What is a Round Robin Bet?

The round robin bet is perhaps the most complicated common sports wager around. In effect, they are bets made of other bets made of other bets.

However, Colorado residents are going to have to negotiate them as sports betting proceeds in the Centennial State. So, here is a handy guide to walk you through these betting conundrums.

How round robin betting works

A round robin bet is a combination wager consisting of multiple parlay bets. Despite the complexity of their construction, they are actually a useful tool in the sports bettor’s belt.

Essentially, round robins are the province of the parlay bettor. In a parlay, players choose to combine several wagers into one.

So, for example, a player might choose bets from five different games. All five bets would fold into a single parlay, and the parlay would offer a single payout that was derived from the collective odds of all five bets.

However, parlays are high-risk propositions because they require the player to be completely accurate in his or her selections in order to pay out. So, if the player’s bet on just one of the games did not prove to be accurate, the entire bet is lost, regardless of how well the bettor predicted the other four games.

The round robin allows the player to hedge the bet a bit and guard against this kind of outcome. Instead of creating a single parlay with 5 legs, a round robin could create multiple two-leg, three-leg, or four-leg parlays that address each possible combination of wagers.

One thing to note is that each parlay in a round robin essentially requires an individual bet. So, if you were planning to bet $100 on the parlay listed above, but wanted to do a two-pick round robin, you would need to bet $10 on each pick in the parlay. You can figure out how to make equivalent wagers by dividing the total desired bet amount by the number of parlays in the round robin.

As is the case with parlays, most sportsbooks will only let you combine point spreads, moneylines, and totals into round robins. There will be occasional exceptions for selected prop bets, but generally speaking, combining futures or props is not allowed.

Round Robin model

Although we will have several real world examples of round robins below, the entire concept of these wagers is a bit hard to grasp. So, hopefully, the following will help to illustrate further how these bets work.

Let’s say that you want to make bets on teams A, B, C, D, and E.

If you wanted to make a parlay wager, then all five bets (A – E) would be on the betslip. If any of the five bets loses, the entire parlay loses.

However, let’s say that you wanted to guard yourself a bit from this kind of disaster. You decide to do a round robin with the five teams.

Instead of a five-team parlay, you (in effect) have now made 10 two-team parlays. Here are the combinations that you have just wagered:

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

Now, since you have spread the combinations around, you don’t have such a small margin of error. Even if one of the bets goes wrong, you still have the opportunity to realize winnings on 60% of the round robin.

For instance, let’s say that team B does not win their game. In a standard parlay, the entire bet is lost.

However, in the round robin, only the parlays that involve team B are lost. So, you would still get paid on the following parlays:

  • AC
  • AD
  • AE
  • CD
  • CE
  • DE

While it would cap your payoff potential to use a round robin vs. a straight parlay, it might be worth it to give yourself space to realize some profit if you’re imperfect in your predictions.

Real world examples of round robins

Obviously, this type of bet requires several examples to explain how it works. So, we’ve constructed several round robins from actual bets offered on DraftKings Sportsbook at one time.

One major part of these examples to notice is the overall odds of the bet. Even if we use only favorites in our round robin, it is still a longshot to complete it successfully.

However, we will also include the odds associated with a straight parlay with the same elements. Hopefully, the discrepancy between the two numbers will highlight how much safer a round robin is.

NBA: 5-Team Round Robin

Individual bets

  • Los Angeles Clippers vs. Philadelphia 76ers – OVER 225 @ -112
  • Chicago Bulls vs. Washington Wizards – WSH Moneyline @ -152
  • San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – OKC Moneyline @ -360
  • Portland Trailblazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans – POR Point Spread +3 @ -109
  • Boston Celtics vs. Houston Rockets – HOU Moneyline @ -127

Sample potential payouts

For each line, we wagered $100 total. You don’t have to bet this amount; it was just a round and easily-divisible number to illustrate.

  • Each selection wagered individually: $71 profit, $171 total
  • 2-pick round robin: $191.04 profit, $291.04 total
  • 3-pick round robin: $492.78 profit, $592.78 total
  • 4-pick round robin: $829.56 profit, $929.56 total
  • Parlay: $1387.48 profit, $1487.48 total

Comment: As you may have noticed, each of these wagers is on the favorite. DraftKings estimates that each selection we made is the more likely outcome. So, if we wager each of these five bets individually, we end up making less than a 1:1 return on our bet. The sportsbook is charging a heavy premium, or “vig,” to play it safe.

However, even if we spread out our parlay risk as far as possible with the 2-pick round robin, the overall chance of winning drops dramatically. Though we’re betting every possible combination of those bets, and each part of the bet is favored to occur, we are a 3:1 underdog to win the bet. Of course, a straight parlay of the same 5 bets is nearly 14 to 1 against. So, even though it’s still a decent long shot, round robins are a significantly safer wager than their parlay cousins.

NHL: 4-Team Round Robin

Individual Bets

  • Arizona Coyotes vs. Toronto Maple Leafs – ARI Moneyline @ +165
  • Las Vegas Golden Knights vs. Minnesota Wild – MIN Moneyline @ +123
  • Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Islanders – OVER 6 @ +102
  • Chicago Blackhawks vs. Edmonton Oilers – EDM Puck Line -1 @ +150

Sample Potential Payouts

For this example, we used $100 as our total wagering amount. Because we have fewer teams in the parlay, we must divide the bets by 1, 4, and 6 to keep the amount equal. However, for the sake of an apples-to-apples comparison with the first example, we’re sticking with the same total.

  • Each selection wagered individually: $135 profit, $235 total
  • 2-pick round robin: $450.37 profit, $550.39 total
  • 3-pick round robin: $1183.87 profit, $1283.87 total
  • Parlay: $2884.30 profit, $2984.30 total

Comment: First and foremost, notice how the payouts have escalated dramatically in this example. Simply because we chose the underdogs for the four bets, our potential for profit has multiplied by more than twice the previous example’s payouts. However, what those increases truly speak to is the elevated odds against these parlays being correct. Even with one fewer selections, the chance of getting everything right is tremendously reduced.

That said, the 4.5:1 disadvantage for the 2-pick round robin is far more palatable than the nearly-29:1 odds against the straight parlay. So, once again, a round robin might be able to let you take a big risk, but not a crazy one.

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Other uses for round robin

The term “round robin” is not the exclusive property of sports betting. In fact, those of you who are athletes may have encountered round robins before.

Some tournaments use this format to generate a group winner or team to move onto the next round. The abiding concept behind the round robin is that “all play all.”

The most famous use of round robins occurs in international soccer play. The World Cup’s groups and group winners advance after a round robin with several other teams.

So, if you’re ever confused or forget what a round robin bet is all about, remember what round robins mean in other scenarios. “All play all” is a great way to describe what’s happening to your bets, too.