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Sports Betting 101: Parlay Wagers

Matt Brandon Jan 3rd 4:12 PM EST.

What Is A Parlay?

A parlay is a wager in which at least two bets are linked together to create one bet with tougher odds, but a greater payout. Bettors can parlay point spreads, moneylines, over/unders, prop bets, or a combination. Parlays allow bettors to combine tons of different types of wagers. However, every single pick in a parlay bet must be correct in order to win. If one “leg” of the parlay is wrong, even if the rest of the picks are accurate, the entire bet loses. Since the odds of winning multiple bets are much lower, the payouts are much higher.

Sportsbooks will give you bigger and bigger payouts for adding more games or “legs” to your parlay because winning gets more unlikely with the more picks you add. Sports bettors tend to love parlays because of the massive return on the investment should the bet hit. That said, the more picks tied together, the more difficult it is to win a parlay bet. 

Understanding Parlays

Say you think both the Chiefs (-4.5) and Buccaneers (-6) will cover their spreads on an NFL Sunday. Instead of risking $100 on each game at -110 odds to win about $190 if they both cover the spread, you can parlay them together and risk $100 for a payout of about 2.65x your bet.

Here are the possible outcomes of that $100 parlay bet:

  • Both teams cover: Win ($265)
  • Chiefs cover, Bucs do not: Loss (-$100)
  • Bucs cover, Chiefs do not: Loss (-$100)
  • Both teams do not cover: Loss ($-100)

The only way to win a parlay is for all of your selections to be correct. Plus, you win more money by parlaying your picks rather than wagering each pick individually. You are also not penalized more for losing both bets rather than just losing one. The bet is automatically a loss once one leg on the parlay is incorrect. 

But as mentioned above, parlays can consist of more than two picks. One can get a very good sense of the amazing returns on a parlay bet using a parlay calculator (courtesy of vegasinsider.com). Let’s look at a few more examples.

4-Team Parlay With Spreads

Leg 1: New York Knicks +6.5

Leg 2: Utah Jazz -2.5

Leg 3: New York Giants +7.5

Leg 4: Baltimore Ravens -3

Most sportsbooks allow bettors to construct parlays that combine picks from different sports. This parlay combines games for the NBA and NFL. All four teams must cover their respective spreads for the parlay to cash. Since this parlay deals strictly with point spreads, the odds are roughly 10/1. 

Let’s say you risked $100 on this parlay. You would profit around $1,000. But if you bet each of these games individually at $100 and you went 4-0, you would only net roughly $360 since sportsbooks take out a 10% vig. That’s why parlays can be incredible opportunities to cash big. However, if you bet all of these games and went 3-1, the parlay would lose. But if you bet each of them individually, you would profit. So there are pros and cons to combining several picks into a parlay bet. 

5-Team Parlay With Moneylines

Leg 1: Kansas City Chiefs -900

Leg 2: Arizona Cardinals -350

Leg 3: Philadelphia Eagles -150

Leg 4: Pittsburgh Steelers -220

Leg 5: Cleveland Browns +170

This is one of the most commonly bet parlays because bettors are typically drawn to favorites. As you can see, four of the five teams in this NFL parlay are favorites. The only underdog is the Cleveland Browns. Since this parlay only involves moneylines, the five teams simply have to win outright for the parlay to cash. Using the True Odds Parlay Calculator, you can see that if you bet $100 on this parlay, the payout would be $835.06!

Learn more about the basics of sports betting!

5-Leg Same Game Parlay

Bettors often like to combine props and game bets on one single game. Let’s say the Dallas Cowboys are three-point favorites against the Baltimore Ravens. Here is an example of how to build a same game parlay.

Leg 1: Dallas Cowboys -3 (-110)

Leg 2: Over 48.5 points (-110)

Leg 3: Dak Prescott Over 275.5 passing yards (-125)

Leg 4: Mark Andrews to score a touchdown (+220)

Leg 5: Lamar Jackson Over 62.5 rushing yards (-115)

If you bet $100 on this same-game parlay and all five legs hit (which combine the point spread, the over/under, and player prop bets), you would cash $3,824.79! That is a whole lot more than what you would make if each of these bets were converted individually. 

Check out a real example of a same game parlay on FanDuel Sportsbook.

Should You Bet Parlays?

There is no correct answer to this question. Mathematically, bettors don’t usually cash parlays and sportsbooks make a ton of money on this increasingly popular wager type. The odds aren’t necessarily as high as they should be given the true chances of winning any given parlay, however, the payouts are still very massive and appealing. If you are very confident and a seasoned sports bettor, parlays are an excellent way to maximize the return on your investment. If you are a newcomer to the sports betting world, you should probably stick to individual bets when first establishing your sports betting bankroll. However, if you really want to place a parlay wager, start with a very low bet amount since the odds of winning are much tougher than a straight-up bet.

The table below demonstrates how the chances of winning parlays compare to the payouts received as the number of bets increase (assume each bet comes at the standard -110 juice and has a 50% chance of winning).

Bets

Odds

Implied Probability

True Probability

Fair Odds

1

-110

52.38%

50%

+100

2

+265

27.40%

25%

+300

3

+597

14.35%

12.5%

+700

4

+1228

7.53%

6.25%

+1500

5

+2435

3.94%

3.13%

+3100

6

+4740

2.07%

1.56%

+6300

7

+9140

1.08%

0.78%

+12700

8

+17500

0.57%

0.39%

+25500

9

+33500

0.30%

0.20%

+51100

10

+64200

0.16%

0.10%

+102300

It’s important to remember that sports betting is all about trusting the process. Parlaying should never be seen as a long-term money-making strategy because it isn’t, however, responsibly betting a few dollars for a massive potential payout can provide some thrilling entertainment. Parlaying also presents opportunities to hedge your bet.

Our new Public Betting Splits page is available to Edge+ subscribers! Follow the “smart money” to cash in on your picks! Monitoring public betting trends is one of the most pivotal tools used by professional handicappers to find the top wagers in the sports betting marketplace. For access to more content and premium features, take a look at our memberships page.

How Do I Make a Parlay Bet?

It’s easy to make a parlay bet on DraftKings, FanDuel, and other online sportsbooks.

  • Navigate to your desired sport.
  • Select two or more games.
  • Head to your Bet Slip on the right and click “Parlay.” Some books won’t even make you take this step, and will list the parlay right below or above single bets.
  • Enter your bet amount and submit.

When placing a parlay bet in person at a sportsbook, the first thing you should tell the cashier is that you wish to place a parlay wager. Then, simply list all the picks you’d like to make and tell them how much you would like to wager. The cashier will then allow you to review your bets and the potential payout. Be sure all the bets are accurate before completing the transaction.


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#sportsbetting101

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