What is A Parlay Bet: How it Works, Examples & Strategies

By:
Rowan Fisher-Shotton
Betting Education
Unlock the Power of Parlays: A Comprehensive Guide to Parlay Betting

Feeling lucky? Parlay betting could be your ticket to hitting it big in the sports betting world!

This type of wager is like rolling all of your bets into one, creating the potential for a massive payout. But, like all good things in life, it comes with risk.

On this page, we will guide you through everything you need to know about parlay betting, so you can make more informed, strategic, and profitable wagers.

What is a Parlay Bet?

Parlay betting, also known as accumulator betting, is a popular way to bet on sports that involves combining multiple bets into one. With a parlay bet, each individual bet is considered a “leg” of the parlay, and all of the legs must be correct to win the bet.

So, basically here’s how it works: let’s say that you want to bet on three different NBA games, for example - 

  • Toronto Raptors vs. New York Knicks
  • Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Memphis Grizzlies 
  • Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics. 

You could bet on individual bets for each game, such as the Raptors winning outright (moneyline), the Grizzlies covering the spread at -7.5, and the Lakers vs. Celtics combining for over 237 points (total).

If all three of your selections hit, you win the parlay bet. However, if just one of the individual bets loses, you lose the entire parlay bet. 

One of the biggest advantages of parlay betting is that it allows you to increase your potential winnings quite drastically. The reason for this is that each individual bet is multiplied together, meaning that the parlay odds and potential payout can be much higher than if you placed bets individually.

For instance, if you placed three individual bets of $10 each with odds of +150, +200, and +300, respectively, your potential payout would be $15, $20, and $30. However, if you parlayed these bets together, your potential payout would climb up to a whopping $420!

Of course, on the other hand, one of the biggest risks of parlay bets is that they require all of the legs to be correct to win the bet. This means that if even one of your selected bets loses, you would not win a single dime, hence why parlay bets are considered such a high-risk, high-reward proposition.

Now, it’s important to remember that there are different types of parlays you can make as well, depending on the number of games or events you’d like to wager on. A two-leg parlay, for example, involves betting on the outcome of two different events, whereas a three-leg parlay involves betting on the outcome of three events, and so on. The more legs you include in your parlay, the higher the payout, but also the greater the risk of losing the entire bet.

Some common types of parlays include point spread parlays, moneyline parlays, and totals parlays, all of which were referenced above and we will go into more detail later. 

How Do Parlays Work?

Parlays are essentially a mashup of picks in which you would pick two or more outcomes and combine them into a single bet.

If all of your parlay picks win, you could earn some big bucks! But if just one pick loses, your entire bet is a bust. This high-risk, high-reward style of betting is perfect for the thrill-seekers of the sports world.

Types of Parlays

So, now that we’ve helped answer the question, “what is a parlay bet?”, it’s time to take a closer look at the different types of parlays you can place. From same-game to teasers, each type has its own unique benefits and risks associated with it. Be sure to follow along as we uncover each and help you find the perfect type for you. 

  • Point spread parlay - First up, we have the ageless point spread parlay. This is where you bet on the point spread, or margin of victory, for multiple games.

    For example, you might bet on the Dallas Cowboys to cover a 7-point spread against the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers to cover a 3-point spread against the Chicago Bears. If both the Cowboys and the Packers cover their respective spreads, you win the parlay.

  • Moneyline parlay - Next, we have the moneyline parlay, which is where you would bet on the outright winner of multiple games, ignoring the point spread.

    For example, you might bet on the New York Yankees to beat the Boston Red Sox, the Golden State Warriors to beat the Phoenix Suns, and the Buffalo Bills to beat the New York Jets. If the Yankees, Warriors, and Bills all win their respective games, you win the parlay bet.

  • Totals parlay - Moving on, we have totals parlays, or “over/under” parlays, in which you would bet on the total number of combined points scored in multiple games.

    An example of this might be if you were to bet on the total points scored for the New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons game to be over 50, and the total goals scored in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators game to be under 7. If both games play out according to your predictions, you would win the parlay.

  • Same-game parlay - Now, let’s take a look at a more unique type of parlay bet, the “same-game parlay”. Simply put, this is where you bet on multiple outcomes within the same game.

    For example, you might bet on the Kansas City Chiefs to win a game outright, Patrick Mahomes to throw for over 300 yards, and Travis Kelce to score a touchdown. If all three of these things happen within the same game, you would win the parlay.

  • Teaser parlay - Last but not least, we have the increasingly popular “teaser” parlay. This is where you adjust the point spread for multiple games in your favour, in exchange for lower potential payouts.

    For example, you might tease the point spread for the Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans game from -7 to -3, and the point spread for the Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers game from +3 to +9. If both teams cover their new spreads, you win the parlay.

Understanding Parlay Odds

As with any other form of sports gambling, understanding odds is key to becoming a successful sports bettor. Essentially, parlay odds are the product of the odds for each individual leg of the parlay bet multiplied together. This is why the more legs you add to your parlay, the higher the odds and potential payout. 

