The chance to win big without betting a big dollar amount has long been the appeal of the traditional sports betting parlay.
The difficulty of stringing multiple wins together doesn’t deter many bettors. And while gamblers are drawn to parlay betting like moths to a flame, sportsbooks find the parlay even more appealing.
That’s because most sportsbooks enjoy a 30% win percentage on parlay bets. They only earn around 5% on all other bets combined, making parlays a sportsbook’s most profitable bet type.
Parlays are so hard to win, in fact, it makes you wonder why bettors love them so much.
Why is the pull so strong? Are some sports better suited to parlay betting than others? What’s the optimal parlay play? What are same-game parlays and why have they become so popular?
How do parlays work?
Combine two or more bets and sportsbooks call it a parlay. The potential payout is larger than the total you might earn from the bets as individual wagers, especially when offered sports betting promos and bonuses to sweeten the pot. However, you have to win every single one to win the parlay. If even one loses, the parlay is a loser.
The difficulty in stringing together two, three, or even more winners is why sportsbooks pay bigger odds on parlays. In fact, the bigger the parlay, or the more bets added, the bigger the potential payout will be. That gives you the chance to win big even if you’re betting just a small amount.
Most sportsbooks refer to the different bets in a parlay as ‘legs’ and limit the number of legs from two up to 10 or 12. While you have to win every single leg to win a standard parlay, some sportsbooks may offer an insurance promo, returning your stake if you lose just one leg.
They may also offer progressive parlays that pay reduced odds if you lose one leg on a 4-6 leg parlay, two on a 7-9 leg parlay, and up to three on a 10-12 leg parlay.
Plus, you can bet round robins, placing multiple bets covering different outcome combinations, like boxing exacta or trifecta bets at the track. And finally, teasers are available allowing you to manipulate the spread or totals line on the different legs in a parlay in exchange for reduced odds.
How do parlay odds work?
It will vary based on the number of legs and the odds on the individual legs in your parlay, but parlays where every leg is an even-money bet pay according to this schedule:
- 2 teams 13/5
- 3 teams 6/1
- 4 teams 10/1
- 5 teams 20/1
- 6 teams 40/1
- 7 teams 75/1
- 8 teams 150/1
You can find parlay odds calculators online that’ll estimate the odds for you based on the sportsbook odds on the individual legs in your parlay. However, you’ll get a more accurate result by plugging the parlay into a bet slip with the California sports betting site where you’re planning to place the bet.
You should find that smaller two and three-leg parlays pay close to the true odds of picking two or three winners together. However, the odds often fall short of the true odds with four legs or more. That means, unless you can find better odds, there’s often very little value in betting parlays with more than three legs.
Pay strict attention to the odds and avoid making a sucker’s bet where the true odds are far bigger than the odds the bet pays, no matter how alluring that big potential payout may be.
How much do parlays pay?
The odds on a bet tell you what that bet will pay should it win. As we mentioned above, you can use online calculators that’ll estimate the odds and potential payout for any parlay. Plus, you’ll get accurate up-to-the-second payout estimates entering your parlay into a bet slip with any online sportsbook in the state.
TheLines.com’s parlay calculator is a good tool for seeing how a typical parlay’s odds are calculated and checking the potential payout on any parlay.
What can’t you make a parlay on?
Since parlays are so hard to win, sportsbooks will take your action on almost any parlay you can think of. Nowadays, that means even single-game parlays, where every leg involves a bet from the same game. However, most sportsbooks do draw a line and that line is at correlated bets.
Correlated bets are wagers that are closely tied together. If one wins, the other is likely to as well. Most sportsbooks are not going to take parlays involving correlated bets like the first half and game spreads for example. That’s because, in most sports, favorites and underdogs that cover the first half spread also cover the game line 70% of the time or more.
That’s a license to print money at typical two-leg parlay odds and sportsbooks aren’t in the business of issuing those too often.
How do parlays work at online sportsbooks?
Whether you’re betting a parlay on DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel, or on the BetMGM Sportsbook app, the process is fairly easy. Just follow these simple steps when playing at our recommended parlay betting sites:
- Browse through the available betting markets and click on the odds for the first leg in your parlay
- Browse through the available betting markets and click on the odds for the second leg in your parlay and any other legs
- Click the parlay button on the instantly created bet slip to let the sportsbook know you’re stringing the bets together and you should see the parlay odds; And/Or
- Enter the amount you want to bet on the parlay and its potential payout will be displayed on the bet slip
- Weigh the potential payout against what you believe the true odds of winning are and if they come close to matching or you find the difference acceptable, confirm and place the bet
What sportsbooks pay the best for parlays?
