Parlays have long, storied history, but they’re no moneymaker for most bettors


LAS VEGAS — Trailing 17-10, Akron had the ball inside its own 30-yard line last Saturday with about 3½ minutes remaining at Indiana.

All according to my script, since both possessed poor offenses, barely combining to average 30 points. Vegas sportsbooks had installed a 45ish total.

But I got cute. Got fancy. Hadn’t been running well in college football, so I reached into the bag of sportsbook tricks that includes half-point, ties-win and the magnificent Mega Teaser parlay cards and other parlay party options.

I included Akron Under with three other plays on a seven-point teaser parlay, jimmying that Zips total up to 53 for insurance. Since 2013, Akron and San Diego State have been the best Under programs.

The other three hit. However, Lorenzo Lingard, Akron’s 6-foot, 210-pound tailback who had spent his first three years at Florida, ripped off a 71-yard touchdown run to make it 17-17.

Enter, cruel fate.

After the first overtime, 24-24. In the second, Indiana led 27-24. I needed zilch from the Zips. Nope. Dante Jackson booted a 23-yarder to knot it 27-27. In four overtimes, the Hoosiers won 29-27.

Further tomfoolery in that bag of tricks, however, did save my Saturday.


Parlay cards have been in vogue for nearly 100 years, gaining early steam in factory towns on pay-day Fridays and collegiate dormitories, writes historian Arne K. Lang.

They’re a book’s best friend.

“Extremely popular with non-serious bettors,” the retired Art Manteris penned in his entertaining 1991 autobiography -“SuperBookie.” “[They] attract the unsophisticated bettor and offer high yields for the sportsbooks.”

For my 2019 sports-betting book, Las Vegas Review-Journal scribe Todd Dewey, who covers the industry, nailed their fundamental lure when he told me, “Everyone wants to bet a little to win a lot.”

Veteran Vegas oddsman and media ace Dave Sharapan, 53, hails from Pittsburgh and first saw a parlay card at 11 at recess.

“The sixth-grade playground. A game changer!” he said.

They’re most frequently printed on medium-gauge cardstock.

As a fifth-grader in suburban Cleveland, WagerTalk handicapper Ralph Michaels, 59, delivered the now-defunct Cleveland Press and had disposable income. He discovered the cards.

Go 3-for-3, get 5-to-1 back; 4-for-4, 10-1; and up. When he entered Greenbriar Junior High, Michaels became a runner, doling them out to fellow students.

“Including teachers!” he said. “My, have times changed. I was ecstatic with my 15% commission.”

At Santa Fe High in Southern California, professional bettor Tommy Lorenzo, 53, nabbed his first one when he was a junior. He played only three-teamers.

“Even during my tender early years of sports betting, I realized that more teams meant less of a chance to win,” he said.

In college, he’d visit Vegas — and Caesars Palace — with friends.

“I was in Wonderland because the odds were so much better than the ‘For Entertainment Purposes Only’ cards from high school,” he said.

Pro ’capper Bill Krackomberger, 55, grew up in the Bronx and handled his first parlay card when he was 9.

“The first type of sports gambling I did,” he said. “For a buck. I’d pick four teams, which paid 10-1. I think I won one time that whole first year, but it was fun. Had action every weekend. Looking back now, I was a little ‘degen’ [degenerate].”


For years, I’ve collected immense information on Sundays, continuing through the week. Saturdays, my typical legal-pad game-day page must resemble Greek chicken scratch to outsiders.

Key math and computer models, and certain power ratings, are employed. Everything pertinent that might highlight wrong teams being favored, say, or big favorites expected to roll.

Those last words weighed heaviest as I inspected last weekend’s lines, seeking another tack. Staring at the sheet, certain notations jumped off the paper. I highlighted teams favored by big spreads to win outright.

(I didn’t navigate this willy-nilly, but some of the recipe must remain secret.)

Miami -24 (-3,000 money line) at Temple, Syracuse -13.5 (-525) vs. Army, Duke -21 (-2,000) at UConn, Oregon -21 (-1,000) vs. Colorado, Washington -21 (-1,300) vs. Cal and Nebraska -20 (-1,400) vs. Louisiana Tech.

At a -3,000 ML, $30 would return a buck if the Hurricanes simply won. Parlays, of course, enhance the return, but all six had to win outright.

They did. My $200 returned $130.

Eureka! My basic goal is to hand the slip of paper over the counter and get cash back, no matter how miniscule. Profit is profit.

As a governor, I have no apps. I want obtaining a ticket to be a chore. To pay a bill or two with such dividends is a windfall, which college hoops usually delivers.

I’ve circled seven big favorites for Saturday. Optimally, four are home — Tulane -22.5 vs. UAB, SMU -21 vs. Charlotte, Fresno State -24 vs. Nevada and Oklahoma -18 vs. Iowa State.

I’ll mix three away squads with above selections, in certain combos, to enhance the money-line entertainment. Should one hit, holding that cash will be rewarding.

As a high school sophomore, I beheld my first parlay card, which included Ivy League games. I hit a three-teamer.

That next Monday, though, the ringleader handed me back my fiver. Said he forgot to turn it in. So, early on, I learned about the Swindle. The Fleece.

Still stings.


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