How to Bet Parlays: Mastering Step-by-Step Strategies

You have to learn how to bet parlays. And when to avoid them.

Key Points

  • Betters must learn how to bet parlays before they place a wager.
  • Parlays can be very lucrative if you know how to bet them.

How to Bet Parlays

If you’re looking to make some serious money betting on sports, then you need to start learning how to bet parlays. Parlay betting is one of the most lucrative types of bets that you can make, and it’s not as difficult as you might think.

In order to place parlay bets, you have to know exactly what you are doing. Otherwise, the risk, which is already great, is magnified even more. In this blog post, we will teach you everything that you need to know about parlay betting so that you can start making some serious profits!

What Is a Parlay?

A parlay bet is a type of wager where two or more bets are tied together to make one single bet. In a two-team parlay, for example, both individual bets must win for the parlay to be graded as a winner. 

For example, a parlay bet on a baseball game might involve picking the winner of the game and the total. If both bets are successful, the parlay pays out at higher odds than if each bet was made separately. 

Parlays are often used in sports betting, as they offer the potential for large payouts. However, it is important to keep in mind that they are also very risky. Instead of winning just one bet, the bettor must now win multiple bets.  

Parlays can consist of two up to 10 and even 15 different events. It depends upon the sportsbook. Some will allow bettors to construct parlays of more than 10 events but, typically, the most bets in a parlay is around 10. 

Examples and Strategies for Successful Parlay Betting

Examples and Winning Strategies on How to Bet Parlays

An example can help to better explain how a parlay bet works. Imagine two NFL games in which you like the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. The Packers are a 4-point underdog while the Cowboys are a 6-point favorite.

At standard odds of -110, if you wagered $10 on each game individually and won, you would receive a payout of $9.09 for each game or $18.18 total. By combining the two wagers into a parlay, a bettor could place a $10 wager and receive a payout of $26.50. 

Remember, parlay bets are riskier and the odds reflect that. As we will see in a later section, the odds on a two-team parlay are +265. That’s why the payout in our example is $26.50.

Keep in mind that in our example there are four potential outcomes and three of them are bad. The Cowboys and Packers could both not cover the spread. Another scenario sees the Packers cover and the Cowboys don’t. The third is the Cowboys cover and the Packers don’t. The only scenario in which the bettor gets paid is the one where Green Bay and Dallas cover the spread.

It’s harder to hit that one scenario out of four. That’s why parlay odds are higher than regular odds on an individual bet.

History of Parlay Wagers

We know that a parlay bet is a type of wager where multiple bets are placed on a single ticket. The term “parlay” comes from the French word for “to gamble.” This type of bet first gained popularity in the late 1800s, when horse racing was the primary form of gambling in America. 

Bettors initially saw parlay bets as a way to reduce risk since they allowed bettors to spread their money across multiple races. Over time, parlays became a very popular bet among gamblers looking to make a quick buck. Bookies, of course, understood how to bet parlays and how they could make their sportsbooks money.

In the early 20th century, parlays began to spread to other forms of gambling, such as sports betting. Today, parlays are one of the most popular types of bets in the world. While they can be risky, parlays offer the potential for big payouts that have made them a favorite among gamblers for over a century.

A recent study showed that 31.7 percent of all bets are a parlay. The first was sometime in the 1800s. Today, sports bettors place parlays every day. One New Jersey bettor created a 25-leg parlay and laid down $25 on it. When the final event on the parlay ended – a college basketball game between Wyoming and Utah Valley State – the bettor collected $237,553.11. That’s the power of the parlay.

Sports & Events to Parlay

In today’s sports betting climate, the old adage “if you dream it, you can achieve it” comes to mind. The sports and various events that can be parlayed are really only constrained by the mind of the bettor…and potentially the sportsbook. Some sportsbooks may not want to take the risk on certain parlays.

For the most part though, bettors can parlay just about anything. The New Jersey bettor that won over $235K on a 25-leg parlay put together his bet on college basketball. His wages included several moneyline, point spread, and totals bets all on college basketball games.

A sports bettor in New York put together a 16-team parlay ticket. On the ticket were nine moneyline baseball bets along with one run line MLB wager. There were four NHL playoff bets and two NBA playoff wagers. There were six underdogs which resulted in the bettor’s $6.90 wager turning into $219,746.19! 

