Parlay Betting Strategy

While professional sports gamblers ignore parlay bets, amateur bettors enjoy the chance of big win. Learn more about strategies for parlays.

Most professional sports gamblers ignore parlay bets. But amateur bettors seem to enjoy trying to figure out a parlay betting strategy. Does this mean parlay bets are bad? Or does it mean that professional bettors are missing out?

Along with hedging bets and the Martingale System, this seems to be one of the biggest questions on beginner sports bettors’ minds.

Whether you think parlay wagers are great or not, one fact is clear. If you make these types of wagers, you need to have a sports betting strategy. Keep reading to learn about parlay betting strategy.

Rampart sportsbook
Rampart sportsbook in Las Vegas – Photo credit: John Mehaffey

What is a Parlay Betting Strategy?

A parlay bet is a wager on multiple games or outcomes together. You can win a large amount of money compared to the amount you risk. However, you only win a parlay bet if you win every game included.

Parlay odds and payouts are set by sportsbooks. Here’s a common parlay table:

  • Two-team parlay pays 2.6 to 1
  • Three-team parlay pays 6 to 1
  • Four-team parlay pays 11 to 1
  • Five-team parlay pays 22 to 1
  • 10-team parlay pays 720 to 1

A 720 to 1 win looks great. But how often can you pick 10 games without losing a single game? The odds are in the sportsbook’s favor on any parlay bet. Of course, the odds are in the sportsbook’s favor on regular bets because of the vig too.

Most sports bets require betting $11 to win $10 or $110 to win $100. So, the normal pay for a winning sports wager is close to 0.9 to 1. Comparing this to a two-team parlay, a 2.6 payout looks better than getting 0.9 twice. But is it really better?

The answer to this question is covered in the next two sections.

Why You Should Use Parlay Wagers

When you don’t have a lot of money to bet and want to have a chance to win big, a parlay might be your best option.

Here’s an example:

You have $20 to bet and you’re willing to make a long-shot bet for the chance to win big. You wager on a five-team parlay at 22 to 1. If you win all five games, your $20 bet turns into $460. This includes your original $20 bet and you get 22 times $20, for a total of $460. And if you want to take a risk, wager $20 on a 10-team parlay. Winning a 10-team parlay bet pays $14,420.

However, to have a winning parlay betting strategy, you must consider the odds of winning every game in your parlay. The average sports bettor wins half of their point spread bets. So, the odds of winning a two-team parlay are 25%. The odds of winning a three-team parlay are 12.5%.

To determine the odds of winning a parlay bet, multiply 0.5 times 0.5 by the number of teams in the parlay. So, 0.5 times 0.5 for a two-team parlay, and 0.5 times 0.5 times 0.5 for a three-team parlay.

Here are some commonly asked questions about parlay bet payouts:

What does a $10 3-team parlay pay?

A 3-team parlay pays 6 to 1, so you win $60 and collect $70, the $60 win plus the original wager.

How much does a 2-team $50 parlay pay?

A 2-team parlay pays 2.6 to 1, so you win $130 and collect $180.

What does a $10 4-team parlay pay?

A 4-team parlay pays 11 to 1, so you win $110 and collect $120.

Why You Shouldn’t Make Parlay Sports Wagers

Most sports gamblers should have a simple parlay betting strategy. Don’t make parlay bets. Here’s why: The odds are stacked against you.

Here’s an example to show why parlay bets are bad:

A two-team parlay pays 2.6 to 1, and you have a .25% chance of winning both games. If you bet $200 on a two-team parlay four times, you can expect to win one time. Your total cost to bet four times is $800. When you win, you receive $720. The average loss on the bet is $20.

Now, consider what happens if you use the same $200 to bet on the two games individually. Using the standard vig, you bet $100 on each game to win $90.91. The three possible outcomes are winning both games, losing both games or winning one and losing the other.

If you win both games, you get back $381.82. When you win one game and lose the other game, you get back $190.91. And when you lose both games you get nothing back. You win and lose a game in two different ways. When you compare the four outcomes, you get back $763.64 by betting a total of $800. The average loss per pair of games is $9.09.

Compare the expected loss for the parlay bet of $20 to the expected loss of straight betting of $9.09. You can see why a parlay betting strategy, even a good one, isn’t the best way to bet on sports. But, it gets worse.

If you bet $200 on a game and win, you get back $381.82 ($181.82 win plus your original bet of $200). Then, if you bet that total on a second game, you get back $728.93 ($347.11 win plus your original bet of $381.82).

What Is the Best Parlay Betting Strategy?

You can develop your parlay betting strategy using many different variables. And some strategies work better than others. The second-best parlay sports wagering strategy for most players is included in this section.

The first step in this parlay betting strategy is determining how much you’re willing to risk. You don’t have to risk a lot of money, as most sportsbooks take parlay bets for as low as $1. And even the books with higher minimums take parlays at $5 or $10.

Whatever your bankroll is, divide it by 10 or more. If you have $100, you have 10 bets of $10. If you have $500, you can have 50 bets of $10, or 10 bets of $50.

Start with two-team parlays. Wager on two-team parlays until you run out of money or double your bankroll. If you’re lucky and double your bankroll, you can continue doing what you’re doing. Alternatively, you can try your luck at three-team parlays. If you can’t make money with two-team parlays, you can’t make money with larger parlays.

Now that you know what the best parlay strategy is, there’s something else you need to know. If you’re a good enough handicapper to make a profit from betting parlays, you can make more money making straight wagers. The math is clear. Parlay bets are for suckers.

The Secret to a Winning Parlay Betting Strategy

If you want to know the secret to a winning parlay betting strategy, you’re in luck. But if you know much about sports betting, the secret is bound to disappoint you. The secret to a winning parlay betting strategy is handicapping.

Handicapping is also the secret to any other winning sports betting strategy. You have to learn how to handicap games if you want to win with a parlay betting strategy. Not only can’t you make a profit with parlays with poor handicapping, but you’re going to lose more money than making straight bets with weak handicapping.

Whether you want to bet on parlays or straight bets, focus on being the best handicapper you can be. It’s the only way to win in the long run.

Finding the Best Parlay Betting Opportunities

How do you find the best parlay opportunities? Professional sports bettors shop for the best betting lines. And the way they shop for lines is by creating accounts at several online sportsbooks and/or traveling to multiple local sportsbooks.

You find the best parlay betting opportunities the same way. Fortunately, many online sportsbooks serve US gamblers. You can check out the reviews of the safest US online sportsbooks by following this link.

You can create a free account so you can look at parlay odds and payouts before you make a deposit. So, the best plan is to sign up for at least three or four different sportsbooks.

And remember, you still have to use point spread lines when you bet parlays. So when you make a parlay wager, look for the best lines on the games you want to include.

Every state sets sports betting laws. The laws cover what’s legal in the state and which sportsbooks can operate in the state. While most states with legal sports betting have similar laws, each state decides what type of bets sportsbooks can offer.

If a sportsbook is legally operating where you live and offers parlay bets, you’re in good shape. You can quickly see if you can make parlay sports wagers when you create accounts and check the parlay odds and payouts.

The Pros and Cons of a Parlay Betting Strategy

If you make parlay sports wagers, you need a solid strategy. However, if you can make money betting on parlays, you can make more money making straight point spread wagers.

Parlays are good for occasional casual wagers. Parlay bets are fun. However, if you’re serious about wagering on sports, skip the parlays.

Investopedia has some great information about parlay betting strategy, too.