Using correlated parlays to your advantage
If you’ve followed my sports betting content, you know I’m generally not a big fan of parlays. In Prediction Machine’s February 8 newsletter and HERE, I refer to parlays as the “junk food of sports betting” because, like sweet snacks, they’re fun to indulge in, but there are consequences if you lean too heavily on them.
There are few absolutes in sports betting philosophies and I want to share with you one of the rare times I utilize parlays in my betting portfolio: Correlated Parlays.
A correlated parlay is a parlay where one outcome happens and it theoretically increases the likelihood that the second will happen as well. Normally, correlated parlays are same-game, 2-leg parlays involving 1.) The total and 2.) The moneyline or point spread.
To illustrate the concept of a correlated parlay, let’s first use an example not allowed at virtually all sportsbooks because it’s too correlated. If the Celtics are -8 vs. the Heat and you try to bet the Celtics moneyline AND -8 in a 2-leg parlay you’ll get an error message (if online) or a dirty look from a ticket writer (in person). The reason, of course, is that the Celtics covering the total would mean they also won the game, so obviously the casino isn’t going to allow you to combine those results because one outcome depends on the other, thus they’re correlated.
Other correlated parlays aren’t allowed by sportsbooks even though, unlike the example above, there’s only an indirect correlation to outcome A impacting outcome B. For instance, many books won’t allow you to pair a MLB run line (-1.5) with the over in the same game because if a team wins by more than one run, it correlates to the game being higher scoring.
However, more indirect “theoretical correlated parlays” that you’ve developed a game script for, are typically allowed by book makers.
For instance, let’s say a starting pitcher for the Cubs with a solid career has gotten lit up in his last 4 starts and struggled with the long ball. Let’s pretend he’s taking the mound against an above-average lineup (Tampa Bay Rays) that hits a lot of home runs. While handicapping this game, you might say, “The only way the Cubs win is if this starting pitcher can have a good game and be back to his old self.” Or, you might say, “If the Rays win, it will likely be a high scoring game because I think the Cubs starter is going to continue to struggle.” In these examples, a Rays win correlates toward the over and Cubs win correlates toward the under.
Of course, there is no guarantee that if the Cubs win the game will go under and if the Rays win the game will go over, however, your assessment of the game leads to conviction that If one event happens, then the 2nd event is more likely to happen as well.
For an NFL example, lets say a team has very little CB depth and their starter is battling hamstring issues vs. a fast WR group like the Dolphins. The CB barely practiced all week, but he’s active on game day. You might think to yourself: “If that CB re-injures his hamstring or he’s playing poorly while injured, the Tyreek Hill and the Dolphins will win in a blowout.” Someone else might say, “I think the market is overreacting to the CB injury. I read a report from that he’s 100%” In this instance, you could argue that the over is correlated toward a Dolphins win, while the under correlates more toward fading the overvalued Dolphins.
These kinds of correlated parlays are allowed by sportsbooks and, if you do your homework, they can be very profitable. However, remember they are theoretical and thus your theories could be wrong. With this in mind, theoretical parlays should be limited to games with high conviction and by bettors who have a proven history of accurately predicting game scripts. A bad bettor trying to improve their ROI using a correlated betting strategy is like giving a bad driver trying to improve using by driving a larger vehicle. Bet responsibly, and good luck everyone.