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What is a Parlay Bet? (May 2024)

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Parlay bets, or accumulators, are wagers that combined numerous single bets and compound their odds. Simply put, you can place one stake on all your bets, and the odds are multiplied against each other. The only downside is that it is riskier to form a parlay, as you will need both selections to come through to win your money. Parlays are the most popular combination bets, and here you will learn why, and how you can use them.

Parlay Bets Example

Two-Fold Parlay

The simplest parlay you can place is a two-fold parlay. Pick out two bets that you like, and then combine them into a parlay. Here is an example:

  • Baltimore Ravens at odds 2.2 vs Kansas City Chiefs
  • Cincinnati Bengals at odds 1.5 to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers

Presuming your budget is $10, you can place two single bets of $5 on each selection, or a $10 parlay. The odds for the parlay are 1.5 x 2.2 resulting in odds of 3.3

  • All Single Bets Win: $11 + $7.50 = $18.50
  • Parlay Bet Win: $33

The difference between the potential winnings is $14.50, which is quite a large margin. Consider the fact you are tripling your money with the parlay and not even doubling it with the single. And this was only with 2 selections.

Three-Fold Parlay

Let us add another bet to the two previous ones:

  • New York Giants at odds 1.8 to beat the Seattle Seahawks

You increase your budget to $5 because you want to experiment with placing another $5 singles bet. Now, you can place three $5 singles bets or pick a $15 three-fold parlay. The odds on that parlay are 5.94 (coming from 3.3 x 1.8)

  • All Single Bets Win: $18.50 + $9 = $27.50
  • Parlay Bet Wins: $89.10

The gap between your potential winnings has now jumped from $14.50 up to over $60. Now, let us say that you do not want to stop there. You have found another good selection to add to the mix

Four-Fold Parlay

Your fourth selection is also an NFL game.

  • Miami Dolphins at odds 1.9 to beat Houston Texans

Add $5 more to your budget, and you can drive up that parlay stake up to a clean $20. The parlay odds have extended to 11.286.

  • All Single Bets Win: $27.50 + $9.50 = $37
  • Parlay Bet Wins: $225.72

There is no comparing the two winnings. On the one hand, you are $3 shy of doubling up. The parlay, whilst much riskier, can pay out nearly ten times your stake.

Five-Fold Parlay

Maybe you are pushing your luck, but what if you can pull off a 5-selection parlay? If only one selection does not come through, then you have lost your bet. However, let us see how much you could stand to potentially win.

  • Philadelphia Eagles at odds 1.6 to beat the New England Patriots

Extend your budget up to $25. In England, they would call this betting a pony (£25 bet). The parlay odds are now 18.0576.

  • All Single Bets Win: $37 + $8 = $45.50
  • Parlay Bet Wins: $451.44

This payout of over x18 your bet is staggering. It is nearly ten times higher than what you would get if you placed all five bets as singles. But remember, you need to win those 5 selections too.

Analysing the Example

The chances may be very slim of picking 5 winning teams, but it is not impossible. In fact,  apart from the Baltimore Ravens beating the Kansas City Chiefs, your bets have either been on the favourite or an evenly-matched team. Odds of 1.9 up to 2 indicate that the two teams are matched. Odds of 1.8 or lower usually can be called a favourite. Any odds of 2 or more are underdogs, and, on paper, they are more likely to lose.

So you have picked 1 underdog, 2 evenly matched teams, and 2 favourites to win. It is not that absurd. Then, consider the massive difference between the singles and the parlay. You can make almost the same amount of money on a $2.50 parlay as you can with five $5 singles bets.

How to Form Parlay Bets

Placing a parlay is extremely easy. At any good bookmaker, you will be provided with a bet slip, which in most cases, is collapsible. You can add and remove bets to your slip at any time. If your bet meets the requirements for making a parlay, then you can add a stake, and it should project your potential winnings. Then, all you need to do is confirm your bet, and you have set up your parlay.

Parlay Restrictions

The basic requirement for any parlay is that there are no contradictions. This happens when you have multiple bets on a single game. For example, you cannot bet on a soccer team to win a game with a clean sheet, and for both teams to score in that same game. That makes sense because neither bet would win and so they cannot be placed on the same bet slip. However, there may be even more restrictions. 

Generally, bookmakers have more restrictions when making multiple bets on a single event. For example, betting on a soccer game to end 3-1 and combining that bet with over 2.5 goals is not allowed. The two bets are linked and if the correct score wins then so must the total goals. How to avoid this – open the Bet Builder markets for a sports event. There, you should find a number of bets that can be placed on the same slip without any contradictions.

