Bettors love parlays. The chance to win big on a small bet is too much for many to pass up – even though maybe they should.
Picking multiple winners without a single miss makes even a parlay full of favorites hard to win. Still, parlays are very popular tickets at any online sportsbook.
Here’s what a parlay bet is, the different parlays you can bet, and how to put smart parlays together.
Best online sportsbooks for parlay betting
Which sportsbooks offer same-game parlays?
- DraftKings Sportsbook – Parlays for all sports and outcomes, including moneylines, spreads, prop bets, futures, and more. Plus, same game parlays and parlay insurance promos.
- BetMGM Sportsbook – Parlays for most sports and major leagues. Plus, pre-packaged parlays, parlay boosts, parlay insurance promos, and one-game parlays.
- Caesars Sportsbook – Parlays for most sports and leagues. Plus, a parlay builder tool and same game parlays.
- FanDuel Sportsbook – Parlays for your favorite sports, including same-game parlay betting. for NFL and more.
What is a parlay bet?
Combine two or more bets into one single bet, and it’s a parlay.
Sportsbooks offer better odds on the combined bet than they would usually pay if you leave the bets as straight individuals. The more bets you combine in a parlay, also known as legs, the bigger the odds will get.
There is one very important string attached:
- You must win every single leg in a parlay to win anything at all.
Close doesn’t count. If even one leg loses, the parlay loses.
The difficulty in stringing two or more wins together is why sportsbooks offer big odds on parlays. You can turn even a relatively small bet into a big payday. But the real-world odds against stringing two or more wins together are higher than the odds paid.
Parlays are usually available on NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and NCAA basketball and football bets. Plus, almost anything goes as you can combine different sports, games, or bet types.
You can even place same game parlays where every leg in your parlay involves the same game. There are also teaser and pleaser parlays where you can manipulate the lines and odds in a parlay for a better chance to win at reduced odds or even bigger paydays.
Why you should or shouldn’t bet parlays over other bets
The rewards are hardly worth the risk of betting small amounts on multiple favorites in any sport. At the end of the day, the winnings won’t add up to all that much.
If this is the betting you like, you should consider combining your bets into a parlay. You can still bet small, and you can still pick favorites, you’ll win bigger when all your favorites come in at once.
The truth is that even betting all favorites, it’s tough to win all your bets. By stringing multiple favorites together, you’re essentially turning a bunch of almost sure things into a longshot.
Of course, if longshot betting is more your thing, you might want to avoid parlays. You’re already getting decent odds on most longshots, anyway. Plus, stringing one or more hard-to-win bets together will make for one single bet that’s near impossible to win.
That said, a parlay full of longshots will pay off huge if the near impossible does happen. That makes it this kind of bet it is OK to throw a few bucks at, as long as you can afford to lose it.
When you bet on sports, you’ll quickly learn that you win some and you lose some. Knowing that you can’t usually win ‘em all means parlay betting rarely makes logical sense, since you have to win ‘em all. However, it makes all the sense in the world to bet a small amount you can afford to lose on the chance to win big.
What is the optimal number of legs in a parlay?
Optimal parlay betting is about striking a balance between:
- Favorites and underdogs
- The number of legs
- The odds paid.
A two-leg, all-favorites parlay might not pay all that much. But a 10-leg parlay is extremely hard to hit, even if you’re betting all favorites.
The key is finding where the rubber meets the road and betting a parlay that strikes the right balance between your chances of winning and the odds paid.
How much do parlays pay?
Put together a bet slip with a potential parlay on it at any legal US online sportsbook, and the sportsbook will tell you what that particular parlay will pay.
The odds are based on the odds of each leg winning individually and the odds of stringing together the number of winners in your parlay.
Basic parlay odds if every leg in a parlay is an even-money bet are:
- 13/5 on 2 legs
- 6/1 on 3 legs
- 10/1 on 4 legs
- 20/1 on 5 legs
- 40/1 on 6 legs
- 75/1 on 7 legs
- 150/1 on 8 legs
Two and three-leg parlays pay close to the true odds, but they come up short of the true odds when a parlay contains four or more legs. Ultimately, that means the value in betting parlays usually stops at three legs.
As an example, three NFL spread underdogs like:
- New York Giants +9 at the Dallas Cowboys
- Detroit Lions +9 at home against the Buffalo Bills
- New Orleans Saints +8 at San Francisco 49ers
Each pay -110 odds as individual bets. However, combine them all in a three-leg parlay, and you’ll get +596 odds.
You can bet $1 on each straight bet for a total of $3 to potentially win $5.73. Or, you can bet just $1 on the three-leg parlay to potentially win $6.96.
You don’t have to win each straight bet to earn a profit. Each one pays $1.91 for the win. Win 2 out of the 3 bets, and you’ll at least earn something. However, the three-leg parlay is an all-or-nothing proposition.
Why are parlays higher risk?
Sports betting is almost always about finding the right balance between risk and reward. In every bet, your risk lies in the amount you bet, and your potential reward is exponentially bigger the more you bet.
