How Parlays Work

Most of you reading this article are likely already familiar with how parlays work, but I wanted to take a quick second and explain it for anyone who isn’t familiar with this type of wager.

A parlay is a single bet that combines two or more individual bets into one wager.

The payouts are much bigger than if you were to bet the plays separate of one another, but the kicker is that in a parlay the individual bets are dependent on the fact that they all must win. If any one team loses in a parlay, the entire wager is lost.


How to Calculate Your Payouts

The basic principle of a parlay is that you are doubling down the profits from each bet onto the next one. I’ve already mentioned that the payouts are much better in a parlay over betting each play individually, but you might be asking yourself how to do you determine how much you will win.

Lets say you wanted to place $100 bet on a 3-team parlay on the Yankees -150, Cubs +125 and the Dodgers -120.

To calculate your payout, the first step is to pick one of the individual wagers and calculate what you would win on a standard bet given the amount of your wager.

You then take the amount you would receive back if that first play were to win and calculate your payout if you placed those winnings from the first game on one of the two remaining wagers.

You continue to do this until you have included each individual wager.

For example, lets say the first team you picked for calculating your payout was the Yankees -150. A $100 bet on the Yankees -150, would profit $66.67, giving you a total return of $166.97 (bet + profit).

Next up is your bet on the Cubs +125. A $166.67 bet on the Cubs +125 would profit $208.34, increasing your bankroll to $375.01 ($166.97 + $208.34).

Last team left to calculate is the Dodgers -120. A $375.01 bet on the Dodgers -120 would profit $312.51 and end up cashing out a ticket of $687.52.

Since you have no more individual bets left, the amount you profited on the third and final game is the amount you would profit on your parlay.

It doesn’t matter which order you do the parlay. You could have done the Cubs, Dodgers and Yankees in that order and the total profit at the end would still come out to $687.52.

To further illustrate the bigger payouts for a parlay, lets take a look at how much we would have won had we not parlayed the Yankees -150, Cubs +125 and Dodgers -120 and simply bet each game on their own.

Here you would betting $100 on each bet and adding up your profit from each wager. As we already know, a $100 wager on the Dodgers would net $66.67. A $100 wager on the Cubs would return a profit of $125 and a $100 wager on the Dodgers -120 would net a profit of $83.33.

Your total profit if all 3 bets cashed would be $275 ($66.67 + $125 + $83.33). Not only is that quite a bit less than the $687.52 you would win a parlay, but you also had to risk $300 compared to just $100.

As you can see, figuring out the exact payout on a parlay can be time consuming if you do it by hand, but luckily that’s not something you have to worry about. There’s several parlay calculators out there that will do all the work for you. Here’s a link to a parlay calculator at VegasInsider, which lets you figure out the payouts on up to an 8-team parlay.

Are Parlays Good Bets?

If you have been around the sports betting industry, chances are you at some point have heard that parlays are sucker bets that only amateur players take part in. There’s some truth behind that, but it’s not 100% accurate.

While I agree that betting parlays with a large number of teams in football or basketball isn’t a smart move over the long-run, there’s not a significant advantage or disadvantage to betting parlays in baseball.

Why is betting a parlay in baseball better than football or basketball? It’s because baseball parlays use true odds, where football and basketball are fixed odds.

If you were to bet a 7-team parlay in football or basketball, the odds are fixed with a payout of 75-to-1, when in reality your true odds of winning a 3-team parlay in these two sports are 1.2% so your payout should be 91.42-to-1.

With baseball parlays they are calculated using the exact (true) odds of the teams included.  So if you parlayed 7 teams with an average line of -110 you would get that 91.42-to-1 payout.

With that said, that doesn’t mean you should only be betting parlays in baseball. I still would recommend your primary focus be on betting games individually and picking your spots when it comes to playing parlays.

The thing that you have to keep in mind is that with betting a lot of parlays comes bigger fluctuations in your bankroll. My advice would be that if you are going to bet parlays, make sure you are risking about half as much on them than you would on a game individually.

Strategies on When to Parlay in Baseball

Parlaying Big Favorites

Parlaying big favorites is probably the most simple and widely popular parlay in baseball. With this system you are basically combining two or more heavy favorites into one bet.

Let’s say you liked the Red Sox -200 and the Rangers -200 on a given day. You decided to bet $100 on each game. $100 wager on -200 money line would profit you $50.

If both bets won you win $100. If one loses and the other wins you are down $50, both lose and you are down $200.

By parlaying these two plays instead of betting on each individually, you can risk less and win more. A $100 2-team parlay with the odds listed above would give you the opportunity to either win $125 or lose $100.

Parlaying 2 Best Teams Final 3 Months

If you want to keep it simple and take out all the guess work, here’s a parlay system that I have seen profit over the years. It’s pretty straight forward.

When there’s 3 months left in the season, you look at the standings and mark down the two best teams. You then blindly parlay these two teams. regardless of the odds, over the remainder of the season when they play on the same day. Just be prepared for some big swings.

Side and Totals in Same Game

This is basically a strategy of taking advantage of knowledge you already acquired when figuring out who you liked on the money line. A lot experts who find an edge on a team also have a strong opinion on whether the game will be a pitchers duel or offensive explosion. Combining the money line and the over/under in the same game into a 2-team parlay is a popular strategy.

Going a little more in-depth here, I have also noticed a lot of experts who will look to take the OVER in a game where they like the road team on the money line and the UNDER in a game where they like the home team.

If you like the road team to win, you are expecting them to be winning late, which will ensure the home team bats in the bottom of the 9th, giving you three more outs to potentially add to the total.

On the other hand, if you like the home team to win, you are expecting to see an entire half-inning not played, as the home team wouldn’t bat in the bottom of the 9th if they were ahead.

I don’t recommend using this on a regular basis, but its worth looking at. The strength of this system has a lot to do with the the bullpens of the two teams involved.

Leverage a Strong Bet

This strategy is used when you have a big favorite who you are positive they are going to win. Say you like the Nationals -200 with Stephen Strasburg on the mound. Instead of risking $200 to win $100, you can increase your returns with a little extra risk.

Say you also like the Pirates +150 and the Mets +150 on that same day. You can place two 2-team parlays. One with the Nationals -200 and the Pirates +150 and the other with the Nationals -200 and the Mets +150.

Each parlay would give you the potential to win $275. If just one of the two parlays hit, you would win $275 and lose $100, leaving you a profit of $175. That’s $75 more dollars than you would have won betting $200 on the Nationals -200.