Parlay betting in baseball is quite the different animal compared to other sports. Similar to hockey, baseball doesn’t use traditional point spread wagering. The closest thing to point spread wagering are runlines, but these also have attached moneyline odds.
What we are getting at here is that other sports, like football and basketball, use fixed odds parlays. By fixed odds, we mean that the odds are the same regardless of the point spread, and in most cases, the corresponding vigorish.
For instance, a two-team parlay in football typically pays +260 on most offshore betting sites. A three-team parlay pays a fixed price of +600. On theses bets, the sportsbook’s edge is built into the payout.
For instance, on a three-team parlay, the true odds are +700, making these almost always a -EV, except when you find inefficient pricing on the point spread or totals. It can make a bit more of sense then, but it’s still usually worth more betting each game individually, as a straight bet.
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Calculating Baseball Parlays
Many bettors have a misconception that there is no juice of vigorish charged when betting baseball parlays. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While baseball parlays offer a fairer (key word there) calculation than fixed odds parlays, there is still vig charged to players when they force a calculation and move away from fixed parlays.
Let’s take a look at example of typical baseball market where we want to bet a two-team parlay:
- Tampa Bay Rays (+180) at Toronto Blue Jays (-200)
- Cincinnati Reds (+150) at Pittsburgh Pirates (-160)
We have two games here, one American League contest and one from the National League. The Blue Jays are a significant favorite over the Rays at -200 while Pittsburgh is a moderate favorite over the Cincinnati.
Let’s calculate a parlay $100 two-team parlay on the Reds (+150) and the Jays (-200).
To do this, we need to figure out each leg of the bet in the form of a multiplier or decimal. This can be done using basic math. For each leg, we simply take the amount risked versus the amount of out potential winnings.
For example, if we bet $100 on the Blue Jays at -200, our bet would return $150, our original stake of $100 and $50 worth of profit. Our calculation would look like this: 150/100 = 1.5.
To calculate the Reds, our $100 bet would return $250, our original stake of $100 and a net profit of $150. The math here is 250/100 = 2.5.
From here it’s pretty simple, we multiply both our decimal stakes together (1.5*2.5) and get 3.75. We can then subtract our stake which in decimal form is 1.0 (3.75-1.0=2.75) to get 2.75.
We can then multiply our decimal odds by one hundred (2.75*100= 275) to reach our payout amount of $275. This includes our original bet of $100 and leaves us with a $175 profit.
Calculating odds for any parlay can be done using this formula, regardless of the number of teams.
As mentioned previously, it’s still going to be more profitable to bet on sides and totals that you find are inefficient rather than parlaying them. However, betting on them in a round-robin or also betting parlays in addition to straight wagers is an excellent strategy.
There are also scenarios where parlays are +EV in baseball. Although, it’s vital to remember that the edge that the sportsbooks have increases drastically the more teams added to the parlay. For this reason, we recommend players stick with mostly two-team parlays.
Favorite and Under Parlay
This is a favorite of professional level bettors and is one “system” that has been profitable over the past decade or so. It’s centered around parlaying the under on the total and home favorites.
The home team bats last in baseball, and when they have a lead, the game only goes 8.5 innings instead of the standard nine innings. That half inning is one less time a team goes up to bat, and if things work out with the favorite being ahead, it won’t be played.
This is the best example of an MLB correlated parlay and is particularly valuable when you have teams that are -180 or more at home, with a dominant ace on the mound. The bet works even better when the opposing team has an average or slightly above-average pitcher on the mound facing an ace.
Remember, we’re not looking for an offensive explosion here. We’re only looking for a large favorite who wins outright and for the total to stay under the oddsmaker’s number.
Parlaying Two Large Favorites
One of the most vital aspects of sports betting is finding value in the lines. Taking large favorites on straight wagers isn’t necessarily a -EV strategy, but there are plenty of reasons why this should usually be avoided.
For instance, a -200 favorite has a break-even percentage of 66.67 percent. This means that bettors would need to win this wager about 67% percent of the time to breakeven. Yes, just to break even, not even produce a profit.
One way to get around paying such a large price for large favorites is to parlay two large favorites instead of betting them straight up.
For instance, say we wanted to wager on two large favorites, which are priced at -190 and -210. For us to profit $100 from a winning bet, we need to bet $190 and $210, respectively.
If we parlay these bets together, the payout becomes considerably more attractive. A $100 parlay of these two favorites would return $225, giving us a $125 profit.
Yes, both our bets have to win for this parlay to profit, but we’re risking a lot less, and we’re still looking at a healthy payout. This goes against our advice earlier about opting to bet straight wagers instead of parlays, but in the case of large favorites, it’s definitely something to consider.
Large Favorite and Underdog Parlay
An opportunity that arises when you’re extremely confident in a large moneyline favorite, usually of -180 or more. It’s rare that this is case, so this isn’t a strategy we would advise using every day.
It’s also important to remember that baseball is a sport with extremely high variance. A fly ball a few inches to the left or right can change an entire game. The long season is to be sure that the cream rises to the top. Teams can’t fake it over 162 games, but a weak hitting team can easily beat the best pitcher in the league on a single afternoon.
If we like the Yankees -200, and two underdogs, such as the Reds +150 and the Giants +150, we can place two 2-team parlays.
Each of these parlays would return $375 on a $100 wager. Our original stake of $100, plus $275 in profit. These bets are excellent because you can lose one of the parlays and still come out ahead nicely with $175 in profits.
Circumventing Betting Limits
This touches a bit on the above section but is a strategy that can be utilized for all sports. At most reputable, highly ranked sportsbooks, circumventing betting limits may be frowned upon, but those shops will still pay players if they win their bets.
Let’s we love the Pittsburgh Pirates (-130) against the Milwaukee Brewers (+120). We’ve maxed out our wager on Pittsburgh as far as straight bets go at a particular sportsbook. The book won’t take any more money on that side from our account.
However, we can get more money down on Pittsburgh if we parlay them with another wager. As shown using the favorite and under parlay example, bettors can turn a profit using this strategy even if they lose one of their parlays. It also allows them to get more money down on their favorite plays.