Parlays also involve the added risk of trying to string together multiple wins. As a result, they offer exponentially bigger rewards the more wins you try to string together.
In other words, the more legs in a parlay, the bigger the risk and the bigger your potential reward.
Just remember, picking all favorites does very little to mitigate this risk. This risk is more about how many wins you are trying to string together as opposed to the individual odds of each leg winning.
Should I combine all favorites or underdogs on a parlay bet?
Parlays pay based on the odds of each individual leg winning and the odds of stringing together multiple wins. That means an all-favorites parlay will be more likely to win, but it will pay considerably less than an all-underdogs parlay that’s considerably less likely to win.
As long as you’re aware of all that and accept the risk vs. reward scenario, it’s OK to combine all favorites or underdogs on a parlay. However, striking a balance between risk and reward and only placing bets that have a realistic chance of winning is always the correct play when it comes to parlays.
How much should you bet on a parlay?
How much you bet on a parlay is up to you and what you can afford to lose, because you will lose most of the time. That said, betting parlays is about chasing the big payouts with small bets, but these things are all relative to your level of disposable income.
Decide what the terms ‘affordable,’ ‘small bet,’ and ‘big payout,’ mean to you, and bet on parlays accordingly.
You may also consider proper bankroll management principles when betting on sports. That means creating a bankroll with funds you can afford to lose and setting a betting amount that’s somewhere between 1% and 5% of it for each bet.
Since parlays are longshots, you should lean towards the lower end and never bet more than 1% of your bankroll on any parlay. However, you might also consider upping that to 5% for two-leg all-favorite parlays you expect to win more consistently.
Which sport is best for parlays?
No one sport or league is more suitable for parlay betting than any other. That said, NFL football betting is more popular for parlays than any other because the NFL schedule includes up to 13 games on any given Sunday.
That means a lot of room for parlay manoeuvring on one single day every week throughout the season and the chance for instant results on that day. Adding the Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football game to your parlay also sets you up with a potential hedge on any winning parlay.
Of course, NBA, MLB, and NHL parlays are also popular. These leagues host more games on multiple nights throughout the week, offering up various parlay betting opportunities almost daily through the different seasons.
What is a same-game parlay and why are they so popular?
Same game parlays let you combine bets from the same game into a parlay. These are popular because they are infinitely easier to keep track of. You sweat the parlay by sweating just one game.
Same game parlays, or one game parlays, are like every other parlay in almost every way. You string together multiple legs and must win every leg to get paid.
However, Same Game Parlays let you string together legs that may be closely tied together, like a certain team winning and props based on that team’s leaders helping them win. This stackability adds to the popularity of Same Game Parlays and might even make them easier to win.
What is parlay insurance?
Parlay insurance is a typical promo found at online sportsbooks across the US. Parlay insurance offers you a refund of up to a certain amount if you win all but one leg of a parlay.
Most of the time, the refund is issued as site credit or a free bet, not cash. That means that while you get a second chance to bet, it’s not a cash refund you can withdraw.
There is also almost always a minimum number of legs required to qualify for the refund and a maximum amount that will be refunded, no matter how much you bet.
There’s no downside to opting into any parlay insurance promotions, and they take away a bit of the sting of coming within a game of winning.
Can I get an early cashout before the final leg of a parlay?
Different sportsbook operators may have different rules regarding early cash outs on parlays. Most do offer early cash-outs before the last game in a parlay is over. However, the prices offered on early cash outs may be less than what you could earn hedging against the final leg in a parlay by yourself.
Do yourself a favor and do that math before considering any early cash out.
What is the key difference between same-game parlays and other parlays?
The only real difference between same-game parlays and other parlays is that same-game parlays surround just a single game. That means that while you’re limited to what you can bet on being involved in that one single game, your parlay will be settled once that single game is over.
Sportsbook rules for parlay payouts
Parlay or otherwise, legal and licensed sportsbooks settle bets based on official league data immediately after the conclusion of the event or events you’re betting on.
Once all the games in your parlay are over and the official results are in, the sportsbook where you bet the parlay will settle up.
How fast can you get paid if a huge parlay hits?
If you’re a winner, the parlay winnings will immediately be available in your account. You can then withdraw that money the same way you made your initial deposit to the sportsbook.
The amount of that withdrawal will be subject to minimums and maximums set by that payment provider or bank, and the time it takes will be based on the bank’s or payment provider’s schedule. However, sportsbooks may take an additional 48 hours or more to verify your identity and process withdrawals.
Last word on parlays
Don’t take parlays too seriously, bet too much on one, or make parlay betting your sole sports betting strategy. But by all means, have fun and get lucky from time to time.
There’s a reason sportsbooks love parlays too. Most post a 30% win percentage or more on these types of bets, compared to around 5% on all others. In other words, parlays are by far any sportsbook’s most profitable bet.
Of course, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that you might put together a winning parlay. It’s just that parlay betting is inherently risky. It’s up to you to decide if the reward they offer is worth the risk and just how much it makes sense to put on the line.