Betting Parlays – Parlay Cards

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Betting Parlays – Parlay Cards ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>

Issue #89 – The Truth About Parlays
Happy Thanksgiving! Before I talk turkey and parlays with you, I’dlike to respond to an email I received with regards to last week’scolumn on money management:

“You recommend keeping your bets a similarsize, but the service I use puts out plays that range from onestar to five stars. They tell me that a five star bet is worthso much more. Shouldn’t I be following their advice?”

I’ve been asked this question before…alot. Handicappers that use a star system typically suggest playingone unit per star. A one-star play should be bet for one unit,two-stars for two units, etc. with a unit being 2-3% of your bankroll.Thus, if you have $5000 to bet, you would bet $100 per unit, $100on a 1-star play, and $500 on a 5-star play. Ignore those whoadvocate 10-star or 50-star games or sell ‘locks’ –locks are for doors, not sports betting.

That means your biggest bets are five times yoursmallest and would be as much as 15% of your bankroll, so be carefulthere. I suggest you monitor the different success rates for theone, two, three, four and five star plays. If the small unit playsare not good enough to get a big bet, maybe they aren’t goodenough to be bet at all.

Now, on to parlays.

Understanding How Parlays Work

Also known as a combo, a parlay is a selectionof two or more wagering outcomes, in which the odds for the payoutsincrease with the number of teams (sides/totals) chosen; the moreteams you choose to parlay, the better the payout. You can combinedifferent sports, pointspreads and moneylines in win/loss and/ortotals betting.

In all honesty it’s hard for me, on behalfof players, to recommend parlays because of the high hold percentagegiven to the house, but I can understand why players like bettingparlays – it’s all about the big payoffs!


“Sometimes the smallest investments can turninto the greatest rewards,” said one winner.

In fact, we’ve had a few big winners recently.On August 23, 2004, Matt from Manhattan Beach won $49,998.00 witha wager of $51.24 on a 10-team baseball parlay. Then on November1, 2004, Troy from Missouri wagered $5 on a 12-team parlay andwon $6,467. Rishi from California wagered $10 on a 12-team parlayand won $21,101 the same day.

Allow me to explain the math behind fixed oddsparlay payouts. (I can hear the collective groan now, but it reallyisn’t that hard.) Fixed odds parlays involve football andbasketball spreads and totals at standard odds (-110). Ratherthan having to calculate the odds of every parlay uniquely, Vegasbooks (and now offshore) ones have instead derived a standardset of “fixed odds” payoffs for such parlays.


Let’s look at a simple 2-team parlay using a real example,the early game this Thanksgiving has Chicago at Dallas. The lineis Dallas –3.5 and the total is 36. Parlaying a side andthe total gives us four combinations:

a) Dallas -3.5 and Over 36
b) Dallas -3.5 and Under 36
c) Chicago +3.5 and Over 36
d) Chicago +3.5 and Under 36

The odds of any one of these plays being a winner are 1-in-4 sothe actual odds would be 3/1. In actual fact, most books pay 2.6/1(you see it commonly written as 13/5) assuming all bets are atstand payoffs (-110).

To clearly illustrate how this works for the houselet’s assume four different players each bet exactly $100on a different one of the four possible parlays for this gameand Parlay D is the winner. The house would collect $100 fromAllan, Bob and Charlie (who bet A, B, and C respectively) andwould pay the $260 to David (who had the winning play on ParlayD). David would also get his risk money back. In total the housewould collect $400 in handle, collect $300 and pay out $260 fora net gain of $40, which is a 10% theoretical hold (300-260=40,40/400=10%).


For 3-team parlays it is essentially the samecalculation except there are 8 possible outcomes and the payoffis 6-1. With $100 bets on each outcome, books would collect $700from the losing plays and pay out $600 to the winner for a netprofit of $100 on $800 in handle for a 12.5% theoretical hold.Below is a chart using standard Las Vegas payouts showing theactual odds, Las Vegas payout and the house vigorish.

# of Teams Actual Odds Las Vegas Payout HouseEdge
2 3/1 2.6/1 10.00%
3 7/1 6/1 12.50%
4 15/1 10/1 31.25%
5 31/1 20/1 34.38%
6 63/1 40/1 35.94%
7 127/1 75/1 40.63%
8 255/1 150/1 41.02%
9 511/1 300/1 41.21%
10 1027/1 700/1 31.54%

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to seethat bigger than 3-team parlays should do very well for booksbut in fact we don’t hold this much. It is hard to splitthe action on one game and it is impossible to evenly split theaction in parlays involving multiple games. We often see the samepicks over and over in different parlays and so the higher juiceis simply to cover the risk of having to pay out the occasionalvery large bet. Any bookmaker that has had a good weekend ruinedby a big 1000/1 payout on a parlay knows the feeling and wouldargue that the juice isn’t high enough! Remember that theseodds are just the Vegas standard and that there a wide range ofdifferent payout tables.

Benefits to the Bettor

Now that the math is out of the way, let’stalk a little about how parlays can benefit the bettor. Firstoff, there are always certain games where you hear people saythings like “If they can keep the score low, they have achance at winning”, or “they need to score at least30 points to really have a shot”. Certain games have a slightcorrelation between the spread and total and betting these situationsin a parlay can be a big advantage to bettors.

This is especially true of very large spreads.On a college football game where the spread is –40 and thetotal is 51, it is very difficult for the favorite to cover andhave the total still be Under. Granted, 42-0 or 49-0 gets it done,but if the dog even scores just a Field Goal the favorite mustscore 44 points to cover, but cannot score more than 48 pointsor the total goes over, a very limited range to win such a parlay.You can virtually remove this option from the 4 possible parlaysand are now left with a situation where the payoff is 2.6/1 forjust 2/1 odds against, a +30% advantage.

In fact, if you play favorite/over or dog/underin situations where the spread is 40% or more of the total, youshould come out ahead. These are known as correlated parlays andmany books won’t take them for obvious reasons but it neverhurts to ask.

A Quick Note on Last Week’s Action

It was a good weekend for bettors, mostly becauseit wasn’t a great weekend for home dogs (0-7-1 ATS). In otherwords, it was probably a great weekend to not follow my advice!

Anyways, now that the holidays have officiallykicked off, however, we can all look forward to lots of greatfootball and plenty of turkey leftovers! Hope you and yours havea safe and happy holiday.

The enjoyment of your wagering experience withus is my number one priority. Should you have any questions, concerns,or comments, I will personally ensure you are satisfied with your Bdg experience.

Good luck with your wagers!

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