What is a Parlay Bet?
Parlay bets are wagers that combine at least two separate bets or “legs” into one wager. In order to cash on a parlay, each individual bet must win. The legs within the parlay can combine different types of wagers, such as a moneyline bet paired with wagers on point spreads. They can also include bets from different sports. A Carolina Panthers moneyline combined with a Charlotte Bobcats point spread is a perfectly legal two team parlay. Throw in a Carolina Hurricanes total and you get a three team parlay.
Types of Parlay Bets
Many different bet types fall under the category of parlays
- Teasers: These move the points on each leg. In football a typical two team teasers moves each leg by 6 points, e.g. if the spreads are Panthers +1.5 vs the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons +5 vs the Dallas Cowboys, a two team teaser would be Panthers +7.5 and Falcons +11
- Round Robins: A round robin bet breaks down multi-game parlays into a series of smaller parlays. In a four team NFL parlay for example a bettor turning it into a round robin would place one bet on the four team parlay, plus bets on each three team and two team parlay within that combo for a total of 11 separate bets. They all grade separately
- Same Game Parlays (SGPs). These are parlayed bets involving the same game. For example Panthers +1.5 vs the Packers and Over 46.5 on the total. Depending on the specifics, the sportsbooks lower the parlay payout based on potential correlations between the legs. The Over and a prop bet on Bryce Young TD passes is an example of a same game parlay where the legs are correlated.
Point Spread Parlays
Point spread parlays can involve multiple wagers on the same sport or any combination of different sports. That would include Puck Lines in hockey and Run Lines in MLB. Panthers +1.5, and Falcons +5 paired with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -1.5 vs the Chicago Bears is a point spread parlay. North Carolina sports betting apps, sites or retail sportsbooks will usually payout standard two team parlays at about +264 if each leg wins.
This is the same as point spread parlay except each leg is a moneyline bet. In the three team parlay above, the legs might look something like Panthers +180, Falcons +420 and Buccaneers -150. All three teams need to simply win the game.
Instead of picking game winners or point spread covers, these involve point or goal or run totals. In the games above, we will go with Panthers-Packers over 47.5, Falcons-Cowboys Under 49.5 and Bucs-Bears under 43.5. If each leg wins here, the sportsbook like BetMGM North Carolina will pay out in the +595 range.
There is absolutely no rule that says a parlay bet must involve multiple bets of the same type of wager within it. Panthers +1.5, the Falcons moneyline and the under the Bucs-Bears game is a perfectly legal and normal three team parlay.
How to Calculate Parlay Odds
It is important to calculate parlay odds before placing a wager. Many sites offer a parlay calculator, but it is good to know how to manually calculate the numbers.
- ✅ Convert the payout on each individual bet to decimal odds. If the odds are negative American odds, the formula is 100/(100+(-1 Odds). It the odds are the standard -110, that comes out to 100/(100+(-1 -110) or .476. If the American odds are positive, it is Odds/(Odds +100). Thus a +250 line is 250/(250+100) or .714.
- ✅ Multiply the decimal odds of each leg. In the above example, it comes out to .3398. We will call that the calculated parlay odds.
- ✅ Convert the calculated parlay odds above back to American odds. To that, the formula is 100* (1 / Calculated Parlay odds). In this example, the sportsbook such as Caesars Sportsbook North Carolina would price the parlay at +294.
Advantages of Parlay Betting
Parlay bets are super fun and often profitable and have wide appeal to both casual bettors and more serious players
- ✅ Higher Potential Payout: As shown above, the parlay payout multiplies winnings on successful bets. $100 divided on two standard football bets win about $90.90 but when combined as a parlay bet will win about $264
- ✅ Increased Excitement: Higher potential payouts clearly add to the enjoyment factor of all sports bettors
- ✅ Smaller Investments: Parlays let everyone turn small risk amounts into potentially large payouts. Everybody has surely seen huge winning tickets posted all over social media.
Disadvantages of Parlay Betting
The downside of parlay betting is that the high payouts mask the long odds of cashing in
- ❌ Lower probability of winning: Those big payouts always come with a catch! Consider a regular straight bet priced at -110 on each side. It theoretically has a 50% chance of winning. Parlay two even money bets and it has only a 25% chance to cash.
