Sports Betting: Why Parlay Bets Are for Suckers

Sports Betting: Why Parlay Bets Are for Suckers

Parlay bets are for suckers, and that is not just an opinion.

While it is true that at our entire focus is college football betting analysis, it is also true that there are many ways to bet on college football, which is to say that sports betting has many options. One of those betting options for sports bettors is the parlay bet. Since the goal of our betting analysis is to profit from sports betting, this article is intended to caution, even rebuke those considering placing parlay bets for any reason other than to contribute to the success of those taking parlay bets (i.e. bookmakers).

Parlay Definition

A parlay bet is a single bet that connects multiple betting events together. The outcome of that single parlay bet (winning or losing) depends on ALL of the betting events winning. For example, winning a “three-team parlay” bet would require all three teams to win their individual betting events. If even one of the three connected (i.e. parlayed) teams loses, then the entire parlay bet is lost.

Some sports bettors are attracted to parlay bets for the same reason some people are attracted to lotteries: the thought of risking little money with the possibility of winning a lot. As with any financial proposition, however, one should look to the likelihood of making a profit. In the case of parlay betting, there are some mathematical justifications as to why parlay bets appear to have no vigorish (i.e. commission for the bookmaker; aka vig, juice, etc.). Without delving into them here, it suffices to say that the bookmaker (the “house”) has taken care of itself quite well when it comes to parlay bets. The proof is perhaps most convincing in its real, rather than theoretical, form.

Nevada’s Actual Winning Percentage on Parlay Bets

It should be news to no one that gambling establishments have built-in their winning percentage (aka house take, hold, etc.) to each and every game they offer. Some gambling propositions, however, yield a greater advantage to the house than others. If bettors wanted to make money from gambling, they would do well to start with betting scenarios that offer the least advantage to the house. If measured by the percentage of money wagered that is actually kept by the casino (or sportsbook), then non-race sports betting can be some of the best wagering offered to any bettor. There is, however, a stark contrast between what the house keeps on non-parlay bets and parlay bets. The extent of this contrast can be visualized with the graph below:

Parlay Bets: Nevada Win%

 Statistics were utilized from 2008-2014 revenue reports from the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Again, the results are actual for the entire state of Nevada, not theoretical. In fact, PARLAY BETS CONSTITUTE THE GREATEST ADVANTAGE FOR THE HOUSE of all of the bets offered by the state of Nevada, and that includes every kind of slot machine and table game. That makes the parlay bet the biggest “sucker bet” in all of Nevada, beating out its closest rival, Three Card Poker, by 2.33 percentage points.

In the final analysis, beating a house advantage of 4.55% (the theoretical AND actual house take in Nevada from 2008-2014) on football is challenging enough, but trying to overcome 31.47% is a fool’s errand. Do not be a fool. Stay away from parlay bets.