Picking the Best Parlay


Building sports betting parlays is one of the most popular types of bets a player can make. A parlay is when you combine two or more different betting markets into a single bet slip. So, for example , the player could bet on the Los Angeles Lakers, the Arizona Coyotes and the Philadelphia Eagles all to win their individual games. If all three of the teams win, the parlay will be won. However, if even one team loses, then the entire parlay will be lost. Parlays are popular for a couple of main reasons. The biggest reason by far is the chance to make a large sum of money after betting only a few dollars. We can see stories like this everywhere, when a punter correctly guesses the entire lineup of Sunday’s NFL games and turns a measly $20 into some shocking amount like $90,000. In theory, all it takes is one bet to really turn you into a high-roller. 

The other reason being that parlays are quite fun to make. Searching through different markets, finding great odds, calculating the risks and then piecing them together is what true sports bettors live for. There is also an added excitement with every game that wins in the parlay. The player’s nerves will be thoroughly tested after every win. The games then start to become more intense as you start to really believe that the enormous payout that seemed impossible at first will soon be added to your bank roll. So parlays provide a higher level of entertainment as well as the possibility of a high payout, but is there any real value to making these bets? In this article, we will go through some of the flaws of parlay betting with real numbers, some of our personal tips for making parlays, how the odds work and we will even include some examples of players winning huge amounts of money and what they bet on. As if you needed any more reasons to get started! 

What’s The Risk

With the potential for high payouts comes higher odds stacked against the player. Parlays work by combining different markets and multiplying the odds together for each selection you added. The odds will tell the player how much they stand to win if they have correctly chosen their parlay. However, these odds also tell you how much of a chance you have at winning the bet. There are conversion charts and calculators that will tell the player which percentage of a chance they have to win based on the odds. Odds of -100 or +100 give the player a 50% chance to win. Adding or subtracting five from the odds adds or subtracts usually around one or two percent from the player’s chances. So if you are multiplying odds in a four-team parlay, five-team parlay or more your chances to win will be extremely low. And they will only get lower the more selections you add. Let’s say you make a three-team parlay. The odds for the individual games are +105, +140 and -130. The bookmaker will multiply the decimal form of the odds, which would be 2.05, 2.4 and 1.77, respectively. This gives us our total odds at 8.7084, or 771 in American odds. The player now has a 11.5% chance to win this bet. Adding in another game with odds of 1.76 to make a four-team parlay puts us at a 6.5% chance to win. 

The player may have made less, but surely could have done better just wagering on each game individually. Each of the bets listed above hover around a 50% chance to win. You will then need to remember that the total odds in the examples were only around 15, meaning you would receive $15 for every $1 you wagered. However, if you were to bet on these events individually and use the winnings from each bet as your next stake, the payout would be nearly the same or even a little more than the parlay while still having much better chance of winning. In general, two or three-team parlays will pay out a little more than straight wagers, but anything more you would normally just be better off making straight bets. You can also find better odds when betting straight wagers. This is because each sportsbook will have different odds for each game, so finding one sportsbook with the best odds for every game you want to bet on is likely not a possibility. With betting on individual markets, you can find the best odds available for every game, further increasing your payout. The understanding behind the chance of winning also comes into play. Even if all the teams you bet on are heavy favorites, the player must be prepared for one of the favorites to lose. Rarely on any single game day does every favored team win. The more teams put into a parlay the bigger the chance that your entire bet is ruined by a team that was expected to win losing instead. If you were to bet on four favorites individually you might lose one game, but could still profit from the other three whereas a parlay would be a complete loss. 

How to Make The Right Parlays

Despite what is written above, there are some legitimate reasons to make parlay bets. The chance of winning big off of one bet is still there and sometimes there are a few games that just line up perfectly that players might want to group together. And no matter if you win or lose, the enjoyment of making and following your parlays is always there. Whatever the reason may be, here are some tips to help get your parlays right. 

