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Jay Christensen covered college football, among other sports, for the Los Angeles Times and produces the popular college football blog TheWizofOdds.com.
My father Ed has never been much of a gambler. Years ago, he was traveling through Minnesota and decided to stop at a local casino. OK, the sign that advertised the $2.99 all-you-can-eat breakfast got him in the door.
Once inside, he surveyed the crowd of septuagenarians who seemed under a spell watching lemons, oranges, apples, lemons, oranges, apples, continuously spinning. He made a note to himself that he would not risk his retirement fund on the whim of some slot machine.
“It’s amazing how fast people want to give away their money,” Ed said, shaking his head.
He saddled into a seat at the counter and ordered the pancakes. My dad is no fool. Slot machines are by far the biggest moneymaker in the casino industry.
Although they seldom offer a decent payout to a customer, the machines never ask for a day off, they don’t require benefits such as health insurance or a 401k plan. It’s easy to see why gambling houses love slots.
For some of the same reasons, gambling houses embrace parlay cards.
Parlays offer a gambler a big payoff with minimal investment. Odds on a two-team parlay are generally 13/5. A three-teamer is 6/1. Pick four winners and it’s 10/1. It all seems so easy.
Yes, a parlay is a sucker bet and the chances of winning are about the same as playing slots. But we’re trying to beat the system, right?
So if you can’t resist the urge to parlay up, perhaps this method of madness used by one of my trusted buddies in Las Vegas will do the trick.
Each week during the college football season, he puts 100 simoleons on a two-team parlay. If it hits, he gets back 360 simoleons (the 260 payout plus his original 100 investment).
He’ll then reinvest 330 simoleons on one game. Lose and he’s out 70 simoleons. Win and he gets back 630, a profits of 560.
Even if he loses the 100 on the front end, he has to hit the back-to-back wager only once in every five tries to stay ahead of the game.
Patience is the key.
“I don’t necessarily roll it back in the same day,” he says. “I like to savior the victory for a while and then fire up on one game to bring the money home. The two-teamer is just a feeler.”
Three-team parlays are strictly forbidden.
“A two-team parlay saves you vigorish in the long run where a consistent three-team parlay bettor will eventually have to get a second job,” he says.
He sometimes tweaks the bet on the back end by not taking the 30 simoleon profit and putting in an additional 25 simoleons in play to make the all-or-nothing wager 385 to win 350.
If it hits, he gets back 735 from the investment of 125.
“That means I have to hit only once in six times to essentially break even,” he says.
His reason for wagering this way is simple.
“I have trouble laying points,” he says. “I don’t mind taking points, but often I’d rather just play odds.
“The sad thing is, in all 7-point favorites — if you bet them straight up to win — you have to lay odds usually around 3/1. That means you have to win 75 percent of the time to break even.”
He pointed to games last Saturday involving Iowa and Mississippi State. Iowa, on the road at Iowa State, was a 6.5-point favorite and -250 to win outright. Mississippi State was a 5.5-point favorite at Auburn and -225 on the moneyline. Both teams lost.
Nonetheless, moneyline bets remain popular, even with the long odds. And much like parlay bets, they target the low-risk bettor looking for high reward.
But again, we’re all just trying to beat the system, right?
WEEK 2 IMPRESSIONS
Is Steele Jantz the real deal? The Iowa State quarterback struggled mightily in his first three quarters against Division I-AA Northern Iowa, but he has been nothing short of electrifying since, leading the Cyclones to consecutive come-from-behind victories.
Iowa State hasn’t started a season 3-0 since 2005. On Friday night, the Cyclones are slight underdogs at Connecticut. Hmmm.
I suspect Ohio State has been practicing for the Miami game since the beginning of fall drills, perhaps earlier.
If Brian Kelly can’t win at Notre Dame, nobody can.