Parlay Betting and Payouts Explained

Looking to win nearly 3x, 6x or 10x the money wagered on a single bet? Do you confidently know the outcome of games before they even begin? Do you have a money tree in your backyard that can replenish your bankroll at will? Then you’re going to want to pay your brick-and-mortar or online sportsbook a visit and ask them about the wonderful world of parlays and what they can do for your bottom line!

All kidding aside, parlays are one of the most popular forms of sports betting due to the high payouts should you be fortunate enough to cash in on a three, four, or five teamer. Some sportsbooks offer up parlays as high as 12 teams; the pay-off odds for those are astronomical.

What is parlay betting?

A parlay is a single bet that groups at least two individual wagers together for a higher payout than betting both games separately. Parlay wagers attract the most novice of sports bettors looking to strike it rich, much like those that visit their local gas stations and convenience stores in hopes of winning big on scratch-off lottery tickets. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never won a ton of money playing scratch-offs. The most ever was a couple hundred bucks. However, I have hit several parlays throughout my betting career, but the money made off them likely brought my account back even due to all the money wasted on them early on in my betting career.

Bottom line: sportsbooks want you to parlay games because it forces the sports bettor to be perfect. If any of the bets within the parlay fail to come through, the bet loses. It’s that simple. That’s exactly why sportsbooks offer up enticing pay-offs when it comes to parlay cards. Provided every leg of the parlay comes in at -110 juice, the payout schedule would look like this.

A two-team parlay pays out at 13/5 or +260 which means you’d win $260 for every $100 wagered. The overall return on investment would equate to $360 after getting your initial wager back.

A three-teamer pays out at 6/1; a four teamer pays off at 10/1; a five teamer pays out at 20/1; a six teamer pays out at 40/1; a seven teamer pays out at 75/1; an eight teamer pays out at 150/1; a nine teamer pays out at 300/1 and a 10 teamer brings back an insane 150/1 return on investment.

Keep in mind, payoffs differ from book to book, so make it a point to ask what they are before locking in a wager at your respective place of business.

Risk vs reward in parlays

The more legs you add to the parlay, the higher the rate of return. These high-risk, high-reward wagers will always be one of the most popular wager types in the sportsbook. By combining all of the bets into one wager makes the odds of cashing in worse, the reward if successfully pulled off is huge and one you’d likely never forget. I mean who doesn’t want to have a story about turning $5 into $50K betting a 10-team parlay card filled with underdogs on a college basketball Saturday?!

Another factor to keep in mind is the push. When one of your legs push, meaning the final score landed exactly on the point spread, the parlay would get kicked down to the next lowest tier. For instance, if you place a two-team parlay and one of the legs wins and the other pushes, the parlay would turn into a straight bet meaning you wouldn’t receive the parlay multiplier. If two legs of a three-team parlay cash and the final one push, the wager would get knocked down to a two teamer and payout around +260 provided both legs had -110 vigorish. A four teamer would turn into a three teamer, etc.

All point spreads, totals and moneylines can be inserted into a parlay. You can even enter first and second half wagers into a parlay. However, sportsbooks don’t allow the same game parlays when dealing with the full game side/total and first half side/total. So, if you like the over in a Houston Rockets game, you will not be able to parlay the first half over let’s say 115 and the full game total of 235 together.

Examples of parlay bets

Let’s go through a couple of different scenarios to make it easier to visualize how parlay bets work, and what happens when you make a parlay sports bet.

MLB parlay bet example

The first will deal with an example in MLB wagering. After perusing the slate, you like the Cubs to hold serve at home as -140 favorites against the Cardinals. You also have a feeling the Braves go into Washington and upset the Nationals as +125 underdogs. Together, the two sides equate to parlay odds of +285. This means a $100 wager would bring back a $285 return on investment should both legs cash in to make the parlay whole. An extra $85 is won by parlaying the two sides together as opposed to betting each individually. Not a bad haul.

NFL parlay bet example

For our next example, we’ll look to an NFL bet and only deal with underdog point spreads with -110 juice attached to them. Then after that, we’ll see how different the payout would be if you parlayed each team on the moneyline instead of backing them on the point spread. After breaking down the week’s card, you’ve singled out the Texans +10/+375, Jets +6.5/+225, Bengals +7.5/+280, and Broncos +5.5/+195 as the four teams you want to group in a parlay.

A regular four team point spread parlay would payout at +1228 on a $100 wager. A total of $1,328 would be credited to your account should the Texans +10, Jets +6.5, Bengals +7.5, and Broncos +5.5 cash in on the point spread. While an extra $828 was made by parlaying the four teams together instead of betting each team individually, the rate of return pales in comparison to the money reeled in if you parlayed them on the moneyline instead. If you locked in a 4-team moneyline parlay for $100 involving the Texans +375, Jets +225, Bengals +280, and Broncos +195, you’d bring back a whopping $17,205.44 in a profit should the football gods smile upon your action. The parlay odds increase exponentially when dealing with underdogs that win outright! Note to self, always make it a point to deal with moneyline dogs when throwing beer money on parlays in hopes of winning the lottery.

Pairing favorite with an underdog example

Another excellent way to use parlays is by pairing a huge moneyline favorite with a small underdog. What this form of parlay betting does is limit the amount of risk losing with the favorite on a straight bet, while at the same time possibly earning better than 2x the money should the dog bark as well. Take for instance the New York Yankees installed hefty -200 favorites against the Toronto Blue Jays, and the home dogged San Diego Padres +125 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. A two-team parlay of the two sides would pay out at +211. So instead of paying $200 to win $100 on the Yankees, you can pair them with a dog to limit exposure and make more money on the bets paired together than betting each individually. That’s wise parlay betting, my friend!

Are parlays good bets?

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with betting parlay cards every day or every week. Just be sure to put a small chunk of change aside that’s reserved for exotic wagers, and make a bulk of your bankroll available for more conservative straight bet wagering. If you think you’re going to routinely beat the books by betting parlays, you’ve got another thing coming.

There’s nothing sportsbook operators love to see more than wide-eyed youngsters strolling up to the betting window looking to put several huge parlay tickets in play. More times than not it’s fool’s gold; parlays account for a high percentage of sportsbook profits every single month so just keep that in mind when you line up all those parlay tickets for an NFL Sunday this season.