For those of you that are looking to win big with only a small amount of risk, you’re probably going to be interested in learning about parlays.
These bets, sometimes referred to as multipliers or accumulators in some parts of the world, are set up to give you that opportunity to win big without having to wager huge sums of money.
Now, as you probably have already guessed, winning a parlay is more challenging than winning a straightforward bet. If it weren’t, the sportsbooks would probably all be broke and closed by now.
Even though they are more challenging, armed with the right knowledge base, parlays can be conquered and can be extremely profitable.
What is a Parlay?
Before we go any further, we need to explain what a parlay is fully.
By definition, a parlay is a group of multiple individual bets (two or more) that are connected together and treated as one big wager.
In order to win the entire bet, you have to win each of the individual bets on your parlay. If you lose one individual bet, then you lose the entire parlay bet.
Why would you ever want to group bets together and force them to be dependent on each other?
The reason is that the sportsbook will pay you out much more money for correctly picking multiple individual bets together.There is more risk in this type of bet so it should be expected that we are offered a higher reward for making this wager.
Let’s compare betting three games individually versus betting them as a parlay.
Let’s also assume that our bankroll for these three games is $300. We’re going to look at the scenarios if we picked all three games correctly and if we only picked two of the games correctly.
Picked All Three Games Correctly
If we bet the games individually, we would bet $100 per game.
Our total profit would be $272.73 if we bet all three of these games individually.
Now, what would happen if we picked all three games as a parlay bet? This time, we would place a single bet of $300. We will go over how to calculate parlay payouts in the section below here, but for now, we have done the calculations for you.
The profit on this bet as a parlay would be $1787.40! Even if we only bet $100 total, we would see a profit of $595.80. As you can see, you can bet 1/3 of the amount you bet total in the individual games and still make more than double what you would betting the games individually.
Getting a Pick Incorrect
At this point, a lot of people are wondering why you would ever bet anything but parlays. You can bet less and make so much more! Well, as you are probably guessing, there is more to the story.
Let’s look at what happens in our same example, except this time we only pick two out of the three games correctly. We bet the same games again for $100 each individually, and we are correct on two out of the three games.
Our total profit is $81.82.
If we bet all three of the games as a parlay for $300 (or $100), our profit is negative $300 or negative $100. If you get even one game wrong in a parlay, you lose the entire bet. You’ve now seen the downside to parlays.
You have to be perfect to cash in, or you lose.
Even if you only get one game correct betting them individually, you’re only going to lose $109. If you bet the same $300 on a parlay, though, you lose the entire $300. The risk is higher for parlays, but the associated reward is also higher.
Calculating Parlay Payouts
There are a few ways you can go about figuring what you will win on a parlay. The first and simplest method is to bet online. Online sites will calculate your potential payout in real time as you add games and bets to your parlay slip.
They’ll let you see exactly what you stand to win before you even make your bet. This is hands down the easiest way to play with parlays and see what you want to bet.
The second easiest way to calculate parlay payouts is to use an online calculator. You can input the different lines, and the calculators will spit out the amount you stand to win from correct picks.
Remember to check that the calculator is giving you just profit or is giving you the total money the sportsbook will give you back. The first will be purely profit and the second will include your bet.
The third method for calculating parlay payouts is to look at the parlay payout chart provided by the sportsbook. Most sportsbooks aren’t going to pay out exactly the true odds on a parlay (a little more in their favor), so this is the most accurate way to see what you will get. Most online sportsbooks are going to offer similar payouts on parlays, but they may vary slightly.
Here is a sample payout chart from 5dimes sportsbook for their football and basketball parlays. Their odds are known to be slightly better for bettors than most of the industry:
All payouts based on odds of -110
# of Teams
This means that if you were to say pick a parlay like our example from earlier for three teams, you would get paid out at 6 to 1.