The key here is to remember that bettors can parlay just about anything. You can take an NFL game and parlay it with a college football game. You could parlay college football and college basketball. You could add in an NHL game or even a player prop if you wanted. 

Betting on Same Game Parlays

Bettors will often parlay events from the same game. Several prominent sportsbooks offer the same game parlay. You might bet a side and a total, for example. Maybe you put together a side, total, and a few prop bets to make up your same game parlay. 

Correlated parlays, which we will discuss more in depth later, are also a strategy used by some sports bettors. For example, you like an NBA team that leads the league in scoring and Overs. In a game where they are heavily favored, you like them to cover the spread and the total to go Over. 

Many of the more popular same game parlays are offered in football and basketball. The rise in popularity of prop bets has made its way into the same game parlay world. Many of the NFL same game parlays will include at least one prop bet and oftentimes it’s the Anytime TD prop. There have been same game parlays made up of just Anytime TD bets.

Sportsbooks are now offering the same game parlay in some of the major sports. It won’t be long before you see same game or same event parlays in sports like golf, auto racing, and many more. At one sportsbook, nearly 40 percent of all the active bettors have placed at least one same game parlay bet in a given season. 

How Moneyline Parlays Are Calculated

How Moneyline Parlays Are Calculated

Sportsbooks will calculate the potential parlay winnings for you, but you can calculate moneyline parlays yourself. It’s actually a pretty easy process and can be done in four easy steps.

  1. Convert the American odds into decimal odds using an odds converter.
  2. Multiply all the decimal odds together.
  3. Multiply the result of No. 2 by your bet amount.
  4. Subtract out your stake – bet amount – to get the parlay odds.

This is pretty straightforward. You can actually convert American odds into decimal odds on your own, but why waste the time when there are multiple odds converters online. Once again, an example can best explain how to complete this process.

Let’s say you have three bets you are looking at putting together in a three-team parlay. All three bets are at moneyline odds of -110. Step 1 tells us to convert the odds into a decimal.

Using an online odds converter, you find that -110 is the equivalent of 1.91 in decimal odds. Therefore, we would have the following:

1.91 x 1.91 x 1.91 = 6.97

6.97 – 1.00 = 5.97

Subtracting out the original stake, we get 5.97 which is converted back into American odds to reveal +597. That’s roughly +600 or 6-1 odds meaning the payout on this bet would be close to $6 for every $1 wagered. 

A More Realistic Moneyline Parlay Example

Now, not all moneyline parlays are bet at standard odds. Let’s look at a more complicated – and more realistic – example. Let’s say you have three NFL teams that you like to win outright. All three are moneyline favorites – Eagles -300, Saints -200, and Chiefs -150.

Once again, we follow the steps to calculate our moneyline parlay odds. Go to the odds converter and you’ll calculate the following:

1.33 x 1.5 x 1.67 = 3.33

3.33 – 1.00 = 2.33

2.33 = +233

When we calculate the odds for this three-team moneyline parlay, we get +233. If we bet $100 on this three-team parlay and the Eagles, Saints and Chiefs win; we win $233.

If you had bet each game individually, you would need to bet a total of $650 to win $300 ($300 + $200 + $150). Betting the three games as a parlay results in a larger payout on a smaller wager.

Understanding the Odds of Hitting a Parlay

As stated, it is more difficult to win multiple bets than it is to win a single bet. The more bets you tie into a parlay, the more difficult it becomes to win. You can see that reflected in the odds to win a parlay bet.

Every additional bet added to a parlay makes it more difficult to win. Here’s a look at the odds to win a parlay based on the number of bets included (assuming standard juice of -110).

  • Two-team parlay: 27.47 percent
  • Three-team parlay: 14.37 percent
  • Four-team parlay: 7.52 percent
  • Five-team parlay: 3.94 percent
  • Six-team parlay: 2.06 percent
  • Seven-team parlay: 1.08 percent
  • Eight-team parlay: 0.56 percent
  • Nine-team parlay: 0.30 percent
  • Ten-team parlay: 0.15 percent

True Parlay Odds vs. Industry Standard Odds

True Parlay Odds vs. Industry Standard Odds

In case you have forgotten, roughly one in every three bets placed at a sportsbook is a parlay of some sort. The draw of the parlay is just too much for some bettors. One in New York put a mere $6.90 on a 16-team parlay at odds of 31,847-1. The bettor won and the payout was a nice $219,746.19.

