Updated September 17, 2023
BY Lines

Parlay Sports Bets: What You Need to Know

With sports betting becoming legalized across the United States, it's time for new or novice gamblers to learn the ropes of this increasingly popular hobby.  

One sports betting term that you may have heard about is parlay bets

A parlay combines two or more bets that must all be won for the bet to pay off. It's a risky, but lucrative wager that has taken over social media. 

As a form of gambling, they are risky, but they do allow gamblers to win big money for a low wager. 

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To find out more about this kind of wager and whether it is a type of gambling that is for you, check out our parlay betting breakdown now. 

What is a parlay bet?

What is a parlay bet

Parlays have different names depending on where you're located. A parlay is sometimes called "accumulators" or "multis." 

Thankfully, no matter what the moniker of this type of bet is, it is a form of gambling that has a relatively easy-to-grasp concept. 

What is Hedging in sports betting?

Parlays combine several different wagers into one bigger bet. To win, every bet (or leg) has to win. If even one bet fails, then the entire bet is a loss. 

To bring in returns, every bet (or ‘leg’ as they are sometimes known) has to win. If any of them fall, then you lose.  

Here's an example... 

Let’s say your favorite sportsbook has the New York Giants beat the Buffalo Bills at a price of -110. You could simply place a bet of $10 and, if the Giants win, then you can collect your $9.09 winnings.

However, there is a way to make more from this. You can do that by combining the moneyline bet for the Giants with other wagers. 

Let’s pretend that both teams have high-powered offenses, which is great news for you because you have backed the ‘over’ on the spread. 

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Let us say this is also a price of -110. 

Of course, you could have put another $10 on this and when it hits, you'd win another $9.09 in winnings. 

That’s an OK return and we are sure those two winning singles would leave a smile on most bettors’ faces. 

But as we alluded to, that is not the best possible scenario. 

That is because doing a parlay on those two bets would pocket $26.45 in winnings,  opposed to just over $18 from the two single bets. 

Not only that, with the two single bets, your initial outlay would be $20, whereas with the parlay, it is just $10. 

The reason for the parlay garnering more is that the winnings from the first leg of your $10 bet are carried over and they are placed on the second leg (these are also sometimes known as moneylines) of the bet. 

Now, before you hop on the bandwagon and throw all your disposable income on these types of bets, please read on, because it isn’t quite that simple all of the time. 

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How does a parlay bet work and payout?

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To win

A parlay bet works by carrying over your winnings from one leg of the bet and placing it on the next leg.

For the above example, both wagers came to their conclusion at the same time and were both the same price. 

Thus, it’s easy to explain: the first leg would have gained you $19.09 (including your initial wager). 

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This amount then went on the second leg, which resulted in a return of $17.35. If you add these up, the parlay returns ($19.09 + $7.35), you get $26.44 and if you take away the original stake, you will see that there is a profit of $16.44 for the bettor in this fictional scenario. 

We deliberately used just $10 here, as it makes it easier to work out the maths involved. 

Essentially, if you are adding two -110 bets to a parlay, it pays out about 2.6. 

Adding a third leg will pay at the same price will pay about 6-to-1 and from there on, every gamble added will multiply the odds. 

As you can see, the key to making money from this type of wager is to find as many suitable bets to add to the bet. That being said, with every extra bet, more risk is added and it becomes less likely your wager will be a winner. 

How to understand betting odds

3-Leg vs 4-Leg parlay bet

We have covered the two-leg wager, so now we are going to get into the slightly more complicated three and four-legged gambles. 

These bets are useful if you fancy a bunch of favorites on any given game day. Every extra bet adds an extra boost to your odds, but also, an extra level of risk. 

Let’s look at a real-life three-leg example from week seven in this season’s NFL. 

  • New Orleans Saints to defeat the Seattle Seahawks at a price of -225.
  • Cleveland Browns to defeat the Denver Broncos at a price of -133.
  • Green Bay Packers to defeat the Washington Football Team at a price of -400.

Thankfully for anyone who actually did put on that parlay, each one of those bets were winners. 

As an example of a potential return, we will lay out the following scenario: If you were to put on a $100 wager on the above, you would get $216.31 back into your pocket. That is a profit of $116.31. 

It goes without saying, but a parlay in this instance will give you far more than any of the individual wagers would. 

Moneyline betting explained by Lines

To break it down even further, in this bet you are getting odds at around +116 from a bunch of heavy favorites here. 

As we were previously saying, you can increase these odds substantially by adding in an extra leg too. For instance, let’s look back at week 7 and add the following: 

Atlanta Falcons to defeat the Miami Dolphins at a price of -133.

If you placed that into the parlay, the Falcons two-point win would bring in $454.14 from your $100 bet. 

That extra leg transforms your parlay’s odds from +116 to +354. If there is a lesson in this, it is that extra legs equal bigger odds in parlays, but those odds are bigger for a reason. 

