To begin with, I am going to assume if you are making a sports wager or betforward.com on a sports game you are doing it somewhere legal (i.e. Las Vegas, or some other place that legally accepts sports wagers). I know that is the only place I make any of my sports wagers. If you are making sports wagers illegally, I’d advise against it, and request that you follow the rules. Enough said about that.
If you are like me, and enjoy making the occasional sports wager (college basketball and college football are my favorite sports to bet on), then you know how hard it is to actually win money. In some cases, it seems like the people that set the sports lines can see into the future and know exactly how many points a team is going to win or lose by. It is uncanny how often a 3 point favorite wins by 4 or loses by 2 – absolutely uncanny. With that being said, however, I would have to guess that if they weren’t that good there wouldn’t be a market for sports betting – everyone would be winning and those taking the wagers would be out of business.
If you are new to sports betting, one of the first things you will notice are all of the different types of bets you can make. There are the two traditional bets, called the “money line” and the “spread.” The money line is a bet where you just pick a team to win. Based on the determined likelihood of that team to win, the odds are adjusted accordingly. For example, a team that is expected to win fairly easily may pay out at odds of 1/10, meaning you would have to pay $10 to win $1. This is perhaps the easiest bet to win, although as you might expect, the payout isn’t very good (unless you pick the underdog to win, which in my example would have paid $10 for a $1 bet).
Betting against the spread is probably the most common form of sports betting. In this case, the odds makers attempt to determine a number of points that will make the game fair. This means that a very bad team will get a lot of points “given” to them to make the game more fair. What you are betting on is which team will “beat” the spread. Here’s an example: let’s say a good team is playing a bad team and the odds makers believe the good team is 15 points better than the bad team. They would set the spread at 15 points, meaning the good team would have to win by 16 or more points for you to win if you bet on them, or the losing team would have to lose by 14 points or less if you bet on them. If the good team wins by 15, it is a tie, and you’d get your money back.
In reality, this makes betting on sports very hard from the get-go, since what the odds makers are trying to do is make every game a coin flip. What I mean is, the goal of the odds makers is to set the line such that each team has an equal chance of “winning” against the spread. The reason for this is so hopefully equal money will be bet on both sides of the game, and the casino can make its money on the fee, or “vig,” it charges for each losing bet (typically 10% of every bet). In a perfect world for the casinos they’d have exactly the same amount of money bet on both sides.
As you can imagine, however, the casinos actually don’t make that much money if all they are taking from sports bettors is the vig. So they came up with another type of bet called the “parlay.” The parlay is a sports bet where you get to pick several teams to cover or win in one bet, where they all have to win. In exchange for all of the teams you pick having to win, you get much better payouts on your bet. For example, if you pick 5 teams in a parlay to cover, the payout is usually in the area of 25/1. This means if you bet $5 on a 5 team parlay, you win $125. Sounds great, right? The problem is, your odds of winning are 3.125% vs. 50% for a straight up bet. But your payout for winning a five team parlay is nowhere near enough to make up for the risk of the parlay.
What this should be telling you is that to be a successful sports bettor, whether in college sports or pro sports, it is much more beneficial to make a bunch of single bets that pay out less than to make a bunch of parlay bets that pay out much more but are much much harder to win. So, the next time you are out in Vegas for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (otherwise known as March Madness), the College Football Bowl Season, or any other time a great sporting event is on, remember to stay away from the parlays if you actually want to win money betting on sports. It will be the best decision you ever made.