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How Parlay Wagers Work
by David A Lane - 09/13/2007

When discussing sports wagering it's important to be able to determine the difference between the straight-up bet and parlay bet. Many correctly believe that the straight bet, whether money line or against the spread, is the best way to wager since every winning ticket pays off. On the other hand, a parlay wager has to have at least two correct picks on any ticket before it pays off for the bettor. To parlay is to bet an original wager and its winnings on a subsequent event or events. It is by definition dependent on all wagers winning. The following will explain a bit about how parlay wagers work.

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A straight-up wager consists of an over or under wager, an ATS bet, or a money line wager. Parlay wagers can be combinations of all three of these types of betting options. Since it is often very difficult to hit multiple wagers on one ticket, the parlay is often considered a gimmick bet by serious bettors - and there is a reason why the sports book operators love them.

If one bets a two-team parlay then the payout is normally 13/5 and a $100 wager brings back $364. Sports books also accept money lines in their parlay bets and thus, the bettor can pick two underdog MLs that will pay much more than 13/5 or two favorites that would pay considerably less. No matter what the odds, the same rule applies: In parlay wagering one still has to win all bets on each card before collecting a penny. (Some books offer consolation parlay cards that pay off at much lower odds but cards are allowed a losing game).

Normal Las Vegas parlay card odds for ATS wagers look something like this:

2 Team Parlay: 13 to 5 Odds
3 Team Parlay: 6 to 1 Odds
4 Team Parlay: 10 to 1 Odds
5 Team Parlay: 20 to 1 Odds
6 Team Parlay: 40 to 1 Odds
7 Team Parlay: 75 to 1 Odds
8 Team Parlay: 100 to 1 Odds
9 Team Parlay: 150 to 1 Odds
10 Team Parlay: 300 to 1 Odds
11 Team Parlay: 450 to 1 Odds
12 Team Parlay: 600 to 1 Odds
13 Team Parlay: 750 to 1 Odds
14 Team Parlay: 900 to 1 Odds
15 Team Parlay: 1500 to 1 Odds

It is not easy to pick winners consistently so it can be very frustrating for parlay bettors when they go 3-1 on a four-team ticket and fail to cash in. If a bettor were to go 3-1 with straight wagers they would have a very profitable day. No matter if we're talking about someone who bets a lot or someone who is a casual player, this difference in favoring straight bets over parlays can raise the frequency of victory or winning percentage and help to maximize winnings. By ensuring payment every time we pick a game correctly one distinguishes his or herself as a more wise, astute, and sensible player.