There may be restrictions on outrights as well. If a sportsbook makes an offer, such as Barcelona to win the treble, then this is basically a parlay. It includes Barcelona to win La Liga, Copa Del Ray and the Champions League. However, bookmakers usually do not let you put outright markets into parlays. This is mainly because the odds for outrights are likely to change throughout the season. In a parlay, there would be no way to offer a cashout function if the bet rides on numerous outright bets.

Strategies for Parlay Betting

You can approach parlay bets in lots of different ways. As long as the bets meet the requirements, you can do practically anything you like with your bet. The sky is the limit, but always remember that every bet that you add to your parlay increases its risk tremendously.

Limit Your Selections

The above example may be a bit counter-productive, whilst it shows the great benefit of parlays, it does not convey the risk. In a lot of cases, you are better off letting go of the tremendous odds and settling for a bet with fewer selections. After all, you have a better chance of picking out 3 or 4 selections instead of 5 or more. This also applies to when you are betting on favourites. Just because you are backing 5 favourites to beat underdogs, you still need all 5 to win. Never underestimate the possibility that just one of those teams fails to win, as it will lose you your bet.

Plan Your Desired Odds

Instead of looking at what bets you can stick into a parlay, you can always go about it the other way around. Working backwards, how much money do you want to win? With your fixed budget, would you like a payout of x10, of x5, or do you have something entirely different in mind. Gather the bets you think have a good chance of winning, and try to include only as many selections as you need to reach your desired odds. Do not go over, and if possible, stick to the bets that do not feel like long shots. Keep your expectations realistic, and do not get carried away with bigger winnings.

Using Multiple Parlays

You do not have to limit yourself to just one parlay. If you have four or five good selections, you may want to spread them out over multiple parlays. For example, you can make a parlay on bet A+B, bet C+D+E and a bet on A+B+C+D+E. Try mixing things up, and remember to spread your budget out evenly, so you are not just banking on one parlay. There is a chance that all of your selections will fail too, so be careful when using multiple parlays.

Try Different Sports

Parlays do not just need to relate to one sport. If you are a keen baseball and American football fan, why not combine the two? You may have one or two confident predictions in either sport and a handful of maybes. Pick the bets you have more confidence in, across both sports, and combine them in a parlay.

“Jackpot Parlay”

A good strategy is to evaluate how much risk you want in your parlay. You can compare this with a jackpot slot or a well-paying side bet in a casino game. Instead of trying to make x4 or x5 times your stake, you are aiming for something really special. Treat it like a side bet, and put a minimal stake of $1 or however low the bookmaker allows you to go. Then, form a parlay with the idea of turning that $1 into $50 or even $100. 

If you make a $1 bet that can potentially win $50, then you only need it to come through once every 49 times. It is not to be treated like a moneymaker, but instead a series of smart bets that have the potential to bring some big rewards. Plus, if you do pull it off, you will have bragging rights among your friends.

Day or Weekend Parlays

It is always a good feeling to end your day of sports betting with a sizeable win. However, you can open up your options even more by spreading your parlay across the weekend. For example, on Saturday you have found two sure-fire bets. Sunday also has a lot of games, and there are three more predictions you would bet on. You can make parlay bets for each day, but if you are really feeling confident, then why not place a 5-selection parlay across both days. If one pick on Saturday loses, then you have lost your bet. It would probably hurt more if the selections came through on Saturday and then your last prediction falls through on Sunday. However, if all the predictions do come through, you can end your weekend with a tidy fortune. Approach longer bets as if they were “jackpot parlays”.

Special Tip: Look For Sportsbook Offers

This tip goes beyond your betting strategy and instead relates to your chosen bookmaker. There are a lot of sportsbooks that offer special deals with parlay bets. For example, you can find parlay boosts – where you receive 5%, 10%, 15% and higher odds boosts for larger parlays. Then, there may be parlay insurance bets, which pay out if you lose your parlay by only 1 selection. A lot of bookmakers offer cashout options for parlays. This way, you can cash your parlay bet in. Depending on whether your bets were winning or losing, you will either make a small profit or cut your losses.

Conclusion

Now you are not only ready to start picking some great combination bets, but also know how to approach them. Strategy really is key to parlay bets, as the promise of extremely long odds can be misleading. Remember to keep focused and not to add extra bets onto your selection “because they are safe” and can extend your odds. When used recklessly, these combination bets can cause huge levels of stress. So keep your eyes on the prize, do not take unnecessary risks, and most importantly, enjoy the game.

Lloyd is passionate about online gambling, he lives and breathes blackjack and other table games, and he enjoys sports betting.