Understanding Exotic / Prop / Novelty Betting

Novelty, exotic or prop betting – whatever the term by which you know it, there is no doubt that this sports betting genre is going from strength to strength after taking a couple of decades to take off with the gambling public.

And whereas serious punters used to poke fun at anyone who even contemplated having a bet on something in the novelty, exotic or prop realm, now the wise guys know that such markets can present the best possible value out there.

Popular Novelty Bets

One has to remember that not only do novelty betting markets provide punters with opportunities to go head to head versus single odds compilers but also many of them are thrown up following limited research. Bookmakers have their organization’s public relations departments breathing down their necks, which means that often novelty betting markets are framed within a matter of minutes. If one spends an hour looking into a specific novelty betting market, the odds are that one’s research will be superior to that of the bookmaker.

Top bookies know they can’t sustain profitability in prop bets, and it is merely a ‘novelty’ bet to get punters in the doors to make bets on their main lines. This is why you will see caps sometimes as low as $50 per prop. Executives from www.Bovada.lv have told us various times that they can’t profit from prop bets and bettors win long term, unless they bet on other things.

Origins of novelty betting

Opinions vary as to the origins of novelty betting. Some gambling historians say that it dates back to American baseball matches in the 1870s when spectators would meet in the bleachers and bet not only on the outcome of the game but also on the next batter reaching base and how the pitcher would perform in terms of balls and strikes.

Others say that the craze began in the United Kingdom in the 1960s when High Street bookmaker William Hill laid David Threlfall £10 at odds of 1,000-1 that a man would walk on the Moon before 1 January 1970. Apollo 11 landed on 20 July 1969 and Neil Armstrong made all of Threlfall’s wishes come true, for a short time at least. Threlfall crashed the sports car that he bought with his winnings and died.

Who shot JR?

Novelty betting hit the international headlines for the first time when, in 1980, William Hill went out on a limb and framed a market that enabled punters to bet on JR Ewing, the central character in the hit television series, Dallas.

William Hill installed Dusty Farlow as its clear favourite at 6-4, with Vaughn Leland and Kristin Shepard next in line at 4-1. The market went berserk and William Hill ended up holding more than £250,000 worth of bets on the novelty option. In today’s money that would be about £1,000,000.

JR Ewing’s mistress, Shepard, was revealed as the shooter and William Hill lost a fair bit of money, although it did attempt to break into the American market off the back of it, sponsoring the William Hill Trophy at Belmont Park.

Hole-in-one gang

Novelty betting was still not part of the mainstream in 1991 when two British punters, John Carter and Paul Simmons, hit upon the idea of asking bookmakers up and down the country to quote odds on there being a hole in one scored at some significant golf tournaments that year, with their listed events including the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

Carter and Simmons had researched their pet subject and concluded that the odds of a hole in one in a high-quality golf competition were no bigger than even money. However, they were able to persuade many bookmakers to quote odds of up to 100-1 and, also, lay doubles, trebles and accumulators of aces occurring in multiple nominated tournaments.

According to Carter and Simmons, they won more than £500,000 and that was not including the dozen bookmakers who refused to pay out, declared themselves bankrupt or did not renew their betting permit. It would be fair to say that novelty betting changed forever because of the hole-in-one gang.

Bookmakers get serious

The international publicity surrounding the hole-in-one gang taught bookmakers that punters were interested in novelty betting options and that, unless they started to treat such markets with the respect that they deserved, they would be on the wrong end of more hidings in the coming years.

A couple of bookmakers have forged strong reputations in the novelty betting sphere. United Kingdom-based William Hill has been at the forefront of novelty betting for decades, with its public relations department fielding daily requests for odds about the offspring of proud parents representing their countries in a particular sport. William Hill gets hit up by so many inquiries that it has a specialist team that frames the markets and publicizes the bets that it takes. As stated earlier, Bovada (review and history) has reeled in many newcomer sport bettors with their bizarre novelty bets.

The most famous sports novelty bets that William Hill have accepted in recent years were wagers on Chris Kirkland, then a promising 13-year-old goalkeeper training with Coventry, playing football for England at full international level. Kirkland’s dad, Eddie, and some other family members bet £98.10 at odds of 100-1. After a number of near misses, injury-prone Kirkland came on in the second half of England’s friendly against Greece to land the bet.

Ireland-based bookmaker Paddy Power has invested time and effort in challenging William Hill for the mantle of the world’s premier novelty betting operator. In addition to quoting odds on the vast array of awards and television shows, which has become part and parcel of the gambling industry, Paddy Power has carved out a niche by framing markets on races such as the one to be the next Pope.

Paddy Power made news around the world when the eponymous head of its media team was ejected from St Peter’s Square for displaying the bookmaker’s next Pope odds before the start of the 2005 conclave that elected Benedict XVI.

The future of novelty betting

With bookmakers working out that novelty betting presents them with, if managed correctly, a cost-effective way in which they can differentiate themselves in what is a very homogenous business, get ready for more and more options pertaining to news, current affairs and entertainment. Prop betting in the NFL has become business, expect it to get bigger among all sports.