Where They Fit In Your Betting Arsenal
By Buzz Daly
If there is a common denominator that most of us are forced to deal with in an era fraught with uncertainty, it is the presence of stress in our everyday lives. That is even more true for frazzled sports bettors during this time of year when we must find time to handicap a crowded schedule of college bowl games and NFL playoffs as well as NBA and college hoops. It is a daunting challenge, but one that punters eagerly accept.
In the mad dash to isolate edges in our battle with bookmakers, who enjoy an 11-10 advantage, it is easy to be led astray by false prophets. Beware of those who would talk us off what they refer to as sucker bets, citing conventional wisdom which is flawed if not utterly fallacious. Whether the “expertise” comes from a self-serving tout or just a presumptuous friend, savvy players automatically question any advice that is presented as a slam dunk.
For instance, it is bedrock CW that parlays and teasers are sucker bets. This is gospel on Internet posting forums and among those who offer their impeccable opinions on social media. Touts assure us that straight plays are the only way to go, and for a small pittance, they will help us get rich at the expense of our bookie by giving us 1,000- star locks. To that I say, caveat emptor!
Certain parlay and teaser cards are for squares, but they are easily avoided – so let’s dispense with that issue. Simply ignore those cards that abuse bettors with short payoffs. In general, “ties lose” cards – which give the book a 1½ point middle on every game – are for suckers unless they compensate by offering a higher pay scale.
Also, scrutinize the wording on payoffs. Odds of 4 for 1 are actually 3-1. A standard parlay card payoff for 3/3 should be at least 6-1. Essentially, the definition of a sucker bet is one in which the payoff is well below the true odds.
The first rule in betting parlays is to know the true odds for the number of teams bet. Then compare the difference between what a card offers and the true odds. You are looking for the smallest possible variance. Just as a sharp player shops lines, so should you shop parlay and teaser card payouts. To help in this endeavor, below is a chart that shows real odds for hitting a parlay. Compare these numbers with the odds on any cards you’re considering.
There is a hidden edge for parlay card bettors. The lines are fixed! They are printed on Wednesday and distributed on Thursday, and those numbers are still available on Sunday. So by game day, there will be a number of matchups in which the variance between numbers on the card and current off-the-board lines give us an advantage. The books do remove some games due to a late injury, excessive line movement or unexpected extreme weather. But those are prominently displayed in the book as no longer available on cards.
Back in the 1980s, a California syndicate won millions of dollars from Vegas books just by betting parlay cards with fixed lines. At that time, cards were distributed on Wednesday using Tuesday lines. For the sharps, it was like stealing. And that is just what the bookmakers called it when they discovered how they had been skinned. Hence today’s card distribution is on Thursday, and payoffs are less generous than from that bygone era.
Today the books also fight back by offering a shrinking number of games listed on the cards. Just how conservative a sports book is can be determined by the size of its parlay/teaser card menu. Bookmakers squeeze bettors by reducing our betting options. Teams from smaller conferences are no longer offered, and totals are not available on every NFL game. Locals-oriented books generally give us more of a fighting chance than those that cater to visitors.
But despite all the tools that books use to get an edge, there are still incentives for sharp players to take advantage of what is left. One strategy that I find useful is keying on two or three games where there is a one point or more variance with an off-the-board line – which is an extra half point on ties-win cards. Differences will inevitably occur because each sports book odds maker injects his opinion in the point spread. So some games will provide middles of up to three points when you compare cards from different shops.
Sharp bettors who ferret out edges in parlay cards can take advantage of the cards’ inherent weakness, fixed lines.
Teasers continue to grow in popularity, probably because bettors cash more teaser tickets than parlay tickets. Getting an additional 6, 6½, 7 points – and at some books 10 points, known as “sweetheart” teasers – makes betting teasers seem easier than it really is. You put together two or more plays, and all must win. Don’t be seduced by sweetheart teasers. The payoffs are meager, and getting 10 points is deceptive since ties lose. But you can avoid that by betting games with a ½ point.
Here are some guidelines:
• Only tease NFL games. Many books offer two sets of teaser odds, looser for college, sharper for NFL. A college 2-teamer costs 11-10; the NFL is 12-10. There is a reason for this. NFL lines are tighter and offer more games with winners on both sides.
• Tease up so you cross key numbers like 3, 7 or 10.
• Teasing a favorite down is tempting, but a dog winning outright will spoil the ticket.
• There are no consistent formulas for winning, but teasing home dogs is not the worst angle you can play.
One tipoff that betting teasers can be a solid play is that during the NFL playoffs, some shops will not accept two-team teasers. The house is not comfortable with that liability.
Of course, for most of us the reason we bet is quite clear: the fun factor, which is not inconsiderable. As bettors, we thrive on living with the thrill of victory, as well as the agony of defeat.
If you are waiting for a final resolution and need just one more play to win a fat teaser or parlay card payoff, you have the option of sitting tight or hedging the last game and insuring you at least win something.