How Does a Parlay Bet Work?

Betting on various sports can be fun, but if you’ve gotten tired of placing one bet, you might want to take a look at parlay betting. A parlay in sports betting is whenever you bundle several wagers into a single bet.

If each of your picks is correct, you win the parlay. If even one of those selections loses, however, then you don’t get anything. Parlays are high-risk, high-reward, but if you can make one of them work, the payout can be large.

What is a parlay bet?

Parlays combine various bets, called legs, into a single wager. You need to get each leg correct to win. If even one leg falls through, you get nothing, even if you won all the other ones. It is a true all-or-nothing situation and can offer some large rewards.

The risk, however, is equally large. You should put some thought into parlays before you begin. You can bundle point spreads, moneylines, prop bets and more together for the parlay, but they should be all for different games. The only exception is if it is a single-game parlay, available at some sportsbooks.

How to make a parlay bet

You can bet on different games across multiple leagues. Your parlay could, for instance, combine wagers on the NHL’s Dallas Stars, the NBA’s Miami Heat and the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. You could also bundle together two or more games from the NFL or another single league. To place a parlay bet, you can either tell the ticket writer what teams you want to bet on and list your odds or fill out a parlay card.

Here is an example of a potential parlay:

Let’s say you bet on the Green Bay Packers to win, the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to combine for more than 52 points in their game, and the Baltimore Ravens to win by at least three points. If the odds on this parlay are +600, for example, and you wagered $100, you could win $600 plus the $100 bet back. If, however, the parlay lost, you would win nothing and lose your original $100.

How much does a parlay pay?

Parlays will pay more than straight bets because the odds are higher. Parlays raise the cost of winning exponentially, due to all of the risk and variables involved. The more legs you add, the higher the potential profit, but the less likely you are to win your bet.

Forcing sportsbooks to calculate true odds on parlays

Parlay betting does not offer true odds. For example, suppose the odds of successfully hitting an eight-team parlay are 225:1. The payoff may be only 100:1 in your favor. Most sportsbooks manipulate parlay odds in their favor and don’t pay out the true odds. Getting closer to the true odds can have an impact on your long-term betting success.

The different types of parlays

There are more ways to vary a parlay than just making more bets. The first is an open parlay, where you don’t have to finish all at once. You can pick a few games to wager on now, and others that are happening later. For example, you could parlay up a Sunday Night Football game on Friday, and also bundle in a basketball game that is happening in two weeks.

 It’s a great way to keep all of your eggs out of one basket and allows you to plan your parlays a bit more. If you are winning your last few bets and want to stop, then you can close your parlay, or keep pushing it forward to get more done.

  • Progressive parlays: Another type of parlay that brings the advantage to the player’s side. Instead of having to win every single parlay on your ticket, you only need to win a certain threshold. For example, if you have six games on a progressive parlay, then you might only need to win four out of six games to get a payout, and you will be paid based on the number of games you get correct.
  • Multi-chance parlays: Almost the same as a progressive parlay. Instead of paying you based on the number of games you have correct, you only receive one lump sum if you are above the threshold. If you have six games on your ticket and need to win four, then it doesn’t matter if you win four, five or six. The payout is the exact same.
  • Round robin: A multi-bet that combines several small parlays together. If one parlay loses, then you still have the others to fall back on.

Pros and cons of parlay bets

One of the biggest benefits to parlays is the fact that you can make a small bet and get a very large win in return. If you don’t have enough money to place straight bets on all the games you want to wager on, you can instead use a parlay. Your bet will cover all of the games you were interested in, for just one wager with a larger potential payout.

Finally, if you are betting on a sport where ties can happen, such as soccer or hockey, then the game “pushes.” If the game pushes, many sportsbooks simply remove it from your ticket. If this happens, you don’t need to worry about that game any more. Check the rules at your sportsbook, though, to make sure that a push won’t mess up your entire parlay ticket.

One of the cons of parlay bets is the large risk. As you add more legs, you only worsen the odds against yourself, and that’s not even taking into account the types of bets you’ll need to make. You often get a better choice if you risk the money on separate straight bets.

Plus, the house takes more from you whenever you lose. Sportsbooks continue offering parlays for a reason. You assume more risk and they get more reward. People can often get blinded by the group dynamics and not look at every game individually. You should be able to have a chance of winning each bet individually before you decide to start bundling them all together.

How do you make a good parlay?

What is the best strategy for betting parlays? First, look at the risk of a parlay versus individual bets. How much money would you make if you wagered on six games individually? Even if you only win two or three of those games, that’s still winnings that you can take home. Normal parlays cost you if you lose even one wager, and then you walk away with nothing.

It’s often hard enough to win one bet, let alone a large number of them. If you want to improve your odds, you can do a few things to build up your chances.

First, go small. Even though the massive payout from winning a six-game parlay is tempting, remember that the more bets you add, the less chance you have of winning. Bundling two or three games together can win you less money, but you might have better chances of winning. Also make sure to keep an eye on your bankroll so you aren’t spending more than you can afford.

Have a rule that you do a flat bet (betting the same amount for each game) so you aren’t endlessly throwing money at the “big bet” and trying to strike it rich. That way, if you lose a parlay, you still have some money left over.

Also, consider making the same bet on all of the games. While it can be tempting to do a moneyline bet on one, a point spread bet on another, and an over/under wager on the third, you need to familiarize yourself with three different types of bets, rather than focusing on one.

Also, if you find yourself in a position to, you could consider placing a bet as a hedge on your parlay. If, for example, you’ve won four out of five legs and are unsure if you will win that fifth one, place a straight bet on the opposing team to guarantee yourself winnings from either outcome. Not all sportsbooks allow this tactic, but if they do, it can be a great way to get some winnings no matter what.

Are parlays bad bets to make?

 They are not bad, but they also don’t guarantee long-term success. For every parlay bet you win, there are likely many more that you will lose. Those losses can stack up fast. Most betting experts stick with the more reliable straight bets, and when they do make a parlay bet, they bet on an opposing team if it looks like they will lose.

Parlays aren’t bad, but they do have a lot of risk for their reward. Instead of getting dragged into the promises of big money with one large parlay, analyze the odds and see if they work for you. You might be better off making smaller straight bets, so you at least come home with some winnings.

It’s all in how you look at it. If you have to make a parlay, keep it small and don’t bet more than you are prepared to lose, and if you do win, don’t start betting on more parlays. Often, history doesn’t repeat itself, so take the time to enjoy your winnings before you start betting again.