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Sports Betting Tutorial: Parlay Gambling and Odds Explanation

A parlay bet is one of the most popular forms of sports wagering. With parlays, bettors can bet on two or more point spreads, OVER/UNDERs or moneylines, earning a higher payout if all their picks win than they would have betting on each one individually.

How do Parlays Work?

A parlay is a wager that combines multiple bets on one ticket. Usually, you would pool straight-up bets with spreads and totals. However, you can have multiple versions of the same bet as long as it’s on different games. If even one bet in your parlay is a loss, your entire parlay loses. You can make NFL parlays or combine different bets from various sports. For example, you could make a straight-up bet on a baseball game, coupled with a basketball point spread.

Understanding Parlay Odds

At your sportsbook of choice, parlays may be called accumulators, combo bets or multi wagers. Let’s say you’re looking at three separate football games. The odds for a three-team parlay would look something like this:

NFL Parlay Ticket 
TeamsType of BetOdds
Saints vs RamsSpreadNew Orleans -3.5 / Los Angeles +3.5
Patriots vs JetsMoneylineNew England -180 / New York +160
Chiefs vs RavensTotalsOVER 47.5 / UNDER 47.5

Now, you would decide which side of each bet to take. For the first bet, let’s pretend that you’re taking the Saints to cover since they have a history of working well against the spread (ATS). For the second bet, you figure the Pats are going to annihilate the Jets so you pick Tom Brady’s crew to win the game straight up. Finally, for the third bet you believe the total number of points scored will be at least 48 so you take the OVER.

As you can see from the above example, the odds for each game would appear the same as they would if you were betting individually. However, the odds for the entire parlay would be +600 (6-1) since you have a 50-50 chance of winning each bet (3 bets x 2 = 6).

If you were to bet $100 on the entire parlay bet, you’d get a payout of $700 – your original $100 comes back along with your winnings of $600. You can use our Odds Calculator to see how much you’d win based on the odds and amount bet. We also have a Parlay Calculator where you can input up to 100 bets. We do, however, recommend keeping your parlays to 10 and under since most betting sites will not allow you to make more than a 10-team parlay.

What happens if One of Your Bets PUSHES?

A PUSH occurs when the spread or totals bet you make hits the exact number set by oddsmakers. Using the same example from above, let’s pretend the totals number was 47 instead of 47.5. If the collective score for both teams was 47 on the nose, you would get your money back since neither the OVER nor UNDER won or lost. This bet would be removed from your parlay as if it never happened. You would still need to win the other bets on your parlay card in order to receive a payout. But, it’s nice to know that sportsbooks will take the PUSH off your ticket.

Teaser Bets vs Parlays

Teasers are common bets, especially in football. Oftentimes, these bets are confused for parlays, however, they are not the same. Teasers are wagers in which you can move the point spread in your favor. The only similarity these bets have to parlays is that you can select a minimum of two teams (up to 15) to tease.

Parlay Betting Tips

Sportsbooks love parlays because they force bettors to be perfect, which can be hard to do. But, that doesn’t mean you should avoid parlays altogether. Before placing your bet, handicap each game you want to include in your parlay picks. Winning a parlay can be tricky if you don’t do your due diligence. However, we at Odds Shark offer the necessary handicapping tools to ensure you have everything at your disposal to make smart bets.

Besides researching each bet, keep an eye on your bankroll. Although parlays do offer a larger payout, you still want to ensure you have enough in the tank to keep betting. When you make your deposit, it’s important to remember that if you lose even one bet on your card, it’s basically like all the bets in your parlay lose. Moreover, if you have spreads and totals on your card, you’re looking at more than just teams winning, so be mindful of team reports and betting trends.

Finally, most sportsbooks will not let you make parlay cards that feature different sides of the same game, whether it’s MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL or NCAA college sports. Though it would be nice to be able to take odds on both sides of the same bet, it is not a typical betting practice. This is why any team parlay would have to contain a spread and moneyline or total instead of two of the same type of bets. Even if the sportsbook would allow this, you’d be wasting your money since your bets would simply cancel each other out.

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