Sports Betting: How Parlays Work
By Loot, Sports Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
In a normal, straight bet, we take one team. In a parlay, however, we take multiple teams and put them on the same bet. If we win all of them, we stand to pocket a robust profit. That is the allure of the parlay. While exponentially more difficult to win than a straight bet, the appeal of cashing in big makes it one of the more popular bets.
There are many types of parlays, but they fall into two major groupings--the point-spread parlay and the money line parlay. Let’s start with the parlays that involve point-spreads. The two main sports that use point-spreads are football and basketball. Both sides of the bet pay the same, but there is a point-spread. Here is how you would make a parlay. You see a few games you like and you put them both on a parlay. Here are your teams:
Pittsburgh Steelers -5
Oakland Raiders +4
You make a two team parlay on Pittsburgh and Oakland. If Pittsburgh and Oakland cover the spread, you win the parlay. A 2-team parlay generally pays 2.6/1. So if you made a $10 parlay on Pittsburgh and Oakland, you would win $26 if both of them covered. Of course, you would also get your bet amount returned if you won. If either Pittsburgh or Oakland didn’t cover the spread, the whole bet is a loss. If one of them wins and the other is a tie, the 2-team parlay would reduce to a straight bet. That applies to parlays regardless of how many teams you put on your parlay.
Tip: Not all parlay odds are the same! You can get increased parlay odds/payouts by opting for the "Super Saver Bonus" when you sign up at Sportbet Sportsbook.
The above example is an entry-level parlay. You can make parlays with a lot more teams than 2 if you want. You can also put totals on the parlay--over/under bets on the score of the game. Depending on the book, you might be able to parlay spreads and totals for quarters and halves, as well. Let’s look at an example for a more elaborate parlay. You want to make a 5-team parlay and here is what you include:
Charlotte Hornets +8.5
Toronto Raptors +9
Golden State Warriors -3.5
New York Knicks vs. Indiana Pacers (Over 189)
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Memphis Grizzlies (Under 187.5)
Here is a 5-team NBA parlay, including 3 sides and 2 totals. Again, you have no margin for error. The worst you can do in a given game is tie, in which case it gets reduced to a 4-team parlay. If any of these propositions lose, the parlay is a total loss. A 5-team parlay generally pays 20/1. Let’s say you make a $100 parlay and all 5 legs of your parlay win. You would pocket a nifty $2000. Keep in mind, however, that the payouts for the two parlay examples above are standard winnings at most books. With a little research, however, you can secure even higher payouts--sometimes significantly more. Here is the industry-standard payouts for parlays:
2-Team Parlay: 2.6 to 1
3-Team Parlay: 6 to 1
4-Team Parlay: 10 to 1
5-Team Parlay: 20 to 1
6-Team Parlay: 40 to 1
7-Team Parlay: 75 to 1
8-Team Parlay: 150 to 1
9-Team Parlay: 300 to 1
10-Team Parlay: 700 to 1
You might be asking “What about parlays in baseball, MMA and boxing?” You can parlay in those sports too! It’s just that there is no point-spread in those sports, so you will be making a money line parlay. Just for the record, football and basketball also have money lines available, where you can just pick the winner and not have to worry about the spread. You can make money line parlays on basically any sport.
In baseball, MMA, and boxing, you will be parlaying money lines, which is actually considered a higher-value wager. In football and hoops parlays against-the-spread, you are paid out according to a preset schedule that is a little on the heavy side when it comes to juice. In other words, the payout is not a true reflection of the actual probabilities. On a money line parlay, your winnings are based on the odds of what you bet. Let’s say you make a baseball parlay. You like these 3 teams:
Texas Rangers -180
San Diego Padres +140
Oakland A’s +110
A 3-team parlay in football or basketball, for example, would pay 6/1. But the teams are all the same price because point-spreads are applied. In this parlay, the odds for each team is different. You would compute this bet by taking your bet amount and putting it on the first team. Figure out how much you would collect (bet and winnings) and then just put it on the second team and keep doing that with all the teams in the parlay. It’s congruent with the actual odds. In the above example, a $100 parlay would pay $684 in winnings.
In addition to standard parlays, there are some other spin-offs. A round-robin parlay is where you pick a group of teams and specify how many teams you want your parlays to have. Then every possible combination is created. If you were to pick 5 teams and make all the possible 2-team parlays you could, there would be 10 different ones. Then you have progressive parlays, where you get a little less return if you’re perfect, but you can still win if you get one wrong or even two wrong on a parlay of 7 or more teams. And there are more.
Parlays are generally very unforgiving. It takes one misstep to render the whole thing moot. At the same time, parlays are the big guns you have at your disposal in the event that you are on a hot streak. If you incorporate them into your betting portfolio, do so with care. Don’t make most of your bets parlay wagers. And when you do bet these, try to make the majority of them money line parlays.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to check out our Loot's piece on how teasers work.