A parlay bet is a selection of two or more wagering outcomes where the payout increases with the number of teams chosen. The more teams you choose, the better the payout. You can combine different sports while using either the point spreads or the money lines, or even the totals.
It’s hard for me to recommend parlays because of the high hold percentage given to the house. I understand why people love parlays because of the chance for a big payoff. There have been numerous big parlay payouts on record, and the temptation to go for one can be huge. However, just look at the actual odds of hitting one compared to the odds you get paid out, as well as the house edge in the table below.
|# of Teams||Actual Odds||Las Vegas Payout||House Edge|
|2||3 to 1||2.6 to 1||10.00%|
|3||7 to 1||6 to 1||12.50%|
|4||15 to 1||10 to 1||31.25%|
|5||31 to 1||20 to 1||34.38%|
|6||63 to 1||40 to 1||35.94%|
|7||127 to 1||75 to 1||40.63%|
|8||255 to 1||150 to 1||41.02%|
|9||511 to 1||300 to 1||41.21%|
|10||1,023 to 1||700 to 1||31.54%|
Now, there are certain situations where I do actually think it makes sense to bet on a parlay. I will cover those situations below, but rarely every will I recommend betting a parlay on spreads and totals. The best parlays are money line parlays, where you just pick the winner of the game rather than using the spreads and totals, which would be a 50/50 shot on each spread and total.
This is the only kind of parlay I’d recommend wagering, which would be a two-teamer. It happens a lot in football where if one team covers, it’s likely to be a high-scoring game. There are also times where if one team covers, it is likely to be a low-scoring game. Let’s take a look at what I’m talking about.
Look for large spreads in football with small totals. On a college football game where the spread is -40 and the total is 51, it’s going to be very difficult for the favorite to cover and have the total go under. Sure, a 42-0 or a 49-0 final is possible, but if the dog even scores a field goal the favorite must score 44 points to cover, and cannot score more than 48 points or the total goes over.
There would be four possible parlay bets on the side and total of a game with a spread of -40 and a total of 51. Well, you can virtually eliminate two of those options right away. You either want to take the favorite and the over, or the underdog and the under because those are the two most likely winners.
In fact, if you play favorite/over or dog/under in situations where the spread is 40% or more of the total, then you should come out ahead. These are what I like to refer to as correlated parlays. Now, you will find that some books won’t take them for obvious reasons, but it obviously never hurts to ask.
Instead of trying to pick multiple winners against the spread and parlaying them, it’s much easier to just do a money line parlay where your teams only have to win the game. The payout won’t be as great, but your chances of winning increase dramatically. Let’s do an example just to show you what I’m talking about.
I’ll pick three random games in college basketball. Let’s do Kentucky (-7.5) over Ole Miss, Duke (-10) over Wake Forest, and Wisconsin (-8.5) over Nebraska. In this instance we have three superior teams laying pretty big numbers against overmatched opponents. There is a good chance that all three favorites win their games, but not that they all cover.
The money lines on these games are -350 for Kentucky, -550 for Duke, and -400 for Wisconsin. The standard juice on the spread of these teams is -110, which would mean a $100 wager wins you $91. Well, if you played all three teams on the money line and parlayed them together, your $100 bet would win you $90.
Now, if you pick two favorites and take a small underdog to win outright, your payout odds increase astronomically. Let’s use Kentucky (-350) and Wisconsin (-400) and parlay them with Iowa State (+200) over Kansas. Iowa State is a 4-point underdog against the spread, and if they cover, they are likely to win outright. So, a money line bet on small underdogs of 4 points or less isn’t bad at all considering when they cover, they win outright probably close to 90% of the time.
So, in replacing Duke (-550) with Iowa State (+200), the payout jumps dramatically. A $100 money line parlay with Kentucky (-350), Wisconsin (-400) and Iowa State (+200) would pay you roughly $328.00. The great thing about money lines is that they are much fairer odds then the -110 you pay when taking the spread. So, the house doesn’t have nearly as much of an advantage on money lines as they do spreads.
My favorite money line parlays are in baseball. I hate to lay more than -150 on any baseball game. That limits my options because I almost never back aces on good teams because you usually have to pay more than -150 to back them. Well, if you do a money line parlay on a couple of big favorites, then the odds aren’t so bad. Here is an example.
I am sure that the Dodgers (-200) with Clayton Kershaw are going to beat the Padres tonight. I am also sure that the Tigers (-190) with Justin Verlander on the mound are going to beat the Twins. Well, I am not sure enough to bet each separately while risking $390 to win $200 on both combined.
Instead, I’m going to use the Dodgers (-200) and the Tigers (-190) in a money line parlay. A two-team money line parlay for $200 on these two will return me roughly $258. So, you’re getting more back than you bet, and in all reality there is a very good chance that both of these teams win with their aces on the mound.
If you bet both the Dodgers (-200) and the Tigers (-190) separately to win $100 each, you would be paying $200 to win $100 on the Dodgers, and $190 to win $100 on the Tigers. If you lose both, you’re out $390 when you could have only lost $200 on the parlay. If you win one and lose one, you lose roughly $100. If you win both, you’d only win $200 compared to the $258 you would have won on the parlay.