- ❌ No partial wins: If just one leg fails to hit, the entire parlay bet loses. That is as true for a two team parlay is it is on a ten leg play.
- ❌ Limited flexibility: For anyone that likes hedging and/or live betting, having bets in a parlay will make that difficult.
Popular Sports To Parlay
The most popular sports to place straight bets on also tend to be the most popular places to try parlays.
- Horse Racing Parlays
Horse racing parlays differ from parlays in other sports in that racebooks do not actually offer parlays directly. Part of that is because horse race betting runs on a parimutuel system. All the bets are placed in a pool, then the “vig” gets deducted. The payouts depend solely on the final money breakdown of the bets when the race started. For example,, everyone who bets on Preakness winner National Treasure will get the same odds, and those exact odds will remain until after the race. Tracks and websites offer things like “Pick 3’s” where bettors can wager on three consecutive races and if all three bets hit, it cashes as a multiplied payout. Those Pick 3’s, or Pick 4’s or however many “Picks” are on the same race session at the same track. That is effectively a parlay, but the options are limited. Bettors can create their own de facto horse racing parlays across cards by placing a wager, then taking the winnings and placing a bet on a different race, and then if that hits playing all those winnings again and so on.
- NFL Parlays
Anyone who has ever picked multiple NFL games as part of a weekly pool has certainly had a week or weeks where everything just breaks right. Instead of having that cash a small weekly prize, why not dabble in an NFL parlay? A three team parlay comprised of even money legss pays out +596.
- NBA Parlays
Point spread bets and totals bets are both very popular on NBA games. Parlays let bettors combine everything into one wager. Combining Charlotte Bobcats +7 vs the Atlanta Hawks, the Over 207 on the Lakers-Suns game and the -150 Celtics money line vs the Sixers is an example of a fun parlay. It would pay out at +507.
- MLB Parlays
MLB betting differs from NBA and NFL betting in that the primary bets are on money lines. Astros -145 vs Angels +125 is an example. Sportsbooks do list Run Lines, where the favorite gives 1.5 runs. The run line here would be something like +140 on Astros -1.5 vs -165 on Angels +1.5. There are also totals markets on every game, such as 8.5 runs on the New York Yankees vs the LA Dodgers, with the money often leaning one direction, in this case maybe -125 on the Under and +105 on the over. An all plus-money parlay on the Angels moneyline, the Yankees-Dodgers Over 8.5 and the Atlanta Braves -1.5 over the Diamondbacks at +130 would pay out +961
- NHL Parlays
NHL betting is similar to MLB betting, just substitute Puck Lines for Run Lines. The potential for a winning team scoring a late goal into an empty net makes the relationship between Puck Lines and money lines a little different than Run lines and MLB money lines, but the concept is the same. Again, parlays across bet types are fun and common.
Five Expert Parlay Betting Strategies
Winning parlay strategies are like gold. Find some and the final payout will be terrific. The issue is the odds are stacked against the player even more so than on a single bet. Still, there are ways to get an edge
Stick to Two or Three Leg Parlay Bets
Sportsbooks price all their markets with a “vig”. A standard bet with even odds prices at -110. If the probability of a specific side winning is exactly 50%, then a bettor is expected to win $100 50% of the time, and lose $110 the other 50% of the time for an expected loss of $5 per $110 risked, or 4.5%. Only place straight bets that are assessed to have at least a 52.5% chance of winning!
Sportsbooks like FanDuel North Carolina typically pay out a two team parlay at the above odds at +264. The same $110 will win 25% of the time and pay $290.4, or $72.6. On the other hand, 75% of the time, it will lose the full $110, or $82.5. Thus the parlay loses $9.90 per $110. That is compounding math in action. The more legs in a parlay, the better the “hold” for the sportsbook.
Again though, this example just shows what the book retains, not the actual odds the parlay hits. A bettor that analyzes that both sides have a 55% chance to win can do just fine putting on this two team parlay. The point is that that parlays have steeper hills to climb than straight bets.
