This article is meant to help further your sports betting knowledge when it comes to parlays. The first thing we will cover is understanding what this bet is and how it works. We’ll also look at how the odds are calculated, payouts, house advantage, and benefits for making these wagers.

Definition:

Also known as combos, are a selection of two or more wagering outcomes in which the odds for the payout increase with the number of bets that you choose. The more teams that you combine together then the higher the payout. You can use almost anything, including money lines, sides, and totals. The big catch is that each wager has to win or you go home a loser.

Fixed Parlay Odds in Football & Basketball vs. Money Line Parlays

As one of the best sports handicapping services around, we don’t like to recommend these bets that often to visitors because there is a very high hold percentage for the house. However, we know that most people get roped into making these wagers since there is such a big payoff. For instance, I’ve seen someone who won over $50,000 on a $50 10-teamer during the baseball season, or the $5 12-teamer that turns into almost $6,500, or even a $10 12-teamer that paid off a whopping $21,000.

If you are going to take on some added risk in order get the bigger payoff, at least read up on how the fixed odds work. For the most part, football and basketball involve the standard -110 lines. Instead of having to calculate the odds, there are fixed payoffs for each bet. Let’s look at an example. The line will be Arizona -3.5 against New York with a total of 36. As you can see, there are four different combinations to choose from:

Possible 2-Team Combinations

  • Arizona -3.5 and over 36
  • New York +3.5 and over 36
  • Arizona -3.5 and under 36
  • New York +3.5 and under 36

The odds of any of these being a winner are 1-in-4 so the actual odds are 3/1, but the sportsbooks pay either 13/5 or 5/2 assuming all bets are the standard -110. If you bet on each different outcome, there will be one winner at $260 and three $100 losers ($300). That’s a $40 net gain for the books, which comes out to a 10% hold.

It’s similar with a  3-teamer. Here there are eight different possible outcomes and a 6 to 1 payoff. One ticket cashes $600 and the other seven would lose $100 for a $100 net gain and 12.5% hold for the books.

Multi-Team Parlay Payouts & House Edge

# of TeamsActual OddsLas Vegas PayoutHouse Edge
23/12.6/110.00%
37/16/112.50%
415/110/131.25%
531/120/134.38%
663/140/135.94%
7127/175/140.63%
8255/1150/141.02%
9511/1300/141.21%
101027/1700/131.54%

It’s pretty apparent if you look above that anything above a 3-teamer does very well for the books, but the truth is the hold isn’t really all that high. It’s hard to split the action on the parlays since so many teams are involved. The books typically see the same picks over and over again in different parlays, so they really need the higher house edge to cover the risk of having to cover out some very high payoffs. It’s easy to see how a bookie can have a very good weekend ruined by one person who hits a large 700/1 payout.

The books typically see the same picks over and over again in different parlays, so they really need the higher house edge to cover the risk of having to cover out some very high payoffs. It’s easy to see how a bookie can have a very good weekend ruined by one person who gets lucky enough to cash a big parlay bet.

Money Line Parlay Payouts & How They Work

Note that sports like baseball and hockey, where the majority of wagers are on the money line and not the spread, don’t have a fixed payout. These are pretty straightforward in how they work. Let’s say you placed a 3-teamer in baseball on the Cubs -150, Yankees +100 and Dodgers -135. Your wager on this parlay is $100.

Calculating the payout takes a little time if done manually, but’s easy once you get the hang of it. There’s also several online calculators out there to do the work for you.

To figure it out yourself, simply pick one of your three wagers. The order doesn’t matter. I’ve decided to start with the Yankees +100. All you do is look at what your wager ($100) would profit with this pick. In this case, it would be even money, so $100. That brings your total to $200. Now you take that $100 and calculate what a winning bet on the Cubs -150 would be. You then take your new total and figure out what you would win on the final bet, which is the Dodgers -135. Our final payout here would be $480.25. Again, you could have started with the Dodgers and worked backward and got the same outcome.

Check out our MLB parlay strategy page for more information on how these work.

Benefits of Making Parlay Wagers & How To cash More Winning Tickets

One time that you could benefit from parlays is when you see a team that is going to try to keep the score low in order to have a chance to win. There are games that have a certain correlation between the spread and the total. These are the times that parlays can be a big benefit to the bettor.  I rarely play parlays, but when I do most of the time they are high juice baseball games and on the side and total in the same game. This is especially true of large

If I’m going to place a parlay bet, I like to look for two things. Big money line favorites in baseball and a combination of the side and total in the same game (any sport). Parlaying the side/total of a game is known in the betting industry as a correlated parlay. A lot of online books won’t even take this kind of action, but your local bookie might not be aware that they are giving you an advantage.

This is especially true of large spreads when taking a look at the college football lines you may see a game with a spread of -30 and a total of 56. It’s very tough for the favorite to cover this game and still see the game land under the total.  Granted it happens, but it is very tough to do so. So without one of these options (favorite and the over), the real payoff is nearly 2/1, which is a 30% advantage for the bettor.

A good rule of thumb is to play the over when the spread is 40% or more of the total and you like the favorite, or vice versa. A lot of online books won’t even take this kind of action, which is called a correlated parlay, but a local book might not be aware that they are giving you an advantage.

Why Parlays Can Be Considered a Bad Bet

If you have been around the industry long enough, chances are someone has told you parlays are a bad bet. For the most part, it’s just something they have heard. They don’t really know why.

I’m going to do my best to explain to you why the risk involved with parlays is not worth it long-term.

Most of you know that at standard -110 juice the break even point is 52.38%. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s a lot harder than you think to hit 53% over the long haul. It also takes a lot more patience when betting picks individually.

This is why so many amateur bettors can’t resist the urge of playing parlays. Instead of making multiple wagers, they can make one wager for a larger payout. At least that’s what they tell themselves.

# TeamsOddsTarget Win Rate
1-11052.4%
2+26027.7%
3+60014.3%
4+12007.7%
5+24004.0%
6+45002.2%
7+80001.2%
8+150000.7%

Above is a table that list the win rate needed to profit for parlays up to 8 teams. I’ve also included a 1-team parlay or single bet for comparison purposes.

This table isn’t likely going to keep you from betting a parlay. If anything, the table likely encourages you to make the wager. Most just see that they only need to hit 4 out of every 100 (4%) tickets on a 5-team parlay. Even better, you just need to be right on one 8-teamer out of every 100 to build your bankroll.

Using some basic probability we can take this a step further. Basically we are taking the nth root of the Target Win Rate in the previous table. This gives us what we call a Per Game Win Rate. Check out the results below.

# TeamsOddsPer Game Win Rate
1-11052.4%
2+26052.7%
3+60052.3%
4+120052.5%
5+240052.7%
6+450052.8%
7+800053.3%
8+1500053.4%

As you can see, with the exception of a 3-teamer, the Per Game Win Rate is higher than it would be on a single wager at -110. What this is telling you is that given the payouts and the chances of winning, parlays aren’t a wise investment.

Also, keep in mind that you would need a massive bankroll to withstand the long stretches of losing. While you only need to win 4 out of every 100 on a 5-teamer, that means you lose 96% of the time. Can your bankroll handle that many losses in a row? By the time you actually hit one of these, you bankroll will be so little that you don’t actually profit any more than you would betting each game on its own.