Why pros parlay for profit

A common myth surrounding professional gamblers is that we don't parlay, but a more accurate assessment would be that we don't parlay often. An equally true statement is that we love parlays. We love them because the odds are incredibly in our favor.

Sportsbooks also love parlays because they make way more vig on parlays than on straight wagers. Sound strange? How can a proposition be both hugely favorable to books and professional gamblers at the same time? Let me explain.

While most sportsbooks struggle to achieve the Theoretical Hold Percentage of 4.55 percent on straight wagers, three-team parlays routinely achieve Practical Hold Percentages over 12 percent.

Basically, you're paying at 6-1 on a proposition with true odds of 7-1. Assuming oddsmakers have made a reasonably effective pointspread, or assuming bettors typically pick correctly 50 percent of the time (both of which are true statements), it is easy to see why sportsbook managers encourage parlays. Nothing gets your hold percentage up like a healthy diet of parlay action.

Here's the math:

((7+1) - (6+1)) / (7+1) = (8-7) / 8 = 12.5%

If the bookie math is throwing you, consider from a player's perspective that a three-team parlay has eight possible outcomes, seven which favor the house and one which favors the player. Hence the true odds of 7-1. However, the standard pay out for a three-team parlay is 6-1.

That overlay (the difference between the payoff and the true odds) is the house vig. One full point overlay on eight possible outcomes, or 1/8 equals 12.5 percent. That's the house commission on three-team parlays. As you add teams to your parlay, the theoretical hold for the house skyrockets as follows.

No. of Teams
Actual Odds
Sportsbook Payout
Theoretical Hold
2
3/1
2.6/1
10.00%
3
7/1
6/1
12.50%
4
15/1
10/1
31.25%
5
31/1
20/1
34.38%
6
63/1
40/1
35.94%
7
127/1
75/1
40.63%
8
255/1
150/1
41.02%
9
511/1
300/1
41.21%

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Posted by seville1969
1 year ago

The guy who wrote "whale hunt in the desert" said it best on the espn radio a couple months back. The people who win in Vegas are the ones who bet $1000 to win $100. The ones who bet $100 to win $1000 usually go home broke. I've found that 2 or 3 team money line parlays won't get you rich quick but I cash tickets all the time. You bet the spread you're playing right into the sportsbooks hand. Good luck all.
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Posted by Pecs27
2 years ago

I rate my picks with a confidence level. I take my highest confident picks and parlay them. This increases my level of return if they are perfect on that night. I bet the same standard set amount on that parlay that i bet across the rest of the board that night (ex: $50/every single bet, $50/parlay of the day). This makes the ticket a "seperate game" on your board. If you lose, the ticket itself counts as percentage point against your units for. If you win, parlays will often pay out 4-15x more on a ticket on a 2-5 game parlay. This drastically increases your profits if your are picking solid percentages and hitting good hot streaks. Pecs27
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Posted by Sweetwater
1 year ago

I stack 5 picks Play each for 100 do a rr by 3 by 4 and buy 5 10 each pick the 3 best and just do a 3 teamer for 50
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Posted by pokerprogy84
2 years ago

This guy is a tool, he uses "We" as professional gamblers. Has no idea what he is talking about either. I would put my Hilton picks up against this prick any day.
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Posted by fiire
3 years ago

The best advise on parlayys, just don't do it. This article is fuking ridiculous. Anyone who is serious at this knows there are no 70% plays. What a load of CRAP!
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Posted by tallguyindc
4 years ago

This article was written in 2007 yet it says "For example, our 2003 NFL Program hit 61 percent this season. " Why 2003? Why NFL? Why not 2005 NBA? 2001 NHL? This is a very clear and obvious cherry pick. Take the best results you ever had and somehow imply that they are average and a reasonable expectation of future results going forward. Even taking a 61% expectation at face value, you still shouldn't parlay it. Why not just make large bets on both of the games? Parlaying basically means that 60% of the time your going to have overbets on the second game and 40% of the time your going to have no bet on the second game. How is that sound money management? You should put the appropriate Kelly bet down on both games. Parlays also involve considerably more juice than straight bets. Why pay the extra juice? Because you don't have enough money to cover straight bets??? If that is the case, then you can look at the extra juice as being almost like interest on a 3 hour loan. Thats utterly ridiculous for a professional gambler. A real pro never has anywhere near his whole bankroll committed during any one time window. He won't need to rely on loan shark interest rates for extremely short term loans. Real professional gamblers rely on 3 basic principles. a) Realistic expectations of probabilities on events b) Minimizing juice and all other related expenses c) Sound money management. Betting the appropriate amount based on true odds...never more or less Parlays violate all 3 principles.
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Posted by rockyd
4 years ago