That doesn’t happen all that often. If it did, sportsbooks would be out of business. The house wins the majority of parlays and they will continue to do so because they don’t offer odds that are as high as they should be. Sportsbooks don’t offer true parlay odds.

Consider our two-team parlay again. The standard payout on a two-team parlay is +265. In our example, the $265 on a $100 bet was much more than we could have won had we bet the two games individually. 

The problem is that the odds of +265 don’t reflect the true odds. Remember, we had four potential outcomes, which gives us a probability of winning one out of four times. We have a 25 percent chance of winning. That means our true odds are actually +300.

It’s the same with our three-team parlay example. The odds as calculated on a three-team parlay at standard odds of -110 are +597. In reality, we have a 12.5 percent chance of hitting all three games correctly. That translates to true odds of +700. 

As you move up the chart from three-team all the way to ten-team parlays, you see that the odds you get at a sportsbook are not the true odds. A ten-team parlay, for example, at standard odds is given odds of +64200 when in reality the true odds of such a wager are +102300. Sure, your $1 bet turns into $642 if you hit all ten bets, but you should receive $1023 if you were to get true parlay odds.

How to Bet Parlays Effectively With Round Robin

A round robin bet is a series of smaller parlay bets that are created from a larger list of bets. The name comes from the round robin tournament where teams play every other team in its group. For example, if you have a group of four teams, each team plays the three other teams in a round robin tournament.

In sports betting, the idea is the same. Instead of playing each team, the teams form parlays together. When you go into your sportsbook account and select multiple games to bet on, your sportsbook will give you an option to create parlays.

You can create a very basic two- or three-team parlay, but you can also create a round robin parlay. Your sportsbook will create the different parlay options. For example, if you pick three teams to win, your sportsbook will create three different two-team parlays.

If you pick five teams, the possibilities increase. There could be 10 two-team parlays, 10 three-team parlays, five four-team parlays, and one five-team parlay. The more games you pick, the more parlay combinations that are possible. An 11-team round robin, for example, has 2,036 possible parlay combinations.

Round Robin Example

The simplest of all round robins is to take three games, choose three teams, and create three separate two-team parlays.

Let’s say you have the following three games:

  • Bills -7.5 vs. Jets
  • Ravens -6 vs. Browns
  • Raiders +4 vs. Broncos

You like Bills, Ravens, and Raiders to cover the spread. You can create three two-team parlays with these three teams. You risk $10 on each parlay for a total investment of $30.

Remember, at standard odds, you will receive a payout of $26.50 (+265) on each separate parlay should any of them hit. Essentially, you need at least two of the teams to cover in order to win anything.

You have three possible outcomes. All three teams can cover the spread. If all three teams cover the spread, you win all three parlays. That means your total payout is $79.50 ($26.50 x 3). 

If two of the three teams cover, you will win one of the parlays. In this case, say the Bills and Raiders covered but the Ravens did not. You would win the parlay with the Bills and Raiders and win a total of $6. You win $26 on that parlay, but you lose $20 on the other two bets.

The worst-case scenario is that only one team covers or none of them cover. In either case, you cannot win any of the parlays and you are out $30. 

The thing to remember about round robins is that you wager on each individual parlay. That means a round robin bet can get very expensive. If you put $5 on a six-team round robin using two- and three-team parlays, you’d be putting down $175 (35 bets at $5 each). 

Other Types of Parlays

By now, we should understand the basic parlay bet and how it is a single bet made up of multiple wagers. The round robin bet is also a type of parlay that we just introduced.

There are other types of parlay bets and one of the most common is the teaser. A teaser bet is a parlay that offers the bettor the opportunity to buy points. Teasers are popular because they offer the bettor some control.

A teaser bet can consist of only point spread and totals bets and bettors have the ability to adjust the spread or the total. Other than that, the rules are pretty much the same. In order to win a teaser bet, all legs of the teaser must win.

The most common of all teasers is the NFL two-team, six-point teaser. There are other options where bettors can adjust spreads by 6.5 or 7 points in football and by 4.5, 5, or 5.5 in basketball. However, the two-team, six-point NFL teaser is the most common.

At most sportsbooks, the most games you can combine in a teaser is 10. Because of the ability to adjust the point spread or total in a bettor’s favor, payouts on teasers are not like that of a regular parlay.

