What is a Parlay Bet and How Does It Relate to Sports Betting?
I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation before where we stare at the list of games and think to ourselves “if only I could hit a nice 10-team parlay”. Now, depending on the odds of the games you selected or the amount of money actually wagered on the parlay, this bet won’t necessarily make you “rich”. But it could offer up a very nice four or five-digit return. The problem with hitting a parlay that size is that it’s damn near impossible to do. Most experienced bettors refrain from ever making parlay bets. Thankfully, for sportsbooks, parlays will always be a staple of the betting game since there is always the potential of that one big payout every square bettor chases.Bottom of Form
Parlay Definition -- What is a Parlay? Parlay Meaning
When you hear someone mentioned the term “parlay” in a sports betting discussion, they are referring to a type of bet that involves two or more teams. In order for a parlay bet to be successful, each team involved must win, or cover the spread – depending on how you bet them. A parlay can also be called an accumulator or a combo bet. Parlays are the most popular bet amongst amateur bettors since it has the potential for the biggest payout.
It is extremely hard to pick a winner against the spread. It takes a lot of research and the ability to isolate those few situations where you detect a weakness in the line. The oddsmakers know what they're doing. That's why there are all of those fancy casinos out there. It's harder still to pick two winners, or three, and on and on.
Everybody would like to get maximum return for minimum investment. But things just don't work that way. If you want to bet on football and turn a profit, you need to take the word parlay out of your betting vocabulary. Parlay bets are sucker bets.
You know, winning is great. And losing, well, losing sucks. But breaking even on a couple of straight bets when you would have otherwise lost with a parlay is one of the keys to giving yourself a fighting chance at becoming a profitable sports bettor.
Not only is it very difficult to pick multiple winners without a loser, but you don't even get true odds on parlays.
Here are your typical odds for parlay bets:
2 Teams - 13/5
3 Teams - 6/1
4 Teams -11/1
5 Teams - 20/1
6 Teams - 40/1
7 Teams - 75/1
8 Teams - 150/1
9 Teams - 300/1
10 Teams - 700/1
Say you bet $110 to win a $100 on an early college game and you win and collect $210. If you put that $210 on a late game and you win, you collect almost $401. But if you play a 2-team parlay for $110, and you win, you collect $396.
The difference gets worse the more teams you play. If you took your $401 and put that on a pro game the next day and win, you collect about $795. But if you had played a three-team parlay for $110 you collect $770. Do the math.
Parlay Guy is snickering right now. He thinks that kind of money is "chump change" (but the casino sees it as pure profit).
When you get into four teams and above, you are getting horrendous odds. Games like Keno provide far better odds if you want to throw darts at 10-teamers.
All of the above is true, but the biggest reason not to bet parlays is that you don't lose the whole enchilada when you pick a loser. Straight bets consistent with your bankroll units ensure good money management. And over the course of a season, that difference is profound and it adds up to a lot of money.
Parlay Guy is always trying to "get out" with a nice three or four-teamer. But it was his nice two- and three-teamers that got him "in" in the first place.
Of course, you already knew all of this. But you do it anyway. This year, don't be Parlay Guy. Be the informed and disciplined straight bettor who sidesteps him before he can chew your ear.
Doc’s Sports has a handy Parlay Calculator to determine the true odds of a parlay bet compared to the payout offered by the sportsbook. This is a great way to determine in advance if there is value in a parlay bet you are planning to make.
Are There Different Types of Parlays?
In short, yes. A parlay can have a combination of money line bets, point spread wagers and even include the “over/under” option. Some sports books allow bettors to include different kinds of prop bets, half time wagers and sometimes even future bets.
Depending on the type or parlay you make, the payout could be minimal or significant. A lot of things go into determining the odds, but the main thing you need to know is that not all sportsbooks offer up the same odds.
Are Point Spread Parlays Worth Playing?
Generally speaking, no. Parlays are typically referred to as sucker bets and only attract people looking for one massive payout. The problem with parlays is that the more teams you add, the number of possible outcomes increases. For example, a three-team parlay bet has eight possible outcomes, where only one of those outcomes will make you a winner. Since none of those eight outcomes is more likely than the others, a three-team parlay would need to offer up 7/1 odds in order to break even over the long haul. At 6/1, turning a profit is only doable if a bettor can pick winners at a very high rate – one that is almost unattainable, let alone sustainable.
