What Is A Parlay?

The reason sports bettors love to play parlays is apparent. With a straight bet on one game, if a player hits his or her $100 bet – assuming standard vig – he or she will win less than $100 in profits.

With a parlay, by just adding one more game to the original bet, that $100 parlay will net a player $260 in profits. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

If bettors are going to wager on multiple games, they might as well combine the bets to make more money. Plus, with parlays, they can combine different types of bets. If they love a team to beat the spread and think the total points scored will go over the posted line, they can combine both types of bets into a single parlay that will result in a bigger payout than if they were to hit on both bets individually.

Again, it’s a no-brainer.

Well, not so fast. There is a “but,” and it is a big “but” that you should consider before placing any parlay. PA Sportsbooks would not offer these types of bets if they were easy to hit. In fact, if you ask the book, they love parlays. The reason for that is also simple – for you to make a profit, you must be 100 percent correct on all of the bets.

Example: A player places $100 on the Redskins (+3) and another $100 on the Rams (-7). The Redskins lose on a last-second field goal, but only by two points, so they cover the spread. The Rams, on the other hand, win but fail to cover their seven-point spread. The player wins one and loses one, so all he’s out is the vig on his winning bet. That amounts to less than $10 in profits to the sportsbook.

Now, consider what the book would make if the player had decided to combine those two games into a single $100 parlay. Because the Rams failed to cover, what happened with the Redskins is meaningless. The entire bet is lost. The $100 wagered goes to the sportsbook, as opposed to the less than $10 they made in the first scenario.

According to a study at UNLV, sportsbooks in Nevada make a 37 percent average profit on parlays, in contrast with just 7 percent on other bets. While players may love parlays, the sportsbooks love them even more.

Because of the potential bigger payoffs to gamblers, parlays remain popular. Let’s make sure you have all of the necessary information before placing one.

Parlay odds and profits at PA sportsbooks

The following odds and profit amounts on a $100 bet are the industry standard. (However, some sportsbooks may post different odds. Always double check the odds before placing any bets.)

  • Two-team 2.6 to 1 $260
  • Three-team 6.5 to 1 $650
  • Four-team 13 to 1 $1,300
  • Five-team 25 to 1 $2,500
  • Six-team 50 to 1 $5,000

Note that as point spreads change, the payout on your parlay does not. Payouts are fixed in place at the time you place the bet.

How to make a parlay bet

Most sportsbooks come equipped with parlay cards. These are long and narrow cards that look similar to lottery tickets. All a player needs to do is fill in the circle that corresponds with the bets they want to include in the parlay, then visit the counter to place the wager.

Many types of parlay cards are available  especially during football season  and may also include proposition bets.

Players can skip the card altogether and go directly to the counter, tell the attendant which games or totals they want to wager on, then pay the amount they wish to bet.

Placing a parlay bet online or through an app works the same way. Because of the popularity of parlay cards, many online books are set up to mimic the ease and readability of such cards. If they don’t offer a card to fill out, they feature an easy-to-find “parlay” button that allows the player to add the series of wagered outcomes to the parlay.

Different types of parlays

The most common parlay type is the standard parlay we’ve covered. You take a series of two or more regular bets, then tie them together into a single wager. There are, however, two other ways to do parlays that increase the odds of success for the player.

The first is a round robin, which is a simpler way to set up multiple parlays. A player could bet each parlay separately, but with a round robin bet, they save the time and hassle. They can also cover themselves if they aren’t sure which games to tie together.

Example: A player loves the Lakers (-4.5), Warriors (-8.5) and Nuggets (+2.5) as potential plays. Instead of having to create each of the three possible parlays or choose the parlay they like the most, the player can bet these as a round robin.

The sportsbook then takes these three teams and automatically creates the following parlays:

  • Lakers and Warriors
  • Lakers and Nuggets
  • Warriors and Nuggets

The player must pay three times as much to place the bet because each of these combinations comes with a cost. However, the bet’s potential payout is also higher.

Some sportsbooks put a cap on the total number of teams or size of the combinations that a player can put into a round robin, while others allow gamblers to be limited only by their imagination and the amount they’re willing to wager.

The other parlay type is a teaser.

This is a parlay that allows the bettor to move the point spread on multiple games. Most popular for NFL bets, teasers offer shifts in the spread by 6, 6.5 or 7 points. The same point total must tease all games in the parlay, but they may go in different directions. A bettor can take the Falcons at -8 and move them to -2 while moving the Bengals from +2 up to +8.

Like all parlays, the more games added to a teaser, the higher the potential payout. However, the more points you shift the line, the lower the overall odds.

Again, keep in mind that the rules of placing teasers can vary between sportsbooks, as can the number of points a spread can shift.

What happens when parlay legs push

One final note on parlays — if a player wagers on a four-team parlay but one of those games pushes (ends in a tie against the spread), the bet automatically reverts to a three-team parlay. The same holds true for baseball parlays for games that get rained out as well as any sport where a game involved in a parlay is canceled.

If a parlay ends up reverting to a lower number of bets, the odds on which it pays will also revert to the lower number.