What is a Parlay Bet? Everything you need to know.
- What is a parlay bet?
- How does a parlay bet work?
- How to make a parlay bet?
- How to calculate payouts for parlays?
- What are typical payouts for parlays?
- What are the odds of hitting a parlay bet?
- What happens if one of my bets in a parlay gets cancelled or ties?
- Types of parlay bets
- Parlay betting across major sports
- Can you parlay prop bets?
- How many legs can you add to a parlay? (How big can you make a parlay bet)
- Are parlays good bets? Should you bet parlays?
- Parlay betting strategy
In the age of social media, chasing big payouts has become somewhat of a competition. People love to put together big tickets that parlay multiple bets together so that they can show off when their low investments lead to monster payouts.
Chasing these kinds of parlay bets is generally not advisable, especially if your goal is to become a profitable sports bettor. However, if you understand the risk involved, parlays can also be a fun way to add some spice to your betting cards and a good way to give yourself a chance at some big payouts every now and again.
Below we’ll go over the basics of parlay bets, how they work, how to approach them for different sports, and some general strategies you can employ to make you an all-around, more savvy parlay bettor.
What is a parlay bet?
A parlay bet is a common form of wagering where two or more bets are combined together into a single bet.
When you have chosen the bets you wish to combine together, the online sportsbook you are using will then allow you to either select a parlay option, or simply parlay them together for you. After this process, the sportsbook will also present you with the combined parlay odds for your new parlay bet.
Parlay bets are available on all major sportsbooks (BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars, etc). Depending on what sportsbook you are using, you may also see parlay bets be referred to as multis, accumulators, accas, or combo bets. Teaser bets are also a form of parlay.
Once you place a parlay wager, for it to cash, every leg of the parlay must be graded as a win. Even losing just a single leg of a parlay results in the overall parlay bet being graded as a loss.
As a result of this rule, parlay bets are much more difficult to win than singular bets as they always involve winning two or more legs. However, they are also very attractive as they also allow bettors to combine odds on multiple events, while giving them access to much bigger payouts.
When you place a parlay bet, the odds on each individual bet inside the parlay multiply to give you a shot at a bigger payout.
|Parlay Odds (found by multiplying the odds of each singular bet together)
All parlays are different in the sense that their payout structure and overall odds are dependent on the bets the player chooses to place inside the parlay.
For example, a parlay with two -200 favorites will have a much better chance of hitting than one with two +200 underdogs, but will also have a much lower payout associated with it.
As a general rule of thumb, parlays become far more difficult to hit as more and more legs are added. While your potential payout will rise as you increase the number of bets placed inside your parlay, the odds of actually hitting or cashing your parlay bet will also decrease substantially.
How does a parlay bet work?
A parlay bet may come with big odds, and sometimes with a lot of different bets combined together, but for all intents and purposes they are actually quite easy to create. To make a parlay bet, you simply select two or more bets that you wish to combine together and then place them into a single betting ticket.
Nov 20, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (14) gains yards after the catch during the first half as New York Giants linebacker Micah McFadden (41) pursues at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
For example, if we are targeting Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season, and have three bets that we like and want to parlay together for a shot at a bigger payout, then we’d simply select the bets, select the parlay tab, and then place one single parlay bet—which combines our three selections.
2023 Week 1 NFL three-team parlay example:
- Lions +6.5 (-109)
- Jaguars -3.5 (-109)
- Bengals -2.5 (-109)
- Lions +6.5 (-109) / Jaguars -3.5 (-109) / Bengals -2.5 (-109) = +596
In the example below, the same odds have been converted to decimal format for easier calculation:
When you select the parlay function, the online sportsbooks (in the case above, BetMGM) will automatically multiply the combined odds for you and place them into one singular bet. You can also find out the exact odds/payout of any parlay by using the Fantasy Life parlay calculator.
Once you understand the formula, you can also convert the odds from American into decimal format (see below) and then do the final payout multiplication yourself.
The key to parlay betting is realizing that you will not be be getting paid off on each singular bet, but will only win if every leg of your parlay hits. Hence, you need to be comfortable with the idea that even if you are right about one or more legs of your parlay, you still may not be getting anything back in return.
How to make a parlay bet?
One of the best ways to make a parlay bet is to work in reverse. What kind of bet are you looking to make? Are you looking to create a parlay with bigger payouts that takes advantage of some strong underdogs in the NFL, or another sport? Or are you looking to parlay multiple strong moneyline favorites together so you can secure a better payout, but still keep your chances of winning somewhat high?
