A parlay is a bet that relies on more than one condition to be met for it to pay out. Parlay bets typically consist of a mixture of over/under, spread, and money line bets. These can be mixed and matched, but each one must be independent of the other.
Parlay bets pay out depending on a couple of different factors, the biggest being how many components you have working for you within the bet. At the bare minimum, a parlay must have at least two conditions that must be met, but it is possible to go higher than this, if you wish.
Now that we have a handle on the basics, let’s look at how to calculate a payout and some of the things that you can do to impact the outcome in your favor.
The general rule of figuring out how much money a parlay will payout is pretty easy. You take the odds of each event included in the parlay and multiply them together. Once you get this number, you multiply by the amount that you’ve risked. So, if you bet $100 on three games with payouts of 1.35, 1.50, and 1.10, you are going to see a return of $100 x 1.35 x 1.5 x 1.1, or $225.75. The bigger the odds stacked against you are, the more you will stand to win.
Now, most books do not calculate payouts in a decimal format. Typically in the U.S., we see payouts posted as a + or – number. A payout of +110 means that if you bet $100, you will see a return of $210 if your bet is correct. You pay $100 to win $110. Translating this to a decimal is kind of tough, but luckily there are some really good conversion calculators above.
If you look at the first payout above, the 1.35 payout is roughly the equivalent of a -285 payout. In other words, you would need to pay $285 to win $100. That’s a pretty sure win, indicating that the odds to win each of the three bets listed in our fictional example are all in the bettor’s favor.
Just to give you an idea, a +100 bet, one that you have a theoretical 50/50 shot of winning, has a decimal value of 2.0. Three bets like this at $100 equals a payout of $800!
Don’t forget that books take a cut out of each bet for parlays. This will vary based upon the book that you are using.
Most sports books will allow you to tease a parlay bet. This can be advantageous to you if you’re unsure of the spread on a game. For example, if you take the San Antonio Spurs at -1.5, you know that they need to win by two or more points for this to pay. But, if you tease it by a point, the spread becomes -0.5, and the Spurs only need to win by one point for your bet to be effective. Using teasers will have a negative impact on your winnings, even if the games are beyond the original spread. They can be helpful but use them wisely as they eat into your earnings.
Ramp It Up!
If you wish, you can include 12 or more games in a parlay. Of course, this makes it almost impossible to win your bet, but if you do win it, you stand to win a life changing amount of money in some cases. Some books do have a cap on how many games or outcomes can be included in a parlay, but for the most part, this stands at around 6-12 games. Really, the more games the better for the sports book. The higher the number that you include, the more likely you are to lose the bet, and the more likely that the book will keep your money. Still, it’s nice to know that if you want to shoot for the moon, you can!
Parlay bets look a lot easier to hit than they really are, and that’s one of the reasons why they are so popular. However, knowing that there’s a strong chance that you will lose these will actually help you to be a better bettor in these cases. Knowing that there’s a lot of risk involved will help you to make smarter decisions and to look at the long term, rather than one individual bet. The goal is to win money over an extended period of time, not with every single bet. Losing five bets in a row, only to make up for it all plus a lot extra on your sixth bet will still make you a profitable sports bettor. The trick is to understand this from the beginning and take it into account with each wager that you make so that you have money in the game long enough to become profitable.