In sports betting, a wager bet is when a bettor makes two or more bets and ties them together into a single bet. A parlay bet can contain two individual bets, or many more. Depending on the bookmaker or region, they may also be referred to as ‘accumulators’ or ‘multis’.
The disadvantage of a parlay bet is that if one of the bets loses, the whole bet is lost. This makes Parlay bets very difficult to win, especially if they are made up of many individual bets. The advantage is that if all the individual bets win, the bettor can get a bigger payout.
“Speak [bets] are popular because everyone dreams of turning a little money into a big payday,” says Steven Petrella, associate editor of The Action Network. “Sportsbooks love to promote the big parlay winners on Twitter and Instagram, but they don’t post the thousands of losing parlay tickets,” he adds. And as Petrella says, as long as “bettors aren’t betting to make money, side betting can be entertaining: there’s no doubt that the potential to turn $10 into $500 is entertaining.”
Key points to remember
- In sports betting, a bet bet is when a bettor makes two or more bets and ties them together
in a single bet. A parlay bet can contain two individual bets, or many more.
- The disadvantage of a parlay bet is that if one of the bets in the parlay loses, the entire bet is lost.
- Parlay betting is very risky and should not be used as a long term betting strategy if you are looking to generate returns on your money.
What is a parlay bet?
A parlay bet can be defined quite simply. It is a bet made up of a number of smaller bets. A parlay is a way of linking bets together so that they are treated as one big bet.
You must win every smaller bet to win the parlay bet. If you only lose one of the smaller bets, the whole parlay is lost. On the other hand, a bookmaker will give you bigger and bigger payouts to add more games to your parlay, and if you win, you can win big. But linking your bets together in this way also makes it much more likely that you will lose.
Parlay bet example
Let’s say a bettor wants to bet $100 on a three team bet with Angels +150, Mariners +100 and Detroit Tigers +203. If all three teams win, the $100 bet pays out $1,515.
Here is a simple example. If you think the Packers (+4) and Ravens (-6) will cover their spreads on an NFL Sunday, you can take $10 and bet on those teams individually ($5 each). If you are correct and win both bets, you will win almost $19. However, you can also bet these bets together. In this case, your risk is higher, but your return will also be higher if you earn both.
How much higher? About 2.65 times your stake. The possible results would be:
- Both teams cover: Victory ($26.50)
- Packers cover, Ravens don’t: Loss (-$10)
- The Ravens cover, not the Packers: Defeat (-$10)
- Both teams do not cover: Loss (-10$)
As you can see, this increases your risk, as you need to win both bets for the parlay to pay off. But you can also double your winnings by making two individual bets.
This is a simple example. Parlays can be much more complicated than that and can also consist of many more individual bets. You could bet on five teams covering their spread, for example, instead of just two. In this case, if only one team does not cover their spread, you will lose the whole bet. If the five were covered, however, the payout would be very high: around +2335 (i.e. a payout of $230.35 on a $10 bet).
How to make a parlay bet
There are many ways to make a parlay bet. Any online or in-person bookmaker will allow you to place this type of bet and calculate the odds for you. In casinos, another popular option is to use a parlay card. You use this card to choose your teams and totals, then give it to the ticket submitter in the bookie, along with the money you will bet. A similar concept has recently started appearing on mobile betting platforms.
Casual bettors should beware of parlay bets. Although these bets can promise huge payouts, they are very risky and not a strategy for long-term betting success.
Parlay Payout Calculation
Calculating Parlay betting odds can be tricky, in part because of the way odds are expressed in sports betting in the United States. Any sportsbook will calculate your potential winnings from a parlay, and this is often the easiest way to do it.
However, it is possible to calculate your payment yourself. Here’s how:
- Convert US Odds to Decimal Odds
- Multiply all decimal odds together
- Multiply the result by the amount of your bet
- Subtract your initial stake to get the betting odds
Let’s take an example. Let’s say you bet on three-point spreads, and each is at -110. First, convert these odds to decimal, which is 1.91. Then multiply them together:
1.91 × 1.91 × 1.91 = 6.97
Then multiply that by your bet amount. Let’s say you bet $10:
6.97 × 10 = 69.7
Then subtract the amount of your original bet:
69.7 – 10 = 59.7
This means that this bet pays $59.70 for every $10 bet. In American odds, it’s +597, meaning this bet pays almost 6-1. That’s a great payout, but remember you need to win all three bets to see any payout.
There are faster ways to determine parlay chances. There is a simple rule for -110 bets, for example. A double bet pays around 2.6 to 1 and a treble bet pays around 6 to 1. From there, the odds roughly double for every -110 bet added to the bet.
There is a simple rule for calculating odds for bets consisting of -110 bets. A double bet pays around 2.6 to 1 and a treble bet pays around 6 to 1. From there, the odds roughly double for every -110 bet added to the bet.
Should you bet Parlays?
It really depends on what you are trying to achieve through sports betting. But if you’re looking to make money, the answer is no.
This is because bettors are much less likely to win parlay bets than individual bets. In other words, sports betting makes more money with side bets than with individual bets. A research study by the UNLV Center for Gaming showed that, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s gaming revenue reports, from 1992 to 2015, sports betting in Nevada had nearly 30% participation. In comparison, all other major sports hold an average of less than 5%.
The reason is quite simple. Odds on individual bets are calculated to be approximately equal and to generate a small profit for the bookmaker. This gives you around a 50% chance of making a profit even if you take standard bets. But if you group more and more bets into the same bet, you are playing directly into the hands of sports betting taking more risks and limiting your chances of winning.
As Petrella of The Action Network points out, “the calculations also confirm this. The true probability of winning four NFL point spreads put together is around +1500,” he says, “but the bookmaker is only offering +1200.
You might win a big bet once in a while, but you’ll probably need dozens and dozens of losses before you finally cash out big. It is also important to note that if you go 4-1 with a five-team bet, you lose the entire bet. However, if you bet these five teams individually, you would have profited almost three or more units depending on the price.
There are, however, other reasons to bet on bets. The first is that they can be really fun. If you bet small amounts on 10 team bets, you are very unlikely to win. But if by chance you predict
10 games correctly, you could win big. It’s the same logic that drives the popularity of the lottery and informal sports pools, and as long as you can afford your losses, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming big. Don’t expect to make money in the long run.
How does a parlay bet work?
A bet in sports betting is when a bettor makes multiple bets (at least two) and ties them together in the same bet. If one of the bets in the bet loses, the entire bet loses. However, if all bets are winners, the bettor gets a bigger payout.
What happens to my Parlay bet in a canceled game?
Most of the time, canceled games just come out of the parlay, and it goes from a three-game parlay (for example) to a two-game parlay. You should consult your sports betting rules for details on how they handle various situations relating to various bets.
Why should I avoid Parlays?
Most sources will tell you that betting is a bad way to bet on sports, at least in terms of long-term expected value. Indeed, for a parlay to have a positive expected value (+EV), all or almost all of the bets in the parlay must have a positive expected value. In other words, you are more likely to lose money on a side bet than on individual bets.
Parlay bets consist of two or more bets. They are a way to combine individual bets into one. Parlay bets are much harder to win than regular bets and can therefore offer much bigger payouts. However, this is not a good strategy if you are looking to make money over the long term.
This does not mean that everyone should avoid side bets. As with any form of sports betting, says David Forman, Senior Director of Research at the American Gambling Association, parlay betting can “be
enjoyed purely for fun, not as an opportunity to earn money.