Most professional sports gamblers ignore parlay bets. But amateur bettors seem to enjoy trying to figure out a parlay betting strategy.
Along with hedging bets and the Martingale System, this seems to be one of the biggest questions on beginner sports bettors’ minds.
Does this mean parlay bets are bad? Or does it mean that professional bettors are missing out?
Whether you think parlay bets are great or not, one fact is clear. If you make parlay bets, you need to have a parlay sports betting strategy.
Here’s all of the information you need about parlay betting strategy. And if you don’t know what parlay betting is, the basics are covered here too. You’re also going to find out if you should or shouldn’t make parlay sports bets.
What Is a Parlay Betting Strategy?
A parlay bet is a bet on multiple games or outcomes together. You can win a large amount of money compared to the amount you risk. But you only win a parlay bet if you win every game included in the parlay.
Parlay odds and payouts are set by sportsbooks. But here’s a common parlay table.
Two team parlay pays 2.6 to 1
Three team parlay pays 6 to 1
Four team parlay pays 11 to 1
Five team parlay pays 22 to 1
10 team parlay pays 720 to 1
A 720 to 1 win looks great. But how often can you pick 10 games without losing a game? The odds are in the sportsbook’s favor on any parlay bet. Of course, the odds are in the sportsbook’s favor on regular bets because of the vig too.
Most sports bets require betting $11 to win $10 or $110 to win $100. So, the normal pay for a winning sports wager is close to .9 to 1.
Comparing this to a two-team parlay, a 2.6 payout looks better than getting .9 twice.
But is it really better?
The answer to this question –which should be your first consideration when thinking about a parlay betting strategy — is covered in the next two sections.
Why You Should Use Parlay Sports Bets
When you don’t have a lot of money to bet and want to have a chance to win big, a parlay might be your best option.
Here’s an example:
You have $20 to bet and you’re willing to make a long shot bet for the chance to win big. You bet on a five-team parlay at 22 to 1. If you win all five games, your $20 bet turns into $460.
If you win, you win back your $20 bet and you get 22 times $20, for a total of $460.
And if you want to really take a risk, bet the $20 on a 10-team parlay. Winning a 10-team parlay bet pays $14,420.
But to have a winning parlay betting strategy, you must consider the odds of winning every game in your parlay. The average sports bettor wins half of their point spread bets. So, the odds of winning a two-team parlay are 25%. The odds of winning a three-team parlay are 12.5%.
To determine the odds of winning a parlay bet, multiply 0.5 times 0.5 the number of teams in the parlay. So, 0.5 times 0.5 for a two-team parlay, and 0.5 times 0.5 times 0.5 for a three-team parlay.
Here are some commonly asked questions about parlay bet payouts:
What does a $100 3 team parlay pay?
A 3 team parlay pays 6 to 1, so you win $600 and collect $700 (&600 win plus original bet).
How much does a 2-team $50 parlay pay?
A 2-team parlay pays 2.6 to 1, so you win $130 and collect $180
What does a $100 4 team parlay pay?
A 4 team parlay pays 11 to 1, so you win $1,100 and collect $1,200
Why You Shouldn’t Make Parlay Sports Bets
Most sports gamblers should have a simple parlay betting strategy:
They shouldn’t make parlay bets.
The odds are stacked against you.
Here’s an example to show why parlay bets are bad:
A two-team parlay pays 2.6 to 1, and you have a .25% chance of winning both games. If you bet $200 on a two-team parlay four times, you can expect to win one time.
Your total cost to bet four times is $800. When you win, you receive $720. The average loss on the bet is $20.
Now, consider what happens if you use the same $200 to bet on the two games individually. Using the standard vig, you bet $100 on each game to win $90.91.
The three possible outcomes are winning both games, losing both games, and winning a game and losing a game.
If you win both games, you get back $381.82. When you win a game and lose a game, you get back $190.91. And when you lose both games you get nothing back. You win and lose a game in two different ways.
When you compare the four outcomes, you get back $763.64 by betting a total of $800. The average loss per pair of games is $9.09.
Compare the expected loss for the parlay bet of $20 to the expected loss of straight betting of $9.09.
You can see why a parlay betting strategy, even a good one, isn’t the best way to bet on sports. But, it gets worse.
If you bet $200 on a game and win, you get back $381.82 ($181.82 win plus your original bet of $200). Then, if you bet that total on a second game, you get back $728.93 ($347.11 win plus your original bet of $381.82).
What Is the Best Parlay Betting Strategy?
You can develop your parlay betting strategy using many different variables. And some strategies work better than others. The second-best parlay sports betting strategy for most players is included in this section.
The first step in this parlay betting strategy is determining how much you’re willing to risk. You don’t have to risk a lot of money, as most sportsbooks take parlay bets for as low as $1. And even the books with higher minimums take parlay bets at $5 or $10.
Whatever your bankroll is, divide it by 10 or more. If you have $100, you have 10 bets of $10. If you have $500, you can have 50 bets of $10, or 10 bets of $50.
Start with two team parlays. Bet on two team parlays until you run out of money or double your bankroll. If you’re lucky and double your bankroll, you can continue doing what you’re doing. Or you can try your luck at three team parlays.
If you can’t make money with two team parlays, you can’t make money with larger parlays.
Now that you know what the best parlay strategy is, there’s something else you need to know. If you’re a good enough handicapper to make a profit betting parlays, you can make more money making straight bets.
If you’re not sure why this is true, read the section about why you shouldn’t bet on parlays again. The math is clear. Parlay bets are for suckers.
The Secret to a Winning Parlay Betting Strategy
If you want to know the secret to a winning parlay betting strategy, you’re in luck. But if you know much about sports betting, the secret is bound to disappoint you.
The secret to a winning parlay betting strategy is handicapping. Handicapping is also the secret to any other winning sports betting strategy.
You have to learn how to handicap games if you want to win with a parlay betting strategy.
Not only can’t you make a profit with parlays with poor handicapping, but you’re going to lose more money than making straight bets with weak handicapping.
Whether you want to bet on parlays or straight bets, focus on being the best handicapper you can be. It’s the only way to win in the long run.
Finding the Best Parlay Betting Opportunities
How do you find the best parlay opportunities?
Professional sports bettors shop for the best betting lines. And the way they shop for lines is by creating accounts at several online sportsbooks and/or traveling to multiple local sportsbooks.
You find the best parlay betting opportunities the same way. And for most people, online sportsbooks are the only option. Unless you live in Las Vegas, you probably don’t have many local sports betting opportunities.
Fortunately, many online sportsbooks serve US gamblers. You can check out the reviews of the safest US online sportsbooks by following this link.
You can create a free account so you can look at parlay odds and payouts before you make a deposit. So, the best plan is to sign up for at least three or four different sportsbooks.
And remember, you still have to use point spread lines when you bet parlays. So when you make a parlay bet, look for the best lines on the games you want to include.
Are Parlay Sports Bets Legal Where You Live?
Every state sets sports betting laws. The laws cover what’s legal in the state and which sportsbooks can operate in the state.
While most states with legal sports betting have similar laws, each state decides what type of bets sportsbooks can offer. If a sportsbook is legally operating where you live and offers parlay bets, you’re in good shape.
You can quickly see if you can make parlay sports bets when you create accounts and check the parlay odds and payouts.
The Pros and Cons of a Parlay Betting Strategy
If you make parlay sports bets, you need a solid strategy. But if you can make money betting on parlays, you can make more money making straight point spread bets.
Parlays are good for occasional casual bets. Parlay bets are fun. But if you’re serious about betting on sports, skip the parlays.
Investopedia has some great information about parlay betting strategy, too.