I've read all the above posts and I now relize that there are alot of intelligent people who love parlays. I do parlays everyday, I like moneylines (if the book lets me), also unders and overs and I take 2 points every game. Tonight I have Bowling Green over 67 1/2 / Nebraska over 38 1/2, risking 100.00.
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Posted by wildbill702
4 years ago

Wow this article is how old and people still haven't figured out some rather important points here? Come on people, the key thing to remember is parlaying pointspread bets is bad value almost always due to the math offered, but if you include a money-line bet it becomes the same damn thing as betting straight. You create no extra value, but you don't lose any either. The book just takes your action with the same exact vig they would if you bet the games individually. The book prefers you bet straight because it is more action and lessens their risk greatly, but since most bettors are losers they take parlays. The biggest risk to books comes from parlays, on those rare days all the favorites win the book gets killed on parlay bets, but 95%+ of their weekends are supplemented by wins on parlays. But lets get to the real truth here. The reason parlays are poor bets for anyone is actually quite simple: parlays lock you into one book's lines. Rarely will a better get the best price possible from the same book except maybe on 2-teamers. Get beyond 2 teams and chances are quite high your best options come from more than one book. Or better yet, bet on an exchange for the absolute best price, but you can't bet traditional parlays there. You can bet the continuation parlays yourself, but that is a whole different situation. Bottom line is unless you are sticking to just one book, parlays are rarely going to make any sense and if you are betting at just one book and not doing at least a little line shopping then your betting doesn't really make any sense either.
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Posted by Rocket10
4 years ago

Parlays are like betting exactas or trifectas at the track. The issue for most players is that they are afraid to play a nickle or so on one play, so they play smaller amounts on parlays, with the HOPE that they hit. Take a $20 bill and double that four times= $320. At the sportsbook your $20 gets you 10-1 or $200 (you are beating yourself out of cash)..... Up your single game wagers and unless way ahead, stay away from parlays.
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Posted by jerseyjohnny77
3 years ago

speaking of parlays- i parlayed the habs and the under tonite. i didn't think ottawa would score more than 1 goal. sure the habs could have scored more but alittle over 2 dimes is good news as i sprinkled on a three point game in mnf. all the best--jj
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Posted by jerseyjohnny77
3 years ago

speaking of parlays- i parlayed the habs and the under tonite. i didn't think ottawa would score more than 1 goal. sure the habs could have scored more but alittle over 2 dimes is good news as i sprinkled on a three point game in mnf. all the best--jj
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Posted by RMAC04
4 years ago

but dont get me wrong manage your money and make smart decisions once you build a bank roll dont be foolish...just dont be afraid to make a parlay it's not "stupid" or wasting your money if you spend 10-15 $ a day on smokes if you can make a 5 $ parlay on a accumlator and win thousands ...sounds better than lung cancer right?
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Posted by RMAC04
4 years ago

sorry meant to say would be wasting time if i only picked my favorite pick every day as a single bet!
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Posted by RMAC04
4 years ago

I would be wasting time ..from statistics i seen from average gamblers..and to be and average gambler is better than the majority. With out parlays i wouldnt have won the majority of my money- 27000$ 9000$ 6000$ and others.....dont be a stiff take risks
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Posted by Dr_Y
4 years ago