We can recommend placing parlay bets with any of the top sports betting apps in the state, including DraftKings, FanDuel Sportsbook, BetRivers, BetMGM, and Caesars Sportsbook CA. Each offers competitive odds on parlays. Plus, you’ll find different parlay profit boosts, odds boosts, and bonus parlay promos that can give you even better potential payouts on your parlays.
Bet your parlay with the right sportsbook at the right time, when any of these promos are in place, and increase the potential profitability of your bets.
How do same game parlays work?
Same game parlays, also known as SGPs or single game parlays, allow you to combine parlay legs from the same game. Same game parlay betting offers the opportunity to easily keep track of all your parlay action while watching a single game.
Like standard parlays, you need to win every leg in the parlay to get paid. However, you may be able to string together some legs that are closely tied together, increasing your chances of winning. You can bet NFL same game parlays, NBA same game parlays, MLB single game parlays and more. Simply:
- Select the ‘Same Game Parlay’ option or similar from the sportsbook’s main menu
- Browse through the available betting markets and click on the odds for the legs you wish to add to your Same Game Parlay
- Enter the amount you want to bet on the bet slip that’s created, place your bet, and confirm it
Should I bet all favorites or all underdogs on a parlay bet?
There’s no reason not to combine a bunch of favorites together in a parlay. In fact, betting favorites in a parlay is a better idea than betting those same favorites individually, where the small reward is not normally worth the risk.
Quite simply, parlays offer bigger rewards, which may make it worth a bet.
Putting together all-underdog parlays is an entirely different proposition. While the reward for winning is even greater, underdogs may not win often to make it worthwhile. String a group of longshots together and you’ll be looking at a huge potential payout. Unfortunately, winning even one leg will prove hard, not to mention multiple legs without a single loss.
That said, betting on underdogs with a realistic chance in small stakes, two- or three-leg parlays might prove profitable. Even if you only win a small amount of the time.
What is the optimal number of legs on a parlay?
As long as you’re getting the typical 6/1 odds or better, three-leg parlays are usually optimal. They offer a bigger potential payout than two-leg parlays while still giving you something close to the true odds of stringing three winning bets together.
The odds fall short of the true odds with four legs or more and the payouts aren’t usually big enough on two legs to make it worth risking your money.
What happens if a parlay pushes?
If one leg in your parlay results in a push, that leg of the parlay will be removed and the odds will be adjusted down for the rest of the parlay.
What is parlay insurance?
Parlay insurance is a promo offered by sportsbooks that returns your stake if you lose just one leg in a parlay. Of course, there are limits to the stake and a minimum number of legs required to qualify for most betting insurance promos.
Can I cash out parlays early? Is it worth it?
If you keep your sportsbook app open during a game you’ll see there’s an early cashout option for a lot of your bets, including parlays. Take the early cashout option when you’re likely to win and you’ll earn less money than you would by waiting it out until the end. However, you’ll also avoid the loss and inevitable heartbreak of a surprise comeback by the other side.
Take the early cashout option when you’re likely to lose and you’ll earn considerably less money than you would in the event of a surprise comeback by your side, but it’ll always be more than the nothing you’ll earn in a loss. It’s up to you to decide if it’s an option worth taking or not.
Sports Betting Basics
- 11 Unspoken Rules of Sports Betting
- Best Bonus Offers
- California Odds vs. Vegas Odds – What’s the Difference?
- California Sports Betting Odds
- How Does Round Robin Betting Work?
- How to Buy Points in Sports Betting
- How to Self-Exclude from Online Sportsbooks
- Legal vs. Offshore Sportsbooks: What’s the Difference?
- Pros & Cons of Betting on Major Sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL)
- Sports Betting Plus & Minus Explained
- What Are Units In Betting?
- What Does Fade Mean In Betting?
- What Is a PK in Sports Betting?
- What is a Winning Margin 4 Way Bet?
- What is Arbitrage Betting?
- What Is Point Spread Betting?
- What Is Sports Betting Insurance?