Parlay betting is the second most popular betting option at the sportsbooks, after the straight bet. It offers the bettor a chance to win big while risking very small amounts of money, but naturally, the chances for a successful bet are much smaller, as compared to the straight bet. The parlay is not for everyone, but for those interested in this betting option at your favorite sportsbook, here you can learn more about how the parlay works, after we explain parlay betting.
This bet option is very simple - the parlay is a single bet on two or more games at the same time. Unlike the straight wager, where the player bets on the outcome of a single game, for example, which team will win or if a team will cover the spread, with parlay betting the sportsbook customer wagers on multiple games (or events) at the same time.
How Parlay works
In order to place a parlay bet, the bettor selects two or more events. For the purpose of this guide, let's assume that the customer of the sportsbook chooses to place a parlay bet on the winners of 3 NFL games. In order for this bet to be a winner, all three games must be guessed correctly. If the bettor predicts just one of those games incorrectly - the entire parlay is graded as a loss.
Clearly the risk of this type of wager is much higher, compared to the straight bet, where you must correctly guess the outcome of just one game, whereas here all three games must be winners for the parlay to pay out. On the bright side, to compensate the higher risk, the reward of a parlay is much higher.
How is the payout of a parlay calculated? The payout of a parlay is calculated by multiplying the lines of each game together. This is best illustrated if we use decimal odds, instead of the American odds. For example, if all three NFL games from our previous example pay out on decimal odds of 2.10, if you placed a straight bet on each and they all come out winners, you would get $2.10 for every $1 bet. So if you straight bet $10 on each game, you will get the total of $63 ($21+$21+$21). But if you opted out to bet those $30 on the three football games as a parlay bet, your total win will be $277.83, i.e. (2.10*2.10*2.10*$30), or the multiplied odds for each game then multiplied by the risk amount.
If using American odds (like +110 or -220), calculation of parlay payouts becomes very complicated, but the sportsbooks do this for you, so you really don't have to bother with the math. Of course, you can always use a free calculator or simply temporarily convert the display odds at the sportsbook to decimal, then do the simple multiplication yourself, and when you are done - convert back tot he familiar display of American odds.
More about parlay betting
There are a few other interesting bits about parlay betting we feel we should note here. The first and most important is the handling of "push" when grading parlay bets. Generally, when one of your games in a parlay results in a push, let's say the team score landed right on the point spread, that bet will be graded as push and simply removed from your parlay, reducing your parlay by one. For example, if you placed a 4-team parlay and one of the bets came out as push, your parlay is now down to being just a 3-game parlay, with the game resulting in push simply removed from said parlay bet. Keep in mind that if the push brings down your parlay to just one team - your entire parlay will be graded as push and your stake will be refunded.
Another point we would like to make is that with most sportsbooks it is possible to place a parlay on multiple sports. You are not limited to just betting on NFL games, for example, but can combine NFL games and soccer games, for instance, in the same parlay. The usual parlay rules apply here, as well.
And finally - try and keep your parlays short. A lot of people become fascinated with the huge payouts offered by the parlay bet and will often keep on adding to their parlay, mesmerized by the ever-increasing payout. Best, however, is to keep your parlays limited to 4 teams or lower. This way you still get to enjoy a rather large return on your stake, yet the probabilities of your parlay winning are kept within a reasonable frame.
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