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Easy Tips for Understanding Parlays

Most gambling enthusiasts will come across parlay betting at one point or another. Put simply, it provides sports fans who like to bet with an opportunity to make some serious cash.

In simple terms, a parlay bet is a combination of two or more individual bets for the purposes of attaining better odds. Each selection will be on the same betting slip or card. Generally, you will need each individual bet to win but there are some types of parlay bets which allow a loss or two, depending on the number of selections. Does this make sense? Don’t worry if it doesn’t, I will explain everything in more detail later.

Parlay bets are polarizing: some love them, and some hate them. For all the bad rep they get, there are plenty who will champion their cause. For those who are suspicious of the high odds, others will question why more and more gamblers don’t choose to bet this way. On a personal level, I believe parlay bets are an awesome means to add a little spice to your Saturdays or Sundays.

Whether you are a fan of football, basketball, hockey, baseball, boxing, MMA, soccer, or practically any other sport, you can get in on the action. If you want to, of course. It’s not mandatory, so no pressure!

Easy Tip Number 1: How Parlays Work

Parlays are a lot like taking the last cookie from Grandma’s jar: risky but potentially very, very satisfying.

A parlay, as I briefly touched on above, is a combination bet made up of more than two selections. It is usually anywhere between two and eleven choices, but never less than two (as that would be a single). You place one bet on all selections. The winnings accumulate and build up with each successful selection. If you get it right, you could be looking at a very happy afternoon indeed.

Given that the odds for parlay bets can be astronomical, depending on your choices, they are favored by the more optimistic of gamblers. For example, it is very feasible to win close to $70,000 on an 11-fold parlay on a $30 bet. There is one major reason why many gamblers are fond of parlays, and that is usually the chance of winning big. Like, majorly big.

However, those who tend to err on the side of caution may gulp at the sky-high odds, but they are often what makes parlays such fun for others. The payouts for a solid parlay can be huge, so casual gamblers and sports fans looking to spice things up tend to gravitate towards these bets. There are a number of different types of parlay bets to suit most gamblers. I will explain what these are, below.

Social media is awash with stories of lucky gamblers hitting it big, winning astronomical sums for modest wagers. These incidents are happily advertised by the sportsbooks who pay out on these bets, as it entices more and more players to try their luck. As the chances of such bets paying out are slim, betting companies do tend to win more than they pay out. Not surprising, but that shouldn’t necessarily deter you from trying.

Easy Tip Number 2: Different Types of Parlays

You might have a few questions regarding what sports you can bet on with a parlay. I believe the information below should help answer this question. I have also thrown in a few examples of parlays, for your eyes only.

To answer one of the most common questions regarding parlays, yes, you can mix your selections. In other words, if you want to include a few football games, for example, with a selection in hockey and one in boxing, that is doable. Where it is not possible to mix it up sometimes is with fixed odds parlays, which I will cover below. First, let’s take a look at the most common parlay bets.


There is no doubt that Moneyline bets are the simplest when betting parlays. In basic terms, these bets are typically placed by those who have no interest in spreads or numbers, in general. Putting a parlay together of Moneyline bets is easy, as it basically involves picking teams to win. My first parlay was a five-selection bet on football. It didn’t win, but that’s another story!

Where Moneyline bets can be useful is when you are backing underdogs. Well, if there is at least one underdog in the parlay, that is.  If you make up a parlay consisting of favorites, the payout will not be as much as if you had included point spread bets. Therefore, the more convincing a favorite is to win the game, the less you will receive if you predict every winner.

You can mix it up, too. For example, you can include Moneyline and points spreads in your parlay. However, with other types of bets, such as teasers and pleasers, cannot be put in with Moneyline bets (as they are not compatible).


If points are your thing, then you will be happy to learn that Over/Under bets – also known as “Totals” – are permitted on parlays. If you are unfamiliar with Over/Under betting, it is comes down to this: gamblers will effectively try to predict if the total points scored in a game is over or under what the sportsbook or oddsmakers offer.

For example, let’s say New England Patriots are playing Houston Texans. The total points advertised by a sportsbook is 52.5. If you believe more than 52.5 points will be scored, you will bet over. If you believe the game will not result in as many points scored, you should bet under. You might have an opinion as to why the game will have more points than those offered, such as the return of Tom Brady to form, for example.

