Parlay Bet Explained

Are parlays a sucker’s bet? Not if you know how and when to bet them. Learn all about parlay betting, how to bet parlays, and how sportsbooks determine winning and losing parlays. Discover basic parlay betting strategy and understand how Round Robin parlay bets work.


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What is a Parlay Bet?

A parlay bet combines 2 or more bets into one big bet. Individual bets are also called selections. Point spreads, over-under totals, moneylines, and some prop bets are commonly combined to make a parlay bet. Winning parlay bets payout more than separate individual bets.

How does the Parlay Bet Win or Lose?

A parlay bet wins if all selections win. A parlay loses if any selections lose. Review your sportsbook’s parlay rules carefully. Pay close attention to what it considers a loss versus a tie. Also, note how and when a parlay selection can be cancelled.

When Does the Parlay Bet Tie or Push?

A parlay bet doesn’t tie or push like a common straight bet. Each individual selection that ties or pushes reduces the potential parlay payout by 1 selection. If 2 selections tie, the parlay payout is reduced by 2 selections. The same applies for 3 or more tie selections.

If ties reduce the parlay to 1 selection, the bet pays out according to the remaining selection as a straight bet.

This doesn’t happen often. For example, if the last selection is a moneyline, the parlay will payout like a moneyline bet if your selection wins. Similarly, if the last selection is a point spread, the parlay will payout like a point spread bet if your selection wins.

Note, some sportsbooks grade tie selections as losses. In this case, the payout will not reduce. Any tie selection means the entire parlay bet loses.

How to Place a Parlay Bet

Time needed: 1 minute

How to Place a Parlay Bet

  1. Make your selections

    Select 2-15 point spreads, moneylines, totals, or combinations of all three from one or more different sports leagues.

  2. Place your bet

    Choose how much you’d like to risk on your parlay bet. Note the sportsbook’s house rules and maximum payout limits, if applicable.

  3. All selections must be correct

    All selections must be correct to win.

  4. Each tie reduces the parlay by 1 selection

    Each tie reduces the parlay size by 1 selection until one remaining selection becomes a straight bet. Review your sportsbook’s parlay rules.

  5. Some sportsbooks grade ties as losses

    Note that some sportsbooks grade tie parlay selections as losses. Always review the sportsbook’s house rules before placing a parlay bet. This rule is less common.

How Much Do Parlay Bets Payout?

Your parlay bet payout depends on the number of winning selections. The more winning selections, the higher the payout. The following table shows the actual odds, usual payout, and house edge for parlay bets with 2-10 selections.

Parlay Bet Payouts and House Edge
SelectionsActual OddsUsual PayoutHouse Edge
23/12.6/110.00%
37/16/112.50%
415/110/131.25%
531/120/134.38%
663/140/135.94%
7127/175/140.63%
8255/1150/141.02%
9511/1300/141.21%
101027/1700/131.54%

What is the House Edge on Parlay Bet?

Parlays are profitable for sportsbooks. The normal payout amounts are actually less than the parlay’s actual odds. The sportsbook collects the difference as profit, just like juice or vig it charges on a point spread, total, or moneyline bet.

Looking at the table above, the more selections you make, the higher the house edge.

How to Get True Odds on a Parlay Bet?

Include a moneyline selection to force the sportsbook to calculate your payout using true odds. The actual payout may not be exactly true odds. But it will be closer to true odds than standard fixed payouts.

How to Calculate a Parlay True Odds Payout

Let’s use the following 3 selections as an example for a $100 parlay bet.

  1. 49ers -2½ Spread -110
  2. Texans +120 Money Line
  3. Celtics vs. Clippers Over -110

Calculate the Parlay Selection Multiplier

First, calculate the multiplier for each selection. The multiplier for any -110 or standard odds bet is 1.9091. Use the table below to figure the multiplier for a moneyline.

How to Calculate Parlay Moneyline Multiplier
OddsCalculationExample
Minus Odds
(Favorites)
  1. Drop – sign.
  2. Divide 100 by Odds.
  3. Add 1.
  1. -110 becomes 110.
  2. 100/110 = 0.9091
  3. 0.9091 + 1 = 1.9091
Plus Odds
(Underdogs)
  1. Drop + sign.
  2. Divide Odds by 100.
  3. Add 1.
  1. +120 becomes 120.
  2. 120/100 = 1.2
  3. 1.2 + 1 = 2.2

Multiply the Multipliers

Second, multiply each multiplier together.

  1. 49ers -2½ Spread -110 = 1.9091
  2. Texans +120 Money Line = 2.2
  3. Celtics vs. Clippers Over -110 = 1.9091

1.9091 x 2.2 x 1.9091 = 8.01825

Multiply the Product by your Bet

Finally, multiply the product times your bet amount. Then subtract the bet amount to determine the payout. Note that rounding may cause slight variations in the final value.