Working in reverse will also allow you to set parameters for yourself so that if you’re looking for a lower risk parlay, you can set a limit on the number of legs you want to include or on the type of odds you want to target.
Regardless of your process, once you have decided what your goal is, the next step is to make your selections and have the sportsbook parlay them together for you so you can view the potential payouts before locking in your bets.
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How to calculate payouts for parlays?
Calculating the value of a parlay involves multiplying the odds of each singular bet together. The easiest way to accomplish this is by using the Fantasy Life parlay calculator, which will convert the American odds for each bet you’ve included in your parlay into decimal odds and then give you the total payout expected for your parlay (pictured below).
If you want to calculate your parlay on your own, your first step would be to convert each one of your bets from American odds into decimal odds using the below formula:
Converting positive (+) American odds into decimal format:
- Divide the odds /100 and + 1.0
- Example: (+150 American odds): 150/100 = 1.5 + 1.0 = 2.5
- +150 = 2.5 in decimal format
Converting negative (-) American odds into decimal format:
- Divide 100 by the odds and then subtract total from 1.0
- Example: (-150 American odds): 100/-150 = -0.67
- 1 - -0.67 = 1.67
- -150 = 1.67 in decimal format
- Example: (-150 American odds): 100/-150 = -0.67
Once you have accomplished this, you then simply multiple each of the decimal odds together, the sum of which will be the odds for your parlay bet.
Multiplying parlay odds using decimal format
- Leg one: 2.5 (+150)
- Leg two: 1.67 (-150)
- Leg three: 2.0 (+100)
- Parlay calculation: 2.5 x 1.67 x 2.0 = 8.35
Parlay odds: 8.35
Understanding the conversion for American odds to decimal won’t make you a profitable bettor, but it will allow you to calculate parlay payouts faster, which is a key to identifying better value opportunities.
What are typical payouts for parlays?
Parlays can be made using various types of odds. You can take a +500 underdog and parlay it with a -800 favorite if you choose, or just use four moneyline favorites.
That said, most people who make parlays use a simpler strategy and often target more traditional lines and odds, especially in the realm of NFL betting where point spread and moneyline bets are popular.
We outlined a few of the more basic multi-leg payouts below so you can visualize what a traditional parlay would look like, using different multiples of bets.
3 leg parlay
*using -110 odds for each leg
-110/-110/-110 (1.91 x 1.91 x 1.91) = 6.95
5 leg parlay
*using -110 odds for each leg
-110/-110/-110/-110/-110 (1.91 x 1.91 x 1.91 x 1.91 x 1.91) = 25.35
What are the odds of hitting a parlay bet?
Understanding the chances of actually hitting a parlay is a good way to also understand the inherent variance and risks involved when you choose this form of betting. Converting the odds to decimal format allows us to get a quick gauge on the implied probability our parlay has of hitting.
Your implied probability will always get lower when you add bets to your parlay. The table above summarizes your implied probability of hitting a parlay based against parlays that only use standard -110 odds.
What happens if one of my bets in a parlay gets cancelled or ties?
If one of the bets in your parlay gets canceled, pushes, or ties, then that specific bet will be marked as void and removed from the parlay.
So if you had a three-team parlay where one of the bets was Giants -3.0, and the Giants ended up winning by exactly three, that leg of the parlay would be removed and your bet would be graded based on the remaining odds.
Using the odds above, if you were making a three-game NFL point spread bet using standard -110 odds, after your Giants bet was removed, you would now have a two-team parlay remaining at +264 payout instead of a three-game parlay with a +596 payout.
Types of parlay bets
Parlay bets always involve two or more bets combined together for a bigger singular payout. However, there are variations of parlay betting that involve slightly different rules and some different payout structures as well.
Teasers are parlay bets that involve combining adjusted or alternate point spreads from multiple games.
Teaser bets give sports bettors the ability to move the line on a point spread, but at the cost of smaller payouts—and with the agreement that their bet must include multiple legs (i.e., be part of a bigger parlay).
Teaser bets are essentially an exchange of points for volume. Since teasers must include multiple bets (two or more legs), all teaser bets are parlays, meaning that each individual leg must be graded as a win in order for your teaser parlay to be graded as a winner.
Teasers can be found in other sports but are primarily used in NFL betting. Six and seven-point teaser bets are the most popular form of teaser betting in the NFL. As these bets involve getting far more generous point spreads than would be found on the regular gameline, teaser parlays also do not offer the higher payouts that most regular parlays do.
