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A parlay is when you combine multiple selections into a single bet that wins only if each individual selection wins. In exchange for the increased difficulty, you receive a higher payout than you would if you bet each selection individually.
Parlays are available on almost all sports and you can typically combine markets from different sports and leagues as well as different types of sports bets such as spreads, totals, and props.
Our parlays guide goes over the details about how parlays work, how to place them, how to calculate odds and payouts on parlays, and strategies you can use to increase your chances of winning.
How Parlays Work
Parlays (sometimes called accumulators or combo bets) allow you to combine multiple bets in exchange for a higher payout. Parlays offer a higher payout because all of the selections (legs) must hit for the bet to be successful. Even if just one leg loses, the entire parlay loses.
Here are a few examples of parlays:
Example of an NFL Parlay
Here is an example of a 4-team NFL parlay from BetRivers Sportsbook:
Like the NFL parlay example, you win much more ($1,210) by parlaying the games together than you would if you bet $25 on each individually and won all of them ($90.25).
>> Free Tool: NBA Odds Calculator
Parlay Odds & Payouts
When you place a parlay bet, you get much better odds than you would by simply adding the winnings of each individual bet together.
This is because you need to win each leg of the parlay to win the entire bet.
The following table shows the standard payouts on parlays in which each leg has -110 odds as well as the true probability and fair odds if there were no “juice” or “vig” charged by the sportsbook:
# Parlay Legs
What Happens if a Leg Pushes in a Parlay?
When a single bet pushes, the rules are simple—your stake is returned to you. But what happens if one leg of a parlay pushes?
In such cases, the selection that is pushed is simply ignored and taken out of the parlay. If you made a 3-game parlay and one game got canceled or the bet pushed, the wager will be treated as a 2-game parlay. Consequently, the odds and the payout are lowered accordingly.
One thing to note here is that each sportsbook has its own rules regarding pushed bets. Some sportsbooks leave up to 48 hours for postponed games to be rescheduled, while others consider all bets involving that game a push. There also might be special rules in play for baseball games with changed pitcher lineups or teasers.
Check with your sportsbook to know what happens in the case of a push in a parlay for sure.
Is a Parlay a Good Bet?
There’s no doubt that parlays are fun and potentially very rewarding, but most experienced bettors will tell you to avoid them.
The reason for this is very evident—if one leg loses, the whole parlay loses, so winning a parlay is increasingly difficult with every added selection.
Think of it this way: even the sharpest bettors are satisfied if just 55% of their single bets turn out successful, assuming the standard -110 odds. Even if you hit 55% of single bets with -110 odds, you would only have a 30% chance of winning a 2-team parlay.
In addition, sportsbooks usually offer parlays with fixed odds, which are much lower than true odds, so the difference in implied probability and true odds of winning is greater compared to straight bets like spreads and totals. You can convert odds to probability with our calculator and learn more about how to calculate implied probability.
What the Data Says on Parlays
The stats gathered from sportsbooks over the years confirm that parlays are typically sucker bets. For instance, Vegas sportsbooks recorded an average hold of around 30% on parlays between 1984 and 2015, while all major sports individually had a hold lower than 5%.
Nevertheless, there are instances where parlays might not be such a bad option. For example, you’ll only get fixed odds on parlays if all of your selections come with -110 odds. If only one of your selections has the odds longer or shorter than -110, you will force the sportsbook to calculate your payout using true odds.
Another way you can make parlays work in your favor is by using various sportsbook promotions, like free bets. Some sportsbooks will also offer odds boosts on parlaying certain events, which reduces the juice you’re charged.
Strategies for Betting Parlays – How to Build a Winning Parlay System
Over the years, many people have come up with strategies for betting parlays, although they rarely prove successful in the long run.
While building a winning parlay system is basically an impossible task, there are ways in which you can at least lower the risk associated with making these bets.
That said, here are a few tips when it comes to betting parlays:
1) Taking Advantage of Intro Promos and Free Bets
Almost every sportsbook offers promotions for their new customers. These promotions can come in the form of risk-free bets, deposit matches, or free bets, basically allowing you to extend your bankroll after completing the initial deposit.
While these promos consider certain rules like minimum odds and rollover requirements, they can also shift the odds in your favor, as you will basically be betting with free money. In turn, this makes them ideal for betting parlays.
When it comes to free bets, the longer the odds of the bet, the higher your expected value.
For example, if you assume the book charges no juice for simplicity, a $100 free bet on a spread with +100 odds, gives an expected value of $50 (50% of the time you’ll win $100 and 50% of the time you’ll win $0).
If you took that $100 free bet and put it on a parlay with +400 odds, alternatively, your expected value is $80 (20% of the time you’ll win $400 and 80% of the time you’ll win $0).
2) Don’t Forget About the Options of Hedging Your Bet or Cashing Out Early
If you won on all of your legs and only one remains, you have three options—waiting for the last leg to play out and go for the full payout, cashing out early for a partial payout, or hedging the last bet to guarantee yourself a profit no matter how the last leg plays out.
While the first option promises a larger payout, it also comes with greater risk. Depending how you feel about the last game, cashing out early for a reduced payout or hedging your bet may make sense.
If you need some assistance in making the hedge bet, use our free hedge bet calculator that can show you the ideal amount you should bet to guarantee yourself some profit. It’s worth comparing this guaranteed profit to what the book is offering you as a live cashout to see which is a better option.
3) Shop for the Best Odds and Lines
You can apply this tip for all kinds of bets, but it’s especially beneficial when betting parlays. If you use multiple sportsbooks, compare them to find the one that offers the best odds (and lines, if applicable) on your selections.
4) Resist Including Too Many Legs
With each leg you put on your parlay, the odds and payouts increase, and it can be very tempting to put a few additional selections than you originally planned to increase the profits. Sportsbooks know this all too well, which is why they’ll typically allow unlimited legs on parlays.
However, chasing astronomical payouts on parlays by including many legs comes with astronomically low chances of success. Always try to be moderate and place only a few selections that you feel confident will win.
How to Place a Parlay
Placing a parlay on a betting website is quite simple. All you need to do is browse through games and markets and click on the ones you plan on putting on your parlay, and the betslip will automatically update with the current odds and payout of your parlay.
How to Place a Parlay on FanDuel Sportsbook
- Log in to your FanDuel account using the desktop site or app.
- Browse through the list of sports to find your desired selections.
- Click on the market you wish to bet on, and every additional market you select will be added to the bet slip.
- After you’ve finished, you’ll find all your selections listed in the betslip at the bottom center of the mobile app or on the right-hand side of the website.
- From here, you just need to input your stake amount in the Wager box and click/tap Place Bet to confirm the transaction.
How to Place a Parlay on DraftKings Sportsbook
- Log in to your DraftKings account using the desktop site or an app.
- Navigate to your desired sports and markets.
- Click on two or more markets to make a parlay.
- At the bottom of the betslip, you’ll see an option to parlay your selections along with the current odds.
- Enter in your stake and hit the Place Bet button.
>> Read More: Types of Sports Bets