Parlays
 

According to Webster, the word "parlay" means "To increase or change into something of much greater value." In sports wagering, a parlay is a series of bets in which the original wager plus its winnings are risked on successive wagers. Let's say you like three games on a particular day. You could bet all three games individually for $100 each, and if you won all three bets you would win $300.

But wait a minute. The sports website will let you parlay those games-turn the three individual wagers into a single bet-and pay you five to one odds if all games win! Exciting, yes?

No! We'll just get right to the point: Do not play parlays! The lure of the odds on parlay bets is more than most people can resist, but I will promise you this: Parlays, and for that matter almost all of the "exotic" bets, are what I call sucker bets. One of the very bad character traits of most gamblers is that they are all looking for something for nothing. Parlays appeal to that line of thinking, because you can wager $100 on a three-team parlay and win $500. The reason parlays are sucker bets is simple: They do not pay the correct odds, and even if you win the number of parlays that you should win over the course of a season, you will still lose money!


To illustrate what I mean, consider the odds of winning consecutive bets. To make it simple, we'll start with the premise that on each games you have a fifty-fifty chance of winning, so you'll have a 50 percent chance of winning your first play. The odds drop to 25 percent, 1 in 4 (.50 x .50) on your second play, 12.5 percent or 1 in 8 (.50 x .50 x .50) on the third play, 1 in 16 (.50 x .50 x .50 x .50) on the fourth play, and so on until the chances of hitting 10 out of 10 reach an incredible 1,023 to 1! The correct odds of winning three consecutive bets are 12.5 percent, or 1 to 8, which is 7 to 1 odds against winning the third games. A three-games parlay pays only 5 to 1, so you are beaten before you start.

As with most every wagering situation in the casino, you can't beat the numbers over a long period of time. I'm giving you the odds against winning all of the games in the parlay because you must win every games in the parlay to win the bet. If one or more of the games you put in the parlay lose, you lose the wager, regardless of the number of games you parlayed.

The rules vary from sports website to sports website when it comes to ties, or "pushes," but generally, in Las Vegas, if one of the games you parlay ends in a tie, that games is eliminated from the parlay. A fourteam parlay would revert to a three-team parlay, etc. And if you had only bet a two-team parlay, and one games ended in a tie, the wager would revert back to a straight bet on the one remaining games. Las Vegas also offers parlays where "ties win," but the wagers carry lower payout odds than regular parlays.

The more games you parlay, the larger the difference becomes between the odds against winning and the payoff odds, until when you get to that ten-games example I gave you, where the true odds against winning are 1,023 to 1, the payoff is only about 300 to 1.

The only exception to my advice to not play parlays is on money fine bets, where the parlays do pay odds that are much closer to the actual odds against winning the number of games in the parlay wager. Baseball money lines are an excellent example of money line parlays that are good wagers. They enable you to place wagers on teams that are prohibitive favorites-minus 200 or more-without risking the big loss of the money line if the prohibitive favorite loses.

Unless you are very experienced in sports wagering, you probably should take advantage of some professional help in deciding how to parlay money line bets. Calculating the payoffs is very complicated. Most sports websites in Las Vegas will give you the multiplication factors used in determining payouts, but the value of parlaying money line bets is simple: You can parlay three minus 200 favorites for a $100 wager, and even if all three of the favorites lose, you would only lose your $100 wager. If you had bet each one of those favorites individually at minus 200, you would have lost $600.

A $100 parlay on three minus 200 favorites pays $337.50, so you can see that the payout is less on a money line parlay than on a points line parlay that pays five to one. But your losses are limited, while allowing you to make wagers on favorites that you could not play individually. You also have to keep in mind that heavy favorites win a larger percentage of their games, which increases the likelihood of your winning your parlay. That justifies the lower payout.
Let's look at the next most popular of the exotic bets: It's the

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Early Position Trips
 
When you are in early position, the pot will be very small-in the $1 to $5 spread-limit games, the bring-in is usually just $l. You have a very strong hand and will probably win the pot. So you want to get that pot as large as you can. The way to do this from early position is to limp, enticing others to call. A raise, with the small pot, will discourage callers, which is not what you want to do at all.

When you limp with trips, you're hoping someone else will raise so you can backraise. With a large card showing, your opponents won't automatically assume you have trips if you backraise. They won't even assume you have a pair. But such an aggressive move with a small card showing will suggest the possibility of trips to observant opponents and they'll certainly put you on at least a small pair with a big kicker. So, with small trips you might want to forego the backraise if someone raises. Deception is always important, but in stud, deception involving your door card can be especially useful.
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