So, let’s say you want to bet on a three-leg moneyline parlay with the following odds:

Hamilton Tiger-Cats (+150)Toronto Raptors (-110)Montreal Canadiens (+220)


Personally, I’ve found the easiest way to calculate the overall odds is to first convert each odds to a decimal. So, the Ti-Cats odds would be 2.50, the Raptors would be 1.91, and the Canadiens’ would be 3.20. 

Next, you would multiply the decimal odds together: 2.50 x 1.91 x 3.20 = 15.28.

This means that the overall odds for your three-leg parlay bet are 15.28 to 1. So, if you were to bet $100 on this parlay and all three legs won, your total payout would be $1,528 ($100 x 19.24). However, while the potential of winning $1,528 can be incredibly enticing, once again, if even just one game is incorrect, the entire bet is lost. 

So, in short, understanding parlay odds is about multiplying the odds of each leg together to get the overall odds of the parlay. Just remember to balance the potential payout with the risk involved, and you’ll be on your way to making successful parlay bets.

How to Build a Parlay?

Building a parlay bet can be a thrilling way to multiply your potential winnings, but before you dive in, there are a few things to consider to ensure you’re making the best possible choice. 

The first and most obvious tip is to choose your legs wisely. Each leg of your parlay bet is essentially a separate wager, and even the slightest miscalculation could throw off the entire bet, so you want to make sure you’re choosing bets that you’re confident in. Therefore, you should think about which teams or players have been performing well recently, any major injuries or suspensions, and other key factors that could impact the outcome of the game.

Once you’ve chosen your legs, it’s time to consider the odds for each individual leg, which are multiplied together to determine the overall odds for your parlay bet. Taking into account the risks associated with parlays, it’s vital to strike a balance between the number of legs you add and the potential payout. 

After you’ve picked the games or events you’d like to wager on, taking the odds into account, it’s time to place your bets. Most betting sites will have a “parlay builder” tool that allows you to add your chosen legs and see the overall odds and payout. Here, you can adjust the legs you want to include, and the tool will automatically calculate everything else for you. Although, be sure to double-check your bet before submitting it, as parlay bets cannot be altered or cancelled once they’re placed, and cashing out any individual bet early will void the other bets in the parlay.

So, altogether when building a parlay bet, it’s important to take into consideration the strength of each individual bet or leg, the odds, and of course, the potential payout. By doing a little bit of research and finding the right balance between risk and reward, you can build parlays that lead to major gains.

Parlay Betting Tips and Strategies

Parlay betting can be a fun and potentially lucrative way to bet on sports, but it’s essential to approach it with caution, selectivity, and strategy. To help you get started, here are some helpful tips and strategies for parlay betting in sports.

  • Be selective with your bets - It’s paramount to carefully consider each selection and only include bets that you’re 100% (or close to) confident in. Adding more legs to your parlay can be tempting when you see the payout skyrocket, but it also increases the risk of losing the entire bet and walking away with nothing.

    So, let’s say you want to place a parlay bet on an MLB game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros. You’re confident that the underdog Blue Jays will win, but you’re not sure about the over/under or the spread of the game. Instead of adding all three legs to your parlay, stick to the bet you’re confident in and place separate bets on the other markets.

  • Consider the odds - As previously mentioned, the potential payout for a parlay bet can be quite high, but the odds of winning are quite low. Therefore, it’s vital to find a balance between the payout and your realistic odds of winning the bet.

    So, if you want to place a parlay on an NBA game between the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers, consider the odds for each individual bet you want to place. For example, if the 76ers are heavily favoured to win, the moneyline odds may be too low to include it in your parlay. Instead, you could look for a more evenly matched game with higher odds.

  • Hedge your bets - Hedging your bets means placing a smaller bet on the opposite outcome of one of your legs to guarantee a profit regardless of the outcome.

    In other words, let’s say that you’re placing a parlay bet on a tennis match, and you’re confident that one player will win but not sure about the exact score.You can hedge your bet by placing a separate bet on the opposite outcome of the score leg. This way, you’re guaranteed to win one way or another.

  • Avoid chasing big payouts - The only way to become a successful sports bettor is to come up with a strategy that works for you and stick to it.

    Regarding parlay betting, you should never allow the lure of a big payout to cloud your judgment. Chasing big payouts can lead to impulsive bets and ultimately, more losses and disappointment.

  • Don’t add too many legs to your parlay - Simply put, the more legs you add, the harder it is to win, and the higher the risk of losing the entire bet. Thus, you should avoid adding too many games to your parlay, and weigh the potential payout with your realistic odds of winning the bet.

    So, let’s say that you want to place a bet on an NHL game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks and you’re confident about three different bets: the Leafs to win, the Leafs to win by more than two goals, and Auston Matthews to score a goal.

    Instead of adding all three legs to your parlay, find another bet you feel good about and split them into two separate parlays with two legs each. This way you can increase your chances of winning and reduce the risk of losing the entire bet.

