What Does a Combination Bet Mean in Sports Betting?
by Doc's Sports - 10/2/2014
If you hear the term combination bet in sports betting then you should immediately head to the pub and have a pint and some fish and chips because you are very likely in the United Kingdom. You can have as many pints as you want, too, because this isn’t a tough concept to understand. A straight bet is a bet on the outcome of a single game. A combination bet combines the outcomes of more than one race, and you need to be correct in each choice to win. A parlay is the most common form of combination bet. In fact, combination bet will often be used interchangeably to describe a parlay.
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A combination bet can involve pointspreads or moneylines. When moneylines are involved payouts are determined by multiplying the payouts in a formula. It can get complicated, but there are plenty of parlay calculators out there to make it easy. When a combination bet involves pointspreads the payouts are fixed. Sportsbooks can offer their own payouts, but they will be the same regardless of the teams involved - if you bet a two team parlay, for example, it will always pay 13/5 at most books regardless of whether you bet on two favorites or two big underdogs.
The more you understand true odds the more you will realize that combination bets - especially ones involving pointspreads - are not particularly attractive. The problem is that for most bettors most of the time picking one side against the spread is little better than a 50/50 proposition - they don’t have the handicapping skill to give themselves an edge, so they are as likely to lose as to win. If you bet a two-team parlay, then, there are four different outcomes, and each one is as likely as the others. You could win both bets, win the first and lose the second, win the second but lose the first and lose both. Only one of those four possibilities would mean a winning bet. Since all four are equally likely the true odds are 3/1 - that’s what you would need to be paid when you win just to break even. These bets typically pay 2.6/1. They have a long-term expectation of losing money. The gap between the true odds and what is paid only grows as the number of teams in the combination bet increases. To make combination bets a mathematical possibility, bettors need to be able to win against the spread at a higher rate than most square bettors are capable of. For most, then, combination bets are a sucker bet.
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