Schwartz: How I Lost a 116-1 Parlay Betting a Can’t-Lose -1500 WNBA Favorite

Schwartz: How I Lost a 116-1 Parlay Betting a Can’t-Lose -1500 WNBA Favorite article feature image

Instagram/minnesotalynx. Pictured: Cecilia Zandalasini

  • Parlays are fun because they offer big winnings with little wagered.
  • I recently bet a 10-team open parlay with a 116-1 payout.
  • For the final bet, I put action on the defending WNBA champions at -1500 against a one-win team. I lost.

I’m here to share a brutal bad beat I had a couple of weeks ago. Why am I writing about it now? I needed some time to reflect and recover.

When I joined The Action Network, a buddy of mine (whom I didn’t know gambled) started to text me about his gambling habits. In the course of the conversation, he asked if I’d ever done open parlays. He sent over a sheet with all his winnings playing these. I was intrigued.

I wish I hadn’t been.

>> Follow Geoff Schwartz in The Action Network App to get free alerts on all of his bets.

Pardon My Parlay

A parlay is a series of two or more bets set up so that the original amount staked plus winnings are risked on each successive wager. For example: This past weekend I put three baseball favorites together for a parlay. The favorites were all -200 and above. If I’d bet them individually, I’d have to risk two units to win one unit. By putting all three into one bet, I could risk one unit to win nearly three units. You can see the appeal: Wager less, win more.

An open parlay (which isn’t offered everywhere), allows you to start with one wager in a parlay and then add individual games whenever you want. You’re allowed to build an open parlay of up to 25 total games. I decided to do just 10. As you can imagine, the payouts for hitting a 10-team parlay can be more than 100-1. The idea of building one of these got me excited. Who doesn’t want to make that much money?

Parlays sound awesome, but we all know they are sucker bets and generally the squarest ones you can make. The public loves parlays because the payouts can be so high, but it’s extremely tough to hit every game in a parlay when even the best of sharps win individual bets at a 60% rate. Even so, I was going to try my hand at a 10-team parlay, even though I had (per John Ewing) maybe a 0.09% chance of cashing (assuming I took all 50-50 bets, which I didn’t).

I Might Have a Parlay Problem

Before I built the particular parlay that’s the subject of this piece, I’d attempted 10-team parlays five or six times. The furthest I’d gotten was six wins before losing on the seventh bet, but being the competitor I am, I kept going.

I started the 10-teamer with three unders on the same night (Wednesday, June 27). Nothing special.

  • 1. Colorado Rockies-San Francisco Giants Under 8.5 (-105)
  • 2. Toronto Blue Jays-Houston Astros Under 8.5 (-115)
  • 3. Minnesota Twins-Chicago White Sox Under 9 (-120)

After those, I played a little college baseball. I do tons of work in the Pac-12 Conference, so I felt comfortable with Oregon State in the College World Series, especially after the Beavers lost Game 1 to the Arkansas Razorbacks.

  • 4. Oregon State -1.5 (-110) vs. Arkansas Razorbacks, Game 2
  • 5. Oregon State -200 vs. Arkansas Razorbacks, Game 3

For Game 2 (Wednesday, June 27), I could have taken Oregon State on the moneyline, but I felt confident in the team, so I took the Beavers on the run line. I got lucky: Oregon State came from behind in the ninth inning, scoring three runs to win 5-3. For the deciding Game 3 (Thursday, June 28), I went with the moneyline, and the Beavers won easily, 5-0.

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Halfway There: CFL, MLB & WNBA

I don’t follow the Canadian Football League, but I pay attention to the Bet Labs systems, and there was a great hit for a CFL under (Thursday, June 28), so I added it to the parlay.

  • 6. Ottawa Redblacks-Calgary Stampeders Under 57 (-110)

The final total was 38 points. Not even close.

If you haven’t noticed, I love unders. Since I started tracking my picks on The Action Network app on May 1, I’ve been crushing them with more than a 60% win rate (20+ units in the green).

With six wins under my parlay belt, I went back to MLB and hit another under (Friday, June 29).

  • 7. Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees Under 9.5 (-110)

The matchup was between two lefties in Eduardo Rodríguez and CC Sabathia, both of whom had recently pitched well against their division rivals. Collectively the starters allowed six runs, and both pitched at least six innings. It was a tight game, but after an 8-1 victory for the Yankees, the parlay was still intact.

With just three more wins needed to cash the parlay, I decided to go with heavy favorites (Sunday July 1).

  • 8. Los Angeles Sparks -630 vs. Las Vegas Aces
  • 9. Seattle Mariners -275 vs. Kansas City Royals

I don’t know much about women’s basketball, but The Action Network has some great WNBA content, and I’ve noticed that in the WNBA, favorites tend to beat up on the poor teams. The Sparks won, 87-71. The MLB game wasn’t so easy, but the Mariners squeaked out a 1-0 victory, and a win’s a win.

I’m now 9-for-9 on the parlay, which has a 109-1 payout. One. More. Win.

My Can’t-Lose -1500 WNBA Favorite

At this point, I’m looking for a sure winner. There’s no need to rush it. I scanned the MLB games for Monday July 2 but didn’t like any of the plays well enough to add to the parlay, so I turned my attention to the Tuesday July 3 WNBA schedule, and I noticed a game that had “bet me” written all over it.

  • 10. Minnesota Lynx -1500 vs. Indiana Fever

The 10-6 Lynx were the defending WNBA champs, and the 1-16 Fever were on the road and had lost six straight games. With their -1500 odds, the Lynx had a 94% implied probability to win. I couldn’t have picked a better matchup. I entered it into the parlay, which now had a 116-1 payout. I was already thinking about what to do with my ironclad winnings.

SPOILER ALERT: I don’t watch the WNBA, so I tracked the game on The Action Network app. The first half didn’t go well for the Lynx. They struggled to score and shot close to 30% from the field. Compared to the Fever, they had almost double the number of turnovers. And yet they trailed by only two points. If you had told me that I could have the defending champs at home, and all they had to do for me to cash my parlay was outscore a one-win team by three points in the second half, I definitely would’ve taken that bet.

And the second half started well enough. The Lynx came out hot and took an early lead. Within a few minutes, they were ahead 39-36. But then they slipped back to mediocrity, and the Fever went on a decent run to close the third quarter. Still, the Lynx were down by only three points. Even then, I’d have taken the defending champs at home if all they had to do was outscore a nearly winless team by four points in the fourth quarter. (Maybe?)

Unfortunately, the Fever outscored the Lynx 22-13 in the final frame and won the game, 71-59. It was a trainwreck — easily the biggest upset of the WNBA season. Bye-bye big payday.

It’s hard to describe how I felt during this game. I wasn’t watching it, so I wasn’t as emotional as I thought I’d be. Also, having played sports for so many years, I can feel when games are going a certain way. When the Lynx lost their lead in the third quarter, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. At that point, even though I “knew” the odds probably still favored the Lynx, I wouldn’t have wanted to bet against the Fever.

And when they scored the first basket of the fourth quarter to go up by five points, I knew there was no way I was winning that 116-1 parlay.