Parlay Betting Explained: How parlay bets work

We continue our betting guides with a look at one of the most popular betting options, the parlay bet. Here you can get more information about parlay betting and learn how it works.

After the straight bet, the parlay betting is the most popular way of placing wagers at the sportsbooks. In its simplest form, the parlay bet is a multiple-game wager wrapped up into a single bet. Depending on the online sportsbook a parlay can contain anywhere from 2 to 15 games, although keep in mind that all sportsbooks have a maximum payout on their parlays which could be reached with a low number of games in your parlay, depending on the payout odds of the individual games. The basic premise of the parlay is that you can multiply the odds on each of the games in your parlay, and then multiply your wager amount to the final sum, but you also have to win all games in order for your parlay bet to be a winner. If just one of the games in your parlay is a loser – your entire parlay is one, as well.

Let’s look at an example to better explain the working of the parlay betting. Let’s say there are five NFL games you want to wager on and feel strongly about the outcome of those football games. You can go the traditional route and use a straight bet to individually wager on each of the games or you can put all five of them into a single parlay bet. For the simplicity of the example, let’s assume that all five NFL games will pay out on +110 odds. If you bet $100 on each game using a straight wager and you win all – you will get $210 on each for that total of $1050 or $550 profit from a total of $500 risked. Now, if you instead “combine” all the games into a single parlay, the payout will change significantly. In parlay betting, every payout coefficient (the odds on the game) are multiplied together to give you your final payout odds. In our example, if you put the five football games in a parlay the parlay odds will be calculated as follows: +110 x +110 x +110 x +110 x +110= ~40.8 (it’s easier to do it if you convert American odds to decimal odds). And you simply multiply the final payout, in our case 40.8 to your bet. If you bet the whole $500 on the parlay and you win, the payout would be 40.8 x $500 = $20,400, or nearly $20K profit.

As you can see, the payout of the parlay is enormous, compared to the straight bet. But as always – there is no such thing as free lunch. As mentioned earlier, all games in a parlay bet must be winners, in order for the parlay to be a winner. If just one of those five games in the example above was a loser – your entire parlay would be graded as loser, as well. Clearly the more games you put in your parlay bet – the higher the payout, but also the higher the risk you are taking. Clearly parlay betting is very simple, but you should exercise caution when betting parlays, accounting for the increasing risk with every game you add to your wager.

Now, here is a good question many of you may be asking by now – what if one of the games in the parlay is a push? In general, if one of the games in a parlay bet is a push, the parlay reverts to the next lower level. For example, if in our previous instance one of the five football games was a push, the parlay goes from a 5-game parlay to a 4-game parlay, with the game ending in push simply being “removed” from that parlay.

In parlay betting summary:

  • Any one game loss constitutes a parlay loss.
  • The parlay payout odds of each individual game in the parlay multiply and the total multiplies to your bet for your final parlay odds.
  • A push “removes” a game from your parlay
  • Parlay betting offers higher payout but in exchange for higher risk
  • Each sportsbook will have a limit on a parlay maximum payout, which could be reached well before the maximum number of games in a parlay