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Sideline fan wants some action

15 August 2005

Dear Mark,
I usually go to Vegas during the early spring, so I've never bet on football, but I will be there this year in mid-September. Unfortunately, I have no idea how the betting works, specifically teasers and parlays. Can you shed some light on this? Chris S.


Of course, Chris, nice question. I'll get to parlays and teasers in just two inches, but first I'd best illustrate the wager most sports bettors make when betting football: the straight bet.

In 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, let's say you're charmed by Green Bay -7 vs. Chicago. If you take my beloved Green Bay giving seven (-7 points), you're wagering $11 that the Packers will beat the Bears by more than 7 points. If they do, you win $10. The 10 bucks is 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. For you to come off smiling after a parlay bet, all the individual parts of the parlay must win or tie. Here's an example: Chris places a two-team NFL parlay on the Lions and the Jets. If either of those teams fails to cover the spread, Chris loses his parlay bet. If both teams beat the spread, the odds are 13 to 5, and Chris gets paid $13 for every $5 he's bet.

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

The house edge, based on the number of games bet and typical casino payout, depends on how many teams are in your wager. But, Chris, WALLET ALERT! The more games parlayed, the higher the casino advantage. 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%.

A "parlay card" is a set of sides, totals, and prop 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 straight bets listed on the board. As a rule, you must select at least three items in order to make a bet on a parlay card. ALWAYS scrutinize closely any parlay card offered. Some specify that you lose a tie, some that ties push, and you might even find the true rarity, a card where ties actually win. Some parlay cards avoid ties totally by ending all spreads at a 1/2-mark.

A teaser, like a parlay, is a group of straight bets combined into one wager. The difference between a parlay and a teaser is that with a teaser the line you bet against for each individual bet is moved in your favor by the number of points of the teaser. For example, if the regular line is the Vikings -7 and you have a 4-point teaser, then your line would be the Vikings -3. As with the parlay, all of the individual games need to win for the teaser to be a winner. If there is a tie in one or more of your individual games, then the wager, as in a parlay bet, converts to one fewer game, with this cute exception: If a two-team teaser has a winner and a tie, then the teaser pushes; meaning "No Action."

Gambling Wisdom of the week: "Look high, look low, and we see that gamblers actually form the majority of the world's inhabitants." -- James Runciman, Side Lights (1893)

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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.