How to Bet Parlays in Sporting Events

Parlays are often considered an exotic bet type by many sportsbook services. However, they are so popular with bettors that most sportsbook services offer a separate section exclusively for parlays. The parlay bet is a step above the ordinary straight and totals bet types, but a parlay has a very basic foundation.

A parlay is essentially a set of individual bets. These individual bets usually consist of straight bets and totals. The premise of a parlay is that the set of individual bets acts as one single wager. This allows bettors to wager on two or more events with one parlay bet. Parlay bets work on a set payout schedule that may often vary for each sportsbook service. The payout schedule rewards players who create large parlays. A parlay that contains 6 teams will always offer a greater pay out than a parlay that only contains 4 teams.

Parlays and Odds Structure

A parlay still works with the standard odds released by the sportsbook services. Parlays are most popular with sports that feature the standard triple digit odds numbers. For example, a sportsbook service may offer a -110 line on team A and a +150 line on team B. Negative numbers always represent the favored team in a sports event while a positive number represents an underdog. The payout schedule works in harmony with the standard odds line. A parlay that includes a bet on an underdog rated at +150 will reward the bettor with a greater payout compared to a bet on a favored team at -110.

How a Parlay Works

Understanding any bet type becomes easier through examples. For instance, a bettor might be interested in a 3-team parlay for the NFL.

The 3-team parlay includes the following individual wagers:

  • San Diego +5
  • New England -7
  • Chicago +10

In this 3-team parlay the bettor is wagering on San Diego winning or losing by no more than 4 points. The bettor is wagering on New England winning their game by 8 or more points. The final wager involves Chicago winning or losing by no more than 9 points. Every parlay consists of individual bets that do not overlap. This means that each of the three teams are playing their own separate games and are not playing each other during this parlay event.

In this case, the bettor would need all three scenarios to occur in order to win the parlay. A regular parlay is an all or nothing bet. If one individual bet loses, the entire parlay is lost. However, sportsbook services usually offer bets to ride when a push occurs. For example, if San Diego were to lose by exactly 5 points the bet would be considered a push. No money is exchanged between a bettor and a sportsbook service. A push usually defers the parlay to the next individual bet and the bettor is subject to a lower payout than stipulated on the standard parlay payout schedule.

Parlay Payout Schedule

In the example above, the bettor placed a parlay involving 3 NFL teams. If all three individual bets win, the parlay would be subject to a 6:1 payout on a traditional parlay payout schedule. The bettor would then be the winner of $300 if each individual bet was worth $50.

It is important to double check each sportsbook service for their own precise payout schedule. A parlay that includes point spread and totals bets usually adhere to the following traditional schedule:

  • 13:5 for 2 teams
  • 6:1 for 3 teams
  • 10:1 for 4 teams
  • 25:1 for 5 teams
  • 40:1 for 6 teams
  • 75:1 for 7 teams
  • 150:1 for 8 teams
  • 300:1 for 9 teams
  • 600:1 for 10 teams

The favorable payout schedule is the primary reason why bettors go for the parlay bet. Expert bettors can make a significant amount of money by combining individual bets into a parlay in order to win a larger reward.

Progressive Parlays

A progressive parlay is a modified parlay bet that does not work on the all or nothing principle. A traditional parlay requires each individual bet to be correct in order to win. A progressive parlay does not require a perfect pick in order to earn the bettor a reward. Progressive parlays are not an extremely popular bet type offered because it reduces the house advantage compared to the standard parlay.

For example, a progressive parlay of 6 teams will still make money even if only 5 or 4 teams win their bets. A progressive parlay runs on a different payout schedule compared to the standard parlay. For every team that misses their bet, the progressive parlay goes down the payout schedule. A perfect 6-team progressive parlay always earns more than an imperfect 4 out of 6 progressive parlay. Most importantly, because bettors can still earn money without having the perfect combination, a progressive parlay carries less favorable odds compared to a standard parlay.

Parlay Strategy

A typical parlay is not a very good betting option for the casual bettor. Parlays that involve 5 or more teams can bring in a lot of money but the odds of achieving a perfect combination are always greater. This means it is best to stick with 2 or 3 team parlays in circumstances where the bettor has significant knowledge to back up their parlay.