One sports bettor hit the parlay of a lifetime over the weekend at Gold Strike Casino in Tunica after putting $40 on a 13-team parlay. Every game went exactly as predicted and the bettor finished the weekend with a very healthy payout north of $103,000.
To emphasize the magnitude of this win, note that the unnamed bettor turned a humble $40 wager into a total payout of exactly $103,581 after correctly predicting the outcomes of 13 college games played this past Saturday. That works out to payout odds of nearly 2600-to-1.
According to an ESPN “notable bets” roundup published yesterday, the 13-team parlay included 12 college basketball point spreads and a moneyline pick on the Army vs Navy football game.
How Sports Betting Parlays Work
The lucky Gold Strike visitor whom we write about today achieved such astronomical payout odds by using the only sort of sports wager capable of such payouts: the parlay.
Parlay wagers work by combining multiple selections into a single wager with two potential outcomes: win or lose. You can combine as few as two different selections into a single parlay or as many as 13+ wagers like we saw this weekend into a single parlay.
Each selection is referred to as a “leg” and the catch is that every single leg must come through for your parlay to win. If a single leg lets you down, the entire parlay is a bust and your wager is graded a loser with no payout.
The more legs you add to a parlay, and the longer the odds on each selection, the bigger the potential payout. If you want to take a shot at a life-changing payout, all you need to do is keep adding legs to your parlay. Of course, the downside is that every leg you add to a parlay creates one more opportunity for you to make the one wrong prediction that kills the whole thing.
Winning 13-leg parlays like our visitor to the Gold Strike in Mississippi are a rare sight indeed – hence why they make the news like this weekend’s parlay did. There’s just so much that can go wrong, from a favored team having a bad day to an underdog just barely managing to cover the spread, that even the best handicappers have the odds stacked against them.
Saturday’s parlay included the following selections, and you can see this bettor too had some close calls:
- Toledo +2 (Result: Toledo 75, Marshall 74)
- South Alabama -2 (Result: South Alabama 81, Tulane 60)
- Hofstra -2.5 (Result: Hofstra 89, Rider 73)
- Central Michigan -8.5 (Result: Central Mich 95, Southern Utah 86)
- Penn -5.5 (Result: Penn 83, La Salle 65)
- Georgetown +10.5 (Result: Georgetown 71, Syracuse 72)
- Villanova -10.5 (Result: Villanova 70, Saint Joseph’s 58)
- Oklahoma -6.5 (Result: Oklahoma 80, Wichita St. 48)
- Pittsburgh +10.5 (Result: Pittsburgh 59, W. Virginia 69)
- South Carolina +17.5 (Result: S. Carolina 78, Michigan 89)
- Oakland +10 (Result: Oakland 83, Northeastern 92)
- Maryland -9.5 (Result: Maryland 55, Loyola 41)
- Army -340 (Result: Army 17, Navy 10)
That Pittsburgh vs. West Virginia game was particularly close for our bettor of the week. Had WV made just one more free throw, Pittsburgh would have failed to cover the spread and the bettor we’re writing about today would have been just another anonymous gambler with a story to tell.
Online sportsbooks also support custom parlays. All you need to do is add two or more selections to your betting slip and then select the “parlay” option to combine those wagers into a single bet.
For example, you can see here that I’ve made four college basketball picks at SugarHouse Sportsbook and all four are showing in my betting slip with $25 on each game:
All four games start at the exact same time, so there’s no way for me to manually roll over my winnings from each wager to the next. Thus, I’m limited to a max payout of $191 if I get each of my $25 wagers correct.
Instead, I can aim for a much bigger payout by selecting the “parlay” option at the top of the betting slip to create my own parlay. I’m still risking $100, but now my potential payout is more than $1,300.
Just keep in mind the difference is that this entire bet will be lost if a single of these predictions ends up being wrong, whereas I would still have something to show for my money if I kept every bet separate and got at least one of my predictions right.
Are Parlays A Smart Bet?
Parlays are widely recognized as the most potentially lucrative in sports betting, but they also have a bit of a reputation as a “sucker’s bet” due to their difficulty in winning and established numbers that show parlay wagers benefit the house more than any other type of bet as a percentage of handle (see page 5).
We can also see that same trend play out in Mississippi so far. The last time the Mississippi Gaming Commission released sports betting revenue statistics was for the month of October, and we can see that parlays were way more profitable than any other type of bet.
The Mississippi Gaming Commission breaks down its reports by three distinct regions: Northern, Central and Coastal. In every region, the win percentage (which describes the percentage of money kept by the casino after paying out winners) of parlays outperformed the region’s win percentage as a whole.
|Win % on Parlays||Win % on All Bets|
Interestingly, baseball’s win percentage was actually higher in two regions, but that was likely just a weird month for the sportsbooks. Over the long term, parlay wagers are better for a sportsbook’s bottom line than any other type of bet.
However, parlays offer the unique benefit of potentially massive payouts relative to bet size. We only have to look at this weekend’s $103,581 payout off a $40 wager for an example of just how lucrative a winning parlay can be.
Parlays can be good bets, but usually they’re only good for the sportsbook. They’re best treated as the occasional gamble wager rather than something you should be relying on over the long term as a serious bettor.