Parlay Definition - What is a Parlay: Parlay Bet, Odds, 3-Team Parlays

(Parlay definition - a single wager that combines two or more individual bets and is completely dependent on all of the individual wagers winning.)

While we cannot completely understand all characteristics of the parlay bet from such a short definition, it's still a pretty good basic overview.

So then really, what is a parlay bet? A parlay bet is a combination of two or more betting markets. The parlay odds are higher than the individual selections included in them, however if just one of those selections loses then the entire parlay bet will lose. 

For example, let's take a look at look at an average parlay bet put together on BetMGM Sportsbook:

The more individual selections added, the higher the parlay odds will be.

In short, parlay bets require more skill and a dash of luck than the average single or straight wager, as you will be required to make multiple correct predictions in order to successfully win one parlay bet.

How to Make a Parlay Bet

Since the parlay is a very popular and desirable way to wager, you can be sure every online sportsbook in the USA will have parlay bets as an option. Parlays can be made on most online sportsbooks simply by adding more than one selection to the bet slip, triggering a parlay bet. 

What we have not disclosed in our brief outline of 'what is a parlay bet' is that these can be one of the most entertaining, risky and downright enjoyable types of wagers that can be made.

So, let's get started with the basics. 

The process of making a parlay bet is simple, especially online:

  1. Choose an online sportsbook and complete the registration

  2. Search betting markets and competitions that you would like to include

  3. Instead of placing this bet, find and select more markets

  4. Now go to your bet slip with your parlay, select a stake amount, and confirm your bet

Since the likelihood of winning a parlay bet is lower than single bets, doing your due diligence and studying the games beforehand is a must. Many sites will also offer free picks and parlays, as well as parlay calculators which can help you figure out the final payout.

Although no expert is always correct, there are some out there with admirable experience and past records that can inspire confidence.

Some of the best sports betting sites that offer these picks and parlays are completely free!

How Does a Parlay Bet Work?

The main reason for making parlay bets is so that bettors can get higher odds overall and therefore the payout for a win will also be higher. However, if one of the games that you add to your bet slip loses, then the entire parlay bet will lose.

Right away, we can infer the true nature of a parlay bet in its simplest form:

The more games added to your parlay; the higher the odds will be. At the same time, the more games added to your parlay; the harder it will be to win. 

There are different tiers of parlay bets that depend on how many selections, or legs, you add.

For example, a bet slip that contains three different selections would be a 3-team parlay. These can go as high as the player chooses, including 7-team parlays, 8-team parlays and beyond. 

Some sportsbooks may have a limit on the number of selections, which is usually set at around 20. 

However, nearly every sports betting site from the biggest sportsbooks in the world to your local casino will accept parlay bets. Some online sportsbooks like BetRivers and BetMGM can even have special betting features just for parlay bets. 

Are Higher Odds the Parlay Bet's Biggest Appeal?

The art of parlay betting (multiples, express) is something that is usually enticing to new and casual players whereas more serious bettors tend to avoid them. The reason is because these experienced bettors know that parlay bets are difficult to win. 

The odds of winning a parlay bet are noticeably decreased with each selection that you add. This, unfortunately rings true no matter how favored the selections are. 

Many bettors believe that if they have very safe bets with teams that are heavily favored, that they will have a guaranteed path to higher profits if they put them together. However, there is always a chance that the favored team will not win or that the game will end a draw. 

When looking at the long-term profit potential while parlay betting, the notion remains the same. The odds and payout of each parlay will normally be higher than a single bet, but the lower chances of winning really begin to show over a longer period of time. 

True Benefits of Parlay Betting

Well, there are multiple benefits which we will discuss in just a second. The main advantage is, however, that the parlay odds will be much higher than each of the single selections included in them. 

Betting on a favored team to win a game may not have very high odds meaning that the wager would not give a great return if the bet is won. However, by combining that selection with a few other low odds bets the parlay will yield a much better return if successful. 

The sum is greater than its parts. In the same way, parlay odds are higher and more profitable if won than the individual bets that make them up. Despite the cautions above, winning parlay bets is absolutely possible. 

Players win parlay bets everyday, and the amounts won is what entices players to continue betting them. 

Parlay Calculator 

What can a parlay calculator do for you? The main function of parlay calculators are to show the final expected payout from a parlay bet. Parlay calculators are extremely simple to use. All that needs to be done is entering in the odds from each individual selection you will include in the parlay bet along with your stake. 

Once you have entered them all, the parlay calculator will show the total betting odds and calculate the final payout. These can be found online very easily and will be free to use. 

However, the sportsbook you choose will also have a parlay calculator that is automatically used. 

On a sportsbook, after adding your selections to the bet slip, you can enter your stake and the sportsbook's parlay calculator will show you the total odds, payout and potential profit. 

The Pros and Cons of Parlay Bets

Believe it or not, like most things, there are pros and cons to making parlays bets. In this section, we will go more in depth about main advantages and disadvantages that come with parlay betting. 

