As legal sports betting expands in the U.S. and competition heats up, online sportsbooks are getting creative as they try to stand out above the rest. Sometimes it’s in the form of “good karma” gestures and bad beat refunds. Other sportsbooks offer unique ways to multiply your winnings (and losses!). But a recent trend sweeping across the industry is sportsbooks eschewing the long-held practice of rejecting same game parlays from customers. Now, instead of blocking same game parlays, or as one company calls them, one-game parlays, sportsbooks are marketing the ability to bet them and are throwing them smack dab on the home page.
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What Is a “Same-Game” Parlay
A same game parlay (a phrase actually trademarked by FanDuel Sportsbook), single-game, or one-game parlay, the vernacular doesn’t matter — all are just a fancy (or catchy) names for a parlay consisting of correlated wagers.
$1 ➡️ $304.92
— FanDuel Sportsbook (@FDSportsbook) November 10, 2020
By correlated wagers, we mean two or more wagers which are related in such a way that the likelihood of one of the wagers/legs winning is increased or decreased by the outcome of the other leg(s).
For example, if Penn State is a 24-point favorite against Indiana in a college football game, and the game total (or Over/under) is 49, the odds of the game going Over is more likely if Penn State wins by more than 24.
A more obvious correlation example is the relationship between the score of a football game and player performance. If you think the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will combine for more than 56 points, then you probably expect Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady to post big numbers. If you like the Under on the point total, then you’re right to assume that the two quarterbacks are more likely to underperform relative to the implied projections of their respective player props.
Of course, hitting one leg isn’t sufficient for the other leg to hit. There are and will be cases where a player throws well over the yardage prop but his team doesn’t reach the end zone enough to cash the Over on the total, and vice versa.
Previously, these parlays have largely been restricted in most places where sports betting takes place. Knowing these parlays presented edges for bettors, oddsmakers regularly turned down these parlays at the counter.
That all changed recently, but bettors might not be finding the kind of edge they hoped.
Sure, sportsbooks now allow and advertise correlated parlays, but it’s not out of generosity. Oddsmakers minimize the edge of same game parlays by reducing odds of the parlay payout. Take a look at the consensus payouts of normal, uncorrelated parlays:
- 2-Team Parlay: 2.6-to-1
- 3-Team Parlay: 6-to-1
- 4-Team Parlay: 10-to-1
- 5-Team Parlay: 20-to-1
By betting 1 unit on three games with traditional vig or juice (-110), you can win a max of 2.73 units if you hit all three games. However, if you’re feeling a bit riskier, you can turn each bet into a leg of a three-game parlay, which will payout 6 units if all three picks hit. Remember, though, that you need all of the legs of your parlay to win or else you lose your entire wager.
It’s not hard to see why parlays are attractive to sports bettors. The odds may be stacked against the bettor, but who doesn’t like to dream of a big payout? Especially in a standalone game where someone would rather risk $10 to win $1,000, than $11 to win $10 on a standard -110 bet on the side.
As you can see by the payout of a 2-team parlay, though less apparent than it is in a straight wager, the vig (or “juice”) is still included and a bit heftier. Let’s look a bit closer.
- Game 1: Team A covers or Team B covers
- Game 2: Team A covers or Team B covers
Possible outcomes: 1A2A; 1A2B; 1B2B; 1B2A
There are four possible outcomes, meaning the true odds would be 3-to-1, yet sportsbooks only pay out 2.6-to-1 the wager. So a $100 wager on a two-game parlay nets $260 profit if both legs win. If sportsbooks used the true odds, bettors would net $300, making the vigorish 6.67%, a 2.13% increase from the 4.54% charged on straight wagers. That might seem minuscule but it adds up over the long haul.
Now, with some same-game parlays, sportsbooks make sure to maintain their edge by shortening the parlay payout even further. And in some cases, sportsbooks will adjust the total and/or spread to a slightly unfavorable number, e.g., Under 52 points instead of Under 54, or -7.5 instead of -6.5.
Rather than assuming the house is giving them an attractive money-making opportunity with +EV (also read: What is EV? Expected Value Explained), bettors should pay close attention to both the payouts and lines in same-game parlays if they want to maximize their expected value.
Should I Bet Same Game Parlays?
The edge might not be there, but let’s face it: it’s very difficult to find edges in sports betting. Sports betting markets, especially those for the NFL and NBA, are very efficient. Most of us are betting recreationally, for fun and entertainment. Same game parlays provide precisely that, but there are still a few things to consider in order to optimize your chances at large same game parlay payout.
Tips for Betting Same Game Parlays
Paint a Plausible Narrative for the Game
It’s Sunday night, there’s one game left and you a hunch there will be plenty of points scored, so you’re on the Over. How do you think the Over gets there?
Both of the same game parlays pictured below paint a story for their respective games.
