How to Bet on Sports Parlays

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Parlay betting in Maryland is legal in both retail and online sportsbooks. Any betting site you come across will allow you to group multiple bets on your betting slip, sometimes up to 10 or more. Parlay bets offer a chance to win a big payout on a small bet outlay. However, all bets on the ticket have to be successful for you to win.

So are parlays worth the risk? Should parlays be your primary sports betting approach? Are parlays in some sports a better bet than in others? How do early payouts work? We’ll answer those questions and more.

What is a parlay bet?

A parlay bet refers to a wager grouping multiple bets on a single ticket. For the whole parlay to be successful, all those individual bets must be successful. Because the odds of all the individual bets get added together, parlay payouts can be huge, even when your bet amount is relatively low.

Depending on the sportsbook, you can typically place a maximum of 8-10 picks on a single parlay. Naturally, the minimum number of bets is two.

Is it smart to bet parlays?

The allure of a parlay bet is easy to understand. It offers a bigger payout even on a small bet outlay. For many, the payout is the biggest advantage of a parlay bet, but it comes with greater risk. Namely, all of your picks have to win.

If you get seven out of eight bets on a parlay correct, that’s a nice percentage. But it’s still not worth anything. You must go eight for eight. That’s why many people avoid parlays, as they’re just too risky. Even if you bet only on favorites or on bets with minus odds, the probability of your parlay winning is still relatively small.

Of course, that probability also depends on the number of selections. It’s much easier to win a parlay with two or three different bets than max out with 10. In any case, parlay bets have greater financial potential than single bets; just know they’re longshots.

What are round robins and teasers?

If this sounds tempting, you should consider a couple of variations on parlay bets. One is called a teaser bet, which allows you to adjust the point spread or game totals to create a higher probability and lower return.

This kind of bet can’t be taken as a single, as you will be required to choose at least two teams and up to 15 in some cases. The only major restriction is that your teaser can’t include two teams from the same game.

Another interesting parlay variation is the round robin. Remember how we said you need all of your selections to be successful for a parlay to pay out? Well, a round robin is a kind of insurance against that.

Namely, a round robin lets you make multiple parlay bets on a single ticket. For example, if you take three selections, you will win a bet if any two of them turn out successful. This is called a two-way round robin.

In a three-way round robin, you will need any three of your four bets to win. Other combinations exist as well, like a seven-game round robin with five different parlays. In most cases, a sportsbook will allow you to bet anywhere between three and eight picks on a round robin.

What is the optimal number of bets in a parlay?

You can place anywhere from two to 10 (or more, at times) selections on your parlay ticket. The more games you bet on, the higher the payout will be. But that doesn’t mean you should clog your ticket with a bunch of games. Of course, that will make it more difficult to win. Your overall winning probability drops with every added bet.

The number of picks you put on a ticket will also depend on the odds. If your selections have plus odds, don’t select as many. The potential payout will already be pretty high.

If you’re only backing the favorites to win, then you can select a greater number of games. But even if you back only heavy favorites on 10 different selections, not all of them are likely to win.

How much does a parlay bet pay out?

The payout of a parlay bet can range from small figures (when you pick only two selections with minus odds) to almost lottery-like winnings (when you group a large number of games).

You won’t need to calculate parlay odds yourself when betting online, as the sportsbook will do it for you. As you put every additional selection on your ticket, the odds will automatically update, and you’ll see your potential payout relative to the size of your stake.

If you do wish to calculate the odds before putting them on your betting slip, here’s how to do it:

Let’s say you placed two bets on your parlay, with the first bet having the odds of -110 and the second one +100. To get the total odds, you’ll first have to turn these individual odds into their decimal form.

For negative odds, you’ll need to use the equation (-1 * X + 100) / -1 * X. In the case of our first bet, this will be (-1 * -110 + 100) / -1 * -110, which comes to 1.909. For positive odds, the calculation is a bit simpler. It goes (100 + X) / 100. In our example of the second bet, the result will be 2.00.

Once you get these decimal odds, you need to multiply them: 1.909 * 2.00 = 3.818. To calculate the payout, you will have to multiply this number with your stake. So, for example, if you were to bet $100 on this parlay, your potential payout will be $381.8 (100 * 3.818).