It is common for bookmakers/oddsmakers/sportsbooks to include a half of a point when offering these odds. This is to remove the potential scenario of a draw or push.

Point Spreads

Spread betting is very popular with gamblers. It also helps sportsbooks to make money and keep the business rolling in. Without Point Spreads, odds would not be as attractive for many gamblers. Unattractive odds make for less interest in sports betting, so it really works both ways.

The logic behind this bet is that there can be big differences in the quality and strength of teams playing. In order to make things a little even – in a betting scenario – the stronger team is weakened, and the weaker team strengthened. The stronger will start the game with a points deficit, which means they need to score more than this deficit to win the bet. The weaker team will have to avoid being beaten by this amount.

For example, Green Bay Packers (-2.5) vs. Washington Redskins (+2.5) takes your fancy. You believe it will be a tight game, but the Packers’ home advantage should just about swing it. You bet Packers at -110 and they win by 3 points. You have won your bet. However, if you chose the Redskins at -110 – and they lost by 2 points – you would also win, as they had an additional 2.5 points at the start of the game.

As you can see, this type of bet can work well to level the playing field. While the example above indicates a tight game, there are spreads which can be a lot higher. It all depends on the difference in strength between the teams.


Teasers are an excellent way to bet and I believe every gambler should use them when building their parlay. Teasers are just like point spreads, only the gambler can adjust the point spread, with the usual points swing around 6 to 7.5. In other words, the sportsbook has set the spread but you can move the points in order to further match your prediction. Pretty cool, huh?

There is one thing that you always need to keep in mind with Teasers is that the payout will be less than a regular point spreads bet. The points have been set by the sportsbook for a reason, so making amendments to these in order to favor your own cause will put the bookmakers at a higher risk. Don’t let this deter you though, as I have found that Teasers can be very profitable if done right.

I think an example is warranted here, just to make sure you completely understand how this works. Sticking with the teams above:

For example:
You choose Green Bay Packers (-2.5) to beat Washington Redskins (+2.5). With a Teaser, you have six points to add to the spread. Packers’ -2.5 now becomes +3.5. This means that, even if the Redskins triumph by 3 points, you will still win that bet. However, the odds you get will be reduced in accordance with the risk to the sportsbook/oddsmaker.


If you have ever overheard your friends discussing Teasers and Pleasers, without knowing what they meant, I wouldn’t blame you for being alarmed. Both sound a little juvenile but let me tell you this: both of these parlays are an awesome way to inject even more fun into watching sport.

You’ll probably want to know what this bet entails, right? In simple terms, a Pleaser is kind of like a reverse Teaser. Put another way, it’s a parlay where you can adjust the line to make it more difficult to win. The points required by the team of your choice to emerge victoriously is now greater. However, you will be paid higher odds as it is less risk to the sportsbook/oddsmakers.

For example:
You once again choose Green Bay Packers (-2.5) to beat Washington Redskins (+2.5). With a Pleaser, the -2.5 becomes -9.5. This means that you will need to hope that the Packers win by 10 points or more in order to win this part of your Pleaser parlay. If you believe that to be the case – and are ready to put your money where your mouth is – you could wind up in a much better position than you thought. Just remember that Pleasers are a form of parlay bet, so you will need at least two predictions to place this type of bet.

Easy Tip Number 3: Choosing the Right Parlay

There are specific criteria you will also need to understand in order to truly master parlays. Those criteria relate to the category which a particular parlay will fall into. With parlays, the main categories are:

Progressive Parlays: With this type of parlay, you will win something, even if one or more of your selections lose. There are specific types of progressive parlays depending on the number of selections you have chosen. It is almost always the case that – if even one result goes against you – the payout will be considerably lower than if you had won them all. Progressive parlays and the prices paid out for winning will differ from sportsbook to sportsbook. As such, it is always a good idea to compare what odds you get.

Open Parlays:  Open parlays are probably my favorite of these three. How they work is also very easy to understand. In basic terms, you can choose a particular number of games now and another couple later. So, for example, you might only want to bet on two NFL games this week on your parlay. Next week has some good games coming up, but you would like to make a decision closer to game day. The important thing to remember is that this parlay only really works, in most cases, when you have won your initial selections. Also, keep in mind that these are all part of the same parlay and subject to the terms and conditions of the sportsbook, so make sure you check what these are before you place the bet.

