Sports Betting 102: Fancy Bets

Over/Under & Parlay Bets


The point spread and the moneyline are the meat and potatoes of sports betting but they are far from the only bets you can make. Here we’ll go over some of the other most popular bets and some basic strategy.


Totals or Over/Under:

Many sports bettors believe betting on overs/unders is easier than trying to predict the winner of a game and bookmakers tend to agree with that fact by placing smaller betting limits on overs/unders than they do when betting a team, either against the point spread or on the money line.

Overs/unders, more commonly referred to as totals, are a type of betting where you may bet that the final score of a game is either over or under  the bookmaker’s posted total  The total is determined by adding the final score of both teams. It’s that simple.

Imagine the New York Jets are playing the Miami Dolphins and the posted total is 40. If you bet over on the game, you win your bet if the two teams combine for more than 40 points. If the Dolphins win 24-17, for example, you have made a winning bet. If the Dolphins were to win 24-14, you would lose the over bet, as the final combined score was just 38. If the final score added up to 40, the bet would be considered a push, or a tie, and your money is returned to you.

Football and Basketball Totals

When betting on football and basketball totals, the bettor risks $11 to win $10, just as they do when making a bet against the point spread. If the bookmaker can get an equal amount of money wagered on the over and the under, he is guaranteed to make money no matter what the final score is.

Most NFL football totals will range between 32 and 52, with an average number right around 41 points. If two high scoring teams with poor defenses are playing each other, the total may be posted higher.On rare occasions, two sound defensive teams playing in poor, cold weather, may see the total dip below 32, but this doesn’t happen too often.

College football totals may be even higher, as some teams have great offenses and equally poor defenses. College football totals have been known to reach into the 70-point range.

When a bookmaker accepts a maximum bet on a football total, they will typically adjust the line by .5 points in an effort to attract money bet the other way, although this is at the discretion of the individual bookmaker. They may move the line a full point or they may not move it at all.


Parlay Bets:

Parlays are by far the most popular of the exotic wagers, as they offer the potential for a big payoff from a small wager. Simply stated, a parlay is a collection of two or more teams that you place a wager on and all of them must win in order for you to win your bet. If you place a four team parlay, going 3-1 is no different than going 0-4. All of your bets must win, or at least tie, for you to win.

There are basic types of parlays, those wagered against the point spread and those wagered against the money line. The payoffs a bettor will receive should they win are quite different in the two. In parlays involving point spreads, the payoff are fixed, while money line parlay payoffs are determined by the odds of each team.

Point Spread Parlays

The odds on a typical parlay involving point spreads, including totals, are generally something like:

2 teams 13-5
3 teams 6-1
4 teams 10-1
5 teams 25-1
6 teams 40-1
7 teams 75-1
8 teams 150-1
9 teams 300-1
10 teams 600-1

What this means is that a bettor making a wager on a five-team parlay stands to win $25 for every $1 if all of the games win. That is the primary reason parlays are popular with a number of sports bettors.

Money Line Parlays

Money line parlays do not use fixed odds, because the odds of winning vary greatly from team to team. While a parlay made against the point spread assumes a 50-50 chance for each team of winning, money line parlays do not. The chances of the New York Yankees defeating Kansas City are greater than 50-percent, and as a result, money line parlays are figured differently.

To put it in simple terms, money line parlays take the amount of your bet and place all of the money on one team and if that team wins,recalculates your bet amount on the next team, again placing your entire wager on that team.

For example, say a bettor likes the Los Angeles Dodgers +160 and the Chicago Cubs -130. If the bettor places a $10 wager, they essentially would have a $10 bet on the Dodgers +160, which will return $26 should the Dodgers win, and then would have $26 on the Cubs -130. Should the Cubs also win, the bettor has turned a $10 wager into $46. Contrast the $36 profit with the $26 profit a bettor winning a $10 point spread parlay on two teams would make. The difference in the payoff is because the Dodgers were not given very good odds of winning.

Are Parlays Good Bets?

The simple answer is no, especially parlays involving point spreads or totals. The odds of the payoff are much less than the true odds. For example, the true odds of winning a three-team parlay when making point spread wagers are 7-1, while the payoff is only 6-1, and it gets worse as you bet more teams. The true odds of hitting a 10-team point parlay are 1,023-1, while the payoff is generally around 600-1, so a parlay bettor is at a big disadvantage. Bettors should stick with straight bets, as it’s difficult enough to pick one winner, let alone two or more games.


Teaser Bets:

Teasers are bets that are offered in football and basketball betting, which are quite similar to parlays, in that all of the teams selected must win in order for a bettor to win their wager. A single loss on any one game makes the entire bet a losing one.

There is one major difference between teasers and parlays, however, and that is the bettor is allowed to move the point spread in any direction they like on a particular game. For example, if the Bears are favored by 10 points over the Dolphins, teaser bettors would have the option of moving the point spread in either direction, and could make the new point spreads for the teaser bet the Bears -4 or the Dolphins 16.

In football, bettors can move the line 6, 6.5, 7, or sometimes 10 points, but the payoffs are lower with each additional half-point the bettor takes. A 7-point teaser will pay lower odds than a 6-point teaser, for example.

In basketball teasers, point spreads can be moved 4, 4.5, or 5 points. Teasers must be a minimum of two teams and can use as many as 10 teams, depending on the sportsbook the wager is placed through, although most placed tend to limit the number to six.

Ties count as a loss at most sportsbooks, although some will reduce the number of teams in the teaser by one. It’s best to check with the individual sportsbook before placing a wager to make sure you know its rules.

Football Teasers

In exchange for the points allowed by teasers, bettors take much lower odds than they would if wagering on a parlay. While a three team parlay will pay 6-1, a three team, 6-point teaser pays 9-5.

The typical odds for football teasers are as follows:

6-point Teasers:
Two teams = 10/11
Three teams = 9/5
Four teams = 3/1
Five teams = 9/2
Six teams = 6/1

6.5-point Teasers:
Two teams = 10/12
Three teams = 8/5
Four teams = 5/2
Five teams = 4/1
Six teams = 11/2

7-point Teasers:
Two teams = 10/13
Three teams = 7/5
Four teams = 2/1
Five teams = 7/2
Six teams = 5/1

Some sportsbooks will offer three-team, 10-point teasers at odds of 10-13 (risk $13 to win $10), although not all sportsbooks offer them.

About Kate Potter

Kate Potter is a professional sports better and a semi-pro fantasy football player.

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