Parlay Betting Strategies In Sports Betting

Written by: Joseph Falchetti, Editor-in-Chief, Pro Sports Bettor and Casino Expert
Last updated:
10 minute read
parlay betting strategy

A parlay bet is a single sports wager that involves two or more teams winning. The allure of this bet has always been a larger payout versus choosing a single team to win. The larger payouts for a parlay make sense since picking an individual winning side or total is difficult by itself thus picking more than one winner is even more difficult and should be rewarded with a bigger payout.

Parlay bets in sports are the most popular bet type in the world aside from straight wagers. Of course, sports betting sites wouldn’t be offering these large payouts if they were making a profit. However, even thou it is the most lucrative sports bets you can make but unless you employ some kind of parlay strategy it can also be one of the toughest bets to actually cash-in on. Read on to learn how parlay bets work, true parlay odds, and how you can take advantage of them when placing sports bets.

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What is parlay bet and parlay betting strategies

2 Team Parlay Betting – Explained

Below is an example of a 2-team parlay strategy using NFL point spreads.

  • New York Giants +3.5(-110)
  • Jacksonville Jaguars -3(-110)

2-team parlays traditionally pay 2.64/1 or in American odds, +264. A winning $100 wager on this parlay would payout $360. Bettors would be returned their $100 original stake and receive $260 in profits.

All legs or bets of a parlay must win for the wager to be graded as a winner. In the case of a push, parlays revert to the smaller number of teams. For example, if we bet a 3-team parlay, and one of the bets pushes, the wager becomes a 2-team parlay with an adjusted payout. If one leg of a 2-team parlay pushes and the other bet wins, sportsbooks differ on how they handle the wager. Some may revert the parlay into a straight wager and grade the bet a winner while others will return all stakes and grade the bet as a push. Sportsbooks that grade pushes in parlays as losses (there are very few that do this) should be avoided.

3 Team Parlay Strategy

When betting 3-team parlays there a few strategies one can implement.Going beyond three teams or selections in their parlays is one of the biggest mistakes bettors make. The sportsbook’s edge is far too high once bettors move past three teams. The other is line shopping. Many sportsbooks still have a +595 price when most sites have +600. If you’re going to be betting a lot of 3-team parlays – be sure to be placing them at +600.

What If A Bet Pushes?

In the case of a push, parlays revert to the smaller number of teams. For example, if we bet a 3-team parlay, and one of the bets pushes, the wager becomes a 2-team parlay with an adjusted payout. If one leg of a 2-team parlay pushes and the other bet wins, sportsbooks differ on how they handle the wager. Some may revert the parlay into a straight wager and grade the bet a winner while others will return all stakes and grade the bet as a push. Sportsbooks that grade pushes in parlays as losses (there are very few that do this) should be avoided.

True Betting Parlay Odds

In the table below, we’ve calculated the true odds of parlay wagers compared to the average sportsbook’s payouts. It’s vital to note, however, these are not the accurate odds in the sense that the oddsmaker’s edge is zero. There is still traditional vigorish attached to these wagers. The true odds calculation is straight bets made on the same amount of wagers, with the profits rolled over for each bet. So, while there still is an oddsmakers edge, it’s considerably smaller the closer we get the true odds.

No. of TeamsOffshore OddsTrue Odds

It’s should be obvious based on the data above that the sportsbooks always have an edge when it comes to parlays. However, if we look closely, their margin is much smaller on 2 and 3-team parlays than say a 7-team parlay. Sticking to 2-team and 3-team parlays is the way to go in this market. It should also be noted that some operators offer parlays up to 20 teams.

Forcing True Odds

Sportsbooks use the above odds to calculate parlays when all legs or wagers of the bet have -110 vigorish or juice. However, if one of the legs in the parlay has odds that differ from -110, then the sportsbook will usually alter their calculation. This will improve the parlay odds and force a calculation to the true odds. Forcing a true odds calculation is one of the best ways to improve your winning percentage when it comes to betting parlays. You still should not be betting more than 2-3 team parlays, but getting a wager in there that has odds different than -110, such as -105 or -115, will undoubtedly improve your bottom line profits.