Should I combine all heavy favorites on a parlay?

While betting on favorites with a single bet is safer, it doesn’t usually result in a very big payout. Stacking a few of them together, then, makes a bit of sense for a chance of a bigger payout.

Betting only on heavy favorites in a parlay ticket will somewhat boost the overall odds, but the payout won’t be that amazing either. And the more selections you add to the ticket, the higher the chance for one of them to miss, spoiling the whole bunch.

The best route is to create some balance, like placing three or four selections on not-so-heavy favorites with a sizable stake.

Should I combine all underdogs on a parlay?

Creating a parlay with all underdogs is probably the least wise decision you can make at a sportsbook. If you place a single bet on the underdog, it’s unlikely to win, so what’s the probability of multiple underdogs coming through? You’re throwing away money if you live by this sports betting strategy.

Many bettors still choose this approach, though, and the reason is simple. The payouts can be huge, and you can potentially turn a $100 bet into hundreds of thousands of dollars. But if the overall odds for an all-underdog parlay are 100 to 1 or greater, you will be entering lottery odds territory. We all know how likely it is to win the lottery.

How much should you bet on a parlay?

Parlay bets shouldn’t take much out of your bankroll because of the potentially high payouts. So if the general rule is to bet only 1-3% of your bankroll on singles, the parlays shouldn’t take any more than half that amount.

Of course, how much you bet will also depend on the odds. If you bet on only two favorites, you may still want to bet a sizable amount to increase your payout. If you placed five selections on your parlay tickets with a few underdogs, even a small bet could result in a big win.

Which sport is best for parlays?

To have a higher chance of your parlay bets hitting, bet only on sports you know. All major American sports have plenty of games and markets to explore. With parlays, consider sports with the most games. In that regard, MLB betting is a reasonable choice, as baseball teams play games almost every day. You can filter out which games you want to make part of your parlay and which ones to skip.

However, note that you don’t need to confine yourself to betting parlays on only one sport. As a matter of fact, every MD sports betting app will allow you to combine games and markets across all available sports. So, for example, you can create a parlay combining a moneyline bet on a baseball game, a point spread bet on a football game, and an over/under bet on a basketball game.

Live betting parlays

Parlay sports betting is available for both pre- and in-game bets. Some bookies might also allow you to create a parlay using multiple markets of the same game or combine live markets with pre-game ones. However, note that in-game teasers are not allowed.

For example, you can bet that the Wizards win the next quarter while the total number of points for that quarter is under the proposed line. Or you could bet that DC United wins the first half and on which of its players scores a goal.

Player vs. team parlays

You can take parlays on almost all available markets. Many bettors enjoy over/unders for specific basketball players. Others prefer team parlays because they can find more favorable odds and like to play things safe.

Team parlays leave more room for safer or riskier bets. Make your choice based on how you like to construct your parlay tickets. Of course, you can always mix things up and combine team and player parlays.

Understanding parlay insurance

Some American sportsbooks offer a promotion called parlay insurance. You will be tasked with creating a parlay of a specified number of selections (usually five or more). If only one of your selections ends up unsuccessful, the sportsbook will refund a part of your losses.

When using this promotion, make sure you read all terms and conditions associated with it, like the minimum bet, minimum odds, and market/sports restrictions.

Avoid these parlay betting mistakes

If you’re new to parlay betting in sports, you will likely be prone to some rookie mistakes. Here are some common ones and why you should steer clear:

  • Chasing big payouts: We understand those big potential payouts can be quite alluring, which is why many bettors commonly go overboard and put too many selections on their parlay tickets. However, this high-risk, high-reward approach seldom works out. Keep your parlays relatively small to allow yourself a chance at winning.
  • Forcing heavy favorites: If you play only heavy favorites with odds of -1,000 or lower, even your parlay payout won’t be impressive. Plus, you’re stuck waiting on that one upset to ruin your conservative ticket.
  • Rushing a cashout: Cashouts can be beneficial but only in certain situations. Other times, they are not worth it. For example, if you wagered $10 and your full payout is $150 but only $46 with cashout, you might want to wait things out. Sportsbooks invented the cashout option because they want you to take it and skip your chance at winning big.