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Market Insights: When parlays go very wrong

March 4, 2020 11:53 PM

"Parlay Patz," a 23-year-old sports bettor from New York, was charged on Wednesday with "transmitting threats in interstate or foreign commerce" by the Justice Department. Benjamin Tucker Patz's sports betting renown emerged over the last year for cashing in on a series of massive parlays totaling more than a half-million dollars. But now he is in deep trouble for allegedly making violent online threats to college and pro players who struck out or missed shots and caused him to lose bets. If convicted, Patz would face up to 5 years in prison. 

The first and most obvious takeaway is that this kind of behavior is totally unacceptable and, worst of all, criminal. If you've been betting sports long enough, you know that tough losses are part of the game. Bad beats can be crushing, but that's no excuse for threatening players who fail to come through for you in the clutch. 

The second takeaway has to do with parlays themselves. Public bettors love betting parlays because they represent the ultimate get-rich-quick money grab. By combining multiple bets into one, you can quickly turn $10 into $100 or $100 into $1000. However, parlays are dangerous and considered the penny slot of sports betting: highly attractive but also a big loser for the bettor and big winner for the house. As I detail in my book The Everything Guide to Sports Betting, the average hold on an individual bet is about 5% according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board. However, the average hold on a parlay is closer to 30%. This means the house makes a killing off parlays. 

It's hard enough to win one bet, so the more bets you layer on the more risk you assume. A better approach is to employ flat betting. This means betting each game individually and only risking one unit and 3% of your bankroll per play. Think of it this way: if you have a 5-team parlay and you go 4-1, you lose the entire parlay. But if you bet all five games individually and go 4-1 you win roughly three units. 

If you want to bet a parlay every once in a while, all the power to you. Just don't make it your most common form of betting. You are playing right into the sportsbook's hands. Also, reading about "Parlay Patz" makes you think betting parlays can be a huge success. But how many losses did Patz suffer in order to cash his big hits? 


Thursday's action features 47 college basketball games, 4 NBA games and 10 NHL games. For an updated breakdown of sharp action across the marketplace, be sure to tune in to the VSiN Market Insights Podcast with Josh Appelbaum. It will be posted at 3:30 p.m. ET.

In the meantime, let's discuss a trio of Thursday games across the college hardwood and ice receiving sharp action from respected pro bettors.

College Hoops

5 p.m. ET: Boise State (19-11) at UNLV (17-14)

This Mountain West conference tournament quarterfinal is the early game on Thursday's packed slate. These teams met up less than two weeks with UNLV beating Boise 76-66 as 2-point favorites. This line opened with UNLV listed as a 3-point home favorite. Normally, the public will automatically take the team with the better record, however UNLV is at home, won the last matchup and is also riding a 5-game winning streak. However, despite two-thirds of bets laying the points with the Runnin' Rebels, the line has dropped to 2.5, signaling sharp reverse line movement with pros buying low on Boise at 3. The Broncos enjoy three extra days of rest compared to UNLV (last played February 26 vs 29). Ken Pom has UNLV winning by 2 points (72-70). 


7 p.m. ET: Pittsburgh Penguins (38-21-6) at Buffalo Sabres (29-29-8)

The Penguins finally broke their six-game losing skid on Tuesday, beating the Senators 7-3. Meanwhile, the Sabres are in losing skid of their own dropping their last four games in a row. The Pens are 30 in goals for vs goals against while the Sabres are -19. This line opened with Pittsburgh listed as a -165 road favorite and the line is creeping up to -170. Non-division road favorites are 59% this year and 57% since 2005. Road favorites down the stretch (game 60 and beyond) who made the playoffs the previous year against teams who missed the playoffs are 62% this year and 64% since 2005. The Pens are 28-16 as a favorite this season while the Sabres are 17-27 as a dog. This is also a revenge game for Pittsburgh as Buffalo has won both matchups this season (3-1 and 5-2).

10:30 p.m. ET: Minnesota Wild (33-26-7) at San Jose Sharks (29-33-4)

The Wild are in the midst of making an improbable playoff push. After an awful start to the season, Minnesota only trails Winnipeg and Vancouver by one-point for the final Wild Card spot. The Sharks, on the other hand, have been terrible all year and have no shot at the playoffs. Minnesota is 2 in goals for vs goals against while San Jose is a putrid -37. This line opened with the Wild listed as short -110 road favorites and the line has quickly jumped to -115. Minnesota has value as a non-division road favorite off a win (64% this year and 58% since 2005) and a late season non-division road favorite (62% this year and 61% since 2005). The Wild are 17-10 as a favorite while the Sharks are 15-27 as a dog. Similar to the Pens, this is also a revenge game for Minnesota as the Sharks have won both matchups this season (6-5 and 2-0). 

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