As obvious as it may be, it is still worth repeating; every time you add a leg to a parlay, your potential winnings become bigger, but your chances of that accumulator becoming a winner are greatly reduced. 

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The Pros of parlay sports betting

It is an obvious point, but one of the key upsides of parlays is that they are a way to get value from a betting favorite. 

It is also a way to potentially win big while not placing huge wagers. In short, they give a chance to win big while still betting small amounts. That being said, that chance is very often not a likely one.  

Despite the chances of winning being lower, these remain a popular choice of bet. In essence, they work the same way as a lottery does: in that, you are betting on a certain number of numbers (or scenarios) turning out the way you predict that they will. 

Parlay’s can be great fun and a great way to get more from that small bet, but if they are not done with research and a certain level of intelligence, then they are unlikely to pay off. 

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The Cons of parlay sports betting 

The downside of parlay betting is that it is harder to get a winner from these types of bets. That is simply because you are relying on more results to go your way. 

If you look at the revenue of any sportsbook, you will see that these types of wagers represent a huge percentage of their generated income. That is a key indicator that the gambler is not the one coming out on top the majority of the time with this type of wager. 

Of course, when you place a parlay bet, you can win more money, but it also generates more ways for your bet to become a losing one. 

Read this complete guide about fractional odds.

Teaser Bets vs Parlays

Teaser Bets vs Parlay Bets

Teaser bets are like parlay bets, but they don’t allow moneyline wagers.

If you are placing a teaser bet, you can move the spread, or total plus or minus. It can be easier to win these types of bets because you can adjust these elements. 

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Each leg of a teaser bet must be the same number of points, but they can be plus or minus. 

For instance, you can back the Patriots at -1 instead of the -7 that’s on offer by the sportsbook.

Then, as part of the teaser, you can tease the Jaguars from +4 to +10. This works, because you are moving both bets in the teaser by six points. 

Because you are placing a multi-bet, you will get better odds than the single bet equivalent.

Each individual sportsbook has its own rules and regulations in regards to these types of wagers. 

Moneyline vs Parlay

A moneyline is that classic bet, where you simply pick a team to win and place a wager on them.

It is a much easier wager to win than a parlay bet. That is because with one you are relying on a single result to go your way, whereas, with the other, you are relying on several.  

Parlay bets can incorporate as many moneyline bets as you would like, but if any of them don’t go your way, the entire bet is lost. 

Parlay Betting Tips for the beginners

A parlay bet is a great way to incorporate several different short-priced favorites into a bet that actually gives you value. 

There are many bettors who swear by a type of wager called ‘a correlated parlay’. This is the type of multi-level parlay bet where one leg succeeding makes another leg of the bet more likely to happen. 

For instance, if you are betting on the over for the first half, it makes sense that the over for the entire game is much more likely to come true. 

What is allowed in this instance varies from sportsbook to sportsbook, however, "same-game parlays" (SGPs) have become much more popular in recent times. 

However, the payouts for these types of parlay bets can often be diminished on the back of their predictability, so ensure you check the potential payout before you place your bet. 

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Parlay Bet FAQ

The concept of the parlay isn’t an overly difficult one to grasp. 

That being said, having an easy go-to FAQ to recap all of the important points is a useful resource. That is especially true if you are planning on bankrolling some of these wagers in the near future. 

How does a parlay bet work?

They are a multi-level bet where the winnings from each leg carry over onto the next leg. They offer you an opportunity to combine short-priced favorites to get larger odds, with the winner of each wager combining to create a gamble with a potentially high return. However, if one of your bets is a loser, then you win nothing. 

Generally speaking, it is riskier than traditional moneyline bets and sportsbooks make a large portion of their revenue through unsuccessful speculative accumulators. 

What does a $100 3-team parlay pay?

This is like that age-old question, "how long is a piece of string?" Of course, the answer is that “it depends."

As with all bets, the higher the odds, the higher the potential pay out. But also, the higher the risk. 

That being said, we will run an example, so you can have a reference point for the above question. 

A three-bet parlay where all three legs are priced at -110 will pay a $495.79 profit from a $100 bet. 

What does a $100 4-team parlay pay?

It still depends, but if you are adding a little bit more string to the above bet with another -110 odds wager, then you will return a profit of $1128.33. 

Taking the risk of adding extra moneylines to the wager can actually be worth it when you have a winner. 

However, it should be noted that your chances of winning substantially diminish for every leg you add to a parlay.  

Should I bet on parlay?

Well, that really depends on what your aim is. 

If your goal is a potentially big win while betting a small amount, then go for it. However, you should also note that these bets don’t come in as winners as often as single moneyline bets do. 

That’s just the nature of parlays and it may seem obvious, but it is still a point worth thinking about. 

Parlays are exciting, but they are also risky and you should know that you are taking a big chance before you proceed with this type of wager. 

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