What is a same game parlay and is it a winning bet?
Anyone who lives in any U.S. state where sports betting is licensed and regulated has been beaten over the head for the last year with advertisements for single game parlay bets or same game parlay betting. They are everywhere. And they are so popular, that Fan Duel has gone so far as to copyright the term "Same Game Parlay".
But, the reality of sports betting is that edges are hard to come by and sportsbooks wouldn't be touting these shiny new bets if they were easy to hit. In fact, the advertising pushes these bets on the public because they are VERY hard to cash in on.
If you want to know why sportsbooks want you to bet parlays, look no further than reports from UNLV on sports betting at Nevada sportsbooks. The average casino win percentage on football since 1992 is 5.19%. The overall casino win percentage on sports betting since 1984 is just 5.13%. But parlay betting is a whole different level of profit for casinos - the average casino win percentage on parlays since 1992 is a whopping 30.95%. And this report only covered through 2020. The madness of SGP has reached all new heights in 2021.
The numbers for July 2021 through September according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board show that casinos profited from more than half of the parlay wagers taken – 56.3% to be exact. New Jersey released October betting figures and showed that football win percentage at 3.2%, while parlays were at a whopping 17.1 %. Now neither broke out out single game parlays, but those kind of increases and the explosion of these types of bets can only mean one thing – Single Game Parlays are losers for players and big money for sportsbooks.
Let dig into some numbers.
Parlay betting, where two or more bets are put into a combination that must all win for the wager to win, has traditionally been one of the biggest moneymakers for sportsbooks. It because betting on sports is hard, and often winning just one game is tough (just look at any of the survivor type contests). On top of that the payout odds are manipulated in favor of the house (shocking!) and bets that are correlated to give players and advantage are either unavailable or are manipulated to add to the house advantage.
The standard payout odds for parlay bets are:
2-Team Parlay: 2.6-to-1
3-Team Parlay: 6-to-1
4-Team Parlay: 10-to-1
5-Team Parlay: 20-to-1
There are four possible outcomes in a two-team parlay, giving true odds of 3-to-1, yet sportsbooks only pay out 2.6-to-1 for the wager. The payout for a three-team parlay is even further skewed, where true odds are 7-1, yet the payout is 6-1. The payouts versus true odds only get worse as more teams/bets are add.
These bets are so difficult to hit that in the early onset of online sports betting, places like BetPoP and BetMania would offer true odds as a way to entice bettors. You could get 7-1 on a three teamer at those shops and many of the top online sportsbooks offered two team parlays at 6.5 to 1.
With single game parlays, there is also a correlation element that must be factored in by the bettor to see if there is value in a wager. Correlated parlays are based on certain combinations where winning the different legs of the parlay are directly related to each other. For example, a team favored by a ton of points and the over. The biggest problem with some correlated parlays is that many sportsbooks view them as illegal and won’t accept correlated bets, or worse, will void them once placed.
But, with the nifty, new SGP bets being offered, sports bettors can find and cash in, on certain correlated parlays, though many of the mainstream books will alter the lines to reduce the amount of correlation. For example, playing a 3-team same game parlay, where the Buccaneers are playing a team with a terrible pass defense, playing over the total, Brady to go over on passing yardage and Mike Evans to go over in yardage or to score a touchdown, are certainly correlated.
Here’s an example of the numbers using totals, where the sportsbook has taken the correlation into account and adjusted the payout odds. In this weekend’s Bucs game you can bet this SGP at FanDuel – Over 49.5 for the game, over 14.5 points in the second quarter and over 25.5 for the first half. The odds are a paltry +195. You can bet it, but you’re not going to get 6-1. That's because of the huge correlation between these wagers.
The biggest problem with trying to figure the true odds on betting on same game parlays is understanding the actual level of correlation. To figure out the true odds of a same-game parlay hitting is virtually impossible. How much does the first leg of the wager correlate with the other two or three bets? 99% of the time the odds are skewed in the sportsbook's favor, thus most of these types of correlated bets, though slightly easier to hit, are really not a good betting value.
Are parlays worth the risk?
This is not to say that all parlay betting is bad or should be 100% ignored. Each individual bettor needs to evaluate the risk versus the reward, remembering that Vegas is printing money from parlay betting. Some players like to place a 10-teamer every football weekend, it's like a lottery ticket. At 650+ to 1 throwing $2 to win $1300 or more can be fun, but it is not an investment strategy or a path to long-term winning.
Same game parlays can be fun too, especially when there is just one game on the board. Taking a three or four team Monday Night football SGP certainly enhances the betting/viewing experience. But again, it's just for fun and entertainment and not a long term, path to winning.
Tips for betting same same parlays
Find a game situation that makes sense
If you like the over in a game total, then add in a offensive leg or two to your parlay that makes sense. If you think one team is going to crush the other, take a look at QB props or touchdown bets.
Only use a small percentage of your bankroll
The SGP is intended as a fun bet. Never bet much on them. Sportsbooks push single game betting for one reason and one reason only – huge profits for the book. Players are unlikely to win very often, so those who do want to bet a same game parlay should bet much smaller amounts than would be wagered on a side or total.
Avoid common mistakes
It's easy to get overwhelmed looking at the plethora of betting options for each game anymore. Betting multiple players to score touchdowns, taking multiple players to score a ton of points in basketball or betting over one team and under on the other all have a negative correlation. It is never a good idea to bet into a situation where the legs of the parlay are against each other or one winning leg reduces the chances of other legs winning.
Single Game Parlay Betting - Final Word
As we said at the outset, betting on sports is hard. Most people do it for fun and recreation and any losses are simply entertainment dollars spent. But, betting blindly into single game parlays can really make a gambler's bankroll take a hit. Players looking for a big return and to have a little extra excitement, go ahead and fire a few dollars. But, for those who are looking at sports betting as an investment and are expecting a return on money wagered, straight betting on sides and totals or the occasional prop bet are the road to success.
Check back for The Betting Scene, as our occasional articles will highlight new items of interest in the world of online sports betting.