In the first image, the bettor is betting Over 26.5 First Half Points and Houston Texans moneyline. By adding Deshaun Watson Over 302.5 passing yards, the bettor knows that if there are a lot of points scored, it will likely be through the air via the Texans quarterback. If Watson is passing for a lot of yards, to whom is he throwing? To make the payout even larger, the bettor adds legs that make sense, such as the Over on props for Watson’s pass-catchers, wide receivers Brandin Cooks & and Will Fuller, and tight end Jordan Akins.
We see a similar story in the second image, but legs and props from both teams, the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots, are included. Let’s go through this example, leg-by-leg, starting with the alternate spread and total.
Bills Alternate Spread (-9.5): By stretching the spread an extra 2.5 points (from -7 to -9.5), it’s clear the bettor believes the Bills will blow out the Patriots. The bettor also increases his payout by taking the alternate spread.
Alternate Total – Over (44.5): With an original point total of 46.5, here the bettor takes an alternate total by shortening his odds and the total number of points the teams must combine to go Over. Additionally, the Over and Bills -9.5 are both correlated.
Anytime Touchdown Scorer – Diggs, Davis & Moss: If the Bills cover and the game combines for more than 44.5 points, the Bills will have to score multiple touchdowns. In fact, we can use the alternate spread (Bills -9.5) and alternate total (44.5) to find out the implied point total for both teams. Use this formula:
Point Total / 2
Spread / 2
Favorite Implied Team Total = (Point Total / 2) + (Spread / 2)
Underdog Implied Team Total = (Point Total / 2) – (Spread / 2)
By plugging the alternate point total and spread into this formula, we get:
44.5 / 2 = 22.5
9.5 / 2 = 4.75
Bills’ Implied Team Total: 22.35 + 4.75 = 27
Patriots’ Implied Team Total: 22.5 – 4.75 = 17.5
With an implied team total of 27 points, the Bills need to score at least three touchdowns to reach their implied point total. The bettor picks three different Bills players to do just that.
Zach Moss Over 44.5 Rushing Yards: If the Bills win by double digits, they’ll likely lead most of the game. The more a team is ahead by, the more they run the ball and try to control the clock.
Zach Moss Under 6.5 Receiving Yards: If the Bills are ahead and running the ball, then running back Zach Moss is less likely to be used in the passing game.
Cam Newton Under 40.5 Rushing Yards: If the Patriots are playing from behind, Cam Newton is more likely to pass the ball than to spend clock running the ball.
James White Over 21.5 Receiving Yards: If the Patriots are behind and Newton is throwing the ball, James White, who is known as more of a pass-catching back, is more likely to be used than Sony Michele. Running backs often rack up catches in garbage time when defenses are playing preventive schemes and forcing throws underneath.
Playing out largely as the bettor expected, the Bills won the game 38-9. As we can see in the screenshot, 8-of-9 legs hit, which, unfortunately, is one leg too few. (Again, to cash a parlay, we have to be perfect.) The bettor painted a plausible narrative, plenty of touchdowns were scored, but Gabriel Davis failed to find the end zone, costing the bettor a nearly 260-to-1 payout!
It’s tough to point out many holes in this same game parlay, especially after looking at the box score. The main problem was that too many touchdowns (3) went to Stefon Diggs, leaving Davis as the odd man out. Still, with a little bit of effort, there’s one criticism I can make regarding the number of touchdown scorers and the alternate total.
By picking three touchdown scorers from a 27-point implied team total, the bettor is essentially hoping to get the Bills’ touchdown scorers exactly right. In other words, the Bills are projected to score 3-4 touchdowns, and the bettor is trying to pick the player who scores each of those touchdowns, leaving little room for error. If we think there will be three different touchdown scorers, why not stick with the original total (Over 46.5) rather than reducing our odds with the alternate total (44.5)? On the other hand, if we want to stick with the alternate total, then it makes more sense and gives us more wiggle room to included merely two touchdown scorers.
How do I Bet Same Game Parlays?
Though they aren’t available everywhere, more and more online sportsbooks are offering same game parlays, but because of trademark agreements and other factors, the same game parlay goes by different names at different sportsbooks. So how do you find these same game parlays?
- PointsBet – “Single Game Parlay”
- FanDuel Sportsbook – “Same Game Parlay”
- BetMGM – “One-Game Parlay”
Others sportsbooks are joining the party but without specific language for these markets.
Same game parlays are enticing, but they aren’t as advantageous as sportsbooks want you to believe. Regardless, they’re a fun way for the recreational bettors to have a big sweat without having to worry bout multiple games. Sportsbooks may maintain their house edge by reducing odds and payouts in same game parlays, but sports bettors can still make the most of the opportunity by coming up with a theory about how the game will play out and creating their same game parlay accordingly.