$100 x 8.01825 = $801.83 – $100 = $701.83

What is a Round Robin Parlay Bet?

A Round Robin parlay expands a single parlay into sets of smaller parlay bets using all possible winning combinations. In other words, you’re betting multiple smaller parlays instead of one large one.

Round Robin bets might sound like a good idea, particularly if each smaller parlay wins. However, they can be expensive when expanding 5, 6, or more selection parlays into a Round Robin. Losses can pile up quickly if games don’t go your way. Bet with caution.

How a Round Robin Parlay Bet Works

Let’s expand a 3 selection parlay into a Round Robin parlay. Permutations for other selection sizes are summarized in a table following this example.

Expand the following 3 selection parlay into a Round Robin parlay bet.

  1. New York Giants -6.5 Spread
  2. Chicago Bulls +8.5 Spread
  3. Dallas Cowboys +3 Spread

Calculate Robin Robin Parlay Ways

First, determine the number of ways for each smaller parlay. Figuring the number of ways is easy: subtract 1 from the total number of selections until ways = 2. A 3 selection parlay can be taken 2 ways: 3 – 1 = 2.

A 4 selection parlay can be taken 3 or 2 ways. 4 – 1 = 3 ways. Then 3 – 1 = 2 ways. The same holds for 5, 6, 7, etc.

Assemble Your Round Robin Parlay

3 selections taken 2 ways makes 3 different parlay combinations.

3 Selection Round Robin Parlay 2 Ways Payouts
ParlayBetPayout
Giants -6.5, Bulls +8.5$10$26
Giants -6.5, Cowboys +3$10$26
Bulls +8.5, Cowboys +3$10$26
  • If all 3 teams cover the spread, you collect 3 x $26 = $78.
  • If 2 teams cover and 1 does not, you collect 1 x $26 – (2 x $10 losing parlays) = $6.
  • If only 1 team covers or no teams cover, you lose $30 (3 x $10 losing parlays) = -$30

Which Bets Are Prohibited From Parlays?

Not every selection can be added to a parlay. Sportsbooks prohibit some selections in order to protect themselves from substantial losses. Or, situations in which the player will win no matter how their selections result.

Bets that can’t be added to Parlays:

  • Future bets and some prop bets.
  • Both sides of same bet. Example: Combine the over and under for same game.
  • Baseball 5th inning lines.
  • Spreads and money lines for same team from the same game. This includes different game segments.
  • Correlated 1st half, 2nd and full game parlays. Spreads and Money Lines for full game with 1st half totals might be permitted.

How Do Sportsbooks Grade Parlay Bets?

Each selection wins, loses, or ties according to each individual game’s outcome. You parlay wins if all selections win. Your parlay loses if any selections lose.

Common Parlay Tie Rules

  • Each tie reduces the parlay size by 1 selection.
  • Any selection graded “No Action” reduces parlay by 1 selection.
  • Subtract all tie selections from parlay size to determine updated payout amount.

A 4 selection parlay with 2 ties becomes a 2 selection parlay. An 8 selection parlay with 3 ties becomes a 5 selection parlay. Instances of multiple ties are not common.

  • Your payout will be determined from remaining number of selections.
  • Any parlay reduced to 1 selection becomes a straight bet.

Less common: Parlays reduced to 0 selections tie.

Pros And Cons

Pros

  • Parlay payouts are much higher than separate straight bets.
  • Bet small amounts to win larger payouts. Parlays are ideal for those with limited bankrolls or those with extra cash for fun bets.
  • Parlays can be more profitable than straight bets. Bettors winning 55% or more can expect higher profits. See the case study below.

Cons

  • Parlays are riskier than separate straight bets. One losing selection ruins the entire bet. Separate straight bets allow more room for error. This produces smaller percentage losses in the long run.
  • Parlays with 5 or more selections have a negative expected value. Large parlay wins are rare. The house profits from these bets more than players.
  • Parlay bets are a poor choice for bettors winning 50% or less. These bettors face higher negative expected value compared to separate losing straight bets. See the case study below.

Tips

Try Modified Parlay Cards

Sportsbooks occasionally offer modified parlay cards. These cards offer higher than normal payouts. See your sportsbook’s promotions page.

Go for True Odds Parlay Payouts

Bet parlays with true odds payouts. Add a moneyline selection to your parlay. Fixed odds payouts are less than true odds.

4 Selections or Less

Keep parlays to 4 selections or less. It is rare to win large parlays. These bets do not justify the long-term risk to your bankroll.

