Parlay Sports Betting – Buyer Beware!
Recreational bettors love betting parlays. Even sophisticated bettors have trouble not being swayed by those sweet, sweet odds. Advantage players tend to think of parlays as lottery tickets: we know they are hard to hit, but that payout is just so enticing! But buyer beware…
We know people like to bet parlays, and we owe it to you, sports fans, to discuss them in an intelligent way, when opportunities arise. But, dear reader, parlays are not a winning strategy for long-term betting success.
A parlay is a wager where a bettor makes multiple bets (at least two) and ties them together into a single bet. Typically, the individual wagers combined into the parlay are referred to as Legs of the parlay. Legs is a better description, as this term does not differentiate between the types of individual bets (spreads, money lines, totals) that can be combined into a parlay. If any of the legs of the parlay loses, the entire parlay loses. However, if all legs win, the bettor enjoys a payout based on much greater odds than straight bets offer.
For example, a bettor wagers $100 on a three-team underdog money line parlay consisting of the Tampa Bay Rays +140, Seattle Mariners +110 and Detroit Tigers +200. If all three teams win, the $100 bet pays out a whopping $1,412! There are lots of parlay calculators out there, here is one we like: https://www.calculatestuff.com/miscellaneous/parlay-calculator
Easy money, right! Or, at least public bettors get lured into believing that. They want to get rich quick, and the parlay offers them that dream. Sportsbooks happily promote parlays, sometimes advertising huge parlay payouts for bettors.
For casual bettors and weekend warriors, hitting an epic parlay payout is the ultimate fantasy. But why are sportsbooks so willing to share this information especially when they have lost huge amounts of cash?
The simple fact is, parlays provide the house with a much larger edge than straight bets. And if sports books can instill that dream into its patrons, the books will simply win more money.
A UNLV Center for Gaming research paper showed that, according to official Gaming Revenue Reports compiled from 1992 to 2015, Nevada sportsbooks boasted a nearly 30% hold on parlays. (The hold is the percentage of money the sports book holds after all bets have been settled and paid out. In other words, it is the sports book’s profit on that type of wager). In comparison, the average hold by the sports book on straight bets is a little over 5.0%.
Simply put, the sports books make a killing off parlays.
Parlays are the sports betting equivalent of the lottery ticket. Bettors keep going back to the window, repeatedly, in hopes of hitting a big payout. However, whether it’s a lottery ticket or a parlay, the big winners over time are always the sports books.
Any seasoned sports bettor knows sports betting isn’t easy. It’s hard enough to win one bet. When you combine more and more bets onto the same wager, you’re playing right into the sportsbooks’ cash drawer by assuming more risk and limiting your chances of winning. Sure, you will cash some parlays, but you will buy dozens of losing tickets before you finally cash that big one.
It’s also important to note that if you go 4-1 on a five-leg parlay, you lose the entire bet. However, if you bet those five teams individually, you would have profited close to three units or more depending on the price s of the individual straight bets.
Remember, we do not gamble!