What is a Parlay?

by Big Al Staff

What is a parlay?

When you've been sports betting for a while, and have become familiar with moneyline and point spread bets, you're ready for the next level:  parlay betting.  A parlay is a type of bet which involves two or more wagers winning.  In this bet, you can take as much risk as you want, starting with a 2-team parlay up to as many as 20 (or more) team parlays.  Bettors will find this type of bet exciting because of the high potential payout.  Of course, the odds of winning a parlay bet are significantly lower than a single bet, thus the higher payout.  In this article, we'll show you the ins-and-outs of parlay betting.

How to get started with parlay betting

As mentioned above, with a parlay bet, you are wagering on the outcome of multiple matches.  Parlay betting is a risky, but potentially lucrative practice that's definitely not for everyone.  Nevertheless, when you find a working strategy, you can try your luck and chase these huge parlay payouts.  The understanding of parlaying starts with the way a parlay bet is structured.  Let's start off with a 2-team parlay.  To give you an example we'll take two matches in the NBA:

  1. New York Knicks vs. Los Angeles Lakers
  2. Golden State Warriors vs. Toronto Raptors

Let's assume you did proper research and were confident that each individual bet you wanted to make would end up as a successful bet.  You could bet on the moneyline or against the spread.  But regardless of your bet type, you could put your two bets together to collectively form your parlay bet.  But your parlay bet would only win if both of the individual bets were successful.  That's why it's extremely important to do proper research before placing parlay bets on multiple games.

You can place parlay bets anywhere you usually do your sports betting.  All online or brick-and-mortar sportsbooks are happy to offer the possibility to place parlay bets.  Mainly because their hold (i.e., their profit) is much higher than with single bets.  A simple math exercise will illustrate this for you:

Let’s say a sportsbook takes two bets from two separate bettors on the opposite side of a game -- each for 11 dollars (to win $10).  The two bettors would have risked $22 total, and the sportsbook would win $1 of juice (after collecting $11 from the loser and paying $10 to the winner).  Thus, the sportsbook’s hold (profit) is 1/22 (or 4.54%).  Now, let’s consider a 2-team parlay with odds of 13-5.  The true odds, of course, are 15-5 (or 3-1) since the probability of winning two bets is 25% (assuming the odds on each is 50-50).  Therefore, with a 2-team parlay, a sportsbook’s hold (profit) is the difference between the true odds (15-5) and the payout odds (13-5), or 2/15.  Well, 2/15 is equal to 13.33% -- much higher than a single bet’s hold of 4.54%.  Now, if you’re not dissuaded by all of this, and want to take the next step in your parlaying adventure, you should understand the different ways to bet parlays and the way parlay odds work.

Round robin
Although not every single betting site offers the possibility to place round-robin bets, they are increasingly popular in the sports betting industry.  The difference here is that with a round-robin bet, you can place multiple parlay wagers at once, instead of constructing your parlay bet one-by-one manually.  In this case, not every single individual bet has to be a winner to have a successful bet.  This also means that you can have a smaller payout than by betting regular parlays.  In general, the sportsbook is the one which creates the round-robin betting options.

A teaser bet is a little closer to a traditional parlay than the round-robin bet.  You select multiple teams or totals, but there are no moneylines allowed.  Unlike a parlay bet, bettors can move each point spread or total by a certain number of points.  Because there's additional points given in these bets, there's a greater chance to win.  The trade-off, of course, is that a teaser bet doesn’t have a big payout like a parlay bet.

