Parlay Betting Strategy Guide

Online sports betting is a massive industry, and it’s not going away anytime soon! It involves betting on all sorts of sports, even video game competitions. There are plenty of betting opportunities alongside the typical single match wagers. Today, we’re going to focus on something along those lines. As the title suggests, we’re here to discuss parlay betting, a popular type of betting with greater risk but much greater rewards, too.

What Is Parlay Betting?

Let’s start off with the basics—what is parlay betting?

A parlay bet is a quite common type of sports wagering most bettors are familiar with. It’s been around for ages, enjoying plenty of popularity in both EU and the US despite having two totally different names. Americans call it “parlay betting,” while Europeans call it “accumulator betting.”

Typically, a parlay bet allows you to place wagers on multiple matches all at once rather than having multiple individual bets. It’s sort of like grouping several singles into one giant bet. However, the odds for parlay bets are much bigger than what you’d expect and the risk is far greater, too. All matches in your parlay bet must go through to win. If one bet loses, the entire parlay loses. It’s as simple as that.

What Does a Parlay Pay?

Here’s what you can expect from most bookies in terms of typical parlay odds and payouts:

Parlay Odds Amount Won Payout
2 team 2.6 to 1 $260 $360
3 team 6 to 1 $600 $700
4 team 11 to 1 $1,100 $1,200
5 team 22 to 1 $2,200 $2,300
6 team 45 to 1 $4,500 $4,600
7 team 90 to 1 $9,000 $9,100
8 team 180 to 1 $18,000 $18,100

We’re talking about parlay betting with fixed odds here. Depending on your preferred bookie, especially if you’re not living in the US, you might see a totally different approach to parlay bets.

Where Can You Place Parlay Bets Online?

Most online sportsbooks allow users to place parlay bets. Each will have slightly different standards for what parlay bets are valid, but those terms will be explained on the sportsbook site.

Here are some of the top betting sites of 2021 for you to check out:

Best US Sites for Parlay Betting

Best Non-US Sites for Parlay Betting

Difference Between Conventional and True Odds Parlays

You see, the above-example features a fixed-odds system that only works if both selections are 50/50. However, if you’re betting on sports, there are always favorites and underdogs, and the odds are never the same. To calculate these types of parlay scenarios, you’ll need to do some sports betting math!

The Math Behind Parlay Bets

How Much Do Parlay Bets Pay?

We’ve already talked about fixed odds parlay bets! Now, let’s get down and dirty with the calculations for your sports betting endeavors.

As mentioned earlier, sports bring forth dynamic odds, meaning no two bets will have the exact same 50/50 odds. Luckily, the calculations aren’t all that complicated. If you’re using decimal odds, simply multiply all bets with the stake. If you’re betting on a three-team parlay with the following odds: 1.2, 1.5, and 1.4, just multiply all three numbers with your stake.

  • 1.2 times, 1.5 times, 1.4 times $100 equals $252 payout.
  • $152 won when we take out the stake

If you’re used to betting with American odds, the best course is to convert them to decimal using our simple betting odds calculator. Then, you just do the multiplication and you’re all done!

Here’s the fun part:

If you take those three matches and bet them as three singles with a $100 total stake ($33.33 stake on each), your return would be much lower. We’re talking roughly $40 in total. However, in this scenario, you’d still get some money in case one of those matches doesn’t go through, which wouldn’t be the case with a parlay.

Long story short, parlay betting offers much higher payouts than singles, but it also brings forth a lot more risk too. That’s pretty much sports betting experts still haven’t come to an agreement regarding the long-term viability of parlay bets.

What Happens in Case of a Tie?

If there’s a tie (more commonly known as push), the parlay disregards that wager and lowers the number of total bets, resulting in a lower payout. For example, if you invest in a five-team parlay, nail down four wins and the final match is a tie, your bookie will lower your odds from 22 to 1 to 11 to 1 and pay you out accordingly.

Keep in mind, though, not all bookies have the same rules.

European bookies allow you to bet on ties too; they have three-way match-winners meaning you can bet on team A, B, or a draw. If you want the benefit of a push in case of a tie, you have to opt for a two-way wager.

Parlay Betting Pros and Cons

Pros of Parlay Bets

  • Higher returns than single wagers
  • Great for free play bonuses
  • High-risk, high-reward
  • Correlated parlay potential
  • Tons of excitement

Cons of Parlay Bets

  • High-risk, high-reward
  • Correlated parlay bets not accepted
  • Fixed odds favor the bookies
  • Increased chance of a dry spell

Ideal Scenarios for Parlay Betting

How fair is the parlay betting system?