For example, a six-point teaser parlay that involves three teams may only pay out in the +150 to +180 range, while a seven-point teaser would have even lower payouts.
Teasers are best employed when using the concept of “key numbers” in NFL betting.
A round robin bet is when you create multiple parlays from a series of selections on a sportsbook.
The round robin betting format gets its name from the round-robin tournament format featured in events like the World Cup and WGC Match Play. In those events, every team is initially placed inside a starting group and then forced to play each team exactly once.
Jan 16, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) reacts with wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) after throwing a touchdown pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second half during the wild card game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
In a round robin bet, you are creating your own group and system of matchups, except with parlay bets instead of teams.
Actual two-way round robin parlay with odds below, involving futures bets on: Dallas win NFC East +175/Bengals win AFC North +110/Jets win AFC East +210
- Dallas +175/Bengals +110 (+476)
- Dallas +175/Jets +210 (+752)
- Jets +210/Bengals +110 (+551)
Round robins require a bigger investment than traditional team parlays but also provide better security than traditional parlays, as not all your legs necessarily have to win for you to profit.
You can use correlated selections in your round robin to help improve winning probability and also use hedge betting strategies to secure profits toward the end of a round robin.
Same game parlays
In a same game parlay, bettors create parlay bets using only selections from a singular game or event.
Whereas traditional parlay bets consist of using multiple bets from different sporting events, a same game parlay allows you to combine bets from the same game—while still getting access to the similar substantial payouts you’d normally have access to in a regular parlay.
Single game parlays can now be placed on any nearly any game or event in the larger professional sporting leagues. These parlays often don’t offer the most attractive odds (which is why sportsbooks love to promote them so much), but they do provide one benefit as they allow bettors to create correlated wagers within one game.
Correlated wagers occur when the bets in your same game parlay are connected in a positive fashion. When one bet is graded a winner in a correlated parlay, it will often drastically increase the likelihood of the other bets in your parlay being graded winners as well.
Sometimes the connection may not be that deep, but other times the bets may be dramatically linked.
A good example of creating a simple but effective correlated same game parlay is by taking the over prop on passing TDs for a quarterback and including it alongside an over bet on the game total as well.
If the quarterback in the game throws for multiple scores—and hits his over—there is a better chance that the game total will ultimately hit on the over as well, as the TDs created by the quarterback will add substantially to the overall score of the game.
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Parlay betting across major sports
The great thing about parlay betting is that we can mix and match bets however we like across whatever sport we choose. Different sports will have different options available as to what bets you might choose from for a parlay.
In the NFL, the most common bets to parlay are the point spread and moneyline bets. These allow you to wager on the outcome of the game and also give you access to different levels of odds. Parlaying NFL point spread bets means you’ll almost exclusively be using odds in the -110 range (see our table above).
Moneyline parlays can include a far more varied set of odds depending on which side you are betting on. It’s not uncommon to see underdogs in the NFL close at +300 or bigger in the final markets.
Using moneyline bets in your parlays can help you create bigger payouts when wagering on underdogs, but it also creates much more risk.
Parlaying total or over/under bets in the NFL is also a way to go about making parlays in the sport. Parlays using totals can sometimes be lightly correlated as well if you are targeting unders in multiple games which all take place in the same part of the country (and all have similar forecasts for poor weather).
NBA parlays work in much the same way that NFL team parlays do. Every night in the NBA, each team is assigned point spread and moneyline odds for the match they are in.
Making parlays in the NBA is often about following the news and reacting in real time. If a star player gets ruled out in a certain game, targeting the point spread on the other side can often become a good starting point for a parlay.
If you are making NBA parlays, the best advice is to become a social media maven and watch for player updates right up until lock so you can get the best lines possible off the breaking news.
In MLB, the point spread is referred to as a run line and usually goes off at or around -1.5 to -2.5 for every game. Runlines offer better odds for the favorite than the traditional moneyline odds do as they require the favorite to cover a spread. They are useful if you are interested in making a team parlay that has a higher payout ratio.
You can use runlines and chase bigger payouts, or also just use regular moneyline wagers in baseball if you want to bet on a specific side.
Totals in baseball are also available for the entire game and for the first half of the game as well (often the first five innings). If there are a couple starting pitchers on a slate you think are both in position to dominate, then taking the under on the total for the first five innings in both games, and parlaying them together, is a strategy that can give you an edge. This stops you from getting exposed to a poor bullpen or substitute hitters late in games.