Select Correlated Parlays
The best way to “beat” the sportsbooks like DraftKings North Carolina on parlays is find correlations that are not priced in. For example, let us say it is Week 17 in the NFL and the Buffalo Bills are challenging the Kansas City Chiefs for the top seed in the AFC and the ensuing first round bye. The Bills play the New England Patriots on Sunday, and if they lose, the Chiefs clinch the top seed well ahead of their Monday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Chiefs game might now be meaningless to them, which could mean Patrick Mahomes barely plays, or does not suit up at all.
For this example, we will say the money line on the Patriots is +230 and the money line on the Bengals is +200. A Patriots-Bengals two team parlay would price at about +890 which implies it only has a 10% chance of winning. If the Patriots win however, Mahomes and other Chiefs might not play, and their real odds of the Bengals winning are now more like 50%. The parlay in reality now has a 15% of winning, meaning the original play has a large expected value.
Avoid Longshot Parlays
The longer the odds on each individual wager, the greater the compounding penalty gets on the parlay. Not to mention the spread the sportsbook such as WynnBET North Carolina will quote on the individual bets is wider to begin with. Say the Panthers have a 15% chance to win at the Miami Dolphins and the Falcons the same at the New York Giants. Their money lines will likely price at around +400. The sports books would price a Falcons-Panthers parlay at about +2400 which sounds enormous. It implies this will win 4% of the time. In reality though if they each have a 15% to win, the real odds of the parlay hitting is more like 2.5%. Stay away!
Capitalize on Bonus Offers
Sportsbooks love parlays, mainly because their “hold” is much greater than on straight bets for all the reasons stated above. Compounding odds that already price in “vig” gives them an even bigger edge. For this very reason, they promote parlays via all manner of sports betting bonus offers. These tilt the odds back in favor of the bettor. Depending on the specifics, bonus offers alone can tilt a parlay into an expected profit.
Say DraftKings sportsbook has a special where they bump the payout on a $100 parlay by 20%. That means a garden variety two team parlay of even money bets now pays +317 instead of +264. As long as each leg has a 50% chance of winning, the wager now has a positive expected value as it is only “worth” +300.
Do Your Research
Sports betting often makes the games more enjoyable, especially what it is successful of course. Beating the books does not just happen however, it takes some work. Researching absolutely helps. That is especially true with parlays as it involves not only handicapping the legs themselves but finding edges in the parlay structure. That often means hunting for correlations that the sports books have not priced in. That also includes same game parlays where perhaps the correlations are priced incorrectly. Plus it does not hurt to always look around for attractive bonus offers. The same bet may pay out better at a different book.
Get Started With Parlay Betting
Parlay betting is super enjoyable, thanks mainly to the potentially gigantic payouts. They are not pure lottery tickets. The odds favor the sportsbooks like bet365 North Carolina even more so than on straight bets, but that does not mean it is not beatable. Far from it. Take advantage of every available bonus offer, get the best prices, find some hidden or mispriced correlations and enjoy!
Parlay Betting FAQs for North Carolina Gamblers
Yes, you can parlay bet across different sports, and different leagues within sports such as European soccer leagues or college and pro football.
A push reduces the parlay to the remaining legs. For example a five team parlay with a push just becomes a four team parlay of the remaining legs. A canceled game would reduce a parlay as well.
No. Once the bet is placed, the parlay is final. Books may offer cashouts but that involves canceling the entire parlay, not tweaking the wager.
Parlay bets are not necessarily the optimal way to wager. That does not mean they should be avoided though, just exercise caution and do not get blinded by the big payouts. The only thing that really matters in the end is whether the wager has a positive expected value, and those opportunities are available in parlays.
Progressive betting systems involve adjusting bet sizes based on recent past results. They can be used on any form of sports betting. They are not necessarily advisable though, especially ones that chase losses with progressively higher bets.
Adam Warner is an expert reviewer for BetCarolina.com. The author of "Options Volatility Trading: Strategies for Profiting from Market Swings" former financial writer for Schaeffers Research, and freelance writer for Minyanville.com and StreetInsight.com. Previously Adam was a Market Maker on the American Stock Exchange and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.