Thank you professorpickum! The title of the article guys is "Why pros parlay for profit". It is always annoying yet humorous to see how people get off on tangents that in no way relate to the article or post at hand. The article is supposed to give a brief look into the "pros'" and the Books' view of parlays. If you don't already have a working knowledge of odds and how the betting system functions then you are a hobbyist. Go open a thread to debate symantics. Parlays are very profitable if USED within a proper strategy. Over 80% of my 'real' wagers are 2-team parlays and I do rather well. I won't really go into my betting methods here but here's a quick summary... ...if you take your two best picks (for whatever games have lines posted) and play them in a 2-team parlay you can easily build a bankroll over time. As for me, if there isn't a good value bet, I pass on ANY type of bet, period. Learn to be an investor, not a gambler. Investing is a marathon, not a sprint. If you are looking for 'that one big play so I can retire' then parlays won't help you. Go buy a lottery ticket! As a final note, 1) I know this is an old article 2) FYI: If you only do 2-team parlays with the same bet amount each time and only with -110 lines, you will 'survive' with just a 30% win rate (if only winning 30%, you're doing poopy... go back to straight bets) 3)I have my 'real' betting 'accounts' and then my 'fun' account for when I'm making crazy plays or just want to place a wager. Each one of us has a little gambler inside and he needs a 'treat' bet every now and then. 4)DISCIPLINE, DISCIPLINE, DISCPLINE... instead of debating the odds of hitting a parlay, go do some homework for you bets or develop your own winning gameplan. I know I'm long-winded but that's only because I don't post HERE very often. Quit wasting time on the forums and article replies with useless, wasteful arguments. Thanks.
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Posted by buckeye61
4 years ago

Meant Hockey....it's late...though smoked Hockeye Salmon is a treat and worth mentioning!
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Posted by buckeye61
4 years ago

I'm with Ed Collins, no one hits 50% of the 4 team parlays consistently over 1 MO, let alone 2 yrs. If they were, it would only be imperative they risk more than 10.00 a shot! Good write up an clarifications on the odds, guys. The odds of hitting ML parlays are quite different though. I didn't get through all the posts but I'll tell you this quickly, I've only been doing this since 2001 regularly...daily...and ML parlays are part of my bread and butter. Granted it takes 4-10+ teams to make a nice profit, but it pays if you cap well and sometimes mix/match your parlays hoping/expecting all or most come in. Targeting favs to avoid is key...some are due for that conference loss. (That's a chapter writeup in itself). Cross sport parlays should also be considered when the favs are strong. The vig is lower for say hockeye, baseball or even a tennis fav. We all have our style but although I was burned a number of times by just one upset, I have consistently won $ season after season with this method...primarily football. It's still requires good sport capping skills as you need to cap more games and upsets happen all the time. In the end, However, I wouldn't suggest adding this (muti-team MO parlays) to your arsenal if it didn't pay off.
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Posted by Snookslayer
4 years ago

Sam, I've heard that argued that parlays are the only way to bet two games occurring at the same time and result in 2.6 times the original bet. That's absolutely true, but mathematically the timing of the games in inconsequential. You're effectively paying more juice with 2.6:1 parlay odds. You probably already know that, but for anyone else reading... If a player can bet straight up on both games: At -110, the parlay should pay 2.646:1 At -105, the parlay should pay 2.812:1 At +100, the parlay should pay 3:1. Which is the actual odds of hitting two 50/50 events. Moneyline parlays are totally different. They pay "TRUE ODDS" which is exactly the odds you'd get by betting them separately. No more, no less. It's the "FIXED ODDS" parlays that scam increased juice out of players.
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Posted by sam420
4 years ago

Good article - great discussion. To Summarize: Parlays are sucker bets when compared to Straight betting the same action. However Parlays Can be usefu especially (expecially) if you are short stacked or you have hot pick of the week streak (or both or 1 and not 2 or 2 and not 1 or neither- bad math joke) Here is one example : You have 100 to bet and you love 3 teams - and they are all playing at the same time. ie the 1 pm sunday nfl games. the smart money is taking the straight bet to rehash the rehash.However, you can take a 3 teamer risking 100 to win on those games if you are shortstacked and still get some bang for the buck if you hit (which has allready been discussed) SO ONLY PARLAY WHEN YOU HAVE ALL THE "WINNERS"(OBVI) AND THEY ARE ARE AT THE SAME TIME AND YOU ARE SHORT ON MONEY . THATS WHY IT IS NOT COMMONLY DONE IF YOU ARE TRYING TO GET POSITIVE BECAUSE IN THE LONG RUN PARLAYS ARE SUCKER BETS
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Posted by trevorreuss
4 years ago

i suck at parlays..if anyone has any good advice on them i would appreciate it very much!
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Posted by rojaspicks
4 years ago

i love to do parleys with money line in basketball and baseball but i dont play beyond 3 teams
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Posted by Snookslayer
4 years ago

