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Sports Betting Guide: Parlay Bets and Odds Explained

Parlay Betting Explained

A parlay bet is one of the most popular forms of sports betting. What's great about parlays is that sports bettors can bet on two or more point spreadsOVER/UNDERs or Moneyline Bets, earning a higher payout if all of their picks win as opposed to making a single bet on each one individually.

What Is A Parlay Bet?

A parlay bet is a sports bet that combine multiple straight bet wagers on one ticket. Usually, you would pool straight-up bets with spreads and totals. However, you can have multiple versions of the same bet as long as it’s on different games.

How Do Parlays Work?

If even one bet in your sports parlay is a loss, your entire parlay bet loses. That's just how parlay bets work. You can make NFL parlays or combine different bets from various sports. For example, you could make a straight-up bet on a baseball game, coupled with a basketball point spread bet.

What Does Parlay Mean?

At your sportsbook of choice, parlays may be called accumulators, combo bets or multi wagers. A single bet that links together two or more individual wagers and is dependent on all of those wagers winning together.

Understanding Parlay Odds

Let’s look at three separate football games. The football parlay betting odds for a three-team parlay would look something like this:

NFL Parlay Ticket 
TeamsType of BetOdds
Saints vs RamsSpreadNew Orleans -3.5 / Los Angeles +3.5
Patriots vs JetsMoneylineNew England -180 / New York +160
Chiefs vs RavensTotalsOVER 47.5 / UNDER 47.5

For the first bet, you take the Saints to cover since they have a history of working well against the spread (ATS). For the second bet, you pick the Patriots to win the game straight up. For the third bet, you believe the total number of points scored will be at least 48 so we take the OVER.

The odds for each game would appear the same as they would if you were making an individual bet. However, the football parlay odds for the entire bet would be +600 (6-1) since you have a 50-50 chance of winning each bet (3 bets x 2 = 6).

If you bet $100 on the entire parlay bet, you’d get a parlay payout of $700 – your original $100 plus your winnings of $600. You can use our Odds Calculator to see how much you’d win based on the odds and amount bet.

We also have a Parlay Calculator to help determine your potential payout.

What Happens If One Of Your Bets PUSHES?

PUSH occurs when the spread or totals bet you make hits the exact number set by oddsmakers. Let’s pretend the totals number above was 47 instead of 47.5. If the collective score for both teams was 47 on the nose, you would get your money back since neither the OVER nor UNDER won or lost.

This bet would be removed from your parlay as if it never happened. You would still need to win the other bets on your parlay card in order to receive a payout. But, it’s nice to know that sportsbooks will take the PUSH off your ticket.

Teaser Bets vs Parlays

Teasers are common bets, especially in football. Oftentimes, these bets are confused for parlays, however, they are not the same. Teasers are wagers in which you can move the point spread in your favor. The only similarity these bets have to parlays is that you can select the number of teams (minimum of two teams and maximum of 15) to tease.

For example, let’s say you want to tease the New York Giants (+6) over the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers (-10.5) over the Chicago Bears, and the Buffalo Bills (+10.5) over the New England Patriots.

NFL teasers changed the spread by six points in your favor, so the point spreads now look like this:

  • • New York Giants (+12) over the Dallas Cowboys
  • • Green Bay Packers (-4.5) over the Chicago Bears
  • • Buffalo Bills (+16.5) over the New England Patriots

Parlay Betting Tips

Sportsbooks love parlays because they force bettors to be perfect, which can be hard to do. But, that doesn’t mean you should avoid parlays altogether. Before placing your bet, handicap each game you want to include in your parlay picks.

The odds of winning a parlay can be tricky if you don’t do your due diligence. However, we at Odds Shark offer the necessary handicapping tools to ensure you have everything at your disposal to make smart bets.

Should I Take A Parlay Bet?

Research each bet and keep an eye on your bankroll. Although parlays offer a larger payout, you still want to ensure you have enough money to keep betting. That's a parlay gambling problem you definitely want to avoid. When you make your deposit, remember that if you lose even one bet on your card, all the bets in your parlay lose.

If you place a three-game point spread parlay and are only right on two of them, the parlay ticket is a loser. If you have spreads and totals on your card, you’re looking at more than just teams winning, so be mindful of team reports and betting trends.

Parlay Cards

Most online sportsbooks will not let you make parlay cards that feature different sides of the same game, whether it’s MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL or NCAA college sports. Though it would be nice to be able to take odds on both sides of the same bet, it's not a typical betting practice.

Any two-team parlay would have to contain a spread and moneyline or total instead of two of the same type of bets. Even if the sportsbook allows this, you’re wasting your money since your bets cancel each other out.