Multi-chance Parlays:  Like a progressive parlay, you can win something even if all of your choices don’t win. There is a requirement to win a certain amount to get some kind of a payout, however. Where it differs is that you will receive the same payout once you have won over a certain number of selections. Progressive parlays will accumulate with each win, whereas these won’t. The key with this type of parlay is to win the number of games required to get the set payout. While this can be good value if you end up losing a few games if you win them all you might kick yourself for not placing a progressive parlay instead. Ouch!

Easy Tip Number 4: Mixing Up Your Bets

A common misconception is that you have to make your selections from the same sports. This is simply untrue. As I alluded to at the top of this page, you can mix it up with bets across many different sports.

For fans of multiple sports, this can really add some excitement to proceedings. With football and basketball – which are probably the two sports most gamblers will place parlays on – you can have a couple of each. More than this, you can also add in a boxing or MMA bout in there, if you choose to. Then, if there is a big soccer game coming up that you are interested in, you could also add this to the mix.

I personally find the thrill of a big weekend of sports is amplified by picking a great parlay. Rather than making multiple football choices, I can really get excited by adding some variety to proceedings. By no means is this mandatory; you can do as ever you please with your bets, providing the sportsbook are happy for you to do so!

Easy Tip Number 5: Calculating Your Parlay Winnings

I’m not going to waste your time here by trying to be “Bill Stann the Mathematics Man,” and using algebra and trigonometry to work out a bet. The best tip anyone can share with you when working out your potential parlay winnings is to use a parlay calculator, or, better yet, place your parlay bet online. Sportsbooks have calculators built in to provide this information as you are placing your bets.

There are even dedicated parlay calculators online just waiting to be used. These can really come in useful when you want to compare one parlay to another or start planning that trip around the world with all of that beautiful cash. Having the technology available to do this has been another reason why many gamblers place parlay bets these days, too.

If you are interested in how a parlay is calculated, however, I won’t throw you overboard. Below, I will explain how it is done:

Manually Calculating a Parlay

When it comes to manually working out the odds on a parlay, you should know that there are fixed and non-fixed odds applicable.

When it comes to making selections which all have varying odds, you multiply the odds of all selections. For example, let’s say you have a parlay with three selections:

  • Game 1: Odds of 1.85
  • Game 2: Odds of 1.49
  • Game 3: Odds of 1.72

1.85 x 1.49 x 1.72 = 5.060. These are the odds you get for your parlay. Therefore, if you bet $100, you can expect to win $506 (5.060 x 100). Simple, isn’t it? Now, when it comes to a larger parlay – one with 11 selections, for example – you will need to multiply the odds of each selection against the others. At some point, you may ask yourself, “why did I not just use a calculator?”

Fixed Odds Parlays

These are far more easy to understand. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that they are fixed. You don’t have to work them out, so just leave them to the oddsmakers to do that for you…

Fixed odds parlays are usually available for spread bets where both teams have the same odds. If you remember when I discussed the need to even the playing field when it comes to certain games, this should make sense. If not, please go back up and read it again. It’s for your own good.

With fixed odds, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or more selections will pay out according to the odds next to that bet on a website or sportsbook. These are the easiest parlays to work out, as all the hard work is done for you.

Now You Know About Parlays…

You should feel a lot more confident about making them work for you.

What I mean by “making them work for you” is not winning all of the time. That simply will not happen, as these types of bets are, for the most part, bets which are real gambles. The majority of parlays you place, at least those with significant odds, are unlikely to come through. However, if you are successful, you can win big.

There are various types of parlays out there which should suit pretty much anyone with an interest in gambling. There are no big restrictions regarding the sports you can bet on. Mixing your parlays up with predictions on boxing, football, basketball, baseball, soccer, MMA, and pretty much any other sport that can be gambled on can make your weekends extra interesting.

I often find it exciting to compare my parlays bets to those of my brother and friends. It really does add an element of fun. Even some of the guys that are not really interested in betting, but enjoy parlays, can get involved in the action.

One thing I will suggest is not placing too much money on a parlay. Yes, the odds are so tempting but they are high for a reason. It is so rare for anyone to make jaw-dropping money on parlays that, when it does happen, it will become a pretty big thing on social media. Keep your bets affordable, have fun, and remember that the drinks are on you if you win!

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