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Is it football season already?

24 August 2007

Dear Mark: Sorry for the dumb question, but how do you play a football parlay card? Any help would be appreciated. Emily M.

The only dumb question, Emily, is an unasked question. But before I take on your parlay card inquiry, let's decipher what a straight and a parlay bet are. You'll see why.

With a straight bet, you simply pick one side or the other to win the game, plus or minus the point spread on the board. For example, you happen to favor The Lions by 3 over Green Bay. If you take the Lions, giving three (-3 points), you're wagering $11 that the Lions will beat Green Bay by more than 3 points. If they do, you win $10 -- for your handicapping expertise -- but you also receive your original $11 back, for a total payout of $21.

A parlay bet is a group of straight bets combined into a single wager, such that the original wager and its winnings are successively risked towards the following wagers. With a parlay bet, all the individual parts of the parlay must win or at least tie. Here's an example: You place a two-team NFL parlay on the Lions and the Rams. If either of those teams fails to cover the spread, you would lose your parlay bet. If both teams beat the spread, the odds being 13 to 5, you would get paid $13 for every $5 he's bet.

With parlays, if one team doesn't win or at least tie, you lose the entire amount wagered. If one of the games ties, then that game is disregarded and you get paid according to the number of games you did win.

A "parlay card" is a set of sides, totals, and/or proposition bets printed on a special card. The numbers on the parlay card apply only to bets listed on the card, and can be different from the numbers listed on the board for the straight bets. As a rule, you must select at least three items in order to make a bet on a parlay card.

You also want to scrutinize your parlay card closely. Some specify that ties lose, some that they push, and you might even find the true rarity, a card where ties actually win. Some parlay cards avoid ties entirely by ending all spreads at a 1/2-mark.

As for the house edge, it's based on the number of games bet on your card and the casino payout. The more games parlayed, the higher the casino advantage. Surprised? For instance, three teams usually pay 6 to 1, with a house edge of 12.50%. Four teams pay 10 to 1, with an even higher 31.25% casino advantage, and five teams pay 20 to 1, with a house edge of 34.38%. Those are pretty long odds, Emily, and something a canny bettor wouldn't be wagering on.

Dear Mark: Because of you, I played craps for the first time at the AC Hilton a couple of nights ago. Loved every minute. A question please if I may. Suppose I place a pass line bet, and the point is established. Do you always put down place bets on the 6 & 8 if available? What if the point is 6 or 8, do you always bet the non-point 6 or 8? T.M.

"Always" depends on your war chest, and I haven't a clue how much you can withdraw from First National Bank of Sealy Posturepedic prior to your arrival. But typically speaking, a pass line bet with two come bets should be enough action.

Out of the vastitude of reasons why I complement my pass line wager and odds with a place bet on the 6 or 8, two quickly come to mind. First, it's a wager with a small house advantage, 1.5%, and second, it's plenty cheap. A place bet can be made for as little as $6.

Also, after you put your hard-earned cash to work on the pass line (with full odds if fiscally possible), and the point is a six, yes, it is common to accompany your pass line wager with an additional place bet on its kissing cousin, the 8.

Stick only to the outstanding craps bets you mentioned above. These wagers have house advantage of less than 1.5%, making them best of show bets in any casino.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Numbers make the games work, the same way they make the universe function." --Basil Nestor

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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.