The last and final way that you can figure out the payout on a parlay bet is to calculate it yourself. As a quick caveat, this number is usually going to be very close to the payout but not exact. The sportsbooks will sometimes move the actual payout slightly in or against your favor.
The number we will be calculating will be the true odds payout.
Let’s start by calculating it for our example bet from earlier. The first thing you need to do is convert the moneyline odds on each individual bet to decimal odds. You can do that using our handy-dandy calculator here:
We find that the decimal odds on each game are 1.91, 1.91, and 1.91 (rounded). In order to calculate the parlay payouts, you start by multiplying all of the decimal odds together.
1.91 x 1.91 x 1.91 = 6.967
Then, you take this number and multiply it by your wager which will give you the total amount of money the sportsbook will give back to you. In order to just see potential profit, you need to subtract out your original bet.
6.967 x $300 = $2090.10 – $300 = $1790.10
As you can see from the chart above, 5dimes will pay you $1800 for this bet which is better than the true odds. Most other sites will pay you at true odds or a little below.
An Example with Different Odds
Let’s look at a four-team example now, but with different payout odds for each bet. We are also assuming that we bet $300 on this parlay.
We start again by converting all of these odds to decimal odds.
Then, we multiply all the decimal odds together.
1.91 x 1.71 x 3.10 x 1.91 = 19.3385
We multiply this number by our bet amount and subtract out our bet amount to get our total possible profit.
9.3385 x $300 = $5801.55
$5801.55 – $300 = $5501.55
We stand to make $5501.55 on this parlay. We cannot compare this number to the chart above as the chart is only if all bets are -110. Since the bets are varying here, the odds must be calculated or done using one of the calculators or the betting sites.
Again, the betting sites online are the easiest way to calculate potential parlays. This is especially true if you want to interchange different bets to see what you want to bet on.
What if a Bet Pushes?
An important question that needs to be addressed is what happens if a bet pushes.
We highly recommend that wherever you choose to bet, you take the time to read up on or contact support and ask them how they handle pushes.
The standard practice is to treat that bet as if it were not part of the parlay at all. For example, if you have a three-team parlay and you win two bets and the third pushes, you would be paid out as if you won a two team parlay.
Forcing True Odds
There’s a fancy little trick floating around that can be used when a sportsbook is not paying out true odds (meaning they have manipulated them slightly in their favor which most of them do). The sportsbook can only use their manipulated odds if all of your bets come in at -110. If you select a single bet that is not -110, then the sportsbook is forced to calculate the true odds.
This can definitely make a big impact in your long-term profits. The important thing to remember, though, is that you don’t want to worry so much about this that you force in a bet that you lose just to try and get a few points more on your bet.
Remember, if you lose one bet on your parlay, you lose the entire parlay.
While most parlays are just different because of the number of bets, there are a few variations that some online sportsbooks are going to offer you. We’ve included some of those different variations here for you.
An open parlay is a parlay that you “don’t have to finish all at once”. This means that you can pick a few games and then add more games to that parlay at a later date.
So for example, let’s say you see two games this weekend that you want to parlay, but you want to parlay them as part of a much bigger parlay.
With an open parlay, you can start with those two games and then when you win both, you can add in the other games you want at a later date.
Most sites that offer these will allow you to fill the open slots in individually or all at once.
This form of parlay allows you to win as long as you correctly pick a certain threshold of games on your ticket. This means you can win this parlay and still pick some games incorrect.
If you pick a five team parlay, you might bet paid if you pick three games correct, four games correct, or five games correct.
You will receive more money depending on how many games you get correct. The payouts will be different on this parlay as the sportsbook will not give you the same amount for getting all five correct as if you made a regular parlay bet.
This form of parlay also allows you to win as long as you correctly pick a certain threshold of games on your ticket. The difference here, though, is that you get the same amount no matter how far over the threshold you are.
In the above example of a progressive parlay, you received more money the more correct picks you got.
In a multi-chance parlay, you get the same whether you pick all the games correctly or just make it to the bottom of the threshold.