Round Robin Bets & How They Work

One type of sports bet coming soon to Virginia that may not ring many bells is the round robin bet. Although the phrase “round robin” is familiar to most people who played in high school sports tournaments, it has a decidedly different application in the world of sports betting.

A round robin wager is a bet made of bets made of other bets. However, despite their many layers (and that description), round robin bets are not as complicated as they seem. They are also an essential portion of most sportsbooks’ offerings. So what exactly are round robins and how does a round robin bet work?

Our guide below should clear up any confusion you may have about the round robin bet.

What is a round robin bet?

A round robin bet is a type of parlay bet that is composed of several parlays. Players who wish to make a round robin bet must first construct its constituent parlays, then fuse them together in a massive Frankenstein’s monster of a bet.

At first glance, you might wonder why you’d ever go to the trouble of making such a layered bet. However, round robins carry with them some distinct advantages over straight parlays and should be in the toolbox of every Virginia sports bettor.

Just as a refresher: A parlay is a combination bet that allows a bettor to fold several bets into one. Instead of making a single choice, like on a point spread bet or moneyline bet, you make several decisions and let the fate of the parlay bet rest upon the outcome of all of these decisions.

The trick with a straight parlay is that there is no margin for error. If even one of your picks is wrong, the entire bet is lost — even if you guessed correctly otherwise.

So a straight parlay is a risky endeavor. Even parlays made up of the odds-on favorite to win (in other words, when the moneyline is negative) are underdogs in the aggregate because of the many things that can go wrong.

Round robin bets allow players to mitigate some of that risk. By making multiple distinct parlays in the same bet, round robins can afford to lose at least some of the constituent parlays and still realize a win.

Round robin bet example

The complexity of round robins is such that it’s better to explain them with a hypothetical. Otherwise, it’s just too tangled of a bet.

So, let’s say that you want to bet on games A, B, C, D and E. The bets you choose don’t really matter — the only requirement most sportsbooks have is that the bets don’t influence or correlate with one another in any way.

You know that you want to make some sort of parlay with these games. Perhaps the five games are all playing on the same day in the same sport, and you think that it would make for a nice day in front of the TV.

As a straight parlay bet

All five games (A to E) go onto a single bet slip as a straight parlay. Everything is going fine until Game D, when a last-second mistake by your selected team proves your prediction wrong.

The entire bet is lost now. You don’t even have a reason to watch what happens in Game E. The whole day may be ruined.

Now, to be fair, it’s possible that the collapse in Game D never happens. Maybe it happens in Game A. Maybe it happens in Game E. The result is the same, regardless of where things go wrong.

If you do manage to choose all five games correctly, you’ll have an excellent payday. In fact, a recent bettor in Colorado turned $300 into more than $117,000 with a successful six-team parlay on NHL games.

However, the odds are quite against you in that endeavor. In all likelihood, you’ll have nothing to show for your efforts. Even if there’s a chance you’ll get everything right, you might not want the stress of sweating the legs of the parlay.

As a round robin bet

Instead, you decide to make a round robin bet with your five games. What was going to be a single five-game parlay is now the equivalent of 10 two-game parlays.

On a single bet slip, you will now have the following combinations of selections working for you:

  • AB
  • AC
  • AD
  • AE
  • BC
  • BD
  • BE
  • CD
  • CE
  • DE

Now, let’s say that things go awry in the exact same way as before in Game D. Instead of losing everything at once, you still have six of the 10 parlays in your wager that are unblemished.

So, assuming that you chose correctly on your other four games, you can receive a payout on your round robin bet for the following parlays:

  • AB
  • AC
  • AE
  • BC
  • BE
  • CE

As it turns out, your margin of error for getting any kind of return is actually quite manageable now. You could potentially guess wrong on three of the five games and still get a small return on your bet. Better is always better.

Of course, the payout for hedging your bets this way is much lower than in the riskier straight parlay. However, many people would probably be happy to cut the risk down from an all-or-nothing proposition.

Real-world round robin bet examples

If you’re still confused, don’t worry. We’ll walk you through several real-world examples to further illustrate how a round robin bet works.

The examples below are all based upon actual bets we found at DraftKings Sportsbook. We want to use the real thing so that you can see the potential payouts and numbers that these kinds of bets carry with them.

