How Do Parlay Odds Work in Sports Betting?

Image of a hand holding a phone with a number of matches to bet on.

Are you a newbie still figuring out how to bet on sports online? Then you may have heard sports bettors talking about parlay bets without quite understanding what they meant. Parlay bets let players combine multiple bets to increase their odds and the bet’s potential payout. Sounds easy, but navigating this type of bet is much more challenging than straightforward bets. Join us as we look at how parlay odds work and help to prepare you for this exciting form of online sports betting.

What is a parlay bet?

Simply put, a parlay is a combo bet. This means that instead of placing several individual bets, you combine them and treat the whole lot as one big wager. Due to the different odds that come with this format, you stand to win more because all your bets are rolled into one.

The number of bets typically ranges from 2–10. For example, you can bet on the Ravens, the Patriots and the Texans all winning their game on any given Sunday. If they do, you will receive a much greater payout than you would have if you had bet on each game individually. In other words, for a parlay to be successful, you need to predict a whole number of outcomes correctly. 

When placing a parlay bet on an online sportsbook, you’ll need to factor in the odds, just as you would for any other sports wager. You also need to be aware of the terms and conditions of the site where you’re betting. This is because all betting sites have their own approach with different wagers like a tie bet or “push” (more about this, below).

Why would you want to group bets together?

It’s simple, really. The sportsbook casino will pay out more if you bundle together and correctly predict a number of bets. Since the bets are dependent on each other, there is an increased risk – and therefore a higher payout. The odds are much higher than in the case of individual bets, which is why the joint bet payouts are greater, too. But remember, if any of your predicted outcomes don’t occur, the total bet will be lost!

Consequently, it should be clear that these kinds of bets are best suited to people who like to take big risks that come with big payouts and who aren’t bothered about the longer odds of winning. As exhilarating as this may sound, best keep in mind the Golden Rule of gambling: only ever wager what you can afford to lose.

An example of a parlay bet

Let’s take a look at an example of two different kinds of bets – three games individually versus betting as a parlay. In this example, each game has the same -110 money line odds. Let’s make the bankroll for all these games $300. Here are a few possible outcomes and how they would affect your bet. 

What happens if you pick all three games’ outcomes correctly?

 If you bet on the games individually, you’d place $100 on each game in turn. At the odds of -110, each of the three games would give you a profit (on top of your original stake) of $90.91. This means that your total profit from the three individual bets would be $272.73.

But if you picked all three games as a parlay bet, you’d place a single bet of $300. The higher risk and compound odds of the parlay would improve your payout even though you’d be betting the same amount as in the individual bets. As a result, the profit for each of the three bets would increase to $595.80, with a total profit of $1,787.38. 

We’ve got your back at Borgata Online. If your first bet wins, your bet will be rolled into the next game. If both bets win, the payout will be higher than if you had bet on each game separately. 

What happens if you pick incorrectly?

Using the same example, if you bet $100 on three games (individually) but only pick two out of three games correctly, your total profit would be $181.82 for the individual bets. With parlay bets, your profit is negative $300. Losing the entire bet if one part of it doesn’t come through is the risk you take when placing a parlay.

How do parlay odds work?

But where do these big numbers come from? Let’s see how parlay betting calculations and odds work.

How parlay odds are calculated

Parlay odds are calculated using the following steps:

  • Convert the odds into a decimal number.
  • Multiply all the decimal odds by each other.
  • Multiply the result by your bet amount.
  • Subtract your original stake to get the parlay odds.

Let’s stay with the previous example in which we used a joint bet consisting of three $100 bets with -110 odds. Converting -110 odds into a decimal number gives us 1.91. When we multiply all the decimal odds – that is, 1.91×1.91×1.91 – the answer gives us our parlay multiple, which in this case is 6.968. If you multiply this number by the $300 wager, you get a payout of around $2,090. Finally, subtract your original wager and you have your profit, or parlay odds, of $1,790. 

A bit complicated, true, but thankfully, there are many websites and online casinos that automatically do the math for you. When you bet at an online casino such as Borgata Online, your potential payout is calculated for you as you add games and bets to your parlay slip. Each line’s odds are multiplied, one after the other. You’ll get to see exactly what profit you could make on winning a parlay wager. This, and our long list of sports options, makes us one of the best online sports betting sites. 

What are the chances of winning a parlay bet?

Parlays can be a high-risk bet, but the high rewards can also make them worthwhile. Obviously, the more bets involved in your wager, the slimmer your chances of hitting the parlay. However, if you do hit the parlay with more bets, the payout can be massive. 

If we were to use the standard -110 for totals and point spread bets, then the odds of you winning your bets based on the number of wagers you place look like this: 

  • Two-team parlay – 27.47 percent
  • Three-team parlay – 14.37 percent
  • Four-team parlay – 7.52 percent
  • Five-team parlay – 3.94 percent
  • Six-team parlay – 2.06 percent
  • Seven-team parlay – 1.08 percent
  • Eight-team parlay – 0.56 percent
  • Nine-team parlay – 0.30 percent
  • 10-team parlay – 0.15 percent

What happens if one bet in a parlay pushes?

A “push” is the gambling term for a tie or a draw – and sportsbooks don’t all treat them in the same way. Find out how the sportsbook you’re betting at deals with pushes before you place a wager with them. In most cases, if one of the games on the parlay pushes, that wager will be removed from the parlay and the payout reduced by one bet. For example, if you had a three-team parlay and you got two picks correct while the third ended up a push, your bet will be treated as if it were a two-team parlay.

Don’t confuse teaser bets with parlays

Houston Texans players celebrate in their game against Oakland Raiders.

You’ll find that so-called “teaser bets” are common, especially in football. Teaser bets and parlays are not the same. With a teaser bet you can move the point spread (the margin of winning points) in your favor. It is similar to parlay bets in the sense that you are able to select the number of teams to tease (that is, for which you adjust the point spread). 

Teaser bets pay out less than parlays, but it can improve your winning odds. For example, if you would like to tease football games, you can tease the New York Giants (+6) over the Dallas Cowboys. With the NFL teasers changing the spread by six points, the new point spread will be the New York Giants (+12) over the Dallas Cowboys. 

Parlay betting tips

With the parlay, you are forced to be perfect in your betting picks to be able to receive a payout from the sportsbook casino. Before you place your bet, it’s always a good idea to handicap each game you include in your wager. Research the teams you want to include and keep an eye on team reports and online sports betting trends to ensure that you are making informed wagering decisions. Most importantly, always be mindful of your bankroll.

With some intermediate parlay betting tips and a clear understanding of the potential risks of the bets, should you start parlay betting? 

Are parlay bets worth it?

It’s no secret that parlays can be lucrative if you get them right. However, as a long-term betting strategy, they are obviously high-risk. The chances of winning a parlay bet every time you wager are relatively low and as such, you should try your hand at other, safer betting types too. Diversify your bets with a healthy mix of low-risk and high-risk bets. If you do your research and only bet with money that you can afford to lose, then parlays can be highly rewarding.

Experience the best online sportsbook with Borgata Online

Have the high payout of parlays inspired you to dive in and learn about sports bets? Borgata Online offers a wide range of online sports betting markets to keep you up to date with the latest betting odds and results. We also provide live betting on all popular sports, including baseball, football, golf and tennis. Register today to start placing bets on the biggest sports events and games.