All business and no fun - this is what poker can become for some of us especially when we try to achieve the pro status or we're just very serious about getting good at our favorite game.
Most people start playing poker because it's a fun game and even if somewhere down the line maximizing the expected value becomes our main focus there's no reason why poker can't stay fun.
Proposition bets can help us keep poker entertaining and if we're smart about implementing them they can also add to our bottom line.
What are Proposition Bets?
Let's start with the definition:
In gambling, a 'proposition bet' (prop bet, prop, novelty, or a side bet) is a bet made regarding the occurrence or non-occurrence during a game (usually a gambling game) of an event not directly affecting the game's final outcome".
A simple example from the poker world that almost everybody hears about is adding additional value to the hand if a player manages to win with 72o. Other, examples include betting a fellow poker player that he can't finish a bike ride from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in 48 hours (famous prop bet between Bill Perkins and Dan Bilzerian) or that he can't stay vegetarian for one year (another famous bet between Tom 'durrrr' Dwan and Phil Ivey). As it's often the case in poker - the sky is the limit.
Why Would You Want to Use Prop Bets?
There are three main reasons for including proposition bets in your poker routine. First one is additional EV. If you already have the edge over your opponents at the table you can surely use the 72o side bet to squeeze some additional value from the session.
Second reason is added motivation that prop bets can provide. A weight loss prop bet with your friends might be the missing ingredient that will finally help you get in shape. Maybe betting your buddy that he can't play 100k hands in 30 days is exactly what he needs to improve his volume etc. Lastly, there's the fun aspect of proposition betting.
Sample Prop Bets
Here're a few ideas of prop bets that you can use to gain some additional EV, motivation, and fun while playing poker:
- 72o Side Bet. Oldie but a goodie. We've already mentioned it and there's a good chance you've already participated in a similar bet even if you're not a pro bet aficionado. There are many different variations of the 72o bet but in its basic form if a player manages to win a hand post-flop with 72o he can elect to show it to the rest of the table and receive some number of big blinds from every other player in the game. This can make your home game far more interesting and if you're good at adjusting to the fact that 72o is now a real part of everybody's range in most spots you might further increase your win rate. That being said, the added fun and unique bad beat stories will be your main reward for participating in this kind of a bet.
- Volume Bet. If you're struggling with maintaining a solid monthly volume and you're a competitive person who reacts very well to the external motivators it might be a great idea to make your monthly volume an object of a proposition bet.
- Last Longer Bet. Another fairly simple and popular prop bet. If you're playing in a live tournament with your friend you can spice it up with a small challenge by rewarding the person who manages to keep his/her tournament life longer. If you want to emphasize the 'fun' aspect of the bet over the 'EV' aspect of it, make sure to get creative with the reward (and/or punishment). For example, you can make it so that the winner of the bet decides what the loser has to wear during another live tournament. Making your buddy show up at the casino in the football jersey of the team he absolutely hates might be worth more than any cash prize.
Prop Bet Etiquette
Proposition bets are an important part of the poker reality and therefore there's a certain etiquette attached to the idea. First of all, while it's your job as a poker player to put yourself in a positive EV situations grinding prop bets is usually considered in poor taste.
In one of my interviews with Lex Veldhuis, he mentioned a guy who some time after Lex's kickboxing fight with Elky offered him a Mix Martial Arts fight. Turns out that person was an experienced MMA fighter so you can imagine that this proposition wasn't very polite or reasonable. There's nothing wrong with engaging in pro bets you have a good chance of winning but don't hustle other people. Make it a challenge and make it interesting.
Honesty and transparency are important elements of a good proposition bet. The details will vary on a bet to bet basis but for example in a volume bet make sure to offer the person betting against you access to your database and if the stakes are particularly high consider streaming your sessions via Twitch.tv. Lastly, remember about the buyout clause. People often greatly overestimate their own ability and it's important to give them the chance to save face once they realize that.
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