Put Expensive Moneylines into a Parlay Bet

Combine moneyline favorites into a parlay bet when their juice is >-250. This parlay would be less expensive than separate straight bets. Plus, moneyline selections would get you true odds payouts versus fixed odds.

Bets to Try

  1. Straight bets with insurance. Make multiple straight bets. Then, combine the opposite sides of each bet into a parlay. If all your straight bets lose, you’ll actually make more money back on the opposite side parlay.
  2. Bet heavy money line favorites in a 2 or 3 selection parlay. Separate straight bets would occupy too much bankroll.
  3. Major sporting event parlay bets. Major events like the Super Bowl, March Madness, Stanley Cup, and NBA Championship offer unique opportunities to combine multiple point spread, total, moneyline and eligible prop bets into parlays.
  4. College Basketball Home Underdogs. Combine 2 home underdog moneyline selections. Home court advantage often benefits home underdogs.
  5. College Basketball 1st Half Correlated Parlay. Look for large spread to small total ratios.

    Example:
    25% correlation means a 15 point spread correlates to a 60 point total (15/60 = 0.25).
    Bet 2 first half parlays: 1) Favorite and Over, 2) Underdog and Under.
    These are rare occurrences. Many sportsbooks prohibit correlated parlay betting.

Case Study: Parlay vs Straight Bet Expected Value

The following tables and calculations show why winning bettors should bet parlays instead of separate straight bets. In this example, a bettor winning 55% of their bets will profit more from parlays +8.9% than separate straight bets +5%.

However, the bettor winning just 50% of their bets should stick to straight bets. Their losses from taking parlays -10% will be much higher the 2 straight bets, -4.545%.

2 Selection Parlay vs 2 Straight Bets
Bet50%55%
2 Straight Bets -110 Odds-4.545%+5%
2 Parlay Selections 13/5 Odds-10%+8.9%

Conclusion: Increased parlay payouts benefit the winning bettor.

Calculations
W = Bettor Winning Percentage
S = Number Selections in Parlay
P = Payout Amount, number of selections
L = Losing Bet Amount in Units
Hint: Expected profit & loss is the difference between maximum possible win and maximum possible loss given a bettor’s win percentage.
Formula: WS x P – (1 – WS) x L

Straight Bet Profit & Loss by Win Percentage
%WinMath%P&L
50%0.5 x (100/110) – (1 – 0.5) x 1 =
0.45454 – 0.5 x 1 = -0.0454
-4.54%
55%0.55 x (100/110) – (1 – 0.55) x 1 =
0.50 – 0.45 x 1 = 0.05
5%
Parlay Bet Profit & Loss by Win Percentage
%WinMath%P&L
50%0.52 x 13/5 – (1 – 0.52) x 1 =
0.65 – 0.75 x 1 = -0.10
-10%
55%0.552 x 13/5 – (1 – 0.552) x 1 =
0.7865 – 0.6975 x 1 = 0.089
8.9%

Parlay Bet History

Parlay card betting preceded modern parlays. These cards surfaced in the USA during the late 1800s as sporting leagues organized. They were commonly found at early ball games and nearby bars.

The Progressive Movement of the early 1900s initially stunted the spread of parlay card betting. But the arrival of the roaring 1920s, professional football, and better organized gambling syndicates brought them back.

Nevada was the first state to fully legalize casino gambling in 1931. Despite this change, sports betting remained in the shadows. Most bets were illegal. Eventually it became better regulated. But not before many legal operators left the market due to a 1951 tax.

The tax decreased in October 1974. Legal sports betting operations became profitable again. Parlay bets modernized as sportsbooks competed with one another for business. Bettors still reference Parlay Cards for standard “Vegas Odds” before making their bets.

Other Names

  • Accumulator
  • Acca
  • Combo

Similar Bets

  • Teaser Bet
  • If Bet Win Only
  • Pleaser Bet
  • Reverse Bet

Parlay Betting Tables and Reference

Fixed Odds Parlay Payout Table

Fixed Odds Parlay Payouts
# SelectionsLas Vegas PayoutOnline Payout
213/513/5
36/16/1
410/112.28/1
520/124.35/1
640/147.41/1
775/191.42/1
8150/1175.44/1

-110 Odds Parlay Payouts

-110 Odds Parlay Payouts
# SelectionsPayout
22.645/1
35.958/1
412.283/1
524.359/1
647.413/1
791.424/1
8175.446/1
9335.852/1
10642.082/1
111226.701/1
122342.793/1

Round Robin Parlay Ways

Round Robin Parlay Ways
SelectionsNumber WaysTotal Parlays
323
426
434
5210
5310
545
6215
6320
6415
656
7221
7335
7435
7521
767
8228
8356
8470
8556
8628
878

Example:
4 Selections, 2 ways makes 6 unique parlays.
A,B,C and D represent 4 different selections. Each selection must combine with the others, no duplicates.
AB | AC | AD
BC | BD | BA
CD | CB | CA
(Note: D has already combined: AD, BD, CD)
Total: 6 Parlays
Bet Cost: Total Parlays x Desired Amount.

