The Risk Of In-Game Player Prop Bets
Since its inception, in-game betting has been a novelty that’s attracted more and more players. Sportsbooks can make higher margins on in-game bets and they tend to be harder to handicap, which gives them another edge. They continue to add more and more options for in-game betting with the latest wave being a push for player props. Traditionally, bettors evaluate player props pre-game and try to make a calculated decision. Now that there’s the option to bet in-game on these types of wagers, should players pursue them?
Let’s take a closer look at the risks of wagering in-game player props bets.
The Lines Move Fast
A challenge that comes with betting in-game player props is that the lines move really fast. The technology for live betting has come a long way in the last decade but that’s mostly for the main lines. Nowadays, the best books like DraftKings and FanDuel update the lines for the point spread, moneyline and total almost instantaneously. If it has to come off the board, it does but they do a great job of making sure those main lines are up as much as possible. The story is different with player props.
If you’re tracking these in-game player props, you’ll notice the whole process is much choppier. The lines will come off the board frequently and they’re slower to be updated. You might try to lock in a bet in between plays and it takes longer to take. Then by the time it does, the lines have moved and/or your bet has been rejected. This directly has an impact of what value you’re getting on the line.
The technology will improve in the coming years as more sportsbooks get into these microbets. However, for now there are some hurdles that you’ll encounter when you’re live betting these props.
Debating What Is Good (In-Game) Value?
There is passionate debate among sports bettors in regards to value in-game simply because things are moving so fast. Are you getting a good payout vis-à-vis the risk? That’s always going to be hard to evaluate when everything is moving so fast.
Just daydreaming about Jonathan Taylor behind the Eagles O-Line pic.twitter.com/UOr78vgjoM
— Word On The Birds (@WordOnTheBirds) August 29, 2023
Let’s say there’s a pre-game line on Jonathan Taylor to score an Anytime Touchdown at +125. Well, if that’s what the line is sitting at for days as we lead up to the game, you can make a rational decision. You can handicap the game flow, Taylor’s recent performance, consider the defensive matchup, and then cross-reference that with the odds. A lot of those variables are static before the game starts – including the odds.
After the game kicks off, though, everything becomes a moving target. Let’s say Taylor’s odds are bouncing around from +125 to -110 to +200. That’s a big and you have to ask yourself whether it’s still worth it. Are you going to stick with your pre-game handicapping and only looking the change in odds. In other words, if you liked him at +125, you might really like him at +150 or +200. Or maybe you’ll consider the in-game factors that are changing the setup. Maybe there’s a reason why he’s now at +150 or +200 in-game, and now you’re better off staying away.
When all of these elements are moving around, it becomes far more difficult to decide whether it’s a good bet to make.
The Lines Are Heavily Juiced
Another factor that could and should deter you (at times) from in-game prop betting is the fact that the lines are so heavily juiced. One of the reasons that sportsbooks love to encourage you to bet in-game is because they jack up the spreads on the lines. If you’re looking at the main point spread pre-game, it might be -110 on both sides. Now that the game has gotten underway, it might be -120 on both sides for the same line. If you look at props, the spreads are already wider pre-game and they get pushed out even further in game. Sportsbooks know that casual bettors are not really sensitive to this, so they’re going to push the margins in their favor as much as they can. That’s why sometimes you might see something like -1000 and +400 on a moneyline. Pregame, bettors would criticize a line like this but in-game, this type of line is not out of the ordinary.
If that’s the case, you have to consider avoiding these lines – at times – because the juice is simply so costly. You have to be very certain that you have an edge because the betting lines are usually much better pre-game in terms of the margins that they are once the game is live.
Market Is Not As Competitive (Not Every Book Has Lines)
Sportsbooks can get away with higher juice on the player in-game player props because not every book has them. Less competition makes these lines more of a premium. That means they can charge the prices that they want for them.