A parlay card is essentially like a lottery ticket form you find at a corner store when you decide to play the Powerball and pick your own numbers. Parlay cards are typically a colored piece of paper at a sportsbook that lists all games and odds for you to choose from. The way you fill it out is rather quite simple. First, you check the box that states how many games your parlay card will be and then you mark each game you want to bet. When you are done marking your card, you can bring it to the betting window and they will scan it and print you out a parlay ticket.
There is nothing worse than getting to the betting window and being stuck behind someone who has no idea what they want to bet and who is looking around at the board to see the lines while they make a $5 three-team parlay. To avoid being that person, use a parlay card. They make the process a lot simpler and much more time efficient. The wait times for lines at the betting window are long enough already, so by using the parlay card you will speed up the process for everyone involved.
Another benefit of using a parlay card is that the card will include all of the rules. They can be slightly different between sportsbooks, so it’s crucial you understand the rules at each unique book. The most important rule you need to understand is that books often deal with ties differently – some will count them as losses. Parlay card also include set odds for parlays of different sizes. Again, these odds can be slightly different between books, but for the most part look 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
But parlay cards can be dangerous. The main goal of any sports bettor is to protect their bankroll and make wise investment decisions. The parlay card goes against that model as it makes it really easy to make a terrible bet. Sportsbooks make it as easy as possible for people to make these bets because they know over the long terms, this option provides solid cash intake. And lastly, the parlay cards often offer odds that are much lower than the true odds. For example, in order for a three-team parlay to break even over the long term, it would have to pay 7/1. At 6/1, you would have set a world record for successfully picking winners in order to close the gap.
What About Money Line Parlays?
A money line parlay is the better of the two parlays since the potential return is dependent on whether or not you bet underdogs or not. To find the return of a money line parlay, you simply multiply the individual money line odds together. Because of this, a parlay featuring two underdogs and a big favorite would return much more than 6/1 odds like a three-team point spread parlay would. Unfortunately, this way of betting is just as difficult as a point spread parlay. The more teams you add to the parlay, the more combinations there become, which in turn could take a big chunk out of the bankroll if you are a parlay-only player.
What is a Correlated Parlay?
A "correlated parlay" is a parlay wager that includes two or more events, generally in the same game, that have a strong relationship to each other - if one happens then the other is very likely to happen as well. These situations are very attractive to bettors because they increase the chances of making a profit. Sportsbooks do not like giving up a big advantage to bettors, so in most cases they will not allow a correlated parlay. Some books won’t allow two events in one game no matter what, while others will be more selective and will only disallow bets they deem correlated. Some books will even cancel bets after the fact if correlation turned out to be strong.
It will be less confusing after an example. The most common way to understand a correlated parlay is to look at a side and a total in football. If a team is a very large favorite - say 20 or 30 points - and the total is reasonably low, then it stands to reason that if the favorite covers the spread it is going to be more likely than not that the game will go over the total as well. If a team is favored by 35 and the total is 50, then it wouldn’t take much to go over if the spread is covered. You very likely would not be allowed to parlay the favorite and the over in that game,
That’s an extreme example. As a general guide, if you multiply the spread in a football game by three and the result is bigger than the total, then it is likely going to be viewed as a correlated play.
While correlated parlays are very tough to find -- and bet -- these days, the philosophy can be applied legally in some situations. One example is at the end of a regular season. Let’s say that at the end of the series there are two NHL teams fighting for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference -- the Hurricanes and the Panthers. If the Hurricanes, who play first, win, then they are in and the Panthers are out. If the Hurricanes lose, then the Panthers can play their way in with a win. A couple of possibilities are reasonable to assume, then. If the Hurricanes lose, then the Panthers are likely to be particularly motivated in their game -- they will know the result and will know what is on the line. If the Hurricanes win, though, then the Panthers will be crushed and aren’t at all likely to play at their best. Depending on your viewpoint, then, you could argue that a Hurricanes win and a Panthers loss or a Hurricanes loss and a Panthers win would be somewhat correlated results, and betting them could give you an edge. That’s about as close as you can legally get to a correlated parlay.
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