Parlay Bet: What It Is and How It Works

What Is a Parlay Bet?

In sports betting, a parlay bet is made when a bettor makes two or more bets and combines them into one wager. Depending on the sportsbook or the region, these bets may be called “accumulators” or “multis.”

The gambler must win every small bet to win the parlay bet, and losing just one of the smaller bets loses the parlay. A sportsbook commonly provides larger payouts for adding more games to each parlay. Parlay bets are riskier since they comprise many individual chances but give a bigger payout if all individual wagers win.

Key Takeaways

• A parlay bet is common in sports betting and is made up of two or more individual wagers.?
• A sportsbook is a company or entity that accepts parlay bets.
• Combining bets into a parlay makes them harder to win but increases their payout.
• Mobile betting platforms like BetMGM, FanDuel, and DraftKings have parlay formats.

How to Make a Parlay Bet

There are many ways to make a parlay bet. Any online or in-person sportsbook allows this kind of bet and will calculate the odds of winning. Casinos use a popular option called a parlay card to choose teams and totals. The card is provided to the ticket writer in the sportsbook, along with the wagered money. Mobile betting platforms like BetMGM, FanDuel, and DraftKings also have parlay formats.

Casual bettors should be very wary of parlay bets. While these bets can promise huge payouts, they are risky and are not an investment strategy.

Calculating Payouts

Calculating the odds of parlay bets can be tricky, partially because of how odds are expressed in sports betting in the United States. Any sportsbook will calculate potential winnings from a parlay and is often what gamblers rely on.

To calculate a payout:

1. Convert the American odds to decimal odds.
2. Multiply all the decimal odds together.
3. Multiply the result by your bet amount.
4. Subtract your original stake to get the parlay odds.

Let’s say that a bettor is parlaying three-point spreads, each at -110. First, convert those odds to decimal, which is 1.91. Then multiply them together:

1.91 x 1.91 x 1.91 = 6.97 ???

Then multiply this by a bet amount of $10: 6.97 x 10 = 69.7 Then subtract the original bet amount: 69.7 – 10 = 59.7 This parlay pays out$59.70 for every $10 bet. In American odds, that’s +597, meaning this parlay pays nearly 6-1. There is a simple rule for -110 wagers. A double bet pays about 2.6-to-1, and a triple parlay pays about 6-to-1. From there, the odds roughly double for every -110 bet added to the parlay. Example of a Parlay Bet If a bettor thinks that the Green Bay Packers (+4) and Baltimore Ravens (-6) will cover their spreads on an NFL Sunday, they may use$10 and individually bet on these teams for $5 each. If both succeed, the win is around$19. However, the bettor can parlay these bets together for a win of around 2.65 times the bet. The possible outcomes would be as follows:

• Both teams cover: Win ($26.50) • Packers cover, Ravens do not: Loss (-$10)
• Ravens cover, Packers do not: (-$10) • Both teams do not cover: Loss (-$10)

The parlay increases risk but gains more over two individual bets. Parlays can be more complicated and consist of more individual bets. A bettor could bet on five teams covering their spread instead of just two. If one team doesn’t cover their spread, the whole bet is lost. However, if all five are covered, the payout would be high: around +2335, a win of $230.35 on a$10 bet.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court permitted U.S. states to legalize sports betting.

Risks and Rewards

“Parlay [bets] are popular because everyone dreams of turning a little bit of cash into a big payday,” says Steven Petrella, deputy editor for The Action Network. “Sportsbooks love to promote big parlay winners on X platform (formerly Twitter) and Instagram, but they’re not posting the thousands of losing parlay tickets.”

Bettors are far less likely to win parlay bets than individual bets, and sportsbooks make more money from parlay bets than individual bets. A University of Nevada Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research study showed that according to Nevada Gaming Control Board Gaming Revenue Reports, Nevada sportsbooks boasted a nearly 30% hold from 1992 to 2015. In comparison, every other major sport averaged holds less than 5%.

The odds on individual bets are calculated even to generate a small profit for the sportsbook. That gives gamblers a 50% chance of making a profit with standard bets. By pooling more bets into the same wager, the bettor assumes more risk and limits their chances of winning. As Petrella of The Action Network points out, “The math backs that up, too. The real probability of winning four NFL point spreads parlayed together is about +1500,” he says, “yet the sportsbook only offers +1200.”

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700, or visit ncpgambling.org/chat to chat with a helpline specialist.

How Does a Parlay Bet Work?

A parlay in sports betting is when a bettor makes multiple wagers (at least two) and ties them into the same bet. If any bets in the parlay lose, then the entire parlay loses. However, if all wagers win, the bettor gets a bigger payout.

What Happens to My Parlay Bet in a Canceled Game?

Most of the time, canceled games come off the parlay and may go from a three-game parlay to a two-game parlay, for example. The sportsbook will have rules on how they handle various situations about various bets.

Why Should Parlays Be Avoided?

Parlays are a poor way to bet on sports, at least in terms of long-term expected value. That’s because, for a parlay to have a positive expected value (EV), all or almost all of the bets in the parlay must have a positive expected value.

The Bottom Line

Parlay bets are made up of two or more wagers. They are a way of combining individual bets into one. Parlay bets are much harder to win than regular bets and offer larger payouts. As with any form of sports betting, says David Forman, vice president of research at the American Gambling Association, parlay bets can “be enjoyed purely for fun, not as a moneymaking opportunity.”

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
1. The Gameday. "Parlay Betting Sites."

2. American Gaming Association. “Interactive Map: Sports Betting in the U.S.

3. UNLV (University of Nevada Las Vegas) Center for Gaming Research. “Nevada Sports Betting Totals: 1984–2021.”

4. National Council on Problem Gambling. "Help & Treatment: National Problem Gambling Helpline."

5. American Psychiatric Association. “What Is Gambling Disorder?

Open a New Bank Account
×
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.