What Is A Parlay Bet In Sports Betting?

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Parlay betting is one of the most common ways to bet on sports and is particularly popular among recreational bettors. You might have questions regarding precisely what parlays entail. For instance, what exactly is a parlay? Or you might be wondering about how parlays work, how to win a parlay bet, the different types of parlays, the best sportsbooks for parlay betting and more. Well, don’t worry as we’ll answer all of these questions and more. In this guide, we will detail everything you need to know about parlay betting.

Parlay Bets Explained

The number one question is, of course, what is a parlay? For a basic parlay definition, this bet type simply pairs multiple individual selections into one wager. When doing this, all of your betting selections must win for your bet to win. If you lose even one of the selections, you lose your wager.

You can pair as few as two selections into one parlay and add as many as 10-15, yet this depends on the sportsbook. As you add more selections, your payout will be greater. However, it becomes increasingly difficult to win your bet. This is why parlay bets are popular among recreational bettors looking to increase the action for limited investment.

How do parlays work?

Now that we have established a parlay’s meaning, let’s understand how parlays work. You can combine as few as two and generally up to at least 10 into a parlay, depending on the sportsbook. These can involve multiple sports and bet types. Most reputable sportsbooks offer same-game parlays, yet there will be restrictions on what selections from the same game are allowed.

As you add more and more selections you will stand to win increasingly more if all the selections win. Since betting on single outcomes can result in reasonably low payouts, parlays become an excellent way to bet a little with a chance to win a lot.

How to win a parlay bet

The name of the game in all betting is to try to emerge victorious and win money. When parlay betting, you will wonder how to win, especially since the more options you pair, the more difficult it can be. Let’s take a look at some top tips for winning your parlay bets.

Don’t pair too many selections together

The most fundamental advice on betting parlays effectively is not to play parlays with too many selections. Staying to two or three-team parlay bets is generally best, and certainly sticking to no more than four or five unless mainly playing for fun. There is a reason that the payouts are so large the more you add to your parlay, as the odds are genuinely astronomical that all of them will win.

Even if you were to cash well over half of your parlay wagers were you to place them as individual bets, you would still lose most of your parlay wagers given the likelihood of one leg not cashing. At the bare minimum, it is a good idea to back up your parlays with individual bets to avoid this fate.

Play same game parlays

While some sportsbooks do not offer same game parlays, most reputable sportsbooks — such as those we recommend — allow them in specific instances. Some selections are considered too correlative to allow at the discretion of the sportsbook, which can be a hindrance. But it is wise to look for any correlative same-game bets you can find. An example would be placing a parlay bet of the over and a team to win in an instance where you believe they are more likely to emerge victorious in a high-scoring affair.

Find the best odds and promotions

Since parlay betting is automatically a risky proposition, you will undoubtedly want to shop at different sportsbooks to find the best odds. For example, say one sportsbook has the three selections you want to parlay together at -110 each. If you win a $100 bet, it will pay out $595.79. Let’s say another sportsbook has the three selections at-105 each, the same parlay now pays out $644.21. This may not seem like the biggest deal, but particularly in the often tricky world of parlay betting, every bit counts.

Another critical consideration is to try to take advantage of any parlay promotions. Parlay insurance is a common ongoing promotion at top sportsbooks such as those we recommend. This will generally entail a sportsbook giving your money back up to a particular threshold on multi-leg parlay bets (often five or more) if one selection loses. Using these promotions whenever available is a crucial way to increase your return on investment (ROI).

Bankroll management

As it can be hard to succeed in parlay betting, it is essential to consider how you manage your bankroll. For one, it is always wise in any betting not to wager more than you can afford, and this is all the more true with parlay bets. On top of that, since the odds are long on many parlays, you stand to lose often. Keeping your bets consistent and within what you can afford to risk is essential.

How do parlay odds work?

In its simplest form, parlay odds can be explained by simply stating that the more selections you add, the more you win. Yet it is best to get into the specifics. The more legs added to a parlay, the more the odds increase drastically as parlays become larger and larger. Please see the below table for the odds, true odds and parlay payouts based on anywhere from two to 10 team parlays.

Number of selections Odds True Odds Payout on a $100 bet
2-Team Parlay 13/5 3/1 $360
3-Team Parlay 6/1 7/1 $700
4-Team Parlay 11/1 15/1 $1,200
5-Team Parlay 22/1 31/1 $2,300
6-Team Parlay 45/1 63/1 $4,600
7-Team Parlay 90/1 127/1 $9,100
8-Team Parlay 180/1 255/1 $18,000
9-Team Parlay 360/1 511/1 $36,000
10-Team Parlay 720/1 1023/1 $72,000

One key takeaway is that the true odds are significantly longer on all of these bets than the odds at which you are paid. This illustrates that not only are you betting on more and more unlikely events as you add legs to a parlay, but you are not even getting paid at an equivalent rate with how unlikely they are.