FAQs on Parlay Bets

What is a parlay bet?

A parlay bet combines 2 or more selections into one big bet. Point spreads, over-under totals, moneylines, and some prop bets are commonly combined to make a parlay bet.

Which bets can be added to a parlay?

Point spread, over-under totals, moneylines and some prop bets can be added to a parlay bet.

How does the parlay bet win or lose?

A parlay bet wins if all selections win. A parlay loses if any selections lose.

What if a parlay selection ties or pushes?

Each individual selection that ties or pushes reduces the potential parlay payout by 1 selection. If 2 selections tie, the parlay payout is reduced by 2 selections.

What if a parlay is reduced to 1 selection?

If ties reduce the parlay to 1 selection, the bet pays out according to the remaining selection as a straight bet.

How much does a 4 selection parlay payout?

Payouts vary from sportsbook to sportsbook. A common winning 4 selection payout is 10 to 1.

How much does a 5 selection parlay payout?

Payouts vary from sportsbook to sportsbook. A common winning 5 selection payout is 20 to 1.

How to get true odds on a parlay bet?

Include a moneyline selection to force the sportsbook to calculate your payout using true odds. The actual payout will be closer to true odds than standard fixed payouts.

What is a Round Robin Parlay bet?

A Round Robin parlay expands a single parlay into sets of smaller parlay bets using all possible winning combinations. In other words, you’re betting multiple smaller parlays instead of one large one.

Which bets are prohibited from parlays?

Sportsbooks commonly prohibit futures bets, some prop bets, baseball 5 inning bets, and both sides of the same bet.

Can parlays include selections from different sports leagues?

Yes, your parlay can include selections from different sports leagues. Parlays frequently include both NFL and College Football selections.

Can I make money with parlay bets?

Not in the long run. It is difficult to consistently win parlay bets because every selection must be correct. Straight bets like point spreads, totals, and moneylines are more profitable and less risky.

Sports Betting Resources

  • How to Read Sports Betting Odds – Our helpful tutorial explains what the numbers mean for point spread, moneyline, total, and Asian Handicap bets.
  • Sports Betting Questions and Answers – Common sports betting questions and answers, a simple quick reference for beginners.
  • Sports Betting vs Casino Gambling – Learn how sportsbooks and casinos make money, and the important differences between each business model.
  • How to Read NFL Odds – Short and sweet guide to NFL point spreads, totals, and moneylines. We’ve got live example bets from upcoming NFL matchups.
  • Point Spread Bet – Understanding the point spread is key to betting on football and basketball. Learn how the point spread bet works with our tutorial video and text.
  • Over-Under Total Bet – Bet over or under the sportsbook’s line. We explain how to place this bet with easy examples, a video, and text explainer.
  • Moneyline Bet – Whether it’s a 2-way or 3-way moneyline, we’ve got you covered. Moneylines are available for almost every major sport league, including football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, tennis, and combat sports.
  • Teaser Bet – A teaser is a modified parlay that lets you buy points to shift point spread and total lines in your favor. Our fun tutorial video and detailed text article explain how to place this bet.
  • If Bet Win-Only – Sequence multiple bets together in an if-then sequence. Your next bet only sees action if the previous one wins. Ideal for bettors with small bankrolls.
  • Futures Bet – We explain what a futures bet is, how it works, and when to bet on a future sporting event. Common futures bets include the winners of the Super Bowl, Final Four, Stanley Cup, World Series, and NBA Finals.
  • Parlay Bet – Combine multiple selections into one bet that returns a huge payout if all your selections were correct. We explain how parlay bets work and provide common parlay payout tables.
  • Progressive Parlay Bet – Also known as a “Close Call Parlay”, this parlay variant can win even if one or more of selections lose. Our article describes this bet in detail.
  • Parlay Card Betting – Parlay cards are issued by major sportsbooks midweek, allowing bettors to make multiple point spread, total, and prop bet selections that can return big payouts. Not to be confused with an “off the board” parlay!
  • Prop Bets – We explain what a prop bet is, how to place a prop bet, and provide an expansive list of sports leagues with plenty of props to bet on right now.

References


en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parlay_(gambling)
healthfully.com/calculate-money-line-parlays-7707555.html
bettingtalk.com/forum/showthread.php/86310-Parlays-Pros-and-Cons
books.google.com/books?id=N-RMAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA429#v=onepage&q&f=false
lasvegasadvisor.com/question/sports-betting-history/