Sports Betting 101: What Is A Parlay Bet? January 2023 Guide

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Sports Betting 101: What Is A Parlay Bet
Photo Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch Ncaa Football Michigan Wolverines At Ohio State Buckeyes

 

A parlay bet is a wager in which two or more bets are combined into a single bet. In order to win the parlay bet, the bettor must win all the individual bets. If the bettor loses even one of the individual bets the entire parlay bet loses.

Typically a winning parlay will have bigger payouts since the final payout is based on the combined odds of the individual bets.

Since odds combine by multiplication, there is a much larger payout for a two-game parlay than for the potential payout of making the same two individual bets.

Outside of the U.S. parlay bets are known as accumulators, accas, multis, or combo bets.

How Does Parlay Betting Work?

To make a parlay bet, you need to pick your individual bets and then combine them. If all bets win on the ticket the parlay is a winner.

For example, lets say you want to put a three team parlay bet on the Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, and New York Giants to beat the point spread over their next NFL Sunday games.

The three point spreads for these bets are the Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5), Raiders (+3.5), and Giants (+6.5). Each single game bet is at odds of -110, which is standard for point spread bets.

To create the bet you’d either ask at the counter of your retail sportsbook. On betting sites you need to click to the “parlay bet” option.

The odds on this parlay bet will depend on the sportsbook’s rules but on BetMGM come out to +597.

For comparison, if you took $300 and split it into a $100 bet on each game as an individual wager, then your profit for for each game would be $91. That makes a total profit $273 profit.

If you took those three $100 bets and combined them one parlay card and all three games win, then your profit would be $1,791 on the same $300 dollars. The reason for the higher payout is that in the first example you can lose an individual bet and the other two will pay out. The only way to make the parlay bet pay is for all three teams to win, or else the entire bet loses.

Parlay Odds And Payouts

The reason parlay wagers win big is that odds of the multiple wagers don’t add together, they multiply. So with a parlay card made up of even bets, the odds roughly double for each bet you add to the parlay. Remember, however, that the entire parlay loses if even one leg of the parlay loses.

American odds are at least three-digits long and are based around a $100 bet. A plus sign tells you the profit in dollars on a $100 bet, a minus sign tells you how much to bet in order to win $100 dollars.

To calculate the parlay odds for a given set of individual bets, first convert all the individual bets to decimal odds. Then multiply all the decimal odds together. Multiply that answer by 100, then subtract 100 (to account for your initial bet). The result is the American odds for your parlay bet.

Multiply that by your bet amount to work out your profit if you win parlay bets.

You can also find a parlay calculator online. Enter the odds into the calculator and the calculator will spit out a result.

Pros Of A Parlay Bet

The main appeal of a parlay bet is the opportunity for a potential payout that is vastly bigger than is available on individual wagers.

For example, betting the short odds of a series of favorites at -110: a three team parlay payout is at odds of +597, a four team parlay has odds of +1,231, and a five team parlay bet has odds of +2,442.

If you have varying odds that include outsiders in that five team parlay, then those parlay odds become truly huge.

For casual bettors, the chance for massive payouts can enormously boost the excitement involved in following a season. Especially if a position is hedged with multiple parlays and various parlay combinations.

For more serious bettors who may have spotted several bets with a positive expected value, they can multiply their small edges and/or increase their volatility with parlay bets.

Cons Of A Parlay Bet

The main reason to bet parlays is the chance for high parlay payouts.

Unfortunately, those high parlay payouts also come with a higher house edge. This is because when you multiply the odds, the house edge is multiplied too. For this reason parlay bets are the most expensive type of bet in sports betting.

The other reason is that a parlay loses more often than the equivalent bets made individually. This can make bankroll management and responsible gambling much harder.

Round Robin Parlays

Round robin parlays are a quick way of making a series of multiple parlay bets based on the multiple outcomes in a standard parlay.

For example instead of making a four team parlay bet, you could make a series of round robin parlays.