Any bet you make has at least a small chance of winning whether you did your homework or not. 

To fully embrace parlay bets, and all types of wagers, you need to understand whether the reward outweighs the risk each time you put a parlay bet together.

Truly great things about parlay bets.

  • The parlay payout will be higher than for the individual games

  • The chance to group together different markets, whether for one game or multiple games

  • Putting parlays together makes it much easier for the player to hedge their bets, which will end up being profitable.

  • Ability to bet on the favorites. Yes, you can do this with individual games as well but if the team is a true favorite you will be finding odds of around -250 or lower.

Not so truly great things about parlay bets.

  • Lower limits than there are for individual games 

  • You will need to wait until all games finish before collecting a payout

  • Much harder to win than individual games. With each game that is added, the chance of winning percentage drops by a noticeable percentage. 

  • It really only takes one loss for the entire parlay to go up in smoke. Even if you have an eight-team parlay and the first seven legs win, you will not be receiving any payout if that last game loses. 

Types of Parlay Bets: Common Strategies and Variants

Some players have their own strategies that they use when picking parlays. However, there are also some common parlay betting systems that bettors use. These rank from verified strategies to common traps that players fall into when making parlay bets. 

There are many different types of parlay bets, and they all have different benefits that appeal to different players. We include descriptions and analyses on each of the strategies. 

Here are some examples of the most popular strategies that implemented on parlay bets: 

Parlay Bet Payouts - The Sure Bet Express

All aboard! This one is going straight to the bank. This is one of the safer types of parlay bets. This is where the player will add in some very low-risk picks to go alongside the player’s original bet.

  • 2-Team Parlay Bet Odds (+260)
  • 3-Team Parlay Bet Odds (+700)
  • 4-Team Parlay Bet Odds (+1100)
  • 5-Team Parlay Bet Odds (+2200)
  • 6-Team Parlay Bet Odds (+4500)
  • 7-Team Parlay Bet Odds (+9000)

Average Parlay Betting Odds on a Las Vegas Parlay Card

You could add it in any games with a very high-chance of winning like a first-round soccer game between Spain and Andorra. Spain would normally be a heavy favorite in the game, and therefore would have bettors believe it is a sure win. 

The reason bettors use this parlay method is quite simple, they want to increase their odds while using a very low risk bet to do so. In theory, it's a smart decision for two main reasons. 

  1. Increases the odds while only adding low-risk bets
  2. Keeps the entire parlay bet small, including only a few selections

However, the chances of an upset or a “sure” bet not playing out are more likely than you may think.

The reason for this is that there is math involved that most players do not figure into their parlays. The likelihood that a team with a 90% chance to win is evident, but the 10% is what the player needs to understand.

The 10% represents a real chance that the competition will not end the way the player intends. This percentage will in addition multiply with every new selection that you add. 

The basis for this strategy only calls for few different markets, at least making it cautious of this rule. Keeping parlay bets to a minimum amount of legs is always advisable for any strategy. 

Parlay Bet - Only on the Favorites

This is one of the types of express bet that will be used by newcomers to sports betting. It is also one of the more careless forms of multiple betting. The idea here is not complicated, the player will simply place a bet on teams that are favored to win that day.

Very similar to our first form of parlay betting, though the odds for each selection do not necessarily need to be low. 

In this parlay above, Pittsburgh was the team most favored to win, and ended up losing 27-17.

However, just like with our first strategy (trap), when you combine all the teams the chances of winning are much lower than to begin with. Remember that you will only win the bet if all the selections win, so the odds of this happening in full are much lower. 

If the player chooses ten teams that all each have a 90% chance of winning (decimal odds 1.10, American odds -1000), then you will have to calculate your odds like so (110^10= 2.8394). 

The biggest mistake that players make is choosing all teams with a 90% chance of winning and believe their multiple bet therefore has a 90% chance of winning.

Keeping this in mind the odds for your bet are now +184 (2.8394), which translates into a 32.5% chance for the entire parlay to profit. Limiting the number of selections you add here can make this a more reliable parlay betting strategy. 

Parlay Bet - The Gambling Man

For this strategy of parlay betting, the player will go the opposite route of the previous strategies, and instead bet only on the underdogs for each game. Although the likelihood of these bets all winning is of course less, the payout for these express bets will substantially increase. 

Here, the player can either choose to back underdogs in each of the games or can instead place wagers on matchups where both teams have an equal chance to win. Either way, the volatility for these parlay bets will be very high, and a good deal of knowledge and luck is necessary.

A professional bettor will never recommend doing this as a long-term profit gain. Rather, these bets can be used mostly for fun with the chance of winning a large sum of money. 

Still, this method can be an exciting option, and takes the main benefit of parlay betting to the extreme. 

Even More Ways to Make Parlay Bets

  • Moneyline Parlay – This is just how it sounds, where the player will include only money line bets in his parlay. That is, only outright bets on which player/ athlete will win the competition. 

