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Parlay Betting Basics

It’s one of sportsbooks’ most popular bet styles: parlay betting. Here’s how parlays work, and how to make them work for you.

Are you tired of winning your bets but not even doubling your money? If the answer is “yes,” a parlay might be for you. This week we focus on parlay betting basics but stick with us as we cover cross-sports parlays and parlay futures, which can keep you in the game all season long.

Parlay betting is one of the most popular betting styles. A parlay requires a lot more risk, but offers a significantly higher payout if you win.

So, what exactly is a parlay bet, and how do you place one?

Parlay Bets Defined

Simply put, a parlay puts multiple betting picks together in a single wager. There’s a catch: all your picks must win for the bet to pay out. Even if just one pick loses, the entire wager does, too. That’s why the odds—and the payouts—are bigger.

Each pick in the parlay is called a “leg.” Each leg can be a different type of bet (moneyline, spread, over/under, game prop, etc.) as long as the outcomes of each one don’t contradict the others.

For example, you can’t parlay the Baltimore Orioles moneyline together with the Orioles -1.5 runs. The -1.5 run spread already assumes the Orioles will win. So these two picks can’t be combined. At many sportsbooks, the only same-game parlay options you have is to combine a game’s moneyline or spread with the over/under. So a general rule of thumb: Pick one leg from each game.

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Each pick can be manipulated to change the line and the odds, but a general spread and/or over/under parlay generally has universal payouts, because the odds will always be something like -110. Here’s what those odds typically look like based on the number of legs in a given parlay:

  • Two legs: 5/2
  • Three legs: 6/1
  • Four legs: 12/1
  • Five legs: 24/1
  • Six legs: 48/1
  • Seven legs: 92/1

As you can see, each leg you add will just about double the odds, and consequently increase the potential payout. This is only fair, because you’re basically cutting your chances of winning in half each time you add a new leg. As I mentioned, you can manipulate spreads or take moneylines as well in these parlays, which will significantly affect your potential payout.

The Parlay Push-Off

If a leg of your parlay pushes, it voids off the ticket, leaving the rest of legs still active, and effectively lowering the overall odds and payout for the ticket. So let’s say you take the Milwaukee Bucks -6, and they win by exactly 6 points. The Bucks’ pick would be removed from your parlay as if it were never included, and the odds would be adjusted for the remaining legs.

This has happened a lot recently, with games that were postponed or canceled due to Covid-19. When a bet is placed on a game that doesn’t go off as planned, sportsbooks will often give a two- or three-day grace period for the game to be rescheduled. If the game is played within that time period, the game still counts towards your bet. If it doesn’t, the selection will void as if it were a push.

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Teaser Parlays

In this classic form of parlay betting, you manipulate all the picks in your parlay by a set amount of points altogether. For example, the given options for basketball are often 4-, 4.5-, 5- or 7-point teasers. Football usually will have 6-, 6.5-, 7- or 10-point teasers available.

So what does this mean? First, you select all your teams on the regular spread given by the sportsbook. When you’re done, scroll down on your betslip to where it says, “Teaser,” and choose how many points to move them all. Obviously, this will affect the odds and your potential payout, just as including moneylines and individually teased spreads to a parlay will do. It also serves as an insurance policy, in case your teams don’t cover their spreads, but do stay close. Here’s an example of what a basketball teaser might look like:

  • Gonzaga -10 –> -5
  • Ohio State -2.5 –> +2.5
  • Los Angeles Lakers -7.5 –> -2.5
  • Philadelphia 76ers -3 –> +2

As you can see, parlays are a risky way to wager on sports. But risk is what gambling’s all about—and great risk is sometimes followed by great reward.

We’ve highlighted parlay betting basics today. There are many ways to tackle a parlay. So get creative and win some big money! Once you hit that first six-teamer, you’ll never turn back.

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Justin Epifanio is a sports journalist who studied TV and digital media at Montclair State University, and majored in sports broadcasting and journalism. Justin is a sportsbook writer at Rivers Casino Philadelphia (formerly SugarHouse). In addition to iGamingPlayer, Justin has contributed to online publications including WiredJersey.com, SportsArePhilly.com and Great.com.

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