Gambling 101 | Understanding Parlay Bets

Jake Sindberg of Wisconsin displays his betting tickets after he placed a parlay on basketball games. Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

Those who are new to the world of sports betting might have heard about parlays, and any number of other terms peculiar to the sports betting industry, but are too intimidated to ask what they mean.

Well, that’s why OddsTrader is such an invaluable resource because we’ve all been there but it doesn’t take long to learn your way around the sports betting parlance. Below we will discuss what a parlay is, how to bet it, and what you can expect for a return on your investment.

A sports betting parlay is simply a series of two or more wagers rolled into one bet. Let’s talk about a two-team parlay in football using the standard 10 percent vigorish (bookie’s commission) on each of the two bets that comprise the parlay.

Assume our two bets are the Giants +7 and Seahawks -4. Those are our two top plays of the day and we like them so much we want to bundle them together and create a parlay. But before we do, let’s talk about how much we could make, or lose, if we bet these separately.

Possible Outcomes for Two Flat Bets

  • Scenario 1: We bet the Giants +7 for $100 and the Seahawks -4 for $100. Both teams cover the spread and we win $200 (Giants $100 + Seahawks $100 = $200).
  • Scenario 2: We bet the Giants +7 for $100 and the Seahawks -4 for $100. One team, the Giants, covers, and the other, Seattle, does not. We lose $10 (Giants + $100 – Seahawks $110 = – $10).
  • Scenario 3: We bet the Giants +7 for $100 and the Seahawks -4 for $100. Both teams fail to cover the spread and we lose $220 (Giants -$110 + Seahawks -$110 = -$220).

As you can clearly, see the best we can do is win $200 if both bets cover the spread, and the worst we can do is lose $220 if both fail to cover. Now let’s see what happens if we wrap these bets in a two-team parlay.

LEARN MORE: Gambling 101 | Understanding Teaser Bets

Possible Outcomes for Two Team Parlays

  • Scenario 1: We put the Giants +7 and the Seahawks -4 in a $100 two-team parlay. Both teams cover the spread and we win $260. You see two-team parlays pay at a rate of 2.6/1 which is more than betting them separately because you need both sides to cover to win the parlay. Let’s see what happens when you win one and lose one…or lose both.
  • Scenario 2: We put the Giants +7 and the Seahawks -4 in a $100 two-team parlay. One team, the Giants, covers, and the other, Seattle, does not. We would lose $100 because both teams need to cover, and no you would not pay the 10 percent vig because it is built into the bet.
  • Scenario 3: We put the Giants +7 and the Seahawks -4 in a $100 two-team parlay. Both teams fail to cover. We would lose $100 because both teams need to cover, and no you would not pay the 10 percent vig because it is built into the bet, nor would you lose more because both failed to cover.

Whether you lose one or more bets inside the parlay, it doesn’t matter, you only lose whatever the amount of the parlay is and no more than that.

LEARN MORE: How to Make Winning Adjustments to Your Football Wagering

Parlay Table

Above we discussed a two-team parlay but the more teams you put in a parlay the higher the payout if all of the bets cover. Now, remember, if you lose one it’s the same as if you lose them all, the parlay loses and you pay the same either way.

Let’s look at the payout tables for the varying number of wagers inside one single parlay. We are using a $100 denomination to make it easy but you can bet more or less than $100 and the winning parlay will pay accordingly.

  • 2-Team Parlay: Risk $100 to win $260
  • 3- Team Parlay: Risk $100 to win $600
  • 4-Team Parlay: Risk $100 to win $1000
  • 5-Team Parlay: Risk $100 to win $2000
  • 6-Team Parlay: Risk $100 to win $4000
  • 7-Team Parlay: Risk $100 to win $7500
  • 8-Team Parlay: Risk $100 to win $15,000
  • 9-Team Parlay: Risk $100 to win $30,000
  • 10-Team Parlay: Risk $100 to win $70,000

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