Bet Smart: Parlays - Metro US

Bet Smart: Parlays

Villanova at St John's
Villanova at St John's. Getty Images

Six-team parlays on point spreads or Over/Unders pay anywhere from 40/1 to 45/1 depending on where in the world you’re betting them. That’s from the base 11/10 vigorish on sides or totals.

Betting money lines in parlays can change the payouts dramatically in one direction or another. A six-team parlay using favorites at -200 on the money line (about a 5-point favorite in point spread terms) would only return 10/1. A six-team parlay using +200 underdogs (around +6 in point spread terms) would return more than 700/1.

These dynamics are important to think about in the month of February because pundits and casual bettors start talking about futures prices to win the NCAA Tournament. Some high profile teams look like they offer value at 15/1 or 20/1. It’s easy to spot sleepers at 50/1 where you’re thinking, “Hey, they’re better than THAT!” And, there’s always somebody down around 200/1 or 300/1 that has some talent and could get hot and catch a few breaks.

Picking a team to win the National Championship is basically asking them to win a six-team money-line parlay for you. Your team gets parlayed with itself round by round. Two games the first weekend…two games the next weekend through the Sweet 16 and Elite 8…and then the national semifinals and finals. Most invitees have to go 6-0, though the relative handful stuck in “play-in” games have to win seven times (which hasn’t happened yet, and may not ever).

You can simulate the power of a parlay by backing your selected team to win outright each round (which is what they HAVE to do to win the national title). After each game, fully re-invest your initial stake and profit. Keep rolling it over game-by-game. If your choice DOES go 6-0, you’ll be grateful you bet it this way rather than on the futures board. If it doesn’t, you lose the same initial stake.

Let’s say you’re thinking of taking “a dangerous floater” that will enter the brackets as a #7 seed. Maybe they’re a short favorite in the first game against a #10, then small to medium underdogs the rest of the way. That “class” of team will usually return in a range from 50/1 to 80/1 on futures boards. Using the parlay calculator at vsin.com or vegasinsider.com, we’ll plug in a six-game sequence of -150, +180, +150, +190, +190, +190. That sequence pays better than 280/1, which might be conservative if superpowers reach the Final Four from other brackets.

College basketball is better suited for this “rolling parlay” approach than any other sport. The college football playoff is only a two-game gauntlet. NFL teams have to win three or four playoff games depending on their seed. Major League Baseball teams must win three postseason series (you bet teams to win each series rather than each game). In the NBA, it’s a four-series gauntlet…in a sport that makes it very hard for Cinderellas to develop.

Something for you to think about during these last few weeks of the college basketball season. Don’t be fooled by alluring futures odds. Those were created for people who are bad at math!



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