4 Mar

Ultimate Guide to Parlay Betting

In-Depth Analysis of Parlay Betting Rules, Strategies and Tactical Advice

In-Depth Analysis of Parlay Betting Rules, Strategies and Tactical AdviceSports betting legalization began sweeping the nation in 2018. Since then, parlay betting has become one of the most popular wagering options in the United States. Parlays are a type of bet that offer instant gratification, wherein a small bet can return a large payout in a short period of time. This fact alone is probably why it’s so attractive to Americans, many of which are new to the sports betting field.

Realistically speaking, however, parlays are not good bets. They have long odds and high payouts because they don’t usually win. Even a seasoned pro has a hard time winning a 6-pick parlay without taking points or enacting a round robin, ultimately decreasing the wager’s value. But I’m not writing this to discourage you from placing parlays. I’m here to explain what they are, how they work, and how you can put them to work for you.

What is a Parlay Bet?

A parlay bet, also known as an Accumulator, is a special combination bet wherein the punter places a single wager on the outcome of between 2 and 12 sporting events. If all the picks win, the bet wins. If any pick in the overall selection loses, the bet loses. Think of it as an “all or nothing” kind of deal. Due to the increasing difficulty, the odds and potential payout of a parlay grows exponentially larger with the number of picks on the bet slip.

Ties and Cancellations

If one of the picks on your parlay ends in a tie, or the event is canceled, the standard rule is to remove that pick from the parlay. If you made a 6-leg parlay, and one game ended in a tie, it would be removed and your bet would be reduced to a 5-leg parlay. If this occurs on a 2-leg parlay, the bet should be canceled altogether. Be sure to read the fine print at your chosen sportsbook to see what parlay rules apply.

How much can I make betting on parlays?

The obvious minimum in parlay betting is 2 picks. The maximum number of picks allowable can vary from one sportsbook to the next. Some operators cap parlays at 6 picks, while others may allow as many as 10, 12 or even 15 picks in an accumulator.

Likewise, each sportsbook is capable of setting its own payout ratio for parlays, dependent on the number of picks involved. For point spreads and over/under totals, where the odds are almost always -110 to start, most bookies follow a uniform set of payout rules.

Conversely, moneylines (straight bets to win) have odds that reflect the bookmaker’s position for each pick in the parlay. They are calculated by multiplying each of the lines, then multiplying that again by the stake.

The following chart depicts the industry standard parlay pay table for 2 to 12 picks, with no special promotions or point advantages taken. (See also Parlay Teaser & Odds below.)

US Odds
Implied Prob%
13 to 5
6 to 1
10 to 1
25 to 1
40 to 1
75 to 1
150 to 1
300 to 1
700 to 1
1,100 to 1
1,800 to 1

What kind of lines are offered on parlay bets?

Parlays can be made on all of the most popular types of lines, including:

  • Money lines
  • Totals
  • Spreads

You can mix and match your sports, but there are limitations. For example, you can select from all different types of sports on the same parlay ticket. You could combine three football games, two baseball games, and a boxing match, all in the same parlay.

Some combinations are not allowed, particularly those that streamline a similar result. For example, you can pick a team to win, or you can pick a team to cover its point spread, but you cannot pick the same team to win and cover the spread.

Parlay Betting Rules – How to Make a Parlay Bet

For the most part, making a parlay bet is the same as making any other sports bet. The process is pretty much the same, whether you’re placing your bets at an online sportsbook or on the digital screen of a kiosk at a retail betting facility.

You’ll scroll through the available sports and lines, choosing each of the games you want to bet on. As you do so, each selection appears on your bet slip. Once you’re done making your picks, look on the bet slip for an option to convert from Singles to Parlay. Input the amount you wish to bet, and you’ll see the new combined odds and how much you stand to win.

Note that you’re placing just one bet on all of these picks to win. If you choose “parlay” then set your bet at $10, that amount reflects the total bet. If you were to select “single” bets and wager $10, you would be wagering $10 on each pick (i.e. $50 for 5 picks).

Be sure to look over the bet slip, double-checking everything before you proceed. If all looks correct, press the appropriate button to submit the parlay bet. You should receive a confirmation notice that your bet was successfully placed at the chosen lines.

Why was my bet rejected?

If the lines have shifted from the time you started making your selections, to the time you submitted the bet, it will be rejected. You may be asked if you still want to take the bet at the new lines.

Betting Beyond the Standard Parlay

There’s more than one way to place a parlay. Sometimes, the standard edition just isn’t all that appealing. Maybe you’re not as confident as you’d like to be about your picks, and would gladly trade a little profit potential for a better position? Or maybe you’re so confident—you think your odds of winning the parlay are so good—you’re willing to give up some position to boost the reward? If either of these situations piques your curiosity, Teasers and Pleasers might be more your style. At the least, you may want to look into Parlay Insurance specials.

Parlay Teasers & Odds

Teasers are special parlay bets that give you the opportunity to take extra points on your selections. These points can be applied to spreads and totals, increasing your probability of winning the picks you add them to. In exchange, however, the payout is dramatically diminished.

The number of points you can buy, and how they impact the pay table, depends on the sport you’re betting on. That means your picks must all be centered around the same sport. Basketball, for instance, will grant fewer points, whereas football games, which tend to score 3 or 7 points at a time, will grant more points.

One of the most common types of teaser bets is what sportsbooks call a ‘6 Point Teaser’, especially popular in football. The bettor picks 6 football lines, and receives 6 points to add to those selections, however they see fit. You can throw all of the points onto a single pick, split them among two or three of their picks, or add 1 extra point to each. The choice is yours.