Instead of a four team parlay of of Team A, Team B, Team C, and Team D you end up with six parlays each made up of two bets. One two team parlay for each possible combination (AB, AC, AD, BC, BD, and CD). The upside is that you don’t have to win the entire parlay, hedging your bet somewhat.

Teaser Bets

Teaser bet parlays are a form of parlay bet where the bettor has the option to adjust the point spread of the individual spread bets.

The odds will be shorter for a teaser bet.

For example, if we added a five point teaser to our earlier three team parlay then the point spreads would change. The Kansas City Chiefs would go from -3.5 to +2.5, the Raiders from +3.5 to +8.5, and the Giants from +6.5 to +11.5.

However, the odds on this bet drop from +597 to -110.

What Sports Can I Bet Parlays?

Retail sportsbooks tend to offer parlay bets on most major sports betting opportunities.

The options increase massively with online betting.

The administrative ease of the internet means that the odds are good that if you can bet on it, you can figure out some sort of parlay bet for it.

NFL Parlays

Sports betting on the NFL is huge business and as a result your options for NFL parlay bets is almost endless.

You can add more teams to your parlay tickets or combine a team parlay with some prop bets.

An example might be a three team parlay for the next three NFL games plus a prop bet on the total number of touchdowns across all three games.

Take a look at our How to Bet on the NFL guide.

NBA Parlays

The NBA has plenty of chances to create a team parlay bet from among the many games. The number of possible parlay cards from this perspective are astronomical.

The structure of the NBA league also allows for a lot of futures bets that can be combined into parlay bets. A classic example would be a round robin bet using each of the six divisions.

Check out the Props.com guide to NBA betting.

MLB Parlays

The large number of possible prop bets in baseball make for some interesting same game parlays.

Here’s an example from among the popular parlay cards for an upcoming MLB game between the L.A. Dodgers against the San Francisco Giants.

One bet on the card is he the L.A. Dodgers to win with a point spread of +1.5 and odds of +100. The next bet on our bet slip could be to bet on Mookie Betts to make at least one home run. The last of our parlay prop bets is an over on 7.5 runs total in the game.

At the time of writing the odds on this parlay are +950.

NHL Parlays

NHL parlay bets aren’t just for Canadians anymore.

Bet MGM New Jersey has parlay betting on the various division winners, team parlay bets, and various bets on things like which player will win the Hart Memorial Trophy.

These can be combined with parlay betting on multiple bets on individual games and prop bets.

Parlays In Other Sports

Outside of the U.S., soccer is the most popular game for parlay betting.

Horse, dog, and auto-racing also offer plenty of chances for sports betting on parlay cards.

However, with the spread of online sports books, the options are always growing and almost any sport with betting is a potential sport for parlay betting.

Check out some of the other sports betting guides from Props.com:

Best Online Sportsbook Bonuses

Check out the Props.com guides to online sportsbook bonuses in the U.S.:

Parlay Betting FAQ

What is a parlay ticket?

A parlay ticket is a term for the list of wagers in a parlay bet. The term comes from the pre-computer days of sports betting when a physical ticket (also called parlay cards) were used with possible individual bets printed on. Bettors would tick the bets they wanted.

Can I make a parlay bet across different sports?

Yes. Though this will be highly dependent on where you do you gambling. Some bookies will allow this, others will not. If your retail sportsbook won’t take it, your best chance is to try to make the same bet online.

How is a parlay payout calculated?

The formula to calculate a parlay payout is:

payout = (decimal odds for bet 1 x decimal odds for bet 2 x etc…) x your original bet – your original bet.

What is a same-game parlay?

A same-game parlay is any parlay made up of bets that are all from the same game. These correlated parlays are generally displayed in a separate menu within a game line.

You might individually bet on which team will win (moneyline bet), which player will score the most points, and how many points will be scored in total during the same match.

If you combine these into a parlay it would be a same game parlay.

Do you have to win every game on a parlay?

Yes. This is what makes a parlay special. You cannot lose even one bet in your parlay or you lose the whole thing.