Parlay Betting Strategies

» Posted on 05/06/2010
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Parlay Betting Strategies

One of the favorite bets for casual sports betting gamblers is the parlay bet. This bet allows a sports bettor to make just one small bet spread out across several different events – sometimes as few as two, sometimes as many as six or more. If the player wins every bet in the parlay, they can win a huge payout; a good six-team parlay might pay as much as 50-1!

These big payoffs are exciting, but they’re extremely volatile. Obviously, there is a lot of variance when dealing with trying to predict five or six outcomes with no margin for error, and even if you might have an edge against the house, you’ll lose a large percentage of the time, meaning you’ll be trading a lot of small losses for the occasional big win.

This can be a bad thing if you’re a very risk-adverse player, or if you’re putting too much of your bankroll on long shot parlays. But one critical thing to remember – and something you must know if you want to be successful in any form of gambling – is that in the long run, the only thing that matters is having a positive expectation. If you only win one in 40 parlays, but each one pays out 50-1, you’d be a fool to turn that down. The downside to parlays is that the house usually has a larger edge on them than individual bets, unless we can find a few bets we think we have a pretty big edge on to begin with.

So, how do we find good spots for parlay betting? The first idea is to find events that aren’t entirely independent of one another – meaning that if you win one bet, your odds of winning the other bets are higher than normal. One example that’s often thrown around is betting a favorite and the over in the same game, or the underdog and the under. The theory here is that underdogs tend to cover when they stay in a tightly played, low scoring game; if the favorite is pulling away enough to cover the spread, they’ve probably scored a lot of points. Unfortunately, the numbers suggest that this is a small effect, not enough to make parlays profitable. Another possibility is to look for parlays on the final day of the season in team sports. If there’s an early game that could influence how hard a team plays later in the day (by eliminating them from playoff contention, or locking them into a certain seeding), it might be worth betting on the result that causes that to happen, and then parlaying that by betting against the team that would have nothing to play for later on.

Another way to make parlays work is when you bet off of a card – the kind that local bookies and some brick and motor casinos use. These odds are often printed well before the games are going to be played, especially in football. If something causes the odds to change dramatically between the time the card is printed and the time you can submit your card for betting, then you might be able to find a great spot to gain an edge.

In most instances, parlays aren’t the best bets you can make, but it’s probably not fair to call them “sucker bets” as some experts do. If you can find a spot where the odds have turned in your favor, parlays can give you the chance to make a huge score with very little risk. Sure, you usually won’t hit a big parlay, but if you have the advantage, don’t be afraid to take it – and if you do win, it’ll give your bankroll an enormous boost.

William Hill

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