Understanding parlay odds

To properly place a parlay bet, you should understand what the odds could look like.  Also, depending on which sportsbook you use, parlay bets could be called accumulators, combo bets, or multi wagers.  Throughout this guide, we'll employ the terms parlay, parlay card or parlay ticket.  For our example, we'll take three NFL matches:

  1. New Orleans Saints vs. Los Angeles Rams
  2. New England Patriots vs. New York Jets
  3. Denver Broncos vs. Green Bay Packers

These are three individual matches that all have different angles to approach as a sports bettor.  Let's say we take three different bet types:  we bet on the point spread in the Saints/Rams game, the moneyline in the Patriots/Jets game, and the over/under in the Broncos/Packers game.  The odds for this 3-team parlay could look something like this:

  1. New Orleans Saints -3.5 (-110) / Los Angeles Rams +3.5 (-110)
  2. New England Patriots -180 / New York Jets +160
  3. Packers/Broncos Over 47.5 -110 / Under 47.5 +105

First, we have to pick which teams we go for.  To illustrate the possible payout of a winning parlay bet, let's bet on the Rams to cover the spread, the Jets to upset the Patriots, and the total number of points in the Broncos/Packers game under 47.5. The next step here is to calculate the parlay odds, given the odds of each individual bet:

  • Rams -110
  • Jets +160
  • Under 47.5 +105

How to calculate your payout with parlay betting

To completely understand the potential of a parlay bet, you have to know what you're working for.  There's a big payoff when you manage to have a couple of successful bets.  Of course, betting a 4-team parlay with teams at “plus odds” provides you with a larger payout than with teams at “minus odds,” but it's much riskier at the same time.  And the more complex your bet becomes, the smaller your chance of winning.  In the example above, we only took a 3-team parlay.

All the odds of the individual bets are multiplied together: -110/+160/+105 to determine that, with an initial stake of 100 dollars, you can profit $917 over and above your initial stake.  This goes to show how serious these parlay payouts can get!  Of course, you should know that when one of these individual bets ends up losing, your entire bet fails, and your initial stake is lost.  Also, some sportsbooks have better parlay odds than others, so it’s critical to join the right online sportsbook.  If you enjoy betting parlays and teasers, then be sure to join BetAnySports as its parlay and teaser odds are the very best in the industry.
Parlay betting insurance 
With parlay betting, the management of your bankroll might be even more critical than when only placing single bets.  You continually see big numbers when you calculate your potential payout, so it might be enticing to wager a little more than your sports betting strategy otherwise dictates.  However, it's essential to stay in check with your emotions and don't let them get the best of you.  Now, one way of covering the risks is by limiting your initial stake, but another way is by using the parlay betting insurance.

Some online sportsbooks offer this insurance possibility.  Usually, when you lose one single leg of your entire parlay, you lose all of your money.  With insurance, there are several options:

  • The sportsbook covers one losing leg of the entire parlay
  • Any losing leg credits up to $25 in free bets to your accounts

There are many more options, dependent upon what the betting site is offering as part of its promotion.  You should be aware of the terms and conditions that come with these promotions.

How to use parlay betting in your sports betting strategy?

Sometimes, novice sports bettors attempt parlay betting at first as the high payouts seduce them.  It makes sense.  You can put in a couple of dollars and possibly earn yourself hundreds of dollars in return, which would be appealing to anyone.  We have a few tips for those who want to consistently and constructively bet on sports.

Does parlay betting make sense for you?
The first thing you have to ask yourself is, does it make sense?  Are you a person who enjoys doing tons of research before making a bet, or do you prefer taking a wild guess and trying your luck?  In either situation, parlaying could be the kind of bet that's right for you.  But, you will need to be willing to take more risk than just single betting all the time.  Ask yourself whether you can handle the emotional rollercoaster of parlaying.  If not, then stay away from these risky bets.  If you can, then it's time to dive in to try your luck!

Do even more research than you usually do
One essential part of sports betting is doing research.  Before you start wagering, you have to spend hours reading up on both teams that face each other.  What can history tell you about the current situation, and how does your team usually play against the other?  There are dozens of factors to consider when placing a single bet, let alone placing multiple bets at the same time.  With each leg you add to your parlay card, you should multiply the hours of research you put in.

Manage your bankroll
We briefly mentioned it before, but it's very important to keep an eye on your bankroll when parlaying.  It's tempting to bet a little more when you calculate your potential payout.  Nevertheless, always stick to your strategy.  Proper bankroll management is essential to the longevity of a sports bettor, and especially for a high-risk sports bettor.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

© 2022 Al McMordie's BigAl.com. All Rights Reserved.