How Does a Parlay Bet Work?

Parlays have been around for a long time. Since sports betting was made legal by the Supreme court in May 2018, parlays have become increasingly popular. There is much debate in the sports betting community on whether parlays are worth wagering on. Parlays are bets that combine multiple bets. Due to this, odds are significantly increased. The risk is also increased considerably.

Sports betting has been legalized in New York, though, currently, you can only place wagers at brick-and-mortar locations, all of which are located in upstate New York. Mobile sports betting has recently gained more approval in New York. Governor Cuomo has recently even expressed his support of mobile sportsbooks. All this means that online sportsbooks should be coming to New York in the near future. So, future users need to understand exactly how parlays work.

What is a parlay bet?

A parlay is a single wager that combines two or more wagers into one single wager. A user can select many different bets that include moneyline, totals, point spread, and prop bets into a single wager. There are several different ways to bet a parlay. This form of betting makes for increased odds for sports bettors. Parlays also increase the risk of losing a bet for sports bettors. Parlays can span across multiple sports and across periods of time.

How do parlays work in sports betting?

Parlays provide a way for sports bettors to combine two or more wagers into one. This increases the odds, and therefore the payout for sports bettors. Some sportsbooks have limits on what parlays consist of. However, most of the top sportsbooks have fewer limitations on parlays. This form of gambling allows players to improve their odds significantly. It is important to note that if even a single bet in the parlay loses, the entire wager loses.

For example, say you like the Yankees (-210), the Mets (+175), and the Knicks (+325) all to win. With parlays, you can combine all of these teams’ moneylines into a single wager. This increases the odds to +1625. These are great odds, but that’s because you have two underdogs (Mets and Knicks) expected to win. Parlays can be risky. Parlays are not limited to moneyline wagers only. Most sportsbooks allow you to wager on all kinds of bets. You also don’t have to use the same style of bet throughout a parlay. A user can have moneyline, point spread, totals, etc., all combined in a single parlay.

Different types of parlays

While understanding the basics of parlays is necessary, it is also important to know how the different types of parlays work. This is a list of the most common types of parlays and how they work:


Parlay betting is the most simple form of a multi-bet wager. It is also the most popular form of multi-bet wagering. It is a high-risk-high-reward type of wager. Parlay sports bets allow you to gamble multiple bets in a single wager. When combining various wagers, the odds increase greatly. Essentially, you can combine multiple bets either from the same game or multiple games. It is important to remember that the more wagers in a parlay, the greater the reward and the greater the risk. Check with your preferred sportsbook to see the rules for their parlay bets. It is important to remember that all bets in a parlay must win/push to receive payment. With one loss, you lose the entire Parlay.


Teasers are very similar to parlays, but they can be a bit more tricky. In teasers, you can usually only wager on point spread and totals bets. Usually, sportsbooks allow you to tease +6.0, +6.5, or +7.0 points. The odds will decrease with the more points you tease. The odds will also increase with the more wagers in the teaser. If you tease +7.0 points, it will add seven points in favor of all your bets. For instance, if a team is at -6.0 for their point spread, a teaser with +7.0 would change their point spread to +1.0. If a total is set at 49, then with a +7.0 tease, you could bet over 42 or under 56 total points. This can be a smarter way to wager on multiple games with a single bet, but the odds are usually lower than parlays.

Teasers also usually have set odds based on the number of wagers and the number of points teased. For example, a three-way teaser at +7.0 would be set at +150. While the same three-way teaser at +6.0 would be set at +180. If you increase the +6.0 tease’s number of wagers to make it a seven-way teaser, then your odds would be +1000.

Round robins

Round robins are considered the most difficult of the multi-bet wagers. Round robin bets are usually bets that consist of three to ten teams. These teams are used to create multiple two-team parlays. So, if you have a three-team round robin, using the above example of Yankees (-210), Mets (+175), and Knicks (+325), your round robin would have three two-team parlays:

  • Yankees (-210) & Mets (+175)
  • Yankees (-210) & Knicks (+325)
  • Mets (+175) & Knicks (+325)

It is important to note that the amount you wager on a round robin is the amount you wager on each individual two-team parlay. So, in the above example, say you wagered $100 on your round robin bet. You are placing three different $100 parlays. This brings your wager total to $300. These can be highly risky bets, considering how much you risk. They can also have high payouts.

If all three teams were to win in the above example, the user would cash out $1902.08. That’s a great payout. Say the Knicks lose, then every parlay associated with the Knicks loses. You would then lose $194.05

Round robins can be highly risky and also difficult to navigate. It is suggested to use a round robin calculator before placing these wagers. It is also important to remember that if one bet pushes, every parlay associated with that bet becomes a straight bet.

How to make a parlay bet

There are a few different ways to bet parlays. Some of the most common methods are same-game parlays, multi-game parlays, and moneyline parlays.

Some sports bettors choose to play smaller parlays to increase their odds. Other sports bettors will place large 12-team parlays to maximize their potential earnings. The more wagers in a parlay, the greater the odds, but also the greater the risk.