Parlay betting in the NHL works very similar to MLB betting in that each NHL game offers bettors a puckline bet alongside the traditional moneyline bets.
If you’re looking to make NHL parlays, one other angle to consider is the 60-minute line which gives you three different options (win-tie-win). To win a 60-minute bet, you have to select the correct team to win the game, but they must win in 60 minutes (aka regulation). Favorites on the 60-minute line are often available at far better odds than on the traditional moneyline (which includes OT).
NHL betting is also unique as goalies often dictate odds. While there isn’t as much news to follow as in the NBA, a team who starts their backup goalie can often become a solid fade target if the odds don’t move after the announcement.
Every MMA slate has multiple fights attached to it, meaning that bettors have the opportunity to parlay their fight bets for that card if they wish.
If you’re betting on separate fights then there is no opportunity to correlate bets, but there are lots of different options to choose from for each individual match. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each fighter can go a long way in determining which kinds of bets to target for a specific match.
Some of the more popular fighter props to target include “win by submission,” “win by a certain round,” and “knockout.”
More niche sports like PGA Golf, Nascar, and F1 can also be targeted for parlay bets. For PGA and Nascar betting, weekly matchup bets are often a good market to look into if you’re interested in making parlays.
Knowing the strengths and weakness of the players or drivers in these sports is important as each week the athletes and drivers will be on different courses or race tracks, many of which will cater to a specific kind of skillset.
Can you parlay prop bets?
Yes, you can parlay prop bets in much the same fashion that you parlay moneyline or point spread bets.
Where prop bets can be useful for winning in parlay betting is when you are attempting to correlate them with game odds or other prop bets from the same match in a same game parlay. Oftentimes how a player performs will have a dramatic impact on the total or outcome of a game.
Nov 27, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson (17) celebrates his touchdown reception during the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
For example, if you are creating a same game parlay around a New York Jets moneyline bet, then using the over on the number of passing TDs thrown by Aaron Rodgers would be a great way to both boost the odds of your parlay and ensure the two bets you’ve included are positively correlated.
Sites like Underdog Fantasy also allow users to combine player props in single player daily fantasy contests, referred to on Underdog as Pick‘em contests. Pick’em contests give players the chance to select from a multitude of player props and lines to create parlays that range in size from two to six legs, with each different size of parlay having a specific payout that works alongside it.
How many legs can you add to a parlay? (How big can you make a parlay bet)
Parlays must have at least two bets but can vary in size tremendously. Most online sportsbooks will allow you to place parlays of almost any size, with a near unlimited number of legs. While it is far from common to see giant-sized parlays pay off, every NFL season there are examples of bettors who hit it big with parlays that include 10 or more legs.
The most important thing to remember about parlays isn’t necessarily the maximum number of bets that you are allowed to place inside it, but how the payouts and odds of hitting work as you grow it. While the potential payout will grow with each bet you add, the odds of hitting the parlay also shrink (sometimes astronomically) whenever you add in an extra leg.
Are parlays good bets? Should you bet parlays?
Parlays are all about risk tolerance and understanding the variance that comes along with them. Casinos and online sportsbooks have a far bigger edge with parlays and have proven to have a far bigger winning percentage when it comes to parlay bets than they do singular game bets.
A recent UNLV Center for Gaming Research study, which took place from 1992 to 2019, showed that historically sportsbooks win around 31% of the time on parlay bets. This was compared to the still strong 5% edge they had on singular football wagers.
Parlays are fine as long as you are allocating a smaller percentage of your bankroll toward them. If you are just gambling for entertainment, they do offer you a way to access some bigger payouts as well.
Just realize that your chances of actually winning are almost always going to be far less than they would be if you just bet on a single game or match.
Parlay betting strategy
You’ll never be able to fully take away the edge that online sportsbooks have on parlay bets, but you can use some strategies that will help you decrease the edge they have—and give you a better shot at winning.
Some tips for maximizing your efficiency when creating sports betting parlays is below:
- Don’t add bets or legs to your parlay just for the sake of it—make sure every bet you have is researched and practical from either a situational or value perspective
- Use proper bankroll management—parlays have a low hit rate and you can go long periods without cashing
- Look to correlate bets within your parlay whenever possible and by any means necessary
- If you’re making NFL teaser parlays (or parlays using alternate point spreads), make sure your spreads are employing the concept of key numbers
- When making same game parlays, always correlate your bets so that they are tied together, where if one of the wagers wins, your chance of winning the rest of the parlay bets will automatically increase
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