this week to discuss prop bets.

I wrote an article on Saturday highlighting some great new CFL betting lines from Bodog Canada. I received over a dozen tweets and texts from people asking how prop bets work, which is understandable — betting involves numbers, numbers are math, and math sucks.

I’ve taken the liberty below of explaining how prop bets work, how to assess value, and what to look for when putting your money on the line. The impending legalization of single-game sports betting in Canada is about to make betting a lot more commonplace, so now is a great time to get into it.

If you have any follow-up questions, hit me up on Twitter. I’ll either answer them there or include them in a future instalment of Monday Mailbag.

As always, please bet responsibly.

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Prop bets — or proposition bets — are wagers you can place on specific elements of a game or season. These rarely includes wins and losses, usually centring on individual player statistics.

Here’s an example of a prop bet, courtesy of Bodog Canada.

Photo courtesy: Bodog Canada

The bet lists nine options for who will finish the 2021 CFL season with the most passing yards.

The numbers listed beside each player’s name are the odds Bodog has placed on the likelihood of each player winning. The lower the odds, the higher the chances a player will win. The higher the odds, the lower the chances a player will win.

To determine how much money you would win betting on each player, move the decimal two places to the left. Don’t understand what I mean? Let’s use the favourite, Cody Fajardo, as an example.

Fajardo is +190, which means you would win 1.9 times the amount of your wager if successful. This means a $50 bet would yield $40 in winnings. You always get your original wager amount back when you win, which would equal a total payout of $90 (your $50 bet plus $40 in winnings).

Mike Reilly has medium odds at +700. A successful wager on Reilly would trigger winnings 7.0 times the amount of your wager. This means a $20 bet on Reilly would yield $140 in winnings and a total payout of $160 (your $20 bet plus $140 in winnings).

The longest odds belong to Matt Nichols at +1600. A successful bet on Nichols would yield winnings 16.0 times the amount of your wager. This means a $15 bet on Nichols would get you $240 in winnings and a total payout of $255 (your $15 bet plus $240 in winnings).

The goal of betting is to look for the best value. Fajardo’s a great player, but you have to bet a lot of money at +190 to get much back. You could make a ton of money betting on Nichols at +1600, but it’s highly unlikely that he’ll lead the CFL in passing yards in 2021.

To me, the best value is Trevor Harris at +1000. I think there’s a very real chance that Harris will lead the league in passing yardage and the opportunity to trigger winnings 10.0 times the amount of your wager is excellent value.

Photo courtesy: Bodog Canada

Now let’s take a look at Bodog’s odds for who will lead the CFL in rushing yards in 2021.

Andrew Harris has the shortest odds at +190, which is fair considering he led the league in rushing in 2019. Harris is a great player but, as with Fajardo in the example above, the odds are too short to make much money.

There’s the potential to make a ton of money betting on James Wilder Jr. at +2000. A $25 bet would yield winnings of $500 and a total payout of $525. In my opinion, he’s got the best value of any player on this board.

Does that mean Wilder Jr. is the CFL’s best running back? No. I’d put him well behind Harris, William Powell, and William Stanback. But when betting, the goal is to look for the best value. In this case, it’s Wilder Jr.

Photo courtesy: Bodog Canada

Here are Bodog’s odds regarding the Riders’ win total for the 2021 regular season. This bet is a little more complicated than the first two examples listed above.

The over/under for Saskatchewan’s win total is 7.5. This means you have two options to bet on: over 7.5 wins (ie. eight wins or more) or under 7.5 wins (ie. seven wins or fewer).

The number accompanying both options is -115. This number is referred to as the “vig” or “juice” and it works just like the examples above. You move the decimal two places to the left to determine your potential winnings for any particular wager.

A successful bet on the over or under would yield -1.15 times your wager. This means a $50 bet would yield $43.48 in winnings and a total payout of $93.48 (your $50 bet plus $43.48 in winnings). A $250 bet would yield $217.38 in winnings and a total payout of $467.39 (your $250 bet plus $217.38 in winnings).

Photo courtesy: Bodog Canada

Calgary’s over/under win total is almost the same as Saskatchewan’s, only it’s a round number.

If you bet the over, the Stamps need to win eight games or more for you to receive winnings. If you bet the under, the Stamps need to win six games or fewer for you to receive winnings.

What if Calgary wins exactly seven games? Unfortunately, this would result in what’s called a “push.” A push is essentially a tie — nobody wins, which means you get your original wager back, but no winnings. Pushes, much like ties in professional sports, are anti-climactic and lame.

All of the examples listed above are season-long prop bets. In other words, we won’t know the winner of any of these bets until the 2021 CFL season is finished.

When the season begins, there will be all kinds of prop bets generated for each individual game.

Will Bo Levi Mitchell throw for over/under 285.5 yards against Toronto? Will William Stanback rush for over/under 92.5 yards versus Edmonton? Will Henoc Muamba make over/under 4.5 tackles against Hamilton?

These are all examples of the type of prop bets you’ll see throughout the year. Find the ones with the best value — and don’t worry, us at 3DownNation can help you do that — and bet.

Prop bets are a ton of fun and a great way to get involved in betting. Happy wagering!

Editor’s note: Hodge will answer questions about game lines in a future edition of Monday Mailbag.




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