In sports betting, there is a certain type of wager that adds excitement to the experience: The parlay. Simply put, a parlay involves combining multiple bets to increase the potential payout along with the risk, because the bet will pay nothing if one or more of its legs fails to cash. 

Parlays and same-game parlays have become increasingly popular for new and experienced bettors alike, with online sportsbooks offering more options in recent years. Below, we’ll explain some basic strategies and information about parlays. 

What is a parlay?

A parlay combines multiple “singles” bets into a collective bet that will only pay out if each single wager is successful. If any of the legs fail, the book pays out nothing. If one of the legs “pushes” or ties with the sportsbook’s line, the book will remove that leg and pay out the rest of the bet based on those results. 

Sportsbooks might have some restrictions on which bets you can combine to create a parlay, but the floor is generally open to combine bets from multiple sports, across multiple days, and to use player props, team props, and game lines in crafting your parlay. 

The more legs you add to a parlay, the higher the potential payout. Single wagers with odds of -150 or shorter (indicating a higher likelihood of success) can quickly turn into parlays with odds of +200 or greater if you combine them into a three-leg bet. Here is an example of a four-leg parlay of singles with short odds, combined to create a bigger potential payout: 

Books are willing to offer this juice because there is no such a thing as a sure bet in professional sports, so each additional leg raises the risk of a failed parlay. Books might offer daily “parlay insurance” tokens to account for some of this risk, promising to return the original stake in bonus bets if one leg of a parlay with at least three legs fails, while the other legs cash. 

Creating a parlay is relatively simple. Most books will offer the option to parlay multiple bets as soon as you add them to the slip. The potential payout will appear below the single wagers. Bettors can craft parlays using any number of alternate lines or props, not just the “core line” that the book offers. 

For example, if Patrick Mahomes has a line of 255.5 passing yards with odds of -110 on both the over and the under, that is his core line. An alternate line might offer -150 odds for him to tally 235 or more passing yards. There are also alternate spreads and alternate totals, offering higher or lower payouts depending on their movement from the core line. These alternate lines might be eligible for parlays at some books. 

When books offer “specials” such as the stats leader for a game in any particular category, these are usually not eligible to parlay. There are also restrictions on parlaying futures, or season-long wagers. 

Sportsbooks will often offer sponsored parlays with potentially huge payouts on their landing page. Books might also offer boosted odds on those parlays, but it is often best to manually craft a similar parlay to double-check that you’re getting the best odds on the wager. 

Where can I wager on parlays?

All major sportsbooks offer parlays and generally make them easy to find. Caesars, BetMGM, FanDuel, and DraftKings have user-friendly options for crafting same-game parlays or multi-sport parlays. 

Simply browse the sport and games of your choice and begin combining bets on your betslip, and the sportsbook will offer the option to parlay those selections into one large wager.  

Is a parlay a good bet to make?

All bets carry risk along with the potential reward. By adding multiple bets to the equation, parlays inevitably create a higher risk of coming up empty. On the other hand, parlays tend to offer a larger payout for a lower stake, so bettors can be a bit more conservative with their wagers and still hope to cash in some instances. 

Each parlay is unique, and the question of whether it is a “good bet” is therefore subjective. Bettors should address the potential risks and rewards of each leg associated with the parlay to determine whether it’s worth tying the fate of the entire wager to each potential outcome. 

There are also more conservative ways to place parlays called teasers and round robins, with lower risk and lower potential payouts. 

Parlay examples

Parlays come in all shapes and sizes, with bettors ultimately responsible for combining the wagers that they feel have value. Below are some examples. 

Here is a simple two-leg NFL parlay with some correlation. The Jacksonville Jaguars, or any underdog, might be more likely to cover a small spread if the game is low scoring, whereas the favored Miami Dolphins (-3.5) might make more sense in a parlay with the over (49 points) since a higher score would create more space to cover four-plus points. 

Parlays don’t necessarily have to be correlated, and those that involve negative correlations could have higher potential payouts. For example, taking a star player to go under that player’s line for total points — but the player’s team to still cover — could generate positive odds.

Books may use boosted parlays or odds boosts to combine a couple of bets from a high-profile game. The odds for the parlay can be further boosted, such as this example from BetMGM’s sponsored Lion’s Boost.