What are round robin parlays?

Round robin parlays enable you to take a more extensive selection of bets and pair them into multiple smaller parlays. A simple example would be that you have three teams you would like to bet on, and a round robin pairs them into three individual parlays of all three possible combinations.

You can also create larger round robins the more overall selections you would like to add. This is a common way to bet on an NFL Sunday, where you may have a variety of wagers you would like to make, but you want to parlay them in multiple ways rather than live or die by one large parlay.

What are teasers?

Teasers are a type of parlay that is much easier to win than a traditional parlay. Still, with the limited risk also comes less reward. When betting a teaser, you “tease” the lines on multiple parlay selections in your favor by a considerable margin. Let’s use the example of an NFL contest between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Suppose the Eagles are -4.5 favorites, while the Giants are +4.5 underdogs. There are different teasers, but a common type would be a six-point NFL teaser. Were you to bet the Eagles as part of this type of teaser, they would become +1.5 underdogs since you are adding six to the line, whereas the Giants would become +10.5 underdogs. You now have a significantly higher chance of winning these bets.

Still, you must add many selections to a teaser card to win much on your investment. Let’s look at a table showing the payouts on six-game teasers based on the betting selections added.

3-Team Teaser 9/5
4-Team Teaser 3/1
5-Team Teaser 5/1
6-Team Teaser 7/1
7-Team Teaser 10/1
8-Team Teaser 15/1
9-Team Teaser 20/1
10-Team Teaser 25/1
11-Team Teaser 35/1
12-Team Teaser 50/1

How to bet a parlay 

It is straightforward to bet a parlay. Simply log into any of the top sportsbooks we recommend via your computer or mobile device. Select a sport of choice, find a game you want to bet on and select a bet. You can also choose futures, props or any type of single selection to add to a parlay.

Once it is added to your bet slip, you can add an additional bet. Upon two or more selections being populated, the bet slip will show the option to bet them as a parlay. You can continue to add more and more, and upon adding an amount you would like to wager, the bet slip will show you what you would stand to win.

Were you to want to bet a parlay at a physical sportsbook location, the process is similar. Just head to the betting window and tell the ticket writer which selections you would like to parlay and how much you would like to bet. They will hand you a betting ticket showing you your selections, what you have bet and what you will stand to win. Some retail sportsbooks will also offer parlay cards that you can fill out and give to the ticket writer.

There are also some instances where retail locations use betting kiosks rather than or in addition to a betting window. In this case, follow the prompts on the screen to populate your bet slip with your parlay selections and submit them when you are happy with the inputs.

Best sportsbook for parlay bets

While our top recommended sportsbooks have excellent parlay betting options, FanDuel Sportsbook is among the best. Not only are the variety of sports and bet types available as good as it gets, but the parlay builder is among the most intuitive in the industry. 

Not to mention, same game parlays are allowed with a broader selection of options than many other sportsbooks permit. Plus, parlay insurance offers are frequent, and the odds on most bets are among the most generous. As mentioned, taking advantage of parlay insurance as often as possible and finding the best odds are crucial ways to boost your ROI.

Best sports for parlay betting

NFL parlay betting

The NFL is an inherently popular sport for parlay betting since it is the most popular sport in the US, and on top of that, most games occur once a week on Sundays. This means it’s an excellent opportunity to pair a wide selection of your picks into parlays for added enjoyment of the games. With just a little investment, you can come out way ahead.

NBA parlay betting

NBA parlay betting is the second most popular in the US market. Several games occur just about every day in the NBA over a long season, meaning tons of opportunities for parlay betting. Prop betting can be particularly lucrative in the NBA, meaning that building parlays out of a selection of props can be a strong strategy.

MLB parlay betting

The MLB is another sport featuring several daily games over a long 162-game season. Therefore, it is an excellent sport for parlay betting. Like in the NBA, MLB props can be pretty lucrative and parlaying props together increases the odds and potential payouts. Examples of MLB props include over/unders on starting pitchers’ strikeout totals or props like whether a hitter will hit a home run in a game.

NHL parlay betting

Though the NHL is not as popular in the US as some other essential team sports, hockey fans are ravenous about the game. It is a daily affair featuring a good selection of betting options most every day throughout an extensive season. Parlaying together multiple bets on the puck line or money line is an excellent way to enjoy hockey with a chance to turn a small investment into a lot.


Luke Lindholm

Managing Editor for US Media Partnerships

Writer for Pickswise. Luke was born in PA but raised in MA and has been writing about major sports for 2 years. He plays soccer and basketball with a love for the EPL, NBA, NFL and NCAAF. Nothing runs faster than home dogs and betting the under is an act of maturity. Luke is a Liverpool and Patriots fan for life, YNWA

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