Parlay bets are popular because they offer huge payouts and create an exciting amount of risk for the bettor. Parlays allow sports bettors to combine two or more point spread, game total, or moneyline wagers into a single (more lucrative) bet. In exchange for a higher return, the bettor’s risk is increased, as a natural function of combining multiple wagers into one.
What Are Parlay Bets?
A parlay bet is any wager that links together two or more individual prospects in return for a higher payout. The increased return is the big draw – bettors who like parlays are no doubt interested in the bigger payday they can earn if they make three or four good picks in a day.
Customers aren’t the only ones seeing dollar signs – bookmakers love parlays because they make it harder for their customers to win. Remember – you have to be perfect when picking your parlay – if even one of your picks is wrong, the whole ticket is a loser.
Picking a winner is tough enough – picking multiple winners in a single day is formidable. Parlays are a risky bet – some bettors consider them a fancy form of prop betting. For bettors who think they see patterns emerging in several games at once, the risk can mean a huge financial reward.
The size of your payout for a successful parlay depends on two factors – how many “teams” you pick and (to a lesser degree) where you place your wager.
The table below is an example of a typical parlay pay table, showing how the payout increases the more bets you add to your ticket:
|# of Teams in Parlay
|13 to 5
|6 to 1
|10 to 1
|20 to 1
|40 to 1
|75 to 1
|100 to 1
|150 to 1
|300 to 1
|450 to 1
|600 to 1
|750 to 1
|900 to 1
|1500 to 1
Some online bookmakers may offer different parlay payouts, and I’ve seen some progressive parlay games popping up at the bigger names in the business as well. Keep your eyes open for little differences in the payouts as listed above – I know of one book that advertised a “2.5 to 1” payout for a two-tea parlay, which is actually a tenth of a percent smaller than the standard 13 to 5 rate. As with any gamble, read the fine print before you commit to a pay table.
The average odds at online sportsbooks for a simple two-team (two-pick) parlay is +260 – if you’re bold enough to add a single pick to that parlay, you can earn a +600 payout for making three good picks on the same ticket.
For example – if you place a straight $55 bet to win $50 on both the Spurs and the Bulls and both of your bets paid off, you’d win $100. You could have made a two-team parlay for $110, picked those two sides, and profited $250 at the standard 13 to 5 payout rate. That’s a huge difference in profit.
The downside to parlay betting – if you make two selections and go 1-1 instead of 2-0, you lose a lot more than you would simply placing two straight bets. Using the example above, if either the Spurs or the Bulls lose, you’d have lost $5, winning one wager and surrendering the other. On a parlay ticket, you lose your entire $110 wager. The more teams you add to your ticket, the more lucrative a win – but the more costly a loss.
Basic Parlay Strategy
Here are some tips to get you started down the path of parlay wagering success:
Look for the best odds.
Believe it or not, where you play your parlay is probably the most important strategic decision you’ll make. There’s a ton of parity between parlay offers, and that goes for brick and mortar bookmakers as well as phone-only and online books. The only real difference between them is that sometimes you can find reduced juice on sides at one book and not another. Look for these opportunities and take advantage of them when you can – that’s why it’s good to have accounts open at more than one book.
Use “Correlated Parlay Bets”
Okay so you can’t really place a true correlated parlay – sportsbooks won’t allow it. A true correlated parlay would back both sides of the same contest to ensure at least two victories. You can’t do that – but you can wager on both the point spread and the game total, to correlate two of your ticket choices to a single potential outcome. An example – if you think the Houston Texans can beat the Indianapolis Colts, but only in a low-scoring game, you can parlay Houston covering the spread AND a bet on the “under” total. If the game goes the way your research tells you, you’ll have earned a much higher payout than making those two bets on their own.
Look into Teasers & Pleasers
Teasers and pleasers are two forms of alternative parlay wagers covered elsewhere on the site in more detail. Basically, they’re parlays that give you a certain amount of leeway in terms of point spreads and other factors, allowing you to buy and sell a little and increase your odds. Once you’ve mastered basic parlay wagers, teasers and pleasers are actually better wagers overall, though more complicated and difficult to master.
Parlays are nothing more than exotic wagers dressed up to look like standard wagers. They’re popular – but so is the Wheel of Fortune game at your local casino, and that thing offers terrible odds. If you’re willing to exchange some of your chances of winning for a shot at a larger payday, parlays may be the ideal sports wager for you. Just remember – parlays require perfection and patience.