The usual way to bet the NFL is to bet one game at a time and give 11-to-10 odds (risking, for example, $55 to win $50 or $110 to win $100). Usually the bet is on one team against the point spread, or the over-under on the total score of a game. However, bookies also offer other types of bets. What makes these bets alluring is that they seem to pay more. But in reality, these exotic bets usually cost you.
Parlays and Parlay Cards: Parlays are usually bet in two- or three-game groups. On a two-game parlay, a bettor gets 13-to-5 odds if he wins both games. For a small investment, the payoff seems big: on a $50 wager, a payoff of $130. On a straight bet, by contrast, a bettor must risk $143 ($130 plus the $13 vig) to win $130. And if he is going to bet two games at $50 each, he must risk $110 to win only $100. So why not bet parlays?
The problem is that the odds of winning two of two bets is 3-to-1 against. That means the fair payout odds should also be 3-to-1 (or 15-to-5). But they aren’t. Instead, they are only 13-to-5.
A three-team parlay usually pays off at odds of 6-to-1. Here a $50 bettor receives $300 on a $50 investment. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
However, the odds of cashing that three-team parlay ticket are only 1 in 8.
Another form of parlay is the parlay card, or “sheet.” On these, the payoff odds are even worse—often only 5-to-1 for picking three games. That gives the house an edge of 25 percent. Four-teamers usually pay 10-to-1, which gives the house a 31.25 percent edge. A ten-teamer might pay 500-to-1, which sounds good until you realize that the odds against going 10 for 10 are 1,023-to-1, which gives the house over 50 percent edge on that proposition.
Teaser Bets: Every year the number of bettors who wager on teasers grows. Why? The games they remember losing by “just a point or two.”
The most common type of teaser bet is the two-team teaser where a bettor gets six points on each of two games. The price of these extra points is giving 6-to-5 (or 12-to-10) odds on the bet. In all teasers, all games must win for the bettor to get paid. Also, in most teasers, if any game ends in a tie, the teaser is considered no bet. (On a ten-point teaser, a tie makes the teaser a loss.)
In any given season, a game has a little over a two-thirds chance of falling within 5 points of the closing line (the rate was 68.8 percent for 1990–1999). These games would all be wins on six-point individual-game teaser bets regardless of which side you bet. However, you must win two games to win a six-point teaser.
By squaring the 68.8 percent win rate for 1990–1999, we find that you would have won just over 47 percent of six-point two-game teasers. However, laying 6-to-5 odds means you must win 54.545 percent of two-team teasers just to break even. That means the house had an edge of over 12 percent.
On the other teaser bets, the picture is just as bleak.
The best bet in the NFL is betting the point spread or over/under on individual games. Giving 11-to-10 odds is generally the cheapest price you can give.
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