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By John Grochowski on Thursday August 30, 2018
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There are times sports bettors think they’ve zeroed in on multiple winners and are tempted to bet parlays — betting multiple teams, with all required to win for the bettor to collect.
The temptation is in the payoffs. Let’s use parlays on point-spread bets as an example.
Point-spread bets or over/unders pay at even-money, minus the 10 percent vigorish. Win three $11 point spread bets, and you win a total of $30.
What if you made just one $10 bet on a three-team parlay instead? Odds may vary from book to book, but at the Nevada books that are the model for states just beginning to offer sports betting, a three-team parlay usually pays at 6-1 odds, so your $10 bet would win $60.
That’s tempting, but there’s also danger. If any one of your team loses, you lose your $10. If you make three $11 bets instead and two teams win, you lose $11 on one game but win $10 on each of the other two, and have a $9 profit.
True odds of winning a three team parlay are 7-1. In each game, there are two possibilities — win or lose. With three teams, the number of possibilities is 2x2x2, or 8. One of those is win-win-win, giving you one possible winner against seven possible losing outcomes.
By paying 6-1 instead of the true odds of 7-1, the house has a 12.5 percent edge. If you parlay four teams, the true odds are 15-1, a typical payoff is 10-1, and the house edge jumps all the way to 31.25 percent. Parlay five teams, and the true odds are 31-1. A 20-1 payoff yields a 34.38 percent house edge.
No matter how many teams you parlay, the house gets its edge by paying less than true odds. The closer the payoff is to true odds, the lower the house edge. It might pay to show around at different casino sports books to find the best payoffs.
At any common pay table, you’ll be facing a higher house edge on a parlay than on single-game bets. It’s up to you to decide the possibility of a bigger payoff is worth risking an increased likelihood of losing.