Learn about the pros and cons of parlay betting in US sports. Discover the best strategies and tips for maximizing your chances of success and beating the bookies.
Last updated: April 30, 2023
Parlay Betting is one of the most appealing and entertaining forms of US sports betting for punters due to its high payout promises.
It represents a classic high-risk, high-reward system by allowing the bettors to combine multiple picks into one bet. That way, your winnings get multiplied, and the payout grows proportionally.
On the other hand, the high-risk factor makes your job much more challenging by forcing you to land every single pick on a parlay for it to be a winning one. Even if just one of the bets lets you down, your entire parlay is a loser.
Now, as appealing and exciting as the parlays may seem, they represent one of the leading bankroll killers. The more experienced punters rarely risk their money on parlays, especially those with more than three picks.
A parlay is any bet that combines two or more picks. The limits for the upper end constantly change and depend on the sportsbook or casino.
Some operators allow you 20, others 15, while there are even those without a limit regarding the number of selections.
Instead, they set limits on potential winnings. The more legs you have on a parlay, the more you stand to win.
Most sportsbooks will allow you to combine any markets for your parlay as long as the picks do not correlate.
For example, you cannot combine moneyline and spread for the same game because they are obviously connected. It makes no sense for the bookmakers to increase your winnings for basically backing the same outcome.
Some sportsbooks even allow you to place players’ props on your parlays, but generally, the rules differ from operator to operator.
One operator that prides itself on its unique approach to parlay betting is BetMGM Sportsbook. This operator offers an exclusive One Game Parlay option, allowing bettors to build a parlay by making multiple picks from a single game — something impossible at most other sportsbooks. BetMGM encourages bettors to use their knowledge and skills by crafting the perfect One Game Parlay, mixing and matching any number of moneyline, points, and prop bets from the same game on a single parlay.
Learn more in our complete BetMGM Sportsbook Review or follow this link to sign up with the 'King of Sports’ and start building your own One Game Parlay.
An example is the best way to understand how parlays and odds work. Let’s say you place a parlay wager by picking two spread picks.
As you know, the standard odds for these bets are -110. A two-game parlay for these bets pays at +260 odds, meaning you can net a profit of $260 by placing a $100 wager.
While it looks attractive, we will show the difference between such a parlay and two separate $100 wagers to understand why it would be better to go for the latter option.
We have calculated that a $100 wager would get you $360 for a parlay pick of +260 odds.
Now, if you separate the two -110 picks into two separate bets, you get the following:
By doing simple math, you will see that the house advantage grows proportionally to the number of picks on your parlay, with one exception being a three-leg parlay.
In this case, a parlay pick would bring you to +600 odds, while three individual bets that include rolling over your starting bankroll would get you to a total amount of $596.79.
The real problems start with four picks where parlay odds are equal to +1000, while the individual picks would get you to $1230.86. This is a 2.31-unit deficit for parlays. The deficit grows with more legs.
For example, when you get to seven picks (of -110 odds each) on a parlay, you would be looking at the +8000 odds, whereas the individual picks would get you to a $9173.28 total amount. This is a staggering 11.73 unit difference between the two variants.
The most common parlays are those with regular lines and odds. These include all basic moneyline, spread, and total bets, regardless of the sport or event. You can combine anything you want as long as the picks have the standard lines.
Nonetheless, always remember that every single pick on a parlay needs to be a winner for the parlay to be a winner.
The one distinction is when your pick lands exactly on the line, in which case that specific bet is a push.
For example, you have backed the Over 231 points pick in an NBA game, and it ends on exactly 231 points. If the other bets on your parlay win, this one will be void and, as such, removed from the equation. In this instance, a four-leg parlay becomes a three-leg one.
Round Robins are a feature that allows you to add some extra security to the parlay. Let’s say that you place a three-leg parlay. A round robin breaks down these three picks into several smaller parlays, combining them into three different two-leg parlays.
The main pro for this type is that your parlay can win, even if one of the three picks lets you down. In this case, you would win one of the three newly-formed parlays because you land the other two picks.
The con is that you need to split your one initial bet into three different stakes to form these three smaller parlays. Let’s say you want to place a $300 bet on a single parlay. With a round robin, you would put down three wagers of $100, thus reducing your potential total payout.
Speaking of the security factor, teasers are another way to increase your chances of landing a parlay. They are used exclusively for basketball and football matches due to the nature of these sports and the number of points scored in games.
The main principle in which the teasers work is adding additional points to each total or spread market. Here is an example.
You are looking to place a wager on three NBA games, combining the following standard lines:
With a teaser, you can boost your chances by adding specific points to the existing lines. In this example, we will add 8 points to each pick. A teaser bet would look like this:
While more safety represents the huge pro, the main con of teaser bets is that they significantly reduce your potential winnings because the odds for these alternate lines are proportionally shorter than the original ones.
Everything mentioned for teasers works the opposite completely for pleasers. This type of parlay also uses alternate lines, but instead of moving them to increase your chances of winning, pleasers add points in the opposite direction.
Using the same example from above, you would get the following.
These picks suddenly become more challenging to land, but the pro is that the potential payout looks much more attractive.
The most straightforward answer to this question is that it depends on your personal preferences. Parlays will surely be your cup of tea if you like to live by the motto “Go big or go home.”
Even with this in mind, they should never be the core of your betting portfolio. Professional bettors make money on singles.
Parlay Insurance is a standard promotion at many of the best US sportsbooks. Keep an eye out for these promos, as they offer a great way to dip your toes into the parlay pool and build some exciting bet combos without risking too much of your bankroll.
It is possible to make money on parlays if the maximum number of picks is three. Anything else is a big gamble which may work out occasionally but will never pay out in the long run.
If you want to have fun and add excitement to your NFL Sunday with seven or eight picks, be our guest, but do go for it with the smallest portion of your bankroll.