  • Round Robin Parlay - Making a round robin parlay bet means that you will actually make a few different parlays using the same few selections. The trick is to rotate the selections that you place in each parlay bet so that if one loses you still have a chance to win at least one of your parlays. We discuss round robin parlays more in a separate article

  • Progressive Parlay – This type of parlay betting system gives the player the chance to win money even if all the selections do not hit. To put this together, the player will select four - 12 bets on the point spread. If one of the selections loses, the parlay bet will simply keep going with the payout of the remaining bets. 

  • Open Parlays – Another parlay with variation allowing for a better chance to win. If the player picks a 3-team parlay but later finds other games they think have a good chance to win, this parlay allows them to add in other games to the original parlay. 

  • Multi-Chance – This type of multiples bet is like the progressive parlay, but the payout does not change no matter how many you get wrong or right. Instead, there will be a limit on how many games you can lose in order to still win your bet, depending on the number of games included.

Picks and Parlays on American Sports and Leagues

There are no restrictions to which type of competitions you can make parlay sports bets on. Betting lines can even be taken from multiple games in different sports or leagues and combined to give you a parlay bet.

The most popular leagues in America will give players plenty of different options to combine. Remember, that not all selections for your parlay bet need to be from one specific league or sport.

That being said, a vast knowledge of a single league is an advantage for betting, including for parlays. 

NFL Picks and Parlays

Betting on the most popular league in the country, NFL parlays are some of the most commonly played wagers. During the NFL season, on each Sunday, Monday and Thursday there are NFL games scheduled.

When putting together NFL parlays, there are a lot of different markets players can choose from. The most popular are the moneyline, spread betting or teasers and for the NFL prop bets.

One of the most popular methods when beginning is to look at popular expert's NFL picks and parlays. 

These experts will advise which betting lines from which games to combine into your NFL parlay bet and often include a parlay calculator to figure out the potential payout.

There are many free versions of NFL picks and parlays, so they are definitely worth a look before stacking up a parlay on your own. 

NBA Picks and Parlay Bets

America's number one professional basketball league is also a top favorite for parlay betting. The NBA has games nearly everyday when in season, which means plenty of opportunities for fresh NBA parlays.

Over/under betting here is a popular choice among fans. Total scores in the NBA can be well over 200, and offensive output in the league is improving in recent years.

The NBA is the other sport where teaser bets are available. These allow you to adjust the initial spreads to give you more favorable or higher odds. 

Just like the NFL, the NBA also has free parlay picks and predictions which will give you expert suggestions for what to include in your next parlay bet.

Once you have your picks, you can go to any sportsbook and start selecting games to enter into your parlay bet. 

MLB Picks and Parlay Bets

Another league where games are played daily, there are always chances to put together MLB parlays during baseball season. The run line and the moneyline are what players should focus on here.

When putting an MLB parlay bet together using run line bets, the starting pitchers for a game should be the main focus.

The beauty of a parlay bet is that multiple wagers can be combined to give you higher odds and payouts. In the MLB, there are usually some games with a massive talent gap between the two teams.

Combining two or three picks into an MLB parlay will give you better odds even on the best teams. 

NHL Picks and Parlays Bets

Hockey and the NHL provide the perfect betting opportunities in the winter. Games are nearly everyday during the winter months, meaning that combining NHL parlays can be done often.

The moneyline is the most popular bet type for the NHL, and the league is characterized by having high odds on both teams, as the league is very competitive.

Even if you are just beginning, NHL picks and parlays can help any player with new suggestions for games and bet types to include in the parlay.

Both team injuries and home ice advantage are major factors when making bets on NHL games. 

NCAA Picks and Parlay Bets

Betting on college sports can be just as profitable as betting on the professional ones. In college, basketball and football are the most popular sports for NCAA parlay bets.

In the NCAA, the talent gap between teams in different conferences can be massive. 

Therefore, it's best to learn everything about one or two conferences at the beginning and use the games there to make your parlay bets.

Generally, the more obscure the conference, the better chances you will have against the sportsbook. 

Between the two sports, players will have NCAA games available for most of the year. The games come so often in fact, that NCAA parlay bets can be made nearly everyday.

Last Minute Tips for Making Parlay Bets 

Like we said above, two or three-team parlays will, on average, pay out better than individual straight wagers. So, the first tip would be to limit your parlay bets to two or three teams only, especially at the beginning. 

Anything more than that will make little to no sense for the bettor, but a lot of sense for the sportsbook.

  • Help yourself instead by avoiding temptation of big, lottery ticket style bet slips
  • Stick with the leagues and competitions that you know
  • Do not be afraid to branch out from the main markets
  • Customize your parlays with system bets like round robins and teasers
  • When starting out, avoid including spread bets

Parlays are an incredibly wild and entertaining form of sports bets. The added risk comes with an added sense of excitement as you watch each parlay leg conclude.

We always advise to follow your gut and bet on the competitions you are most knowledgeable about. 

And, of course, good luck hitting that next parlay bet!

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