Parlay betting explained
In the easiest terms and most simple definitions, a parlay is a single sports bet that involves the combination of two or more bets. That means a player needs to win all the bets involved in the parlay to win the parlay. Of course, the odds of doing so are much greater, making parlay payouts much bigger than betting on individual events.
Picking one winner is hard enough. Picking more than one winner together is much tougher, which is why parlay payouts are so sizable.
Putting together multiple underdogs in a parlay can create a ticket with a large payout. It’ll be significantly smaller if you put together a parlay with all favorites. However, both are tough to win. In sports, anything can and will happen. The more games you bet on in a parlay, the more chance something unexpected will happen in at least one of them.
Sportsbooks love parlays because they’re so hard to win, making them quite profitable for operators.
In fact, according to University of Las Vegas Nevada gaming researchers, Nevada sportsbooks win more than 30 percent of the parlay bets they book, compared to a total of seven percent for all other bets.
Bet on the Philadelphia Eagles to beat the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia 76ers to beat the Boston Celtics together and you’ve just made a parlay bet. Add in a few more bets on other NFL or NBA games and you’ll see how tough it can be to win a big parlay.
Placing parlay bets
Gamblers have two ways to place parlay bets in person.
The first involves telling the attendant at the ticket window which teams and totals they’d like to bet on as part of the parlay. Plus, you specify exactly how much they’re betting.
The second involves filling out a parlay card and taking that to the window.
Of course, most mobile sports betting apps accept parlays in much the same way.
There are actually two ways to win a parlay.
The first involves none of the sides, totals, or moneylines losing. That means a parlay is still a winner if a game is canceled or ends in a tie. These games are simply removed from the parlay as if they were never there. The payout is adjusted accordingly.
Of course, the second way to win a parlay is to pick all winners.
In short, all winners, or at least no losers, makes for a winning parlay ticket.
When it comes to parlays, sportsbooks almost always offer different odds on the different games depending on the number of games bet in a parlay. Things can get a little confusing here, considering it means different sportsbooks will often have different odds and payouts for exactly the same parlay.
Plus, all these odds are subject to change at any time. Particularly with parlays, gamblers need to:
- Shop around to make sure they’re getting a good price
- Double-check tickets to make sure all the odds are correct
- Check back with the sportsbook prior to games to see where the odds are at
Changing parlay payouts
Of course, once a parlay bet is placed, the payout is locked in. That means even if the line moves for one of the games in the parlay, the parlay payout stays the same. Only parlay bets made after the change are impacted. However, it does mean a gambler might lock in one payout for a parlay on Tuesday, only to find a completely different one for exactly the same parlay is available on Friday.
This can work both for gamblers, and against them.
The two most common variations of parlay bets are Round Robin parlays and Teasers.
Round Robin parlays
Round Robin parlays involve making multiple parlay wagers at one time. It’s like boxing horses for an exacta or trifecta bet in a horse race. Gamblers make more than one parlay bet revolving around a specific group of teams or totals, putting together various combinations of similar bets.
Teasers are a variation on a traditional parlay allowing gamblers to move the point spreads or totals. Because the spread and totals can be manipulated, teasers pay less than a traditional parlay.
Point spreads and totals can be changed anywhere from six to 10 points, but each bet that’s part of a teaser must be teased by the same number of points. That means if the New England Patriots are favored over the Philadelphia Eagles by seven points, and you tease it down six points, you’ve got to move the other spreads in a teaser by six points as well.
It’s in the cards
Most sportsbooks offer parlay cards for gamblers to fill in and place parlay bets. These long narrow cards allow gamblers to personally fill in the bets they would like to include as part of a parlay, making it easier on both the gambler and sports betting window attendants taking the bets.
Many sportsbooks also offer different types of parlay cards for the different parlay and teaser bets they offer.