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Try catching a few money-line parlays

Feb 4, 2010 11:01 AM

by Huey Mahl, GT Archives |

Football bettors have to deal with the point spread, the great equalizer designed to level the playing field between teams perceived to have differing capabilities of winning.

But many football bettors, especially NFL players, have taken a lesson from baseball bettors by concentrating on betting money lines – the odds of winning – then parlaying those bets for bigger payoffs.

"Parleys" may connote talking to unfriendly Indians, but "parlays" leave a lot of people talking to themselves. The latter word is a corruption of "paroli" a French term roughly meaning "to stake double," or something like that. You know how the French think.

Parlays do offer the choice of taking a higher risk for a bigger payoff. Your initial bet is re-bet in a parlay (two teams), thus the so-called "doubling" effect – the hidden bet. You are asking that the outcome of at least two separate events happen your way – consecutive winners. The bookie isn’t too ashamed to stick it to you in point-spread sports for the parlay privilege. A two-teamer in spread sports pays only 13-5, which is 10 percent vigorish, etc.

Favorites do win more often. In football they win about 61 percent of the games. Yet, when you bet on ’em, you’ll blow about 11 percent of that bunch due to not covering the spread. That makes them a 50-50 proposition – a coin flip with a payoff less than even money. That’s what the spread does to you.

Ah, but the money line and corresponding odds are the equalizer. All favorites are "odds-on," paying less than $1 on a $1 bet. But, at least you get those odds in a parlay, and the bookie can’t throw a higher vig prop at you!

Favorites win in the 60 percent range. So, it’s no big deal for a player to get say 63 percent winners if he doesn’t mind laying the price. Shown below, is probably the "worst-case" payoff schedule on the favorites a bookie will pay. It depends on how he rounds off his pennies.


Favorite Payoff to $1

Price         Payoff         Price         Payoff

-3.00         .33             -1.65             .60

-2.80         .36             -1.60             .62

-2.60         .38             -1.55             .64

-2.40         .41             -1.50             .66

-2.20         .45             -1.45             .69

-2.10         .47             -1.40             .71

-2.00         .50             -1.35             .74

-1.95         .51             -1.30             .77

-1.90         .52             -1.25             .80

-1.85         .54             -1.20             .83

-1.80         .55             -1.15             .87

-1.75         .57             -1.10             .91

-1.70         .59             -1.05             .95


This schedule makes it a snap to figure out the return of parlays using any number of teams. The reason we don’t list dogs is because they pay the same as their plus quote on the dollar.

To determine the parlay payoff odds, all you do is add one to the payoffs, multiply them together, and subtract one from the answer.

So, if you parlay a -1.45 favorite to a -1.15 favorite, that’s 1.69 times 1.87, or a $3.16 return for each $1 bet. Subtract your dollar and you have a 2.16-to-1 odds parlay.

The same principle works for three or more teams, whatever the bookies will let you get down. You can mix in dogs too, but remember to add $1 to their payoff price. Let’s take a three team parlay: a -2.00 favorite to a -1.60 favorite to a +1.20 dog. That’s 1.5 x 1.62 x 2.20 or about a $5.35 return including your $1 bet. For a $20 bet, you get back about $107, ($87 profit), etc.

Be aware though, I saw a guy try to stuff four dogs in a four-teamer, and the bookie said, "I wouldn’t take that bet from my own mother!" So use a pooper-scooper and scatter your dogs around in your parlays.

Hey, football parlays aren’t that shabby when you’re hitting over 60 percent winners. If you’re catching 63 percent winners, you’ll connect on 40 percent of your two-teamers and 25 percent of three-teamers.

Do the math. It’s better than getting beat by the point spread on that late interception return of a missed field goal.