How to Bet Parlays
Google defines a parlay as a “cumulative series of bets in which winnings accruing from each transaction are used as a stake for a further bet.” To put that in layman’s terms, a parlay is simply placing multiple bets at once in the same bet and, therefore, needing all the bets to win order for a parlay to be successful. This article will walk through how to bet parlays including an overview of what a parlay is, calculating parlay odds, parlay bet variations and when professional bettors use parlays.
Table of Contents
What is a Parlay?
If a bettor were to bet three different lines, and only two of them proved to be winners, then the parlay would pay out zero dollars because it is an all-or-nothing type of wager. The idea behind betting a parlay is to improve the bets’ odds by pairing them together. For instance, a team may be listed as a -200 favorite, where there is a low payout for betting them by themselves, but by pairing them with a team that is favored at -105, a $200 wager would instead net $385.71 as opposed to the original $100 (by just betting the -200 favorite alone). A visual display is helpful to personify how parlays alter the odds.
If an individual were to bet three separate games by themselves, betting $100 per contest, this would be the outcome:
By betting these games separately, a bettor would make a $240 profit.
Now, if instead of betting the games separately, the bettor instead decided to parlay the three games at -125 each, one $100 wager would have netted $483.20 in profit or $583.20 in total.
On the flip side, if one of the picks were to be incorrect, betting the games separately would be the more profitable approach.
In this scenario, the bettor would have wagered $300 in total and would have finished with $60 in profit. If the same bettor were to have parlayed these three teams, the bet would have lost because one of the teams did not win (or cover), and the bettor would be down $100 (the price of the bet).
Parlays increase both the risk and potential return on your bets.
Calculating Parlay Odds
Calculating odds on a parlay is a difficult proposition and sportsbooks may have different odds for teams so the same parlay could pay out slightly differently depending on the sportsbook. The different methods for calculating parlay odds are as follows:
Use an online calculator
Calculate the odds yourself
Betting online is the easiest method for calculating odds as the websites calculate the odds for the bettor. They will show exactly how much money will be won from the parlay prior to placing the bet. If you’re interested in betting online we have deposit bonuses setup with DraftKings, Fanduel, PointsBet and William Hill.
Using an online calculator is also relatively easy because the lines can simply be typed in and the calculator will determine the amount you stand to win from the parlay.
Calculating the odds yourself is a difficult task but also one that can be taught based on the true odds. The true odds of a bet is determined by converting the moneyline odds on each bet into decimal odds. If the team is favored, the decimal odds can be determined by dividing the moneyline by 100 and adding that to 1.0. For instance, if a team is a -110 favorite, 100/110 equals 0.91 so the true odds of the bet would be 1.91. In the case of an underdog, the odds can be determined by diving the money by 100 and adding that to 1.0. A +110 underdog would divide 110/100 to get to 1.1 and the true odds of the bet would 2.10.
This chart shows the true odds of parlays where each bet is -110.
|# of Teams||True Odds|
Compare the odds offering by your sportsbook to the true parlay odds comparison shown below to understand if your sportsbook is building in additional vig (or juice).
Parlay Bet Pushes
When one of the bets in a parlay pushes, or breaks even, the standard practice is to treat the bet as if it were not part of the parlay. If you bet an over/under as part of a three-team parlay, and the other two lines prove to be winners while the over/under pushes, then the bet is paid out as a two-team parlay. Bettors will want to read the site/book rules on parlays to confirm this is the case prior to betting with an operator. Some operators will make up their own rules to decrease the favorability of the odds for the bettor so it is on the onus of the bettor to confirm the rules prior to wagering.
There are three different types of potential parlays to bet on operators other than a standard, multi-line setup. Some unique parlay variations can be placed include:
An open parlay is defined as a parlay where the games all do not need to finish at once. Bettors can decide to pair lines on a given date and hold on to the final pieces of the parlay in order to increase odds. For instance, if a bettor feels great about the Browns and Giants one weekend, but also wants to leave the possibility open to increase the odds, bettors can place an open bet and add in additional games you want at a later date.
A progressive parlay is defined as a parlay that offers the bettor the ability to win as long as a certain threshold of games is picked correctly on a ticket. For instance, if you bet a four-team progressive parlay, you could choose to get paid if you pick two games correct, three games correct or four games correct. In this scenario, a bettor would receive more money depending on how many games are correct within the bet. Four games correctly would pay more than three and three games correct would pay more than two. This is different than a multi-game parlay which would pay the same regardless as long as the minimum threshold was equaled or eclipsed.
A multi-chance parlay allows you to win as long as you pick a certain threshold of pre-determined games on a ticket. For example, if the threshold is to pick at least three games correctly in a progressive parlay (out of five lines total), bettors will make the same amount on the wager whether three teams win or five. In this format, bettors receive the same payout as long as they hit the minimum threshold of correct bets within a parlay. It gives parlay bettors some breathing room compared to a normal parlay, just in case they get a game or two wrong, but also offers significantly worse odds.
How to Bet Parlays: When Professionals Use Parlays
Parlays are some of the most popular bets for casual sports bettors because of the increased risk and reward associated with them, and often have a negative stigma for more serious sports bettors, but parlays are also valuable tools that some professional sports bettors use. Professionals use parlays in a multitude of ways and find ways to gain an edge by using them.
Avoiding Betting Limits. Many casinos and/or sportsbooks feature maximum bet limits on specific sports and games, but also offer the ability to bet parlays. Parlays are a way to maximize the potential of the money bet on a matchup. Whereas a casino may cap their limit at $1,000 per bet, a $1,000 three-game parlay would offer a very different return than just a $1,000 single-game moneyline bet. Since Parlays maximize your return when you’re right, and maximize the penalty when you’re wrong, they can be a tool in even the most experienced bettors toolkit.
Correlated Bets. Parlays can also be used to gain a potential edge by pairing up correlated bets. While sportsbooks have made an attempt to remove this edge from some of the most popular bet types, you may still come across a new sportsbook that allows this or a specific situation where correlated bets may make sense. For instance, an MLB team may be facing off against a starting pitcher who has shown recent struggles and been pulled early his last two starts. There are also rumors from the local beat writer that the pitcher has blisters on his throwing hand. To add to this, the team played extra innings last night and were forced to use a lot of their bullpen depth. This is a scenario where the speculation on blisters could be wrong and the recent performance just a blip on the radar, but if it is accurate than it is very likely that a Cubs win and OVER bet would be correlated, and a bettor would then consider betting both the Cubs moneyline and the over of the game in a parlay.
Similarly, if you believe a sports market has mispriced an entire factor, it is likely to be off on all bets of that type. This could include things like the weather in a PGA TOUR event, rule changes in football, or the change in manufacturing location and materials for a baseball.
Interested in learning more about How to Bet on Sports? Check out our educational series.