Pros and Cons of Parlays

Pros ✅Cons ❌
Big payouts - With multiple bets combined into one, even placing a small stake can result in a significant return if all the bets win.  Low chance of winning - Since each individual bet in the parlay must win for the overall bet to be successful, it can be difficult to win consistently.  
Value from favourites - Instead of betting on a heavy favourite that everybody knows will win, you can add them to a parlay with a few less predictable games to increase the odds and potential earnings.Potential for addiction - The potential for bigger payouts can make it difficult for bettors to stop chasing losses, which could lead to compulsive and irrational gambling behaviour.

Myths and Truths of Parlays

Are parlays a smart betting strategy or a recipe for disaster? It’s a debate that has been raging in the sports betting world for years.  

On one hand, parlays can offer a higher potential payout compared to traditional betting, but on the other hand, it comes with a greater level of risk and can be difficult to predict.  

In this section, we’ll separate the truths from myths of parlay betting, giving you the information you need to decide if it’s the right betting strategy for you.  

Myths of Parlays

  • Parlays are “easy money” - I’ve seen countless sports bettors get caught in the trap of thinking that parlays are an easy way to make more money. I mean, how hard could it be to find two or three winning bets, right? Unfortunately, while parlays can offer a higher reward, they are not by any means a guaranteed way to make money. The truth is that predicting the outcome of even just a single event correctly, let alone multiple, is incredibly difficult even for professionals. In fact, even the savviest sports bettors would consider it a win if they hit on anything over 50% of their bets.
  • Parlays are only for experienced bettors - While parlays might seem complex to someone who is totally new to the sports betting scene, they are not only for experienced bettors. With the proper research and foresight, anyone can place a parlay bet so long as they understand the possible risks and how to gamble responsibly. 

Truths of Parlays

  • High risk, high reward - We’ve already touched on why parlays are often seen as a high-risk, high-reward option for sports bettors, and this is completely true. Parlays offer a higher potential payout compared to traditional single sports betting, but obviously with a higher risk involved. This is because to win a parlay, you must correctly predict the outcome of multiple events, which as previously noted, is not exactly easy. The more events you include in your parlay, the higher the payout, but the greater the risk of losing the entire bet as well.
  • Difficulty in predicting outcomes - It is also true that the more bets added to a parlay, the harder it becomes to predict the outcome of each individual bet, thus increasing the overall risk of losing the bet. For example, let’s say you want to place a parlay bet on five different NBA games on a single night. Even if you’ve done your research and feel confident with your parlay picks, there are a lot of variables that can impact each game, such as player injuries, fatigue, or simply a poor shooting night. Therefore, the more games you include in your parlay, the more difficult it is to try and predict the outcome of each individual game. 

FAQs

Is parlay betting legal in Canada?

Yes, parlays are legal in Canada, and Canadians have been allowed to engage in sports betting since 1985. That said, until single-game betting became legal as of August 27, 2021, only parlays and pari-mutual gambling were permitted, whereas now, all forms of sports betting are legal and regulated in Canada. 

What if one of the bets in my parlay results in a push?

A push in a parlay means that one of the bets in the parlay resulted in a tie or a draw, and the outcome did not result in a win or a loss. When a push occurs, the bet is usually removed from the parlay and the payout is recalculated based on the remaining bets.

How are Teaser Bets different from Parlays?

Teaser bets and parlay bets are both multi-leg wagers that involve combining multiple bets into one. However, the main difference between the two is that teaser bets allow you to adjust the point spread or total line to your advantage, while parlay bets do not.

What happens if a game in my parlay bet is cancelled or postponed?

If a game in your parlay bet is cancelled or postponed, your parlay will still be valid but the odds will be adjusted based on the remaining bets in the parlay. If the remaining bets still win, you will still receive a payout, but it will be based on the adjusted odds.

Can I parlay the money line and spread from the same game?

Yes, it is possible to parlay the money line and spread from the same game. This is called a correlated or “same-game” parlay, and it involves making multiple bets on the same game. However, many sportsbooks may have rules against this type of wager because it creates a higher risk for the sportsbook.

How many bets can I include in a parlay?

The number of bets that can be included in a parlay can vary depending on the sportsbook. Some sportsbooks may have a limit on the number of bets that can be included in a parlay, while others may allow a large number of bets to be included. The highest parlay bet I’ve ever seen pay off was a ten-leg parlay, but I’m sure you could climb even higher if you’re feeling daring enough.  

Conclusion

As you venture into the world of sports betting, it’s important to have a good grasp of parlays. They can be an incredibly powerful tool in your betting arsenal, and armed with the right information, you should have no problem developing a successful strategy on how to approach them. 

All in all, we hope that this page has been able to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of parlay betting. From the basic concept of combining multiple bets into one, to the potential risks and rewards associated with this type of betting, you should have everything you need to explore the wild world of parlay sports betting.