Prop bets, short for proposition bets, are more than an excuse to gamble. Used judiciously, a prop bet can completely change the dynamics of a table.
Your goal is to get the other players gambling at online poker. Without them realizing it, you want to take your opponents out of their comfort zone, forcing them to play a style of game they're unfamiliar with.
The pros use tactics like this all the time. If they have a rich fish who gets too good at Hold'em, they'll change the game to Omaha or Stud. Keep the fish out of water; make them struggle.
A rock-tight player who tries to play along with a high-action game will quickly go broke. There's a big difference between being a maniac, and just appearing to be one.
Even if you lose money on the prop bets themselves, the goal is to have transformed the game, allowing you to net more profit - despite any prop bet losses you might sustain - than would have been possible playing it straight.
How to Play the Deuce-Seven Game
Prop bets fall into one of two categories: full table, and one-on-one. The deuce-seven game is a full-table prop which heavily involves all players at the table.
Because it actively involves all the players, this game can be harder to get going than some other prop bets, but when you do, it runs itself and typically results in greater success than some other props.
Instead of detailing the rules, I'll skip one step and give you an example of a pitch for the game, where you have to explain the rules to the other players. Here's one of the lines I take to try and start this game up.
Hey, anyone here heard of the deuce-seven game?
(There is almost always another player at the table who knows all about this game. Any other players who are hip are now your allies. Use them to try and help you get the game started.)
Yeah, you want to play?
(To the whole table)
You guys want to play the deuce-seven game?
(Someone should speak up here. If not, single someone out and ask them specifically.)
I don't know what that is ...
(To the whole table, pretending you're saying it to Random Player)
Ohh it's a lot of fun - basically anytime anyone wins a hand playing deuce-seven, and they can win on any street, they don't have to get to a showdown, everyone at the table pays them (pick a reasonable number here for the stakes you're playing) $10. By winning with deuce-seven you get a free $100! You in?
If they agree to play, you now get to go around the table and get everyone else to play. Use your allies, single people out if you need to. Say things like "Nice, we have six players, that's $60 to the winner, let's get everyone in on this!"
The more fun you're having, and the better you sell it, the better off everyone is.
Once the game gets going you have to provide a small amount of support until the first deuce-seven hand gets played. Make comments in big hands such as "Ohh, I thought you were going to show the deuce-seven there for sure!"
The point of this game is to get some serious action going down. You'll start to see people making massive pre-flop raises and everyone trying to figure out if they're making a run for the prize with deuce-seven or if they have pocket aces.
The direct action from players having the hand is only the catalyst. The point of the game is to have all the players thinking about the deuce-seven game every hand. You can turn rock players into paranoid fish thinking that everyone is bluffing every hand.
How to Start a Straddle Orbit
Also involving the whole table, the straddle orbit is more a straightforward ploy to juice a table than a prop bet (since you're not actually betting on anything).
This ploy is a standard in many high-stakes games and needs no explanation of specifics at the table. Everyone who knows what a straddle is can understand going a full orbit of straddles.
At lower-stakes games you'll typically have a couple players who aren't willing to take part. For this reason, you should try to time the request for when you're two or three away from under the gun.
That way you can goad the player to your right into straddling with "Let's start this off - if you straddle I'll do the same on my turn."
Once you have two straddles in a row you can then start using peer pressure, the classic "Don't break the streak, you gotta!" arguments. Get three or four straddles strung together and you can typically have an easy time convincing even the players who objected. "Everyone else has straddled so far; don't wreck a good thing we have going here."
As soon as there's a big pot, immediately accredit it to the straddles. Get players wanting to keep the straddle on with their lust for juicy pots.
The difference between you straddling and having the whole table straddle for an orbit is extremely large. When only you straddle, it's a one-off event that costs you money. Get the whole table straddling and you have just upped the stakes of the game without the other players really realizing what just happened.
Imagine taking a table full of $1/$2 No-Limit players and sitting them all down on a $2/$5 table. It would be an action-packed, juicy game, full of players in over their head.
Putting on a full orbit of straddles does just this, allowing you to force players into playing larger pots more frequently, their mistakes amplified through sheer volume.
(I've also successfully had a full table agree to double the stakes. This is in a room where there are already three higher-stakes games running. All these players are playing at these stakes on purpose. Upping the stakes away from a player's regular limit can really throw them off.)
The Red/Black Prop
This is an example of a one-on-one prop. You're only involving one other player in this, and it has no direct effect on the action of the game. Because the bet only affects the game indirectly, these props take a lot of work to get any return on your investment.
The idea with the red/black bet is to bet on the color outcome of the flop with one other player. Each time a player hits their winning flop, they get paid the agreed-upon amount. As I mentioned in the juicing article, the idea here is to bring energy to the table and a sense of gamble.
The table will see you as a gambler, helping create an action player image, while the bet itself should have a neutral EV result.
As for the actual bet, there are a few variations:
- Majority: Whoever has two or more of their suit wins. This bet is not recommended since it results in a winner every deal. It's better to have a running bet you can cheer for.
- Solid Color: A player only wins when all three cards are their color.
- Varying Pay: It's common to add varying pay for better results, such as $5 if you hit a solid color flop, $25 if it's suited.
Pick a Card
All of the concepts that apply to the red/black prop apply to picking a card. The advantage to this game is you can bring in more players. The more players you have playing, the more effective your prop is going to be at stirring up action.
Every player playing this game picks a card value (I always like to grab deuces). Every time your card hits the flop, everyone else playing pays you. If you have two of your card, everyone pays you twice. I'm sure you can imagine what happens if you hit all three.
Bring three players into this game and it becomes a profitable venture to hit your cards. All the players at the table see chips moving around all the time, making them want a piece of the action. Since they're not in on the game, they have to get their action from the table.
The last prop I'm going to talk about is the hand bonus. This prop is only profitable if used by a player who believes, correctly, that they can consistently outplay all other players at the table. This is a prop Daniel Negreanu used to run when he played cash games, long before he was an international superstar.
Negreanu would sit down at the table and tell everyone, "If you win a hand with 8-3 at this table and show it, I'll pay you $50." No commitment from any other player is needed; once you announce it, whether they like the idea or not, the game is on.
You have to be confident that this wager will open up the action on the table to a point where you're making more money than you would have made without the prop, including every $50 bounty you pay out.
In order to be able to pull off a prop bet, the key angle is to have the personality and energy to sell it. The hardest part of playing up a high-energy personality is keeping the energy up. If it's a one-man show, it's almost impossible to do for an extended period.
Getting an ally at the table to bounce energy back at you will help you greatly. This is where the red/black prop comes in so handy. Get another player yelling for their suits and you'll keep the motors running, without the need for jib.
These prop bets aren't needed in every game you sit. If the action is happening and the table is profitable without any sort of antics, you might as well conserve your energy for later in the night when the table dynamics change.
If your table does need an action injection, these can be just the thing you need.
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