Validated!!! Thank you Blue.
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Posted by blue_devil
4 years ago

Prof I don't know what university you teach at but your math is off. Snook put the only worthwhile post on here which was laid out very simply but no one seems to be able to grasp it. Looking at your example : " (0.5)(-110) + (0.25)(-120) + (0.25)(+300) = -10. you expect to lost $10. in terms of a percentage, you expect to lose $10 of the $100, which is an expected loss of 10%. the exact same as in the 2-game parlay case." The problem here is your expected loss of 10 is off of the 110 so it is really only 9.09 %, which is less then if you parlayed it. (.75)(-110) + (.25)(+286) = -11 which is 11 out of 110 or 10%. So with the parlay you would expect to lose 10% with the combined straight bets only 9.09% so you tell me which is better. The reason why the original article is garbage is because this same principle applies no matter what the odds you win are. Compare the parlay payout with taking the winnings (if the first bet wins) and placing all of it on the second bet. If you risk 110 with 50% chance on each event: Parlay (.75)(-110) + (.25)(+286) = -11 Combination (.75)(-110) +(.25)(+290.90) = -9.775 The parlay will do worse no matter what the odds you win are. Even if you can pick at 70% it will change the odds you win , and the expected outcome, but because the payouts of the two bets are not affected will always underperform the other strategy of taking all of your winnings from the first bet if it wins and placing it and the original bet on the second bet. (.51)(-110) + (.49)(+286) = 84.4 (.51)(-110) + (.49)(+290.90) =86.4 In this example by picking 70% you were able to overcome the disadvantage of the parlay and end up with a positive expected return, like the article says, but what the article doesn't point out is that it is still less then if you just took all of the winnings from your first bet and them and the original bet on the second bet.
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Posted by doobiebrother
4 years ago

The bottom line on parlays is that there is no value. The odds on going 2 for 2, or 3 for 3, or whatever, are much higher than the payouts offered. Real pros look for value, and therefore do not parlay. MLB is sometimes an exception, as odds are not the same on every game and value can occasionally be found.
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Posted by professorpickum
4 years ago

sorry, i got SNOOK and SLIP mixed up in that last post... but they are the exact same bet! parlays are sucker bets, i agree! single plays have a lower expected loss. but if your planning on parlaying a series of single plays, mathematically they are no different.... ill explain it, and im gonna use the bookie payouts: bet $110 to win $100. (its the same as the bet $100 to win $90.91, but nicer numbers to look at). your plan is to replace a 2-game parlay with bet $100 on the first game, and if that wins, take the money and bet the $200 (your original 100, plus the 100 you just won) on the second game... heres the scenarios.... 1) 50% of the time you lose the first game (and you are down -$110) 2) 25% of the time you will win the first, then lose the second (here, you bet $200 on the second, so you owe -$220 in total... $100 of that was won on the first game, so you are -$120 out of the pocket 3) 25% of the time you will win the first and win the second (here your 200 turns into 400, and 100 was originally yours, so you are up $300) as i mentioned in my last post, your expected value (or theoretical hold) is a weighted average of the payouts, weighted by how often they will happen. theoretical hold = (prob lose first x amount lost for 1 bet) + (prob win 1st, lose 2nd x payout there) + (prob win both x payout there) = (0.5)(-110) + (0.25)(-120) + (0.25)(+300) = -10. you expect to lost $10. in terms of a percentage, you expect to lose $10 of the $100, which is an expected loss of 10%. the exact same as in the 2-game parlay case. so, you can play either strategy you want, but they are exactly the same... but most gamblers (myself too, until i learned the math behind these things) like to think that have a mathematical way to beat the system. the only way to really make money betting on sports is to know the teams well. we all know that a spread isnt set up as a number that will be surpassed 50% of the time, its a line set to get 50% of the betting public on each side of that line. you can make money by knowing the league, and knowing how the general public will want to bet.... but there are no mathematical ways to beat the odds...
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Top Response

Posted by jerseyjohnny77
3 years ago

"speaking of parlays- i parlayed the habs and the under tonite. i didn't think ottawa would score more than 1 goal. sure the habs could have scored more but alittle over 2 dimes is good news as i sprinkled on a three point game in mnf. all the best--j..."