One thing that this exercise will highlight is the effect that combining multiple bets has on the aggregate odds of the bet itself. Even in cases where every individual bet is on the favored event, the combination of those events happening remains quite unlikely.

In each example, we will use $100 as our total bet for each different type of parlay. You can bet whatever amount you like, though.

MLB: Five-game round robin

Below are the five games and our MLB picks. Our only requirement in choosing these bets was that each individual pick had to be the favorite to win. A round robin bet calculator can be used to quickly work out your sports betting winnings online.

  • Baltimore Orioles vs. Washington Nationals: Over 8.5 @ -122
  • New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Yankees moneyline @ -109
  • Atlanta Braves vs. Philadelphia Phillies: Over 10 @ -109
  • Detroit Tigers vs. Pittsburgh Pirates: Tigers moneyline @ -117
  • Miami Marlins vs. New York Mets: Under 9 @ -122

Sample payouts

  • Each selection wagered individually: $71 profit, $171 total
  • Two-pick round robin: $248.89 profit, $348.89 total
  • Three-pick round robin: $551.54 profit, $651.54 total
  • Four-pick round robin: $1,116.55 profit, $1,216.55 total
  • Parlay: $2,127.21 profit, $2,271.21 total

Commentary

The first thing to notice is that placing individual bets doesn’t yield an incredible return for these games. Betting only on the favorite has a tendency to limit the profit potential for sports betting.

Of course, what is obvious is that the potential payout increases as the margin of error for the round robin goes down. With each level of round robin, you’re grouping together more of those parlays, and the chance that a wrong selection (or two) will sink the bet goes up.

Even so, a four-pick round robin (where each parlay involves four teams) is a far less risky proposition than the straight parlay bet. Though a bet going off at 13:1 is not very palatable (the four-pick), it is much better than a bet at nearly 23:1 (the parlay).

NBA: Four-game round robin

In this scenario, we chose underdogs but cut down on the number of selections. Even with the loss of a leg, the cumulative risk profile for this bet, as you’ll see, is far higher than for a series of bets on favorites. The more risk you add into the overall bet, the more the risk becomes exaggerated.

So, our four NBA bets are as follows:

  • Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Phoenix Suns: Thunder moneyline @ +170
  • Dallas Mavericks vs. Utah Jazz: Mavericks moneyline @ +260
  • Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat: Pacers moneyline @ +120
  • Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Nuggets moneyline @ +175

Sample payouts

  • Each selection wagered individually: $181.25 profit, $281.25 total
  • Two-pick round robin: $682.31 profit, $782.27 total ($99.96 wager because of need for divisibility)
  • Three-pick round robin: $2,055.72 profit, $2,155.72 total
  • Parlay: $5,780.60 profit, $5,880.60 total

Commentary

As mentioned, betting on underdogs yields a dramatically different payout potential than betting on favorites. Betting on each underdog individually alone raises the potential profit by nearly three times.

The parlay payout, of course, goes well beyond that multiplier. Even without the fifth leg, you’re still set to earn $3,600 more on a successful parlay in this example than in the one above.

However, the takeaway should not be that you need to stick to betting on the underdogs. They are the underdogs for a reason, and the notion of all four dogs winning is a longshot that goes well beyond the odds suggested by the potential payout.

The main idea, though, is that the two round robins allow you to make the same bets at far better odds than the straight parlay. Even though you have less margin for error than in the five-team round robin, you still don’t have to be perfect in order to get some of your money back on one of these round robins.

Round robin meaning and common usage

The use of the phrase “round robin” might be a bit confusing in this context if you’re used to seeing it appear elsewhere. After all, you may have played or watched round robin tournaments before, but connecting it to a type of sports bet might seem odd to a new Virginia sports bettor.

However, it’s important to remember what the underlying concept of round robins is. Round robins are designed to allow an “all play all” scenario. In other words, every combination of teams or bets or what-have-you will occur in a round robin, and it is meant to be exhaustive in its combinations.

So, in this sense, the sports betting round robin makes perfect sense. Every parlay is “playing” against the other members of the group, and there are no exceptions.

The main takeaway, however, is that you keep round robins in your back pocket as you begin placing sports bets. If you are bound and determined to do some parlay betting, a round robin might be a way to do it and give yourself a decent chance to win.