Using Parlays in Sports Betting
A Parlay bet, also known as an accumulator, is a form of wagering where several bets can be made on the same ticket. In a parlay, if any of the selected bets lose, the entire stake is lost. If any of the selections push (tie) the pay-out is reduced to what the rate would have been had that selection not been included. This form of wagering is extremely powerful when used correctly, however most use it to their detriment. In this article I'll first put parlay betting into perspective and then explain how to bet parlays profitably.
Understanding How Parlays Work
Let's put sports betting aside for a moment and instead focus on the casino game blackjack. Imagine you buy into to a table for $100, bet it all, win and now have $200 in chips. You then decide to go all in again, win, and have $400.00. You repeat this process four more times going to $800, $1600, $3200 and then finally $6400. By going all in successfully six times in a row you've turned your $100 into $6400 of which $6300 is profit.
Imagine tomorrow you show up at the same casino and there is new game offered called Blackjack Parlay. How this game works is you make a wager and if you win 6 hands in a row the wager pays 60-1. If you lose any hand before winning 6, your full stake is lost. Would you play this game? I sure hope not, just yesterday you discovered winning 6 bets in a row paid 63-1. Why today would you play it at 60-1? Oddly enough, this is exactly what most sports bettors do.
Betting Sites Shave the Odds
As we just established the fair odds on winning a coin flip 6 times in a row are 63-1. We also know that both point spreads and total bets are 50/50 propositions just the same as flipping coins. What's amazing is take a look at the parlay betting odds at three of the most popular US sportsbooks:
6-team Parlay Odds: BetOnline 45 to 1 | Topbet 40-1 | JustBet 35-1
Now to their credit, things are just as bad in Las Vegas, as are they betting with local bookies. How do these betting sites, sportsbooks, and bookies get away with such highway robbery? No savvy bettor would ever use such poor bankroll management that they go from betting $100 to 5 bets later betting $3200. Parlays / accumulators are bets that target naïve gamblers who don't know any better.
True Odds Parlays Explained
Despite the warning, if you decide to bet Parlays, know Bovada.lv offers what the industry refers to as "True Odds". Of course, the true odds are 63-1. When sportsbooks claim to offer true odds what they mean is they offer what the odds would be if you kept rolling your bet over and over paying -110 each time. For example start with $100 and go all in 6 times comes to $100 to win $90.91, $191.91 to win $173.55, $364.46 to win $331.33, $695.79 to win $632.54, $1,328.33 to win $1207.57, $2535.91 to win $2305.37 which leaves you with $4841.27. Of that $100 was your stake, so $4,741.27 was profit. These are the exact odds you'll get betting parlays with Bovada (47.4 to 1).
Parlay Betting Strategy
There are actually times betting parlays is better than making straight bets. In fact, the sharpest bettors in the world frequently use parlays to their advantage. I'll cover a few scenarios where parlays make sense in a moment, but first let me cover an important trick.
Forcing True Odds
The major of sportsbooks gaffing the payouts on parlays only do so when bettors make wagers that involve only picks that are priced -110. If you add any other selection such as a team priced -115, or -105 to the picks they're then forced to abandon their poor paying fixed odds and pay based on true odds. To put this into perspective say at JustBet.cx you make 6 selections all -110, the payout is 35-to-1 based on fixed odds. What would happen if you instead made 5 selections priced -110 and one selection-120? To calculate this let me explain how true odds parlays are calculated.
Calculating True Odds Parlays
To calculate the payouts for a true odds parlay you'll need to convert the American odds to Decimal odds using our odds converter. Here we see -110 is 1.9091, and -120 is 1.8333. With these figures it's now just a matter of multiplication. Using the example above the math would be: (1.9091*1.9091*1.9091*1.9091*1.9091*1.8333)-1=45.49, you're being paid a return 45.49 to 1 instead of 35 to 1. Obviously it makes sense, whenever such a rule exists, to force the betting site to pay in true odds by making a selection other than -110.
With this out of the way allow me to show you three cases where parlay betting is advised.
Best Uses of Sports Betting Parlays
The first best use of parlays comes at sites that offer their online betting bonuses as free play credits as opposed to cash. This is because when you bet $100 cash at -110 your bet is risk $100 to win $90.91, and when the bet wins, you receive a $190.91 return ($100 stake + $90.91 winnings). When you instead bet $100 free play your bet is 100FP to win $90.91, and when the bet wins you receive a return of just $90.91. You see the free play is just a onetime use free bet, win or lose that free play is used up. If you were instead to bet the free play in a 3-team parlay, this would give you the same payout as you'd get rolling your stake + win forward two additional times. In short a free play used in a 3-team parlay is worth 3 times more than it is used to make a straight point spread bet.
Another good use for parlays is to circumvent betting limits. For example, Bovada often has a $1,000 max bet on NFL games. If you're a high roller and see 3-bets you'd like to wager at Bovada, doing a 3-team parlay would make more sense. This is because the three team parlay pays 5.96-to-1. When betting all three teams separate you're limited to risk $1100 to win $1000. When betting them in a parlay it work out as having bet an average of $2185.33 to win $1986.67 on each, and you only staked $1,000 not $1100 or the $2185.33*3 the average would require. Of course you'll lose more often, but over the long run it works out great for those needing to bet larger limits.
The final great use of parlay bets are a bookies worse nightmare: correlated parlays. To explain if you were given the option to make separate bets on will it be cloudy today, and will it rain today, obviously parlaying them would be most ideal. You'd either parlay both as yes, or both as no. In sports betting such opportunities exist quite frequently, albeit with a lesser correlation. An example is a college football point spread of -21.5/+21.5 with an over/under betting total of 44.5. In this case it probably makes sense to parlay the favorite and the over, or the underdog and the under. It doesn't always work out, but expected value wise the parlay will make more sense over the straight bet.
Advice for Advantage Players
A couple final tips I'll leave for bettors who enjoy reading. www.5dimes.com offers the ability to buy more points off a point spread than any other site. For clues on how this can be used to your advantage I encourage you to read my article on buying-half points in football, and to read the basketball section of my article on point spread betting. Finally, if you enjoyed betting lots of parlays and are now discouraged by the discovery how much of sucker's bet random parlays are, I suggest learning teaser betting strategy. A teaser is a modified version of a parlay that when used correctly can be one of the best weapons an advantage player has in his arsenal.
A final tip: for online betting to be profitable there needs to be far more losing punters than winning ones. Now that you've read this and perhaps other articles here at www.gamblingsites.org and have become one of the few enlightened bettors able to easily beat sports betting, I suggest keeping it to yourself. A lot of punters seem to get joy in teaching their friends how smart they are; do your best not to be one of these punters. Instead use good bankroll management, discipline, don't teach others, and later impress your friends with the new Ferrari you're driving as a result. If you fall short maybe it's a Mercedes. In either case, we here at Gambling Sites wish you the best of luck.