Round Robin Bet: Sportsbetting 101

Looking to figure out how round-robin bets work in sports betting? Here’s everything you need to know about round-robin bets.
  • In sports betting, a “round-robin” is a series of smaller parlays made up of a larger selection of bets selected by a player.
  • Once a player has selected a series of bets, the sportsbook automatically creates parlays – several at once – using the various different combinations.
  • Round robins often don’t offer great value, but can be profitable as a situational play. Read more to find out how.

Every wager is made with an eye toward victory. However, as any bettor who’s “found value in the Knicks” or runs afoul of Guardiola’s Man City or Klopp’s Liverpool can attest, you, in fact, can't win ‘em all - especially when looking to parlays to juice your returns.

Who hasn’t surveyed the menu (I prefer NBA basketball, European soccer, and college football), put in some work, and come away with a fistful of seemingly outstanding plays for whom 1-to-1 payouts feel… underwhelming.

Given the difficulty of running the table on five picks, rather than opting for a single parlay, you may opt to divide your bets into smaller groups of two or three. Even here, profitability rests not only on the ability to pick winners but to identify the winningest winners and group them together.

Two-team parlays offer the advantage of a lower barrier to victory, as only two results are needed for a bet to cash. The downside of a two-teamer is that, with -110 odds for each selection, the payout is a still-modest 2.6-to-one ($36 on a winning $10 wager; the original $10 stake, plus $26 in winnings). A win on one of three two-teamers leaves you on the right side of breakeven, but only to the tune of 20% of the total amount risked.

On the flip side, there’s the three-team parlay. The upside of a three-teamer is literal – three-for-three returns seven times your money (the amount wagered, plus six-to-one winnings). Betting two three-teamers and hitting one triple your original stake. Of course, the risk here lies in the need to string together three winners, along with the infuriating prospect of going two-for-three twice, and being undone in the final leg by, say, your unwavering support for Russell Westbrook, or improper respect for Tom Brady’s gift for nonchalantly gutting just about any* opponent when the stakes are real.

There is another way. Combine them. All of them. Every which way. My friends, meet the round-robin bet.

  • What is a Round Robin Bet?
  • How Does a Round Robin Bet Work?
  • Are Round Robins Good Bets?
  • What’s a Good Use of a Round Robin Bet?
  • The Bottom Line

What is a Round Robin Bet?

Round Robin betting is using a selection of bets, chosen by the bettor, to create a larger number of smaller parlays.

Say, for instance, you, a keen NBA knower, identify the following five plays as particularly attractive:

A round-robin allows you to bet a series of parlays, using some or all possible combinations of these wagers. With five teams, you’ve got the option(s) of:

  • 10 two-team parlays and/or
  • 10 three-team parlays and/or
  • 5 four-team parlays and/or
  • 1 five-team parlay

In other words…

A round-robin offers a way to make all of your plays, with more outs than a traditional parlay. Your bases are covered! Theoretically.

How Does a Round Robin Bet Work?

The more wagers a player chooses, the larger the number of parlay combinations available in a round-robin. As we see above, with five teams there are 26 combinations. The smallest possible round-robin bet includes three teams, and consists of three or four wagers: three two-team parlays, and maybe a three-teamer:

Assume you risk $10 on each parlay. Simply make your selections and have the sportsbook construct your round-robin - there is a button, and the process is automatic. In this simpler example:

  • If all three teams cover the spread: All four parlays win, and the player receives $178.94 ($138.94 in winnings, plus the original $40 stake).
  • If two of three teams cover: One parlay wins. The profit, about $26, is offset by $30 lost on the other parlays, resulting in a $4 loss.
  • If less than two of the teams cover: All three parlays lose, and the player loses $40.

Are Round Robins Good Bets?

By and large, no.

When they work, round robins are a lot of fun, and fairly lucrative. However, those big payouts, and the round robin’s biggest perceived benefit – decentralized risk – are like the Dallas Cowboys' Super Bowl chances at any given moment: overstated, fragile, and accompanied by a sizable outlay of cash.

Consider our five-team example from before. A full round robin bet with $5 on each parlay calls for:

  • $5 x 10 two-team parlays = $50
  • $5 x 10 three-team parlays = $50
  • $5 x 5 four-team parlays = $25
  • 1 $5 five-team parlay = $5

That’s an initial outlay of $130, with potential winnings of $859.01. Not bad, right?

Of course, the big bucks only come with the improbable clean sweep. To equal that maximum figure via a traditional 5-team parlay, you’d only need to risk $35.27.

Put another way: a single $130 5-team parlay, if successful, would net $3,166.68.

There’s certainly something to be said for the fact that a single defeat – or even two – doesn’t completely torpedo your wager. However, it’s worth noting that, when things start to go wrong, round robins turn ugly, pretty quickly:

  • 5-for-5: All 26 parlays win = player wins $859.01 (plus the original $130 stake)
  • 4-of-5: 11 parlays win = player wins $184.91 (plus $55 of the original stake)
  • 3-of-5: 4 parlays win = player loses $40.54
  • 2-of-5: one parlay wins = player loses $111.78
  • Zero/1-of-5: no parlays win = player loses entire $130 stake

On a full five-team round-robin, a single defeat – so, an 80% success rate – costs almost 79% of your max profit! Two defeats out of five – a rock-solid 60%-win rate – lose! A bettor with this hit rate should be contemplating doing this for a living, not running to the ATM machine. Even three defeats out of five – certainly not good, but not a total disaster – wipes out all but $18.22 of your original $130 stake.

Now, a player is not obligated to take every option on a round-robin. You may opt to bet only two- and three-teamers. This drops the initial outlay (at $5/parlay) to $100. Of course, it also shrinks the max payout to $430.13. And, as before, any imperfection drops that number in a hurry – to $148.50 on four-of-five, and a loss of $10.54 on three-of-five.

What’s a Good Use of a Round Robin Bet?

The best time for a round-robin is when you’re feeling especially bold. Say, for instance, you’ve identified five intriguing underdogs, each with a legitimate shot at winning outright, some destined to do it… but which ones?? As these are underdogs chosen to win outright and not standard against-the-spread bets, rather than -110, let’s say that each side is +200, or a two-to-one underdog.

As before, you can set up a comprehensive 5-team round-robin (including the admittedly unlikely five-teamer as a lottery ticket, because why not?), risking $5 on each parlay, for $130:

  • 5-for-5: All 26 parlays win = player wins $4,910 (plus the original $130 stake)
  • 4-of-5: 11 parlays win = player wins $1,085 (plus $55 of the original stake)
  • 3-of-5: 4 parlays win = player wins $140 (plus $20 of the original stake)
  • 2-of-5: one parlay wins = player loses -$85
  • Zero/1-of-5: no parlays win = player loses entire $130 stake

The large number in the “maximum payout” scenario still dwindles quickly. However, the increased odds on each individual wager, and the increased payouts on parlays in which they're combined, offer a larger margin for error. Here, there are three outcomes that leave you on the right side of breakeven, plus a fourth, requiring only two correct picks out of five, in which you retain about a third of your original stake.

The Bottom Line

There are scenarios in which round-robin bets are fun and useful. For starters, it’s great when a single loss doesn’t sink your entire wager. Additionally, round robins are great for “churning” an account, in order to reach activity or turnover thresholds required to claim sportsbook bonuses.

However, if you’re wading into these waters, proceed with caution. The initial outlays are greater than those of most traditional bet types, and the initial “max win” figure, while attractive, pales in comparison to that of a traditional parlay, without that much more room for error.

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