Examples of parlay bets

Same-game parlays

In a same-game parlay, every bet in the parlay comes from the same game. These bets also usually consist of a mix of different types of bets and can include prop bets. An example of a same-game parlay is:

  • Knicks +7.5
  • Over 217
  • Julius Randle over 9.5 rebounds
  • Mitchell Robinson over 12.5 points
  • Dennis Smith Jr. under 5 assists
  • Odds +2435

If this parlay hits, then the payout with a $100 wager would be $2,435. Say Julius Randle only gets nine rebounds, then the entire parlay loses, and the bettor would lose $100.

Multi-game parlays

In multi-game parlays, the different bets come from multiple games. These can mix moneylines, point spreads, totals, and prop bets. An example of a multi-game parlay is:

  • Knicks +7.5
  • Mets +125
  • Yankees -210
  • Yankees total over 7.5 runs
  • Nets total over 218.5
  • Odds +2211

If this parlay hits with a $100 wager, then the payout would be $2211. Say the Nets total only hit 218 points, then the entire parlay loses, and the bettor would lose $100.

The best way to bet parlays is to keep the bet to only two or three wagers. The more you wager, the greater the odds, but the higher the risk. For instance, if you place a two-way parlay, you may be willing to risk $100. If you place a 12-way parlay, you may want to consider a smaller amount like $10.

What are the benefits of betting parlays?

As shown in the previous examples, the lure of parlays is simple: the payouts are high. This makes them extremely popular in the sports betting world. Essentially it is the closest thing in sports betting to a get-rich-quick scheme. For instance, not everyone has the money to place large wagers on single games. For users with a smaller bankroll, parlays can be very enticing.

For example, if you place a four-way parlay consisting of points spread and totals bets (all at -110), your odds are +1228. If you increase the same wager to an eight-way parlay, then your odds are +17544. These are huge odds, but the chance of hitting these are slim.

The smart thing to do is to place smaller wagers on parlays. For example, in the four-way parlay, if you wagered $25, you would still earn a payout of $307.08 if you win. In the eight-way parlay, if you wagered $10, you would still earn a payout of $1754.46. These are still large returns on an initial investment.

How to force true parlay odds

Sportsbooks are known to use manipulated odds on parlays. There has been a trick going on in the sports betting community of how to force true odds. To force true odds, all a user needs to do is add one bet that’s odds are not at -110. This will force the sportsbooks to calculate the true odds.

In the four-way parlay example, with every line set at -110, the odds were +1228. If you change one of those bets to a moneyline bet at +125, your new odds are +1465. It doesn’t matter the odds; as long as one wager is not -110, it will force the true odds.

Parlay variations

There are a few different variations of parlays available at sports betting sites. Here are some common ones:

Progressive parlays

Progressive parlays are very similar to regular parlays. The only difference is even if one of your wagers in a parlay doesn’t hit, a bettor may potentially win some of their original wager back. They may even be able to turn a profit still. Due to less risk than a normal parlay, the odds are usually lower in a progressive parlay. Check your preferred sportsbook for more details.

Open parlays

An open parlay is one of the most interesting multi-bet wagers. Essentially it is like a typical parlay, but instead of making all your choices at once, you can leave the parlay open. So, you can choose to do an open parlay, and you may choose two games initially. If both of those games win, your parlay will remain open for a bettor to add more games later. This is an exciting way to bet parlays as it can spread your parlay out over a period of time. You typically do have to choose how many wagers in total will be in the parlay up front. You also have to select an amount to wager up front as well.

Drawbacks to betting parlays

While parlays seem great due to high payouts, there are some downsides. For instance, the risk is much higher in parlays than in straight bets. Parlays combine multiple games into a single wager. If you lose one of those wagers, then the entire bet loses. When wagering on round robins, you risk far more than you would on a traditional bet. Parlays are also less likely to hit than straight-up bets; meaning, bettors are more likely to lose more money in the long-run on parlays than on straight bets. Another major disadvantage is that parlays require making all your selections at one time. This leads to gamblers missing out on line-movements leading up to games. This can be a major factor in whether your parlay hits or not.

Strategy and advice for parlay bets

When betting parlays, it is important to keep these simple tips in mind to get the most out of your bankroll:

1. Limit the number of wagers in a single parlay

If you are looking to make money in the long-run with parlays, this tip is crucial. While the more wagers in a parlay increase the odds, your chance of losing increases as well. One of the most profitable ways to bet parlays is to limit a parlay to only three wagers.

2. Limit the amount of money spent on a parlay

It would help if you never bet large sums of money on a single parlay. This is how you will deplete your bankroll quickly. For parlays, you should wager smaller than your straight bets. Half a unit is what is typically recommended for wagering on parlays.

3. Try moneyline parlays

Considering you have to decide all your wagers at once for a parlay, it is smart to consider moneyline parlays. While the moneyline will change, you are not losing points like in point spread and totals bets leading up to a game. The payouts are typically lower but safer.

Are parlays sucker bets?

There is much debate in the sports betting community about parlay bets. It’s estimated that sportsbooks make 60%-70% of their revenue on parlays. If you are placing large four-way+ parlays, then yes, they can be considered sucker bets. If you follow the above tips and limit your liability on parlays, they can be excellent bets with a high return on investment.