What Is A Parlay bet?

A parlay bet is a single sports bet that combines two or more bets into one. Parlays, multis and accumulators are a popular betting choice with bettors due to the potential for a larger payout.

While large payouts are a very attractive proposition, there is a slight catch. To successfully win your parlay bet and the sportsbook to payout the full amount, you will need to win every individual bet/selection. If just one of your selections loses your parlay bet will settle as loser.

Parlay bets are popular amongst general sports fans as it’s not just exclusive to one individual sport. You can combine different sports within one individual parlay.

Let’s say you fancy the La Lakers to beat the San Francisco Earthquakes in the NBA, Tampa Bay Buccaneers to beat the Detroit Lions in the NFL, Maple Leafs to brush aside Canadiens in the NHL and Justin Thomas to win the Masters. Your parlay bet would be four selections rolled into one otherwise known as a four-fold. Although the events and games are all across different sports, potentially different times and days, your parlay bet will still be valid and will just roll over from one event to another, assuming the preceding events are settled as winners.

This parlay betting guide will explain exactly how parlay betting works, the method behind calculating a parlay, the pros and cons of parlay betting, when you should and shouldn’t bet on parlays and how parlay bets are won and lost.

How does parlay betting work?

All of the top established online sportsbooks will offer parlay bets as an option. Some sportsbooks may require you to login before you can see the markets but others such as Draft Kings allow you to browse the category of sports betting markets and even add them to a betslip before you sign up/place the bet (which is great for shopping around for best odds by the way!).

Let’s say you’re feeling confident in the chances of Cincinnati Reds getting a win over Minnesota Twins in the MLB, New York Red Bulls to beat FC Cincinnati in the MLS and Tampa Bay to beat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL. This will be three individual moneyline picks rolled into a parlay bet.

Using Draft Kings as the example here; you would go to each sports market section on the site, so in this instance the MLB, MLS and NFL betting sections and select each team. As you can see in the examples below:

You can see that I have selected my three individual moneyline picks. With CIN Reds at -225, New York Red Bulls at -160 and TB Buccaneers at -290.

When you are happy with the number of your parlay selections, you will see your selections will be added to your bet slip. For most bookies and Draft Kings included, this will pop up on the side of the screen but for other sportsbooks and in app versions of bookies this may appear down the bottom of the screen or elsewhere.

Now you can see that my three picks are all grouped together in my bet slip:

Here you have the option to place three single moneyline bets or combine them in a parlay, teaser or round robin bet. In this case we want to place a parlay bet, so you enter your stake in the ‘3 Pick Parlay’ $ box and this will calculate your potential winnings.

As all three selections are favorites (most likely to win according to the bookies), I’m feeling confident about the chances of landing this bet so I’m willing to stake $50 on this.

I have added my $50 stake to the 3 Pick Parlay option and you will see it has automatically calculated my $50 bet on the +215 odds parlay, showing that I would stand to win $157.83 if all three of my selections won.

You’d then hit confirm and place your bet, watch the action unfold and keep your fingers crossed that your bet returns as a winner.

How to calculate a Parlay bet

A parlay bet can be a great option for punters because it offers the chance to get a much greater payout on shorter priced selections.

Taking the above example of the Cincinnati Reds beating Minnesota Twins in the MLB at odds of -225, New York Red Bulls to beat FC Cincinnati in the MLS at odds of -160 and Tampa Bay to beat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL at odds of -290.

You will see that all three selections are the favourites in their games because the ‘-’ sign in moneyline betting odds, always represents the favorites, whereas the ‘+’ betting odds will be allocated to the underdog of the contest. Read more about that at our American Odds guide.

If I wanted to place three individual single bets on those three results I would get a much smaller payout for example:

A $20 single stake on Cincinnati Reds beating Minnesota Twins at odds of -225 would return just $28.89, and don’t forget $20s of that is your stake being returned so you are only making a profit of $8.89.

A $20 single stake on New York Red Bulls beating FC Cincinnati at odds of -160 would return $32.50, a profit of just $12.50.

A $20 single stake on Tampa Bay beating the Dallas Cowboys at odds of -290 would return $26.90, just a mere $6.90 profit.

So using the above example, you’ve staked $60 and returned a total of $88.29 across three winning single bets. Using the same example with Draft Kings, I combined all three selections into one parlay with a $50 stake and returned a much more respectable $157.83 with the same result.

However of course with single bets, if one loses and the other 2 win, you will still be paid out on the two winners, whereas with a parlay bet, if any of the three lose, your parlay bet will settle as a loser. So you need to weigh up the risk and reward factors.

Effectively a parlay is a multiplier bet, where you multiply all the odds of your selections.

Taking the above example again it would be -225 x -160 x -290. The easiest way to calculate a parlay bet is to convert the American odds into decimal odds.

-160 odds would be 1.625 in decimal odds for the New York Red Bulls to beat FC Cincinnati.

-290 odds would be 1.3448 in decimal odds for the Tampa Bay Bucs to beat the Dallas Cowboys.

So now we have the three odds in decimals it the parlay calculation would look like this:

1.4444 x 1.6225 x 1.3448 = 3.1515

The return of your parlay payout would be around $157 off a $50 bet.

Thankfully for you we have our own odds convertor and parlay calculator, so you will never have to worry about working out the calculations of a parlay bet yourself.

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