Like we said before, two or three-team parlays will, on average, pay out better than individual straight wagers. So, naturally, the first tip would be to limit your parlays to two or three teams only. Anything more than that will make little to no sense for the bettor, but a lot of sense for the bookmaker. The bookmaker is who you must beat, so any help to them is a bad move. Help yourself instead by avoiding temptation of big, lottery ticket style bet slips. Of course the payout will look great on these six, seven-team parlays but the chances of winning are so slim that you may as well just throw your money away. Furthermore, when you are putting together these small parlays, you will want to look at more than just those two games. You want to get the teams you are 100% sure will win. A general rule would be to look at double the number of games you have in your final parlay. For two-team parlays you would need to look at four teams. 

Going even further to insure full confidence in a parlay, use teams and leagues that you know! This is something you should do for every bet, but especially for a parlay. You do not want your entire parlay to be broken by a sport or team you know nothing about. It will give you a horrible feeling of being even less in control than you normally would be. The immediate question that will come to your mind is “why”. And it is a fair question. With a type of bet like a parlay where only one game can decide the entire bet, why in the world would you throw in an option you know nothing about? Forget about it. Play parlays with the teams or leagues you watch/ follow regularly.  Save that one sport you have been dying to get in to for a straight wager, preferably with a small stake. The question of whether to bet on your favorite teams is largely debated among professionals, however I am a 100% in favor. If you are able to check your emotions at the door (we know you want your favorite team to win, but will they?), you should have no problem making a profit off of them. I started the 2019-2020 Premier League season betting on Chelsea F.C. every game, and have yet to lose a single one. I do not bet on them to win all the time, I simply evaluate their chances of winning and bet accordingly. Since I keep up with all of their latest news, team trainings, form and coaching, I have no problems making confident, successful bets on how they will fare each week. You can do the same with your favorite teams, since you will know more about them than any other teams. 

Some people will spend hours cooking up new parlays while others will take a whole five minutes to put one together. The timing definitely matters. Taking three teams to win may turn out okay, however there are always better odds out there for markets that have a higher chance of hitting. For this reason, you really need to market shop when putting parlays together. Most bettors will generally just take the win or loss on a bet, but when sportsbooks are offering over one or two hundred markets for each game then you are leaving a lot of options out. When looking through all of the markets, you can easily find a market better than just the moneyline. Do not be afraid to bet on totals, handicaps, player bets, etc. It is likely that one of these markets will jump out at you as a much smarter bet. Another tip that ties into this is to not give up on “set” games. This means if there is a heavily, like very heavily favored team the odds will be so low that it would be inconceivable to take them. Keep looking! You can easily turn these games into great options for parlays. Look at handicapping the favored team or if you think that the odds are overestimating this team, give the underdog a couple of points. It is likely that you will be familiar with the favored team already if they are near the top of the standings. When you follow a specific league, you almost always know who the top teams are and why they are at the top. This gives you a familiarity advantage. Doing a little research can help you find appropriate markets for the team’s next game. 

Reach for the Stars 

Here are some of the biggest parlay winners in recent years: 

In 2015, Tayla Polia won $100,005 with only a $5 stake. She correctly predicted the outcomes on 15 NFL games with total odds of 20,000-to-1.

During the 2017 football season, a bettor in Reno, Nevada won $62,500 with a $25 wager on eight  NFL games and four college football games. The total odds on the parlay were 2500-to-1. 

Bringing it to baseball, a bettor at WilliamHill took the over and unders as well as the moneyline on four MLB games. The totals were all under and the teams picked all won their games to net the player $115,971 on a $500 parlay bet. 

Finally, on one single Super Bowl game, a player was able to win $6,000 from a $15 bet. They had nine different markets in the championship game, and won them all at odds of 400-to-1. 

Although these are the highlights, it is important to remember that they are a low percentage of all parlay players. When betting on parlays, the majority of people will not be winning huge amounts like this. It is more likely that you will be one or two games away from winning. Luck is necessary in every parlay bet, but making smart picks can go a long way. Remember that the odds tell you the chance of winning, but there are people setting these odds just like you and me. Sure, they are specialists but everyone makes mistakes or underestimates teams. Stick to what you know and if you find odds that don’t match up with a team’s actual ability don’t be afraid to pull the trigger. With more confident, smarter parlays and a little (or a lot) of luck you too could be one of the top winners.