The impact on the total payout can vary by sportsbook, but the standard is depicted in the follow chart. It shows teaser odds for adding 6, 6.5, or 7 points on up to 8 football picks, and 4, 4.5 or 5 points on up to 8 basketball picks. Note that the payouts for a 6pt football teasers are the same as a 4pt basketball teaser. I’ve also included the odds for a standard parlay (no points added) for comparison purposes.

Basketball (BB) and Football (FB) Teaser Odds
# of
Payout for
Payout for
Payout for
4pt BB | 6pt FB
4.5pt BB | 6.5pt FB
5pt BB | 7pt FB
Are Teasers Worth Betting On?

The question of risk vs. reward is subjective to each situation. It really depends on how much risk you’re alleviating, compared to how much reward you’re giving up. If you’re cutting your risk by 15%, but giving up 30% of the value, then it’s not worth it. However, if the elimination of risk is equal to or greater than the reduction in reward, then you’re getting a good deal.

What makes this calculation so hard is the determination of risk. We can easily calculate implied odds, based solely on the lines. But risk – that is largely a matter of opinion. There’s no exact calculation. Sporting events can be impacted by so many potential factors.

Professional bettors will usually reserve teasers for limited situations when they don’t feel confident in the standard parlay, but feel much more confident with a points-added teaser. For example, in a 6pt parlay, if you strongly believe adding points will alter the outcome of the bet in your favor, and that you’ve eliminated enough risk to justify the lower payout, then yes, it’s worth it.

Parlay Pleasers & Odds

A Pleaser is the opposite of a Teaser. Instead of adding points and giving up the higher payout, pleasers allow the bettor to give up points and add to the payout. In other words, instead of reducing the risk and reward, pleaser bets increase the risk and offer a higher reward.

When placing a parlay pleaser bet, you are selling points. You’ll need to choose how many points to sell (give up), and which of your picks you want to deduct those points from. In return, the pay table will increase exponentially with each pick selected and point sold.

The pay tables for pleasers are a lot more volatile, and heavily subject to each sportsbook’s discretion. Thus, it’s harder to depict a “typical” pay table. To prove this, the below chart depicts a sample of an actual 7-point football pleaser odds posted by William Hill, and a 9-point football pleaser published by MGM Resorts. The odds are actually better for the 9pt bet, which shows you just how important it is to shop around!

Sample 7-Point Football Pleaser Odds
# of Picks
7-Point Odds
9-Point Odds
Are Pleaser Bets Worth the Risk?

Unfortunately, no. Pleaser bets are sucker bets, plain and simple. Let’s remember that the oddsmakers set the lines to favor no one, then tack on a 10% commission to make sure they earn money. That means the original odds posted are already against you. To give up even more leverage, on not one pick, but multiple picks… I don’t care how high the payout gets, the probability of winning is so far against you, it’s just not worth the risk.

How to Place a ‘Most Picks Win’ Parlay (Round Robin)

Did you ever wish you could make a parlay bet that still wins if “most” of your picks are right? You can. It’s just not called a parlay. These are what sportsbooks and bettors call Parlay System Bets. One of the most popular options is called the Round Robin. Here’s how it works…

Let’s say you want to make a 3-leg parlay. You pick Team A to beat Team B, Team C to beat Team D, and Team E to beat Team F. If you place a standard parlay on this, you need teams A, C and E to all win, which would return a payout of 6 to 1 (+640). If any team loses, your whole bet is lost.

After choosing your three picks, instead of “Parlay”, you’ll tick the “Round Robin” option on your bet slip, then enter the amount you wish to bet. This instantly creates three 2-leg parlay wagers, splitting the amount you wagered across all three. So if you choose to bet $30 total, the Round Robin will place a $10 bet on each of the three 2-leg parlays. The three bets are set up as follows:

  • $10 on Team A and Team C
  • $10 Team C and Team E
  • $10 Team A and Team E

By choosing the Round Robin, you’re ensuring that your bet will win, so long as two of your three teams wins. Each winning bet will pay out 13 to 5 (+260).

In this scenario, if all three picks win, you win all bets; a profit of $78, plus your $30 back, for a total return of $108. If one of your teams loses, you will only win one of the bets, but you’ll still come out ahead. You’ll lose $20, but gain $26, plus the $10 bet back, for a total return of $36. Sure, it’s only a $6 profit, but any profit is better than a loss. Plus, you’ve significantly minimized your risk in the process.

Parlay Betting Strategies and Tips

Parlay betting is especially useful for moneyline wagers. A week of NFL action may include a number of locks that would be virtually worthless to bet individually. When grouping these heavy favorites together on a parlay, they can become quite valuable. If you’ve done your homework and feel confident one of the day’s underdogs will come on strong, you can really scale-up your parlay’s value.

While they can be extremely lucrative, never forget that parlays are the hardest bets to win. Every leg added is another weighty drop against your odds of winning. If you’re trying to up your overall gains with a strong sports betting strategy, parlays aren’t going to help. Suffice it to say, keep the accumulators to a minimum, and never risk too much of your bankroll on one.

With both of the above points in mind, here are some other good parlay tips to keep in mind.

  1. Take advantage of your option to pick matches from multiple sports, especially when picking all moneyline favorites.

  2. Never underestimate the power of an underdog with at-home advantage.

  3. The payouts are big enough already. Keep your wagers small.

  4. Be proactive about promos. Look for sportsbooks advertising free bets and parlay specials.

  5. Set up accounts with multiple sportsbooks so you can shop for the best lines.

  6. The more the merrier” is not a thing in parlay betting. The fewer picks, the better your odds. A pair of all-but-guaranteed favorites makes a nice combination!

  7. Seek out hedge betting opportunities. They say, “Defense wins Super Bowls”. It wins the betting game, too.

  8. Make use of Teasers, Round Robins and other parlay system bets to minimize risk. Remember, a small profit is always better than a loss!

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