For example, the typical two-team NFL teaser will  payout at -110. In the NBA, the two-team, five-point teaser is the norm and it pays out at -120. You get into plus-money odds when you add a third team to your teaser; however, it becomes more difficult to win.

The teaser is best explained with an example.

Teaser Example

Let’s say you like Buffalo -7 and Pittsburgh as an 8.5-point underdog in their game. You’re not sure if both would cover individually, but you’re pretty sure if you adjust the spread they will.

You create a teaser with Buffalo -1 (after the tease of 6 points) and Pittsburgh +2.5. Both are now within the NFL key numbers of 3, 4, 6, and 7. If you recall, most NFL games end with a scoring margin of 3 points. If you add in 4, 6, and 7; you’re talking almost a third of all NFL games. 

In the end, teasing the two spreads helps you win the bet. At standard odds, the bet would payout at -110. You can learn more about teasers by reading How to Bet – Teasers.

Tips and Strategies – How to Bet Parlays

The whole idea when betting parlays is to capitalize on the favorable odds. If you bet a series of individual college football games, for example, you will not win as much as you would if you bet them all as a parlay. Of course, the trade off is that you must win all of the bets in a parlay to cash out.

If you really want the big payoff from a parlay bet, it is important to select your bets carefully. You can’t simply pick a few games haphazardly and put them together in hopes of a big win. Do the research and if you are confident in a few games, you could bet them together in a parlay.

One strategy that bettors use in betting parlays is to focus only on moneyline bets. Moneyline bets are easy from most bettors. They are simply picking a team to win regardless of the final score or point spread. 

At different times of the year, bettors can combine moneyline bets from different sports. For example, early in the fall bettors have baseball, NFL and college football, and even NBA basketball from which to choose.

Remember the New Jersey bettor that capitalized on a Saturday slate of college basketball. His 25-leg parlay paid out big-time. Within his 25 different bets, you can be assured that some moneyline underdogs were included.

That is another strategy that parlay bettors use when betting parlays. While it may seem counterintuitive to bet on teams that are unlikely to win, the payouts can be significantly higher when you do hit a winner.

Of course, this strategy is only successful if you have a good understanding of the sport you’re betting on. And can accurately assess which teams are underdogs with a great chance of winning. That goes back to doing your homework and selecting the very best games to parlay.

Weighing the Pros and Cons on Parlays Betting

Parlays Betting Pros and Cons

Parlays can be a fun and exciting way to bet on sports, but they should only be done with careful consideration and a solid understanding of the risks involved. With a bit of practice, you can learn how to parlay like a pro and maximize your chances of winning big.

As with any aspect of sports betting, there is risk involved. Winning one bet is hard enough to do. Putting multiple bets together into a single wager is even harder to win. It is the biggest downfall in betting parlays. They are simply harder to win.

The flip side of that, of course, is that since they are harder to win, the odds are higher. That means greater payouts. As we have seen already, we can bet two or three games individually and we will not receive as much return as if we had bet those games in a parlay. A simple two-team parlay will pay back at +265. That’s the draw of parlays.

Remember from the examples given. Bettors can wager small and win big. It’s the same with round robin parlays. Even betting a $1 on a six-team round robin, a bettor could experience a huge return on a small investment.

High Risk / High Reward

Now, a bettor could simply wager on two NBA games, for example. He bets them individually and wins one and loses one. Depending upon the odds, he may have at least broken even. He could tie the two games together and create a parlay.

The problem is that, in this case, one of the legs didn’t win. That means the whole parlay bet is toast. You don’t win anything. That’s another drawback when knowing how to bet parlays. They are often viewed as a high-risk/high-reward type of bet.

Before deciding to place a parlay bet, there are some things to consider. When learning how to bet parlays, there’s a lot to know. Those would include the odds of each individual bet with the parlay, the total number of bets in the parlay, and your own personal risk tolerance. What might be a pro to wagering parlays for some could be a con for others.

About the Author
Joe Berra
Joe Berra
Sports Writer
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Joe takes care of the bits and pieces that sometimes slip through the cracks of the sports world. Efficiency and consistency is what makes different. JB helps keep Sports Hub’s content fresh and exciting, managing its many authors. From the New York area, Joe knew he had a knack for sports betting when his uncle was always asking him which side he was on as a young boy. His meticulous approach to the numbers formed his career path as a professional handicapper. Joe is sometimes called Jimmy Bagpipes, JB or Mr. B.