Betting Baseball Parlays

Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jim McIsaac/Getty Images Sport

In sports gambling circles parlays are often thought of as sucker bets, where the bettor receives a payout at a much lower rate than the true odds. In football and basketball this is true, as a three-team parlay will pay off at odds of 6-to-1, while the true odds of winning a three-team parlay are 7-to-1, as there are eight different outcomes that can occur. Parlay cards frequently pay worse.

Baseball parlays are calculated differently, however, in that there are no fixed payoff odds.

Instead the payout is calculated by the odds of the teams used in the parlay. If the same fixed odds were used in baseball that are used in football and basketball, bettors would simply parlay all large favorites, which would give them a huge advantage over the sportsbooks, and sportsbooks aren't in the business of giving away money.

How Baseball Parlays are Calculated

A parlay is simply a bet on multiple teams where the money is taken from a winning selection and then bet on the next team in the parlay. If a bettor wanted to parlay the Mets and the Dodgers both teams would have to win or the wager is a loss.

Let's say the Mets are -200 over the Marlins and the Dodgers are +110 against the Padres. If a bettor makes a $50 parlay on the two teams the payout is figured by taking the $50 and placing it on the Mets. If the Mets win, the $50 becomes $75 and then the $75 is placed on the Dodgers.

If the Dodgers lose, the bet is a loser, while if the Dodgers win, the payout is $157.50.

The order that the parlay is calculated makes no difference in that you could could calculate the payoff by figuring the Dodgers first. In that case, the $50 placed on the Dodgers would become $105, which would then be placed on the Mets -200.

Since $105 X .50 = $157.50, the payout is the same.

The most difficult aspect for many bettors is a matter of figuring out the payoffs, since a bit of math is needed. The easiest way to do this is simply to divide 100 by the odds on a particular team.

Say a bettor likes the Astros -165 and wants to parlay them with the Tigers -135. The first step is to divide the odds by 100, which will give us a decimal figure and then add one. In the case of the Astros, the number is 1.61, which is 165 / 100 and then adding one. For the Tigers, the number will be 1.74, which is 135 / 100 and adding one. (The reason the one is added is because on a winning wager the bettor receives the original wager, plus any winnings back. If you wager $110 on the Vikings at a sportsbook in Las Vegas and the Vikings win, you receive $210 back, not $100.)

The bettor then will merely need to multiple the size of the parlay wager by the two decimal figures to calculate the payoff. If the parlay size was $30, the baseball gambler simply multiplies 30 X 1.61 to get $48.30, which is the amount of money that will be wagered on the next team in the parlay. The $48.40 is then wagered on the Tigers ($48.40 X 1.74) and if Detroit comes through with the win, the bettor receives $84.04.

Of course, if either team losses the parlay is a loser and the bettor is out $30.

For those bettors who do not like to do the math, there are several parlay calculators online that will calculate the payoffs for you. All you have to do is enter the odds of each team you are going to wager on. One of them can be found here.

Are Baseball Parlays Good Bets?

There isn't a simple answer to the question if baseball parlays are good wagers or not. The easiest answer is they are good wagers if the baseball gambler is betting into favorable odds and bad wagers if the bettor is betting into bad lines.

If a bettor is parlaying two -150 favorites that should be legitimate -200 favorites, then the parlay is a good bet. If a bettor is parlaying two -150 favorites that are legitimate -120 favorites, the parlay is a bad bet.

From simply a mathematical standpoint, there is no real advantage or disadvantage to playing parlays, since the true payoff odds are used.

Bettors with small bankrolls may find some advantage to playing parlays, in that a player has the potential to win a lot of money for a small wager, although that's generally easier said than done.

Each baseball bettor needs to asses the size of their bankroll and their goals to determine if baseball parlays are for them.