Another popular way to parlay is to combine moneyline favorites into a multi-leg wager. The MLB teams listed below are all favored to win their respective matchups, with a couple of teams at odds of -250 or shorter to win. Combining the four moneylines generates +421 odds at Caesars

Calculating parlays

To manually calculate the odds of a parlay, convert the lines into decimal odds. Standard odds at American sportsbooks can be negative (-110) or positive (+120), so you divide a positive number by 100, then add 1, or you divide 100 by the negative number (after removing the minus sign), then add one to get a corresponding value.  

As an example, here is how to convert a bet with -150 odds and one with +140 odds: 

(140/100) + 1 = 1.4 and (100/150) + 1 = 1.7 

Then you can multiply those numbers together to get the adjusted odds for a two-leg parlay of those wagers. 

Why might you want to calculate parlays instead of punching them into the sportsbook to see the potential payout? Because comparing your calculations to the odds from a sportsbook might help inform your betting process.

Generally, sportsbooks list bets with odds of -110 or shorter. The slight movement away from an even money (+100) bet gives the house an edge and is known as the vig (short for vigorish). If books believe the line is completely even in terms of probability, it might list both sides at -110, but if books want to generate more action on one side of a line, that side might shift to +110, while the more probable side sits at -120. 

The vig (or juice) gives the implied odds according to the sportsbook, but “true odds” can refer to how likely bettors feel about a potential outcome. If bettors find that the true odds — whether calculated by an outside model, their own algorithm, or available consensus data such as ESPN’s “Basketball Power Index” — don’t match up to the implied probability that the sportsbook is offering, that gives them more information on which to base a wager.

In the NFL season opener, suppose the Kansas City Chiefs have odds of -140 and the Baltimore Ravens are +120 on the moneyline. That gives the Ravens an implied probability of 45.5% to win, but if bettors feel the favored Chiefs have closer to a 60% chance of winning, they can add that moneyline to a parlay at prospective value. 

Parlay payouts will vary widely depending on the number of legs and the implied odds for each leg in the parlay. Combining multiple legs with high implied probability can still generate positive odds, and combining some legs with high probability and some longshots can generate the potential for a large payout. 

When it comes to betting parlays, it’s even more important to keep the tenets of responsible gambling in mind, since the higher payouts inherently involve increased risk.

What do payouts look like for parlays?

Here we have some examples of the potential payouts on parlays with the following odds. Note that odds will vary at different books and with different parlays depending on the core lines. 

Parlay oddsPayout for a $10 winning bet

These payouts only occur if each leg is successful. If one leg fails to cash, the entire slip fails. 

However, if one leg of a four-leg parlay pushes, the other three legs would pay out at adjusted odds based on the combined juice from those three legs. 

Parlay betting strategies

Every parlay is unique, and each wager should be based on information specific to the sporting events in question. However, there are still some general strategies to consider.

Correlating parlays: Combining bets that are more likely to correlate when scripting out a potential game is a good way to start thinking about parlays. For example, if snow is projected to play a major factor in an NFL game, parlaying rushing yards for the lead running back, under for the opposing team’s total, and the moneyline for the home team would script an outcome where the hosts ride their running game and defense to a low-scoring victory.

Following the house: Analyzing the implied probabilities that a sportsbook is offering can indicate which outcomes are more likely to occur. Bettors can align their interests with the sportsbooks by parlaying lines with a higher vig to create a higher potential payout. 

Just win approach: Moneyline parlays can serve as an effective tool for avoiding point spreads and simply picking a list of winners. Taking a number of heavy favorites from multiple MLB or NFL games might generate positive odds, but bettors have to feel confident that those favorites will not succumb to an upset. 

Juking the spread: Instead of removing the spread, bettors can use alternate lines to move spreads past “key numbers” in football or other sports. Shifting a spread through three or seven points in the NFL or through five points in the NBA can create a much higher probability of the required outcome. This comes at the expense of juice, but parlaying the alternate spread can still offer the potential for a good payout. 

Longshot parlays: Since parlays can have huge payouts, it’s not always necessary to place a hefty wager on a risky proposition. Bettors can keep their parlay wagers small and use other, higher-probability bets to build their bankroll. 

Progressive parlays: Parlays don’t necessarily have to be standalone bets, and bettors can hedge against losing a huge stake by diversifying their parlays to avoid potential pitfalls. If a bettor splits a stake between a two-leg, three-leg, and seven-leg parlay, that bettor could still come out on top if the longshot bets fail to hit in the seven-leg parlay.