A parlay bet is the most low-risk, high-reward form of sports betting.
The goal of every bettor is to turn a profit on their bets – the larger the profit from a small wager the better. The most common way to achieve that dream scenario is to place a parlay bet.
In this guide on how to bet a parlay, we will go over what a parlay bet is, what bettors need to think about before placing one, and whether they are worth adding to a bettor’s repertoire.
A parlay in sports betting is a wager that consists of multiple selections on the same ticket. Instead of a single bet, where a bettor wagers on one outcome and receives a payout if it wins, parlays require bettors to predict multiple outcomes from multiple games or within the same game. All those outcomes have to come true in order for a parlay bet to win, as even one loss within a parlay ticket causes the entire parlay to be graded as a loss.
There is a risk-reward spectrum to parlay bets because every pick has to win for a parlay to cash.
The more outcomes that need to come true on a parlay, the larger the payout is for that ticket. But the more outcomes that need to come true, the higher the likelihood that at least one of them loses, as bettors need to find a balance between seeking a big payout and losing by getting too adventurous.
When it comes to how to bet a parlay at a sportsbook like DraftKings, bookmakers have made things incredibly easy for players. All bettors must do is log into their account and begin selecting the betting markets that they want to include in their parlay. These can include anything from standard betting markets like point spreads and totals to futures and prop bets, depending on what a sportsbook allows bettors to combine.
The odds for parlay bets vary wildly because they depend on two factors:
The more legs and longer the odds for each leg, the bigger the potential payout will be for each parlay.
Parlay bet odds are higher than the odds for most single wagers.
In a single bet, bettors only need one pick to be correct in order to cash their ticket. With parlays, bettors need at least two picks to be correct to cash their bet, and the odds are adjusted accordingly to reflect the extra risk taken.
To calculate parlay bet odds, bettors must first convert the odds of all their parlay picks from American to decimal odds.
American odds are the positive and negative numbers bettors are accustomed to seeing at sportsbooks, while decimal odds are shown in a format with a whole number followed by a decimal, such as 1.91. To convert from American odds to decimal odds, use this formula for plus prices:
For negative odds, this formula would be the one to use:
Once the odds for the parlay selections have been converted from American to decimal, bettors can then multiply all the decimal odds together and multiply that number by the amount they are risking on the parlay. Then subtract out the amount they are risking on the parlay, which will give you the odds for the parlay bet.
In this example of a how to parlay bet, we talk about what a parlay bet is in football.
For the purposes of this example, let’s say that there are two NFL games going on: Team A vs. Team B and Team C vs. Team D.
Both games are lined as a pick ‘em, meaning that both sides are at -110 odds to win.
In our parlay bet, we will take Team A to defeat Team B at -110 odds, and Team C to defeat Team D at -110 odds.
To calculate our potential payout, we will convert each leg’s moneyline parlay odds from American to decimal using the formula listed above. Doing so at -110 odds for both teams would mean decimal odds of 1.91.
Multiplying our decimal odds by our hypothetical stake amount of $100 and subtracting out our $100 stake yields parlay odds of +264.
That would mean that a $100 bet on this two-leg parlay would pay out a profit of $264 if both picks were to win.
A round robin parlay is a variation on parlay betting, where bettors select a number of bets, and a number of smaller parlays generated from those selections.
How many smaller parlays can be formed in a round robin depends on how many picks a bettor makes. Three picks would yield three parlays consisting of two legs each, while there is the potential for thousands of parlay combinations when a bettor chooses more options.
The key difference between a round robin and a single parlay is the fact that not every pick has to be correct for a bettor to make money. In a single parlay, every play has to be a winner, or the entire bet is graded as a loss.
But not every pick is going to be in every parlay created in a round robin, meaning that bettors can turn a profit if most of their selections are correct.
Round robin parlays are set up based on the number of picks a bettor makes and the number of legs they want in each of their parlays.
For example, if a bettor chooses five picks to go into their round robin, they can choose from the following round robin parlay options:
Each of the above numbers of parlays would comprise all of the possible combinations of two, three, and four-team parlays within that number of picks. The odds for each parlay would vary based on the combination of odds across the selections made.
As is the case with a traditional parlay, all of the picks in each parlay would need to win for each individual parlay in the round robin to cash.
One of the more popular forms of parlay betting has come in the form of the same game parlay. With a same game parlay, as the name suggests, bettors can combine multiple bets from a single game into one parlay bet.
Same game parlay betting used to be incredibly rare for sportsbooks to offer, but bookmakers like DraftKings have popularized them to the point that they are commonplace in sports betting today.
With same game parlays, bettors can combine betting markets such as spreads, moneylines, and totals with player props from that same contest. Or bettors can simply choose to parlay prop bets from one game in an attempt to turn one game into a big payout. Bettors can also choose to parlay prop bets from different games instead, but the same game parlay option has become more popular.
One of the big perceived benefits to same game parlays is that bettors can create parlays that are correlated in nature. If a bettor thinks that a defense is going to put pressure on the opposing quarterback in a game, for example, they can parlay the under on that quarterback’s passing yardage total with the under on his receivers’ yardage props. While there is no guarantee that this strategy will win all the time, there is some justifiable logic to it.
When it comes to the best place to place a parlay bet, it depends on the individual betting markets being utilized. Bettors should always shop around for the best odds on the bets that they place, and parlays are no exception to that rule. Doing so will help maximize potential payout amounts on parlays, which can really increase the amount a bettor stands to make on them.
In terms of the availability of interesting betting markets that can be used in parlays, DraftKings Sportsbook is certainly worth a look. They tend to have a rich array of props to choose from in major sports, along with superior betting availability in niche sports and lower-level leagues. For bettors with in-depth knowledge in those areas, parlays are often better placed at DraftKings.
A common question that is often asked by new bettors is what happens when a bet pushes in a parlay?
In the case of a tie or a push in one or more legs of a parlay, bettors will simply have that leg of the parlay removed from their ticket.
For example, if a bettor places a two-leg parlay and one leg ends in a push, the bet will become a single wager featuring the leg that was not graded as a push. While this can be disappointing, as it decreases the potential payout of a parlay, it is certainly better than having it graded as a loss.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether parlays are bad bets, but parlays are definitely more risky bets than single wagers.
Any time a bettor needs a higher number of outcomes to win a bet, there is inherently more risk involved, even if the potential payout is higher. In most cases, unless a bettor really has an edge in a specific sport or league, it is often smarter to place individual bets, where bettors can win at least some of their money back if one of their picks is unsuccessful.
The major exception here comes in the form of correlated parlays, where each leg of a parlay is related to the rest. Correlated player props or season win totals are not guaranteed to win, but can be closely related to one another to where one winning will increase the chances of the rest winning.
The best parlay betting strategy is the correlated parlay strategy, where each pick is related to the rest to maximize the chances of all legs winning.
Beyond that strategy, it is smart strategically to limit parlay bets to two or three legs. That way, bettors are still given the chance to enhance their potential win amounts, but they do not need too many results to go their way either. Massive parlays can really hinder a bettor’s chances of winning, while smaller parlays are more sustainable.
Before placing a parlay bet, bettors should check out the data available on the Elias Game Plan app.
The Game Plan app provides actionable insights on every game in major sports leagues such as the NFL and NBA, which bettors can then use to hit full-game bets and prop bets that can be put into parlays.