Parlays are the Frankenstein’s monster of sports betting. They are wagers that consist of other bets glued together with one another.
They are also a high-risk, high-reward opportunity for the daredevil sports bettor. If you are a Colorado resident who feels like kicking things up a notch, make sure you read this guide to parlay betting first.
How parlay betting works
The first thing to understand about parlays is that they consist of multiple choices. Where other types of sports bets involve your choice of a single variable, parlays require players to predict outcomes on several different bets.
Each selection in a parlay is known as a leg. These bets can all be the same type of wager, or they can be varied. The exact composition of each parlay is entirely up to the bettor.
Why parlays are so risky (and well-paid)
The escalated source of risk in parlay betting is the fact that a bettor must be completely correct in his or her selections to get paid. Even one mistake causes the entire wager to be lost.
Naturally, as you increase the number of legs involved in a parlay, the chance of an incorrect prediction goes up. So, sportsbooks offer increasing payouts to compensate for the risk.
In fact, parlays with many legs are capable of producing some incredible wins for you. For instance, a successful 20-leg parlay in 2019 allowed a Mississippi bettor to turn a $25 wager into more than $104,000.
Of course, these stories drive more people to give parlay betting a try. However, it’s important to realize that successful parlays make the news because they are so unusual.
In a sense, these outsized payouts are not unlike lottery winnings. A bettor who successfully predicts a string of unlikely events has beaten very long odds, indeed.
Sportsbooks are, of course, more than happy to allow you to take such a risk. Truthfully, if the money you bet on parlays does not affect your lifestyle or living conditions, then they can be a fun diversion for a sports bettor seeking to get the blood pumping.
Parlay betting examples
Building a parlay is exceptionally easy, particularly on an online sportsbook. For mobile app or laptop users, they will usually need only to select the bets they want in their parlay and click a button on their bet slip to set things up.
In the following examples, the wagers we’re using are actual bets offered on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Bet #1: Moneyline @ +160
Bet #2: Over 230.5 points @ -113
Overall odds: +321
The first thing to notice is that neither of these choices have particularly long odds. The moneyline is only an 8/5 underdog, and the chosen over was the favorite.
Still, their combined chances of happening are more than 3 to 1. So, even if things are looking good individually, the odds of both events occurring are much less likely, and you will get paid far less often than if you bet each element individually.
Bet #1: Moneyline @ -195
Bet #2: Moneyline @ -455
Bet #3: Moneyline @ -165
Overall odds: +199
Just to ram home the point about the odds involved, we chose three moneyline favorites to populate our parlay here. To reiterate, each of these choices is expected to win their game.
However, the combined chance that all three bets will win is still almost 2 to 1 against. So, bear in mind that in parlays, there’s no such thing as a safe option.
Bet #1: Moneyline @ +145
Bet #2: Moneyline @ +145
Bet #3: Puck Line @ +118
Bet #4: Over 5.5 Goals @ +105
Bet #5: Moneyline @ +180
Bet #6: Moneyline @ -195
Bet #7: Moneyline @ -143
Bet #8: Moneyline @ -455
Bet #9: Over 231 points @ -112
Bet #10: Spread @ -112
Overall odds: +85379
Here is an example of how outsized both the odds and payouts for a parlay can get. Here we have a collection of 10 wagers that are all going off at odds shorter than 2 to 1. Yet, the combined odds of all 10 events is a staggering 853.79 to 1!
One other thing to note is that, in order to construct this parlay, we had to choose from different games each time. In order for a parlay to be valid, there cannot be bets that are related to one another – for instance, you cannot bet both the moneyline and total for a single game.
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Along with standard parlays, sportsbooks commonly offer one or more variants of the combination bets. These variants each have their own appeal, so judge for yourself if you want to try them out.
One of the most common parlay variants is the teaser. The teaser is the sportsbook’s attempt to lessen some of the risk that comes with parlay betting.
Quite simply, a teaser allows the bettor to tease, or move, the odds of the bets in a parlay in his or her favor. Teasers are only permitted for point spreads and totals – it wouldn’t really make sense to try and apply a teaser to a moneyline.
You must adjust each leg of a teaser by the same number of points. So, if you move one of your selections by five points, all of your selections must move by five.
However, the movement will always be in your favor. So, a bet on a favorite might reduce the spread, but a bet on an underdog would increase it.
Of course, nothing is free in this world, and teasers come with a price. Specifically, a successful teaser will not pay out as much as a parlay with the same selections. The sportsbook charges a premium for the reduced risk.
Still, for a bettor who wants to try parlays but doesn’t like the risk profile, a teaser might be a way to slide into things. The odds will still be long, but maybe not as unacceptably so.
For more information about teasers, click here.
Please be aware that sportsbooks will sometimes offer a parlay variant called a pleaser. While they are less common, they are simply the mirror image of teasers.
So, the odds in a pleaser will actually be worse than a standard parlay. However, the associated payout will be higher to compensate for the increased risk.
If a parlay just isn’t risky enough for you, a pleaser might be exactly what you’re wanting. Keep an eye out for them.
Round robins are a fascinating variant of parlays because of their margin for error. Almost every parlay requires perfection to pay out, but round robins have no such requirement.
Round robins are bets that are combinations of parlays. If parlays were a mathematical concept, round robins would be the next power of exponent to them – the cube to parlays’ square, so to speak.
Since they are composed of multiple parlays, it is possible to win a portion of a round robin even if one (or more) of the parlays fails. The different permutations mean that parts of the round robin might not be affected by the doomed parlay.
If you’re confused, don’t worry.
You have 5 bets (A, B, C, D, and E) you want to make. You could make a single 5-leg parlay that would look like this:
You could make a round robin with 10 separate 2-team parlays in it. Here’s how it would look:
Now…let’s say that you lose bet B.
In the case of the parlay, the entire bet is lost. However, in the case of the round robin, six of the parlays are still alive and well:
So, even though the loss would’ve been disastrous for the straight parlay, it’s not the end of the world on a round robin. If you want to do some parlay betting but want to have some backup options, a round robin might be the way to go.