Due the gargantuan payouts that bigger parlays have, the books increase their edge on these wagers by lowering the payouts. We can quickly draw from the true odds that parlays above four teams are almost never worth considering. The higher the number teams, the bigger the end held by the oddsmakers. Recreational bettors love wagering large parlays, and the bookies are happy to take their action. They make so much money off gamblers every year on parlays, that they will often publicize when someone hits a big parlay payout in hopes that others will follow their lead. A pretty known strategy to incentivise more bettors to get in on the action.

Fixed Odds Parlays & Betting Sites

Sportsbooks have fixed odds they use for parlays, and these numbers are all based on -110 pricing for each wager or leg. At most online sportsbooks in the US market, bettors can add a single selection to the parlay that isn’t the standard -110 to force a fair calculation.

To do this, we need to calculate each leg of the bet in the form of a multiplier. The math here is relatively straightforward. We simply take the amount risked versus the amount won on a winning wager. For a -110 bet, our $110 stake returns $210 on a winning wager, the $110 stake and $100 profit. To calculate this, we can divide 210/110 and get 1.909. We can round this number off to 1.91. For a +105 wager on a $100 bet, using the same math, we come back with 2.25. To figure out our parlay calculation with a +105 bet added into the equation, we simply multiply each wagering modifier.

5 Team Parlay Betting – Explained

If we are calculating for a 5-team parlay strategy, the math will look like this:

  • 1.91 * 1.91 * 1.91 * 1.91 * 2.05 = 27.28

We subtract 1.0 from our 27.28 decimal odds to account for our stake that includes the amount risked to 26.28. These decimal odds are easily converted into US Odds, which comes out to +2528.

If we compare these odds the usual +2435 payout for a 5-team parlay, although we don’t hit the true odds, we have a substantial advantage over the fixed payout. Substituting one bet that doesn’t have -110 odds will force a calculation from the sportsbook. For larger parlays, with 7-8 teams, a -115 or -120 attached odds for one wager will still offer a better calculation than all -110 bets. There’s also an opportunity here to take advantage if the parlay odds are truly fixed and don’t move regardless of the attached juice. Bets that are -115 or higher are simply more likely to win compared to -110 wagers.

Advanced Parlay Strategy In Betting

If you’re going to be betting a lot of parlays, the first thing we recommend is that you get the best possible odds available. There is often what may seem like small variations in parlay odds between sites, but remember even a 10-20 cent difference adds up in a big way over the long run. This is an area where some bettors, even who are excellent line shoppers on their straight wagers, forget to line shop for the best price.

moneyline parlay strategy

Money line parlay betting is one of the best tools a bettor can use. Money line parlays have two main benefits: the exponential value of parlays and the simplicity of money lines. The simplicity of the money line is that you pick a team based on the fact that you think they are going to win. There is no worrying whether teams will win by 1 or 100. All you need is a win by your team. These two benefits combined together are easy to use and easy to control.

There are two main types of money line parlays. The first type is an aggressive money line parlay and a neutral money line parlay. The neutral money line parlay is a low risk and low reward type of bet. This is the type of bet you can use when you are looking to strengthen your bankroll, and not have to worry too much over the games involved.

The second type is the aggressive money line parlay which a high risk and high reward version. This bet is very similar to the standard parlay, except that you still have the simplicity of the money line to work with. There are a couple of times when this strategy can be helpful: in games with close point spreads, or when you think an underdog will upset the favorite. In the aggressive money line parlay, you are not looking to strengthen your bankroll as much as possible.

Clearing Sportsbooks Bonuses

We touch on this a lot more in-depth in our comprehensive article on sportsbook deposit bonuses, but it’s worth touching on briefly here. 3-team parlays are always the best way to clear freeplay bonuses because bettors will get the chance to apply free stakes to three different wagers instead of a -110 straight bet. We mention this specifically for football, because at the start of football season, sportsbooks offer a large list of bonuses, including reload bonuses for players that have accounts.

