Home » Analysis | A quick guide to creating single-game parlays for the Super Bowl

Analysis | A quick guide to creating single-game parlays for the Super Bowl

The closer we get to the Super Bowl, the more sports bettors will be inundated with odds boosts, no-risk tokens and other promotions enticing them to play single-game parlays, a type of bet in which you combine multiple potential outcomes within a single game into a single wager. Such ventures ask bettors to combine their choice of bets — such as point spreads, totals and player and team props — on the same ticket with higher potential payouts but also increased risk because all of the selected outcomes must be correct for the bet to win.

As a result, bettors should exercise caution with single-game parlays; these bets heavily favor sportsbooks, which is why they are marketed so eagerly. In some states, sportsbooks have reported earnings of more than 20 percent of the amount wagered on parlays. The house, on the other hand, typically earns about $5 for every $100 in conventional bets. That makes it imperative to weigh the risks and rewards carefully.

If you are going to dabble in these markets, it might help to create narratives about how the game will play out — and then fill your parlay with point spreads, over/under totals and player props that align with that storyline. Just be wary of correlated outcomes that would suppress your payout. For example, if you are wagering that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will throw at least two touchdown passes in the Super Bowl, the algorithms will take into account how much more probable it would be that Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce would catch at least one touchdown pass. When those two events are put into a same-game parlay, the odds will reflect the correlation. Here’s how the calculation works.

The listed odds of Kelce scoring a touchdown (+100 on FanDuel as of this writing Wednesday) imply that there is about a 50 percent chance he scores during the Super Bowl. The implied chance that Mahomes will throw at least two touchdowns is 56 percent. Independently, that would equate to a 28 percent chance of both things happening, which would be equivalent to a money line of +257, meaning you would wager $100 to win $257. However, because the outcomes are correlated — the more touchdown passes Mahomes throws, the more probable it is Kelce will score — that single-game parlay will pay out at +155, significantly less than the fair-value odds independently suggest.

Instead, we want to look for a storyline that won’t be considered correlated by the oddsmakers’ algorithms yet still has a good chance of cashing in.

Let’s start with a potential storyline ending in a 49ers blowout win — by two or more touchdowns. You might think wide receiver Deebo Samuel would be an easy call for a lot of receiving yards in such a game; he averaged 61 in similarly lopsided victories this season. However, the median, or middle value, of his performance in those games was 55 receiving yards, and he finished at or below 55 in six of San Francisco’s nine blowouts. The low yardage in those games was not for a lack of targets. Samuel averaged six targets in those big wins, with an average and median of four receptions per game.

As this writing, if we were to parlay an alternative line of San Francisco -13½ (+470) with Samuel under 59½ receiving yards (-110) and more than 4½ receptions (-122), we are looking at a single-game parlay that would pay +3848 on FanDuel and about +3700 on DraftKings — huge prices reflecting the non-correlation of our picks. If we changed the receptions wager to under 4½ at +100, correlating the results, the payouts would be just +990 and +1100 despite the addition of a higher-priced leg. (Some of these numbers have changed slightly this week and might change again, but the overall trend will not.)

Here’s another example. Suppose you think that 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy is a liability in a game such as this but that San Francisco will use running back Christian McCaffrey and perhaps Samuel to take advantage of Kansas City’s poor run defense. (Their run-stopping efficiency ranks 27th when it’s adjusted for strength of schedule.) You could parlay Purdy to throw an interception (-140 on DraftKings) with the 49ers to win (-122) for a bet that pays +310. To the algorithm, that’s uncorrelated — a quarterback who throws an interception is less likely to win — but the matchup specifics of this game make it a real possibility. For comparison, if you parlayed the 49ers’ money line with Purdy to not throw an interception (+110), the payout would be +168 despite the odds for the interception leg being much greater. If you have access to a boost or no-risk token, so much the better.

Those are just a few examples of how you could go about building a lucrative single-game parlay. There are dozens of other storylines that could lead you to promising opportunities. Just remember: These bets are heavily weighted in favor of the house and should consume just a small portion of your bankroll, no matter how attractively the books portray their offers. Also, make sure you shop around for the best prices. You would be surprised how often you can get better odds at a different sportsbook.