Beginner’s Tips to Understanding Parlay

Beginners Guide to Parlay Bets Image

You may be confused as to what that means. For years it was a battle cry amongst my roommates and me, particularly during football season, and when you got to yell it, chances were you were buying drinks that night. But what does it mean, and what’s a parlay?

What is a Parlay?

A parlay is a type of sports bet in which you combine multiple individual bets (typically 2-10 bets) into one bet or “card.” Combining the bets gives you worse odds to win, but a larger reward for winning. The larger the amount of wagers included in your parlay, the larger the payout.

In order for a parlay bet to win, you must win each individual bet on the card. For instance, let’s say I bet the Patriots, the Ravens and the Texans all to win their games on any given Sunday. If all three win, I will get a much larger payout than if I just bet each game individually. However, if any of those teams lose their bet, the entire card is lost.

The only exception is in the case of a “push,” which is the gambling term for a tie. If one of the games on the card pushes, that wager is removed from the parlay. So, in the case of our three team bet above, if the Ravens tied their game, it becomes a two bet parlay. If the Patriots and Texans then win their games, the bet pays out as a 2 team parlay. The payout will be smaller than if they all three won, but hey, you still win some money!

While the odds of winning large parlays (5-10 wagers combined) are relatively low, they allow you to risk a small amount of money for a potentially large reward. For instance, a 10 team parlay bet purchased for $25 would pay out over $16,000 if you won every game.

Now that you understand the basics, let’s look at what kinds of bets you’ll be pairing together to make your fortune!

Types of Parlays

Over/ Unders

Over/Under bets (or bets on the “total) are wagers made on the total amount of points that will be scored during any given game by both teams. The sports book sets the “line,” which is the number you will be basing your decision on. You bet on whether you think the total amount of points scored will be over or under that number.

Over/Under, or Totals, bets are very common in betting parlays because they allow you to make multiple bets on the same game. A common strategy is to bet which team you think will win, and then parlay that bet with whether you think the game will go “under” or “over.”

So, let’s say your Uncle Tony got a tip that Aaron Rogers has a secret shoulder injury, and it will be difficult for Green Bay to throw the ball. The line is set a 53.5. Plus, they are playing the Browns, so you still think they will still win. You may want to bet Green Bay and the under. So you are betting that Green Bay will win the game, but it may be lower scoring due to the injury, and thus the total points scored by both teams will be less than 53.5.

You may have noticed the half a point I included in the example above. In sports betting these half points are called “the hook.” The sportsbooks use half points for most bets, especially over/unders, which limit the opportunities for a push. They “hook” bettors into one side of the bet or the other.

Point Spreads

Point Spreads, commonly referred to just as “the spread,” are what makes sports betting interesting. Without them, we could all just bet the favored team every week, make a lot of money and break Vegas within a month.

A point spread evens the playing field between teams by taking points from the favored team and giving them to the underdog. So, for instance, the Chiefs are playing the Colts in what is expected to be a tightly contested game. The Colts are favored to win by a field goal.

On the sportsbook board, or the betting site, this would look like “Colts -3” or “Chiefs +3,” depending on which side you wanted to bet. So, if you bet the Colts -3, but the Colts win by 1, you actually lost that bet by 2 points. If you bet the Chiefs +3, congratulations, you won!

How many points the underdog gets, or the size of “the spread,” depends on how mismatched the teams are. In the NFL, the spread rarely goes about 13.5 or so, but in sports like college football, you routinely have teams cover 60 point spreads.

While the point spreads themselves add a degree of complication to the bets, there are additional options that can really add to the fun. They’re called Teasers and Pleasers—my heart rate picks up a little just typing those words out for you!


As far as I’m concerned, Teaser parlays are the greatest thing to happen to sports betting since the invention of the online casino. A teaser bet allows you to move that point spread that we discussed above in a way that’s favorable to you, the bettor (typically between 6 and 7.5 points). You get less of a payout if you win a teaser parlay, but it does improve your odds of winning.

So, in the example of the Colts and the Chiefs above, we had the Colts favored by 3 points. If you “teased the line” 6 points, then you’d move that Colts spread from -3 to +3.

You add 6 points to the spread that’s already given. Now you have a bet on the team that’s already favored, and now you win your bet whether they win outright as is predicted, or if they lose by less than 3. I like your chances!

What’s even better is that you don’t have to just tease the point spread, you can tease the total or over/under as well!  So, if the point spread was 53.5 as it was in our example earlier, you could tease that line all the way down to 46.5 (7 point teaser), and then bet the over. Or, you could bet the under by moving the over/under up to 60.5. Like taking candy from a baby.


make a pleaser bet that moves the Colts from -3 all the way to -10.5. You then bet that the Colts will beat the Chiefs by at least 11 points.

Since Pleasers are only done on parlay cards, you’ll need at least 1 more wager.  In this example, let’s use our pleaser bet to move that over/under up to 61 and bet the over.  So now, you have a Pleaser Parlay with the Colts -10.5 and the Over, which is now 61.  As a sports bettor I wish you luck; as a Texans fan I hope you lose.


Moneyline bets are the last little wrinkle to parlay betting that we will discuss here. These bets remove the point spread from the equation. It’s a bet based straight up on the winner and loser of the event. It’s you saying “I don’t care about all those numbers and that other mumbo jumbo; I think my team is going to win and that’s that!”

Moneyline bets can be very profitable if you can predict an upset. However, if you bet the favored team moneyline, the payout will be less. How much less depends on how largely favored the team you bet on is.

You are able to mix moneyline bets with point spread bets on a single parlay, however you cannot mix them with either teaser/pleaser bets. On those cards, if one wager is teased/pleased, you must tease/please them all.

About the Author
Rick Rockwell profile picture
Rick Rockwell
Sports/Casino Writer
Blog and News
Rick has been a professional writer for over 14 years with an extensive resume spanning projects and clients from around the world. But, his passions have always been sports and sports betting. Whether it’s being a credentialed media member to major sporting events, climbing into a racecar or a pro wrestling ring, Rick’s sports and sports betting knowledge, passion and versatility is on display with each article he writes for TSG.
  1. If the spread changes after you purchase the parlay, what happens? Do you use the spread on the ticket or the new spread?

  2. Hey Oliver, when you make a bet, you are locked into that odds that you purchased them at. If you placed a bet when odds were -110 for example, and they went up to -120, or down to +100, you are locked in to the -110 odds. I hope that helps.

  3. Hi Mike. Do you know if it’s possible to make a 10 parlay and win it even if I have one or two errors in it?

  4. So you’re saying that I can parlay, 1)the total 2)the spread and 3) straight up.
    So hypothetically if the line looked like this :
    508 Golden State – 13
    509 Detroit 233. 5

    I could parlay bet that:
    1. Golden State would win straight up
    2. Golden State will win by more than 13
    3. The game will go under

    Is this correct?

  5. So you’re saying that I can parlay, 1)the total 2)the spread and 3) straight up.
    So hypothetically if the line looked like this :the08 Golden State – 13
    509 Detroit 233. 5

    I could parlay bet that:
    1. Golden State would win straight up
    2. Golden State will win by more than 13
    3. The game will go under

    Is this correct?

  6. When you place parlay bets, every bet has to win, so if you hit 9 out of 10, you will still lose.

  7. I bet a three fight parlay. One of the fights was cancelled, does the cancellation nullify the whole bet or does the bet fall back to a two fight parlay? Pennsylvania rules.

  8. In parlay betting if using the spread does that mean your team you picked just has to win or do they need to win by how many ever the point spread is?

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