Circumventing Betting Limits

One of the best ways to get more money down on a bet you like is to parlay it with another wager. For instance, say you’ve bet the maximum amount allowed on a point spread permitted by the sportsbook.

Parlaying that wager with another bet would let you bet more that selection. Bettors might parlay it with a heavy favorite’s moneyline or another bet or two that they feel strongly about. Remember, since 2-team parlays pay +260 or better, they only need to win one of these wagers to turn a profit on their bet, provided their main max market wager is a winner. That’s the only tricky part but doable nonetheless.

Parlay Bets Variations

While most parlays are straightforward when it comes to choosing your bets and when it comes to grading by the sportsbooks. However, there are a few variations that are available at most online betting sites. Some of these have more value than others and are worth considering as an option if they’re available at your sportsbook.

Progressive Parlays

Progressive parlays form of parlay that is unique in the sense that you don’t need to win all your bets for the parlay to be profitable. For instance, you may get a portion of your winnings back or make some profit if you pick three or four out of five bets correctly on a progressive parlay. This option is rare at online betting sites, but it is still available at some.

Multi-Chance Parlays

Multi-chance parlays are similar to progressive parlays with a critical difference. Instead of progressive payouts depending on how many legs or bets you get correct, multi-chance parlays have the same payout, whether you get every bet correct or hit the minimum number of wagers needed for a payout. So, while you do not need to win all your selections for a multi-chance parlay – the payout does not change based on how many bets you get right.

Open Parlays

Open parlays offer the most value out of all the parlay variations. Open parlays allow bettors to pick several games in a parlay and then add more games to the parlay at a later time. For instance, if you want to bet on two games in the evening, but want to add another bet to the parlay, then you can create an open parlay.

If you win both of your bets that evening, you can then add more bets to your parlay. Most betting sites will allow you to add more legs to the parlay individually or fill all the slots at once. Open parlays can be valuable if you want to pair two bets with what you perceive to be another strong wager at a later date.

Odds On Team Parlay – Betting Sites & Odds Table

Parlay Odds Breakdown

BetOnline and sister sportsbook,, are the clear choice if you’re interested in betting parlays. 2-team parlays are +264, which is the same for most sites, but they also have 3-team parlays at +600, which is not universal at other betting sites. It gives them a clear edge over Bovada, their main competitor in the U.S. if you’re interested in betting parlays. On the other end of the spectrum, GTBets and are not ideal for parlays. They don’t offer the +264 on 2-team parlays that has become standard in other markets. They are at +600 for 3-parlays, but anything higher than that and their payouts are worse than most sites. We don’t recommend betting parlays greater than three teams, but payouts at GTBets are especially poor as you add more teams.

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Parlay Betting Strategies – In Conclusion

While the above parlay tips on parlays are helpful, parlays, for the most part, are losing bets that are heavily wagered by recreational losing sports gamblers. Bettors should almost never bet more than 2-3 team parlays, but we do recommend forcing a calculation if you’re going to be a higher number of teams to get a fairer price.

The fundamental problem with parlay betting is that it discourages line shopping, something that is paramount to success in sports betting. You should be shopping around for the best odds and looking for reduced juice if possible. It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to find the best odds for your selection of bets at a single sportsbook. You’re almost always going to end up with a more profitable ticket line shopping and betting straight wagers at several sportsbooks. Parlays should be used sparingly. The only time parlays should be utilized almost religiously is for clearing freeplay deposit bonuses.

Check Out The Best Sports Betting Strategies Around

About the Author

Joseph Falchetti

Joseph Falchetti

Editor-in-Chief, Pro Sports Bettor and Casino Expert

Joe is the author of the majority of sports betting pages on SBS and he serves as a gambling consultant to our content team. He's been mentioned on as a gaming analyst, and his articles have been linked by larger publications, such as the New York Times.

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