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Sports Betting - How to Bet Parlays

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Updated April 10, 2014

Sports Betting - How to Bet Parlays

Parlays are by far the most popular of the exotic wagers, as they offer the potential for a big payoff from a small wager. Simply stated, a parlay is a collection of two or more sides or totals that you place a wager on and all of them must win in order for you to win your bet. If you place a four team parlay, going 3-1 is no different than going 0-4. All of your bets must win, or at least tie, for you to win.

There are basic types of parlays, those wagered against the point spread and those wagered against the money line. The payoffs a bettor will receive should they win are quite different in the two. In parlays involving point spreads, the payoff are fixed, while money line parlay payoffs are determined by the odds of each team.

Point Spread Parlays

The odds on a typical parlay involving point spreads, including totals, are generally something like:

2 teams 13-5
3 teams 6-1
4 teams 10-1
5 teams 25-1
6 teams 40-1
7 teams 75-1
8 teams 150-1
9 teams 300-1
10 teams 600-1

What this means is that a bettor making a wager on a five-team parlay stands to win $25 for every $1 if all of their games win. The ability to win a lot of money for a small bet is the primary reason parlays are popular with a number of sports bettors.

Money Line Parlays

Money line parlays do not use fixed odds, because the odds of winning vary greatly from team to team. While a parlay made against the point spread assumes a 50-50 chance for each team of winning, money line parlays do not. The chances of the New York Yankees defeating Kansas City are greater than 50-percent, and as a result, money line parlays are figured differently.

To put it in simple terms, money line parlays take the amount of your bet and place all of the money on one team and if that team wins, recalculates your bet amount on the next team, again placing your entire wager on that team.

For example, say a bettor likes the Los Angeles Dodgers +160 and the Chicago Cubs -130. If the bettor places a $10 wager, they essentially would have a $10 bet on the Dodgers +160, which will return $26 should the Dodgers win, and then would have $26 on the Cubs -130. Should the Cubs also win, the bettor has turned a $10 wager into $46. Contrast the $36 profit with the $26 profit a bettor winning a $10 point spread parlay on two teams would make. The difference in the payoff is because the Dodgers were not given very good odds of winning.

Are Parlays Good Bets?

The simple answer is no, especially parlays involving point spreads or totals. The odds of the payoff are much less than the true odds. For example, the true odds of winning a three-team parlay when making point spread wagers are 7-1, while the payoff is only 6-1, and it gets worse as you bet more teams. The true odds of hitting a 10-team point parlay are 1,023-1, while the payoff is generally around 600-1, so a parlay bettor is at a big disadvantage.
Money line parlay payoffs are calculated on the odds of the game, so there is really no advantage or disadvantage in playing them.

Bettors should stick with straight bets when betting against the point spread or totals as it's difficult enough to pick one winner, let alone two or more games.

To read more about parlays, see Parlay Cards, Finding Correlated Parlays or Betting Baseball Parlays.

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