What are parlay bets?
A parlay bet is a common way for sports bettors to increase their odds and payoffs. Instead of making multiple, single bets, a parlay bet combines 2 or more bets into one bet. Each bet within the parlay must win in order for the parlay to win. If any bet within the parlay loses, the bet loses. The more teams put into a parlay bet, the higher the odds.
Parlay bets should be used by one type of bettor, casual bettors doing it for occasional fun. Serious and professional sports bettors should only place parlay bets on very limited occasions, if ever. Since it only takes one loss within a parlay to lose the entire bet, the risk is very high. On a 6 team parlay, you could go 5-1 and lose your entire bet. Had these been straight bets, you’d be a happy camper.
Parlay Betting Odds
Two types of parlay bets can be made – those that use a point spread, and those that use a money line. Point spread parlay bets have somewhat standard odds, being very close at most sportsbooks. While there can be some slight variation from one sportsbook to another, in order to be competitive they’re generally pretty similar.
Typical Point Spread Parlay Betting Odds
2 Teams: 2.6:1
3 Teams: 6:1
4 Teams: 10:1
5 Teams: 20:1
6 Teams: 40:1
7 Teams: 80:1
8 Teams: 100:1
9 Teams: 150:1
10 Teams: 300:1
11 Teams: 450:1
12 Teams: 600:1
13 Teams: 750:1
14 Teams: 900:1
15 Teams: 1500:1
Money Line Parlay Betting Odds
Odds for parlay bets when using a money line are relative to the odds of each pick within the parlay. If you’ve chosen a number of underdogs, your odds will go up. If you’ve chosen big favorites, the odds will be lower. Money line parlays are great for an annual trip to Vegas where the idea is to go big or go home. However, for people who take their sports betting seriously, they’re too high risk to be a reasonable betting strategy.
Benefits of Parlay Betting
Parlay bets allow sports bettors to make small bets with the possibility of large wins. They also allow bettors who have a limited bankroll to bet on multiple games, instead of waiting for games to end and time to collect their winnings. If multiple games are going on at the same time and you don’t have enough money to make straight bets on each game, a parlay bet is a way to get action on each game.
To put a parlay win into perspective, let's use a 5 game parlay as an example. If you made 5 straight bets for $22 each ($110 total wagered) and won all of them, you would win $20 per game for a $100 total profit. However that same $110 wagered on a successful 5 team parlay would pay $2200. But wait, before you go place your bet, keep reading.
Negatives of Parlay Betting
The major problem with parlay betting is that they don’t offer true odds. For example, the true odds of hitting an 8 team parlay is 255:1, while the payoff is only 100:1. This is a big disadvantage to the bettor. Similar to Roulette, when you split your chips across 2 numbers, you get slightly worse odds. When you split them across four numbers, the odds get worse again. The same can be said for parlay bets in sports betting.
Think of it this way. If you want to bet $100 on each of 5 games, but can’t afford to risk the full $500, you probably shouldn’t be betting at all. If you can afford the full $500, you will get a better payout with less risk of losing all your money by making straight bets.
Parlay Betting Tips
There are all sorts of little tips for improving your ROI on parlay bets, but there are a couple of tips that everyone needs to know. To improve your chances and win more on your parlay bets, follow these tips.
Bet on Fewer Teams, Raise Your Bets
Parlays are often used the wrong way. Instead of placing a $20, 5 team parlay, it’s better to make a 3 team parlay for more money. While the odds are lower, the win-rate is much higher, relying on only 3 wins instead of 5. By increasing the bet size, you can make up for the lower odds. This gives you a better chance at a win and a nice payday.
If you have more teams you want to bet on, split your parlays into multiple, smaller parlay bets.
Protect Your Bets
If you have a 5 team parlay that is 4-0 going into the fifth game, you stand to win $1000 on a $50 wager. A loss in the fifth game pays you nothing. To guarantee a win, place a straight bet for $525 on the team opposing your parlay pick. This will guarantee you a minimum win of $425 no matter what the result of the fifth game is. While expert bettors don’t bet a lot of parlays, when they do, this is a strategy they often employ.
If your parlay wins, you collect $1000. This is a $950 profit from your $50 bet, minus the $525 side bet, for a guaranteed win of $425.
If your parlay loses, you lose $50 there but make $477 profit (11/10 odds) on the $525 side bet, for $427 guaranteed profit.
Either way, you can grab a beer and enjoy that last game, knowing you’re a winner no matter what.
Parlay Betting Rules in Event of a Tie
Before placing a parlay bet at a live or online sportsbook, find out the rules in the event of a tie. At some sportsbooks a tie will remove one team from the parlay, moving it down one level. For example, if you have a 5 team parlay with one tie, the parlay will automatically become a 4 team parlay, essentially removing one team from the bet.
At other sportsbooks, a tie results in a loss. This is bad for the bettor, so make sure you know the rules before placing your bet. This is especially important for betting on soccer or hockey where ties are common. Expert sports bettors never place a parlay bet without knowing these rules.
NFL & NCAA Football Parlay Betting
Parlay bets are extremely popular with NFL and NCAA football bettors. Parlay bets for football combine multiple straight bets, meaning the point spread is used. A bettors job is to pick teams that will cover the spread. If any team within the parlay does not cover the spread, the entire parlay bet loses.
While we don’t like parlay bets for serious bettors, they’re a great way to add tons of excitement to a weekend of football. Just remember how hard it is to go 3 for 3 in your fantasy league before you place a 10 team parlay.