Parlays are the Junk Food of Sports Betting - Prediction Machine

Parlays are the Junk Food of Sports Betting

Wolverines Football

Imagine for a moment, you’re training to become a world-class chef. While in school you learn about several key ingredients and methods used by all the best chefs in the world, but are rarely used outside of these elite circles. Now imagine, a renowned chef offers you these rare ingredients/methods absolutely free with no strings attached and you stubbornly walk away saying: “No thanks, I don’t need them. I’d rather do it my way.”

As silly as this sounds, I see this sort of prideful stubbornness on a regular basis in the world of sports betting. Instead of rare spices and techniques from world-class chefs, it’s healthy betting habits from professional gamblers. Many professional handicappers give away their winning strategies free in books, radio interviews and podcasts. Yet, these best practices are often ignored by recreational bettors and those aspiring to be professionals.

A great example, is the advice to avoid parlays which are very popular bets among recreational bettors, but often shunned by professionals. Parlays are sexy and enticing, partly because of the “get rich quick” double-digit parlay leg stories flooding the media. Recreational bettors are attracted to parlays like moths to flames because of their seemingly high payouts. However, professionals typically employ a more basic strategy betting each game individually because professionals understand the math.

Parlays are the junk food of sports betting. Meaning, they’re fun to indulge in occasionally, but if your sports betting diet consists of too many parlays, there will be consequences.

Why Parlays Aren’t a Winning Ingredient

Sportsbook Directors have repeatedly stated publicly how much they love parlays because of how profitable they are for the books. If parlays are making sportsbooks a lot of money, that means most people, as a whole, are losing money long-term on parlays. But why?

Of course, parlays win less often than a single bet, but there’s a belief that the value in the payout makes it worth the risk. Mathematically speaking, this is simply not true.

For instance, a standard straight bet with a 50% chance of winning will typically cost you -110, but the odds without the juice/vig would be +100 or EVEN. The odds without the juice on a 2-team parlay (assuming each team has a 50% chance of winning) should be +300 (25% chance of winning), but the casinos will only pay you +265. The odds on 3-team parlay should be +700, but the casinos only pay out +596. With each leg added, you can see the gap widen between a fair price and what the bet actually pays out. In other words, the positive sticker shock that comes with seeing a parlay’s payout, is actually a mirage.

To get a better grasp on this, go play around with this parlay calculator from our partners over at Odds Shark.

When to Bet Parlays

Just like we think of healthy food for sustenance and junk food for indulgence, start thinking of single-game betting for bankroll sustenance and parlays for indulgence.

Despite being unhealthy, junk food is valued because of the immediate reward it provides. Similarly, parlays can be viewed as unhealthy bets that provide entertainment value but are a losing proposition long term for most bettors. Only bet parlays in moderation with a full understanding of the risks and always keep an open mind when word-class chefs and professional handicappers share their secrets.