Parlay Betting Explained

What Is A Parlay Bet? How Parlay Bets Work Explained

Are you looking to make your sports betting even more interesting? Have you tried bundling some of those point spreadsOVER/UNDERs or moneyline bets together to earn a higher payout? If so, you’re looking at what’s called a parlay. 

I’m sure you’ve seen bettors turn a small sum of money into life-altering payouts by parlaying multiple bets together. Like this bettor who turned $50 into an insane $1.13 million on a 15-team parlay.

What Is A Parlay Bet?

A parlay bet is a sports bet that combines 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.

What Does Parlay Mean?

Depending on the sportsbook, parlays may be called accumulators, combo bets or multi-wagers. But they all mean the same thing: a single bet that links together two or more individual wagers and is dependent on all of those wagers winning together.

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 Major League Baseball game, coupled with a basketball point spread bet.

How Do Parlays Work?

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 RavensTotalOVER 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 you 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.

Parlay Types

Teaser Bets vs Parlays

Teasers are common bets, especially in football. Often, these bets are confused with 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, the Green Bay Packers (-10.5) over the Chicago Bears, and the Buffalo Bills (+10.5) over the New England Patriots.

NFL teasers change 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

Round Robins

This type of parlay gets its name from the round-robin stage of a tournament where every side faces the other at least once. In a round-robin parlay, each leg of the parlay is combined together to make mini-parlays.

Say I combine three NFL bets on a single ticket. I take the Jets +5 vs Patriots, the Packers -10 vs Bears and then the Chargers -2.5 vs the Raiders. A simple parlay would pool them all together and if a single leg fails, the whole ticket would fail.

In a round-robin parlay, you create three separate tickets for these three bets:

  1. Jets +5 & Packers -10
  2. Jets +5 & Chargers -2.5
  3. Packers -10 & Chargers -2.5 

Now you have three different tickets.  Of course, you’re paying for all three legs. So if your wager is $5, the actual out-of-pocket expense is $15 ($5 x 3).

Round-Robin Ticket
ParlayStakeTo Win
Jets +5, Patriots -5$5$25
Bears +10, Packers -10$5$25
Raiders +2.5, Chargers -2.5$5$25


Now we’ve got our three bets and we’ve wagered $5 on each. Let’s assume the payout from the book is $25 for each leg as demonstrated in the table above. How much profit can be made? It all depends on how many legs of the round robin hit – three, two or one.

Round-Robin profit
Number of winsProfitHow?
3$753 legs x $25
2$15(1 leg x $25) - $10
1 (or 0)-$15All three $5 lose


You might be confused about how the profits were calculated for two wins. If only two of the three bets win on a two-team round-robin, only one leg wins. That returns $25 in winnings. But that also means that the two other bets lost and so you are out $5 for each of those legs of the round-robin bet. Clearer?

Same-game Parlays

Same-game parlays are much easier to understand than round robins. A same-game parlay is, as the name suggests, multiple bets on the same game. 

Let’s say you think that in a game between the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the first-period total will go UNDER, the Islanders will win and Brock Nelson will score at any time. Some sportsbooks will allow you to bundle all those bets together on a single ticket.

3-Leg Parlay Bet

This is quite simply a parlay with three bets bundled together. Each bet is a “leg.” For this parlay to pay out, all three “legs” need to hit.

4-Leg Parlay Bet

I’m sure you’re catching on but this is a parlay with four different bets packaged together on a single ticket.

    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.

    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.

    What Happens To My Parlay Bet In A Canceled Game?

    The game never happened. Typically the bet is removed from the parlay ticket, just like when a game PUSHES. But check with your sportsbook to make sure this is how they operate. 

    Pros and Cons of Parlays

    We can get a little lost in the wins and losses of sports betting that we sometimes forget that it's really about enjoyment. The second you aren't enjoying yourself take a step back and ask yourself why. 


    Big paydays. I think that’s the main reason anyone would look to make a parlay. Being able to make a massive payday from a single bet is every bettor’s dream, isn’t it?

    How about clout? Specifically on social media. Posting your wins on your social media platform of choice is a good way to build a following. If that’s the road you take, make sure to be as transparent as possible with your followers. Show them your losses as much as your wins.


    Parlays have big payouts for a reason. They rarely hit. A three-leg parlay with three bets at -150 each would jump up to +463. But you’ve now converted three bets with an implied 60 percent chance of hitting to a single bet with an 18 percent chance. That’s a big drop. 

    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.