Sportsbetting 101: How to Bet Parlays

Sports Betting 101 Aug 01, 2022

Parlays are one of the most popular forms of sports wagering. So, how exactly does a parlay work?  We'll answer that question in this article.

What's a parlay?

The answer is -- a parlay is when a bettor makes multiple wagers (at least two) and ties them together into the same bet.  If any of the bets in the parlay lose, then the entire parlay loses. However, if all wagers win, then the bettor gets a bigger payout.  Some parlays (especially with many wagers included) pay out very large winnings, which is what makes them so popular.

Should I bet parlays?

Let's be clear: Parlay betting is a high-risk, high-reward style of betting.  It allows you to combine multiple bets into a single wager to try to multiply your winnings.  The more bets you include on a parlay wager, the bigger the payout.

That said, you need to win every individual wager in order to win the bet.  If just one leg of your parlay loses, the entire bet is graded as a loser.  Ask any parlay bettor and they will tell you horror stories of winning "all but one bet," thus costing themselves a huge win.  

It should also be noted that these bets are typically discouraged by most successful sports gamblers.  That's because they will eat up your bankroll fast, if you aren’t careful.  Your win rate on combination bets will typically be much lower than on individual bets.  So, parlays shouldn’t make up a large portion of your betting action.

What factors go into making parlay bets?

Parlays may include as few as 2 individual wagers or as many as 12 – and sometimes even more.  These bets may include pointspread bets, moneyline bets, or over/unders.  Some sportsbooks will even allow you to include player prop bets in a parlay.  The popular Canadian-based sports betting site Spreads.ca is very generous in this regard.  We advise that you check out their extensive menu of wagers, which even lists a payout calculator for any parlay bets that you make.

The most common parlays include just two or three teams.  Once you bet four-team parlays (or more), the house starts to gain a substantial edge on the player.  We recommend sticking to 2- and 3-teams parlays, unless you simply want to have fun and look at sports as a lottery ticket.

It's also possible to bet across different sports.  Some bettors just want to be in action, so they'll parlay a hockey bet with a basketball bet, and do other things that are more action and entertainment-based.  That's fine if you just want to have fun, but if you take this seriously, try to stick with parlays in the same sport or league.

Parlay betting strategy

The secret to successful parlay betting is trying to correlate the wagers.  In other words, the bets on your ticket should have some connection.

While most sportsbooks ban what are called "correlated parlays," there's still some opportunity to take advantage of wagers with an obvious connection.  Here are just two examples:

Weather Correlated Parlays:  This occurs when two games are played in very close proximity and are impacted by the same weather conditions.  For instance, Washington and Baltimore are only 37 miles apart.  So, a bad weather day in that region is likely to impact both games in football.  A parlay bettor might be tempted to play both games to go under the total in that situation.  Pay particular attention to this factor in college football, with so many games going on at once, especially in places with volatile weather conditions (for instance, hurricane season in Florida and severe cold in northern cities).

Pointspread and Over/Under Correlated Parlays: We can bet on a favourite to cover the pointspread and the game to go over the total.  This is perhaps the most popular type of parlay wager.  The philosophy behind this parlay is -- if the favoured team covers the spread, especially a high number, that means it will score lots of points, and the game will be inclined to go over.  For this reason, the opposite is also true.  Taking the underdog and betting the under in a parlay together also makes simple common sense.

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