Well, in a two-team parlay with both odds set at -110, the true probability should convert the odds to +300, but you’re only getting +260. For a three-team parlay, the total odds should stand at +700 but bookies only give you +600.

In other words, bookies don’t offer a level playing ground for fixed-odds parlay bets. With that said, are there any decent scenarios in which parlay betting makes complete sense?

Free Play Bonuses

Three-team parlays are great for freebie bets and other bonuses. Why is that so? Well, they bring forth slightly more juice than true odds and allow you to free-play three different bets. These days, bookmakers are offering incredible welcome bonuses (based on the amount of the initial deposit), and experimenting with three-team parlays with your bonus funds could get you that extra bit of oomph you need.

Correlated Parlays

Correlated parlays are based on certain combinations that will either both win or lose. For instance, betting on the Lakers to win and Lebron James to go over on total points is the perfect example of a correlated two-bet parlay.

The problem with correlated parlays is that many sportsbooks deem it illegal and won’t accept correlated bets.

But if you can find a lesser-known bookie that’s legit but still offers correlated parlays and a decent online sports betting experience, it should be a no-brainer!

Reduced Juice

NFL is the perfect example of the so-called “reduced juice” phenomenon. In NFL, 50/50 bet propositions are quite common, and some bookies offer 6.5 to 1 on three-team parlays, which brings forth more value than betting on the standard -105 option.

Top Reasons to Avoid Parlays

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1) Bankroll Strategy

Progressive betting systems are generally regarded as poor strategy for both bankroll management and bankroll growth. Professional bettors make wagers based on their quantified edge per game. While the math can work out, doing the math for proper bet sizing on a parlay is a lot of added work with little to no upside for most sports bettors.

2) Variance

Parlay bets have higher variance than straight bets. Here you’re getting the same odds, but your chance of hitting a dry spell is greatly increased. When the odds are the same it is most often better to go with the lower variance option, which in this case is straight wagers.

3) Line Shopping

Sports bettors maximize their profit by always shopping for the best price. For example, finding -4 when other sites are -4.5, and finding reduced vig options such as -104 instead of -110. When betting parlays, you’ll need to find the most favorable odds for each team at a single betting site. This scenario is rare, so generally you’ll end up with better odds by making straight wagers at multiple betting sites.

Parlay Betting FAQ

Yessir, parlays and accumulators are the exact same thing. The word parlay is commonly used in the US while accumulator (AKA acca) is more commonly used in the UK and EU. They both represent the same thing: a group of two or more bets, each of which has to go through to win.

Let’s make one thing clear, sports betting experts don’t recommend betting on parlays as a viable long-term strategy. With that said, it doesn’t necessarily mean parlays aren’t worth it. We’ve already given you several ideal scenarios for parlay bets, but if that’s not enough for you, perhaps the sheer thrill of the chase will be. Imagine the bragging rights after nailing down a four-team parlay! That’s more valuable than cash, right?

Even though parlays might seem like a great way of getting crazy rich, the odds of you actually winning 100% of three-team parlays with enough consistency are pretty low. With that in mind, it’s best to not have unrealistic expectations in the first place. Even if you can’t help but to dream big, make sure you don’t invest too much money. High-risk high-reward kind of deals can be tricky, especially for beginners, so make sure you only bet with the money you can afford to lose.

There’s nothing illegal about parlay betting. In fact, you’ll rarely see a reputable bookmaker without support for parlay bets. Correlated parlays, on the other hand, are typically banned. If you can find a bookie that accepts such combinations, be sure to milk it for what it’s worth!

There is a general misconception in sports betting that all parlays are sucker bets. This is simply because most sports bettors are not familiar with how they work, or how to bet them properly.

When talking about 50/50 proposition parlays, you don’t need to do any manual calculations. Everything you need to know about that system can be found in the table at the top of this page. Keep in mind that this scenario only works for sports that have a plethora of 50/50 matches, such as the NFL.

If, however, you’d like to bet on soccer, esports, or other sports disciplines, you’ll be dealing with dynamic odds. How to calculate the payout? Well, just draft the parlay and the bookie ought to show you the numbers. If you want to do it on your own, just convert American to decimal odds, multiply them with each other and with the stake. That’s it. You’re all done!