— Bills TD A Day (@BillsTouchdown) September 6, 2023
When you take a look at something like a pre-game point spread for an NFL game, almost every sportsbook in the world will have a betting line on that. And if they don’t, there’s something quite broken with them. Now when you contrast that to an in-game player prop, the pool of competition drops significantly. Not every book is going to have a line on A.J. Brown’s in-game receiving yards total or whether Josh Allen’s next pass is a completion or not.
That again gives sportsbooks more leeway to suck the value out of the lines. Remember, with sports betting, you’re trying to handicap the props to find somewhere that you have an edge but that price is dependent on what the odds are. If you’re betting on Travis Kelce to score a touchdown in a game, your decision is going to change whether he’s at -500 or +220.
Temptation Of Small Segments That Are Hard To Predict
The world is your oyster with player props as you can bet on almost every position player’s production. With quarterbacks, you can bet on passing yards, attempts, completions, interceptions, touchdowns, rushing yards and more. And that type of variety is available for running backs, tight ends and wide receivers too. That can be a dizzying array of lines to sift through – especially when the game is happening right in front of you – but what is even more distracting is the microbets.
Microbets are the new wave of lines that pop up on the shortest segments of the game. Before, we used to bet on a full four quarters. Then there was halves and quarters. Nowadays, you can bet on what’s going to happen on the next drive, pass and even snap. It can be tempting to feel like there is value with some of these but the reality is that it’s really hard to predict. Outside of a couple of scenarios that might be more predictable, this tends to tough to forecast.
A lot of bettors get sucked into these because there’s an adrenaline rush. It’s exciting and emotional, and you feels great to get it right. The reality is that a lot of this is glorified guessing on highly-juiced lines. Sportsbooks make good money off of these, which is why they’re creating more options by the day. You want to make cool, calm and collected decisions when you can evaluate everything at your own pace. The last thing you need is to get swept up in the speed of the game, putting your hard-earned money on something that’s really hard to predict. Don’t get sucked in.
Smart Strategy With In-Game Props
So we’ve covered why in-game props are risky and why you shouldn’t do them. Now let’s cover a few strategies that can actually help you win – or at least keep you from losing.
Act On Injuries
Injuries are one of the areas that really make in-game props an attractive option. Sportsbooks still have a bit of a hard time adjusting player props when someone goes down. If you’re on the ball, you can definitely find some good value here.
What you want to do is obviously be watching the game on the fastest feed possible. Anything that has a delay (like a grey market online stream) can hamper you. Then you want to have in your mind what the ripple effects of an injury might be. You’re not hoping for an injury but you’re simply prepared for one. If the team’s top running back goes down, who is going to immediately benefit? If the quarterback is sent to the blue tent for a concussion examination, can the backup lead the way or will the offense struggle?
If you’ve already played out the scenarios in your mind, you’re prepared to take advantage of this situation. This is one of the best times to consider in-game props.
Avoid “Lucky” Props
While the injury props make sense, the props that have to do with luck don’t. A simple example might be a prop where you’re betting on what the first play of the drive will be. That’s really tough to handicap and you’re basically just throwing a dart. You might be right or you might be wrong. That’s exactly the type of prop you want to avoid.
What you do want to look for is something that you can make a logical case for. You’d like something that’s supported by stats and data, so that you’re making a calculated decision. For example, if Tyreek Hill’s in-game receiving yards over-under has dropped because he has no yards in the first quarter. If he had four targets and simply didn’t connect, maybe an over bet might make sense. The oddsmakers have dropped his line but it’s not because he’s not getting opportunities. One would figure that he gets going at some point and now you have a lower bar to get over. That is something you can make a case for. Predicting what the next score will be or the whether a team will pick up a first down on the drive is more about luck.
Wait For Breaks
We mentioned earlier that these in-game player props are challenging because the line movement happens so fast. One strategy that you can use is to wait for breaks in the game. We know that the NFL has a sizable commercial break in between quarters and then there is 15 minutes for halftime. If you’re watching the game, you can probably also jump into a line if you see a coach making a challenge as you know you’ll have a few minutes to work.
Anytime you have a break in the action, you have more time to evaluate the odds and assess the situation. You’d rather do that versus trying to jump in while the game is happening and the lines are jumping around.