Money Line Parlays in College Basketball
by Robert Ferringo - 02/08/2008
Conventional wisdom says that parlays and teasers are for suckers. However, conventional wisdom also used to be that a woman would never be president, that cigarettes are actually good for you, and that that melancholy could be cured by draining black bile out of one's head. Needless to say, conventional wisdom is not canon.
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I do agree that trying to parlay college basketball picks against the spread is going to drain your bank account over the long term. Trying to nail two or three in one pop is a bit like trying to hit the clubs on a Saturday night and walk out with a threesome or a four-some. Picking up women - and picking winners against the spread - is tricky enough when you're trying to do it one at a time, so going after multiple winners is a more than a bit brash.
However, there is a way that I believe you can work the odds of a parlay in your favor when wagering on college basketball: the money line parlay.
Some books may not let you do money line parlays and I know that local guys likely won't want to deal with it. Also, some books that do let you place ML parlays don't offer money lines on some of the games with larger spreads. However, if you are able to put yourself in a situation where you can do three- and four-team money line parlays then you find yourself in a situation where profits are multiplying quickly.
If you don't know what a money line parlay is, immediately smack yourself in the face. Now that that's out of the way, a parlay is a multiple-team bet in which you pick anywhere from 2-10 games and you need to hit on every one of them in order for the total bet to be a success. The payouts for these types of bets escalate based on the number of individual games you add, where a two-team parlay pays out around 2.5-to-1 and a 10-teamer hits at about 300-to-1.
Now, I'm sure you see that 300-to-1 and your eyes light up at the thoughts of the Golden Ticket. Well, I hate to tell you, but the odds of hitting 10 consecutive games against the spread are astronomical. I assure you they are much greater than 300-to-1.
But that's against the spread. I'm talking about hitting on some money line winners here. The benefit being, obviously, that you only have to pick the winner of the game. Even just a decent handicapper can usually spot situations where one team has an overwhelming advantage and isn't likely to be beaten. Granted, upsets do happen, but how many home teams laying 9, 10, 11, or 12 points do you usually see lose outright?
For example, on Wednesday you could have made these three picks - Baylor (-7.5) over Texas Tech, Kansas State (-10) over Nebraska, and Mississippi State (-8.5) over Alabama. In this instance you have three clearly superior teams playing at home and laying decent-sized numbers. Well, if you had bet these games individually you would have gone 1-2 and had a losing night. If you had parlayed them you would have lost also. But if you had used a money line parlay you would have scored an easy cash at nearly normal juice!
The money lines on these three games were, respectively, -350 for Baylor, -550 for Nebraska, and -400 for Mississippi State. The standard juice on any of these games, against the spread, is -110 and that would mean that a $100 wager would yield $91. Well, if you had played all three teams on the money line your $100 bet would have brought in $90.
I'm certain there are some veteran handicappers that are just aghast at what I'm proposing. They will point to the odds and the fact that doing these parlays increases the juice significantly. And, admittedly, there could be some wagers where you are laying anywhere from -180 to -220. However, there is more juice because the odds are so drastically in your favor to win. It's similar to baseball betting. There is a REASON that a team is -180, and that's because C.C. Sabathia and the Indians at home against the Royals has a darn good shot to be a winner. Same concept here. There aren't too many situations where Drexel is going to beat George Mason on the road this season.
And I contest that the math IS on our side. In the six days between Feb. 2 and Feb. 7 there were 70 teams favored by between eight and 16.5 points. Those teams went 63-7 straight up, and most of the losers came from small conferences. Among those 63 wins there were some blowouts, there were some overtime games, and there were some outcomes in between. However, those teams went just 33-37 against the spread. So, if you had been betting $100 ATS on each of the teams in that range during that time period you would have been down over $700. Yet, if you had been playing strictly money line parlays you had a 90 percent chance of picking one winner (63-for-70) and if the math had held you would have had a 72.9 percent opportunity to hit a three-team money line parlay.
If you think that week was some anomaly I went back and picked another random sample - using Jan. 12 through Jan. 18 - and teams in the spread range of eight to 16.0 went 66-5 SU and 38-33 ATS. Overall, in the two weeks sampled, our teams went 129-12 (91.4 percent) straight up and 71-70 (50.3 percent) against the spread.
Even if the average juice on a three-team money line parlay had been -175, and in our previous example it was just around -115, then you still would have been easily in the black by nailing three of every four parlays. Trust me, the math on this works. There will definitely be naysayers and traditionalists that disagree with my premise, but I think that this is could be a potential goldmine in the hands of the right bettor.
And the bottom line is this: there is still handicapping that needs to be done. You can't just blindly find the three of four teams with the biggest spreads and throw them into a parlay. That's foolish and it isn't maximizing your profits. The trick is to find teams that you know have a severe advantage, be it in motivation, talent, skill, or other, and play on those clubs. But you also have to avoid shaky teams in the major conference and be wary of larger favorites in the smaller conferences. A handicapper would still have to do just as much work and research and still hope to get a little lucky. But I think that you stand a greater chance of profit mixing these plays in your arsenal than you do simply by straight betting.
The oddsmakers are incredible. They're pros and they know exactly what they're doing. That's why the favorites in the samples were just 50 percent against the spread. So my mode of thinking is if the books set a sharp line and there is anything you can do to manipulate it then you're gaining a huge advantage. In a sense, that's all we're doing is manipulating the spread back to a 'Pick' on these games that feature severe mismatches.
If you haven't been working money line parlays into your repertoire I think they are worth a look. By sticking to solid handicapping fundamentals and avoiding shaky teams in bad situations I think that this could become a valuable tool in any bettors moneymaking arsenal.