Are parlays good bets?
Parlays great bets when you win, but the bad part of parlays is you won’t win much.
Like a lottery ticket, parlays are a high-risk, high-reward bet. You get to choose whether you’re going for the Powerball Jackpot (a 10-leg parlay) or going for a less risky scratch of ticket (2-leg parlay).
You can see why sports gamblers are drawn to the thrill.
But should you bet parlays? And if you do, are there strategies that work best for parlays?
I’ll cover all this with you, but let’s start by making sure you know what a parlay is.
What is a parlay? (you can skip this section if you already know)
A parlay is a bet where you roll multiple bets into one. All the individual bets have to win in order to get paid for the bet, so you’re payout is bigger than if you won the bets individually (we’ll cover how much more later).
In example, you could make a Sunday morning NFL bet that the Chicago Bears win, the Indianapolis Colts win, and the Patriots-Packers game goes over 48 points. If all of these bets win, you get a big payout. If any one of the bets loses, you lose your money.
The difference in a parlay vs a straight bet is you can still bet multiple games with straight bets, but you don’t have to win them all to get money back like you do with a parlay. And on the other hand, if you do hit all the bets, you get paid more than you would vs a straight bet.
What is a 2 leg parlay? 3 leg parlay?… 10 leg parlay?
A “leg” of a parlay is just a bet. So the number of legs tells you how many bets you need to win your parlay.
2-leg parlay is when you make 2 bets in your parlay. Both individual bets have to win in order to win your money.
A 3-leg parlay is when you make 3 bets in your parlay. All 3 individual bets have to win for your bet to get paid.
A 10-leg parlay is when you make 10 bets in your parlay. You won’t win (because who can hit on all 10 bets), but… if you do you’ll get paid a lot!
How much do parlays pay out?
Parlays pay out more than if you won each bet individually. Here’s an example:
Let’s say you have $20 to bet on baseball. You decide to put $20 on a 2-leg parlay: NY Mets and NY Yankees winning. you’d get paid more if they both won and you grouped the bets in a parlay, instead of doing two $10 bets (one $10 bet on each team winning). That’s because Vegas has to pay you extra since you risked losing all your money if either the Mets or Yankees lost.
How often do parlay bets hit?
Parlay bets “hit”/win much less than straight-up bets. It’s simple… just take a look at our example above.
If the Mets or Yankees lose, you’ve lost your parlay bet. A bet that requires both teams to win cuts your odds significantly, and that’s just a 2-leg parlay!
Think if you have an 8-leg parlay. You’d be a genius (or super lucky) to have your first 7 bets hit, but if the last one misses, you’re rewarded absolutely nothing. The money you betted now belongs to the Sportsbook.
So how often do parlays hit? There’s no answer just like there’s no answer to how often straight bets hit–it depends on the odds of each bet, and in the case of the parlay, how many legs you have. But one thing is guaranteed: you’ll win less parlay bets than straight bets.
How much do parlay bets pay?
Parlay bets pay much more than straight bets. They have to pay you more because you’re taking more risk. If your bets don’t hit nearly as often, you deserve to get paid more.
Let’s look at a real-life example. Sunday morning I decided to bet on the NFL. I decided to look how much I’d get paid if I bet on the favorite in the first 10 games of NFL Sunday with $10 to spend. Here’s what I found:
So in this scenario, if every one of the favorites won in the first 10 games of NFL Sunday, I’d win $15 if I did straight bets and I’d win $780 if I did a parlay. That 52 times more winning with the parlay!
So now we know parlays pay more (sometimes way more, depending on the number of legs), but they’re also much more difficult to hit. So this brings us to our final question…
Is the parlay payout worth it?
Okay, so we’ve made it clear that you’ll win less often with parlay bets vs straight up bets.
But you also will win more money when you do win.
So this brings us to the most important question on parlays:
Are parlay bets worth it?
If I’m forced to give an answer, parlay bets aren’t worth it. This hurts me to say because I don’t want to be the buzzkill. There’s no question parlay’s are fun, they just don’t pay out pay enough to make up for the added risk. So if your goal is to make money sports betting, stick to straight bets. If your goal is to get bragging rights or the thrill of a lottery ticket, throw in some money you’re willing to lose on a parlay.
What does the research say on parlay bets?
I want to make it clear it’s not just my opinion that parlay bets should be avoided. UNLV studied how much Vegas profits from bets in different sports and types of bet. Keep in mind, Vegas doesn’t charge fees so all profits come from betters losing more money than the win.
According to the study, Vegas profits 6 times as much on parlay bets as straight up bets. That’s a huge difference! And it explains why I get so much marketing like this:
The Sportsbooks are begging me to bet parlays because why wouldn’t they? It’s where they make the most money.
Want other sports gambling tips? Check out our sports gambling guide to learn how to maximize your chances against the Sportsbooks.