How to Place Parlay Bets

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Parlay Bets Betting

No matter how well we’re doing on your point spread and moneyline bets, we always want more. More betting options, more excitement, and above all else, bigger payouts.

Why use your sports betting knowledge to win a $100 bet when you can use that same knowledge to win $400?

Sounds good. It is definitely fun. And who doesn’t love a good parlay now and then? But there is a reason that sportsbooks allow you to place parlay bets, and it’s not because those sportsbooks lose money on parlays. So before placing your parlays, let’s learn everything we can about them.

What is a Parlay?

A parlay is quite simply the combination of two or more bets. It can be in any sport and even across multiple sports. The bets can be different types – like a totals bet combined with a prop bet – and with each bet that you add to the parlay, the payout amount goes up exponentially.

There is no question that if you are betting three NFL games on a Sunday, combining those three bets into a single parlay bet will increase the payout substantially over just betting all three games individually.

But the counter to that bigger payout is the need to win all three bets. As individual bets, you can lose one game and still win the other two. In a parlay, however, one loss is enough to sink the entire bet, regardless of what happens in the other two.

Understanding Parlay Payouts

If you were to put $100 down each on three NFL point spread bets, and you hit all three games, you would profit $272.73 once you pay the vig. This assumes that each bet was paying the standard vig of -110. ($90.91 in winnings x 3).

But let’s say you took that same $300 that you spent on those three games and parlayed the money and the games into one bet. All three games win, and instead of profiting just $272.73 on your bets, you win $1,787,40.

How is it that the same three bets pay $1,514.67 more by making them a parlay?

Parlays payout based on the number of legs in the parlay. The more legs, the greater the odds, the bigger the win.

  • 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)

In theory, you can extend the parlay to as many legs as you’d like, although most sportsbooks do have a cap in place. Also, you might see different odds than what is posted above. These odds are typical, but some books will adjust them just a bit.

One important note about parlay odds, these listed above are good for point spread bets, where the payout of each wager is the same. If you have moneyline bets or other differing payouts in your parlay, that will alter the overall potential you can win.

Changing point spreads, however, will not change odds on parlays.

Making the Parlay Bet

If you are inside a brick-and-mortar sportsbook, you can find a parlay card. It’s long and narrow and resembles a lottery card. Fill in the card on the parlay you wish to make and hand it to the cashier to make your bet. You can also just say your bet to the teller, although be sure to let them upfront that you’re betting a parlay.

If you are online or on a mobile app, the process is even easier. Some apps come with a parlay card on one half of the screen, mimicking the card you find at the retail sportsbook. But if there isn’t a card, just navigate to your sport of choice, select two or more bets, and click on the button clearly marked “parlay.”

Enter your bet amount, review the bet to make sure that you selected the right games and amount, and then submit your parlay.

Now sit back, watch the games, and count your winnings. Easy.

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Different Types of Parlays

There is, of course, your standard parlay. Combine a few games into a single bet, and then hope they all hit.

But there are a couple of other parlay types that you should know about.

Round Robin

A round-robin is a way to set up multiple parlays that cover all of the potential single losses that might sink a standard parlay.

You like three teams to potentially fill your parlay – the Cowboys, Rams, and Ravens. You can bet the three in a standard parlay, or you can put all three teams in a round-robin. When doing that, all possible two-team parlay combinations will be wagered, and these become your three parlays.

  • Cowboys and Rams
  • Cowboys and Ravens
  • Rams and Ravens

Now, if one of your three teams loses, there is another parlay still alive and potential profit still to be made.


The other type of parlay that can be played is called a teaser. This is a parlay that allows the bettor to move the point spread on multiple games, making them easier to win.

Most popular NFL teasers will move the spread by 6, 6.5, or 7 points. All games in the parlay must be teased by the same number of points, but each game individually can move in a direction that favors either the favorite or the underdog. So you can take the Cowboys (+1) and make it Cowboys (+7.5) while moving the Ravens (-5.5) to Ravens (+1.0).

As with standard parlays, the more teams in a teaser, the greater the payout. But also keep in mind that the more you move the spreads, the lower the payout becomes.

Parlay Pushes

If you bet a three-team parlay and one of those games pushes, the parlay will automatically revert to a two-team parlay and payout the shorter odds. This is how rainouts on baseball parlays are handled, as well as any other sport that might see an event get canceled or postponed.

Are Parlays Smart Bets?

The short answer is yes and no. Parlay betting can be a part of a smart wagering strategy that makes money in the long run. But don’t overdo it.

The latest sports betting figures show that nearly 30% of all betting money is placed on parlays. Contrasting that, 37% of all sportsbook profits come from parlay bets, compared to just 7% on other types of bets.

So parlay buyer beware. The sportsbook wants you to make that parlay because chances are good they will get to keep your money. They make for more on parlays than they are paying out.

The cautionary tale of parlays can also be seen when we look at implied probability and the true odds that go along with those probabilities.

A two-team parlay pays 2.6/1, or +260 in American odds. But the probability of winning both bets is 25%, which would have odds of +300. Three games pay 6/1, or +600 in American odds. But with a probability of winning at 12.5%, that payout should be +700.

As you can see from these numbers, the potential payout by the sportsbooks for a winning parlay doesn’t reflect the actual chances you have of winning.

This doesn’t mean that all parlays are bad. If you can find some room around the edges of point spreads that makes your bet a more likely winner, and then you can find that edge for each of the games you are betting, that +100 gap on a three-team parlay can shrink. Find enough of an edge, and the parlay might be worth it.

But even when the edge isn’t there, sometimes taking a shot can be fun. Trying for the big payday can be exhilarating. And as long as you understand the likelihood of losing the bet and willingly accept the risk, there is no actual harm in going for it.

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