By Jeff Fogle
It’s better to roll over individual bets on a moneyline than to bet futures prices.
Here is a great example from the 2018 NCAA Final Four that will help drive the point home using the futures prices and moneyline prices and a handy parlay calculator.
Here were the futures prices from the South Point sportsbook:
— Villanova -140 (or 5/7)
— Kansas plus 300 (or 3/1)
— Michigan plus 350 (or 7/2)
— Loyola-Chicago plus 800 (or 8/1)
Let’s say you want to take a shot on Loyola because you love rooting for Cinderella stories, and that seems like a nice payoff for such a long shot. A $10 bet would win you $80. A $100 bet would win you $800. Sounds great.
But if you bet the Ramblers on the Saturday moneyline and then reinvested in them on the Monday night moneyline if they happened to make the finals, the payoff at the South Point would likely be much higher than plus 800.
The best way to see that is with the parlay calculator. You’d basically be doing a two-team parlay, pairing Loyola on Saturday with Loyola on Monday. We know Loyola is plus 200 on the moneyline against Michigan. That would likely be up around plus 500 against Villanova were the Wildcats to get past Kansas. (Quick example: In an earlier tournament game, Northern Colorado was -10.5 vs. Sam Houston State, with a moneyline split of -650 on the favorite at plus 475 on the dog. Loyola would likely be at least plus 10.5 points against Villanova were the two to meet).
Parlaying plus 200 with plus 500 yields a return of $1,700 on a $100 bet. That’s not 8/1, that’s the same as a futures price of 17/1.
Of course, it’s not a sure thing that Villanova will beat Kansas. Let’s say Kansas wins that game instead. It’s Loyola vs. Kansas in Monday’s final. Kansas would be a slightly higher favorite over Loyola than Michigan was. Let’s call it plus 200 and plus 220 for Loyola facing Michigan and then Kansas.
Parlaying plus 200 with plus 220 yields a return of $860 on a $100 bet. That’s 8.6 to 1, which is slightly better than the futures price no matter whom Loyola plays. It’s as if the South Point is pricing Loyola to have no shot at facing Villanova, though Villanova is priced to win that game about 70% of the time.
— “Roll it Over” with Loyola over Michigan and Villanova would pay about 17/1.
— “Roll it Over” with Loyola over Michigan and Kansas would pay about 8.6/1.
Better than 8/1 however you slice it.
Understanding human nature, and that more of you are looking for ways to bet the favorite rather than the dog, let’s do the same thing with Villanova. The South Point futures price had Villanova at -140 to win the championship.
Villanova was -250 vs. Kansas. Looks like that would be about -280 if the Wildcats faced Michigan in the final. Parlaying those two prices on a $100 bet would win $90. Remember, you’re not swinging for the fences with a dog here in a way that would yield a jackpot payout. You’d be risking $100 to win $90 that the best team in the country would go 2-0. That 100/90 ratio is the same as -111 on a moneyline. So you turned -140 into -111 by rolling it over.
Again, that’s assuming Michigan beats Loyola. If Villanova were to face Loyola, we’re talking -250 and about -700. The parlay calculator shows that would be winning $60 off a $100 bet, which is the same as -167. That wouldn’t be as appealing. You’d have to think about how likely it was that Loyola will knock off Michigan before making your decision.
If the numbers are getting kind of jumbled in your head, spend some time playing around with the parlay calculator. Put in your own moneyline estimates. Tinker with different stakes that better match your bankroll. It will become intuitive soon. Remember that most sharps don’t bet futures prices because it’s obvious how much better rolling over your winnings will work out in the long run.
How do you do this in a real-world sportsbook? Let’s say you’re willing to risk $100 on a particular team to go 2-0 this weekend. You would walk up to the counter and place a $100 bet on that team to win its first game straight up at the moneyline price. If it does win, you cash out — meaning you receive both your initial $100 stake and the profit from that first bet — and then you bet the whole pile on that same team to win its next game at its posted moneyline price. Yes, you’re giving a larger wad of cash to the clerk this time. But you’re still only risking that original $100 out of pocket. That’s what you would have paid to take a shot at the futures price.
If you’re wrong, you don’t lose anything extra. It’s still $100 out of pocket. If your team sweeps, you’re likely to win more this way than on a futures price, particularly with a big dog like Loyola.