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Parlays: What They Are and How to Use Them

Parlays - What They Are and How to Use Them

I’m sure you've seen them. You’re on your phone, scrolling along and you see a photo of a betting slip. Someone pulled off one of those improbable parlays and cashed out a cool 500-to-1 payout. They’re happier than Rex Ryan giving a pedicure and why wouldn’t they be? They only risked $20 to win an incredible $10,000. You're probably asking yourself – “how the hell did they get those crazy odds?” or “How can I place a bet like this?” or, most importantly, “What the hell is wrong with Rex Ryan?” Although I can’t give you an answer to the last question, I can offer some knowledge surrounding this type of bet.

What Is a Parlay?

Typically when placing a bet, most people settle on one individual selection. This could be the spread, the over/under, or the old-fashioned moneyline. The payouts for these types of bets are roughly 1:1, depending on where you are placing the wager. Winning a bet and returning double your initial risk is great, but what if you want a larger return? In this case, you will want to place a parlay bet.

A parlay can be best described as a combo bet. It's a sequence of individual bets being placed on one ticket. Usually, a parlay consists of at least 2 and a maximum of 12 selections, again depending on the bookie. These selections are known as the legs in the parlay. In order to win this type of bet, each individual selection needs to be graded as a win. This means that if just one leg of a 12-team parlay fails, the entire bet is void. Here is an example of a parlay containing a mixture of spreads and money line bets for week 14 of the NFL.

4 Team Parlay +2872 ($100 to win $2872)

New England Patriots (+200)

Dallas Cowboys (-190)

Minnesota Vikings (+240)

Houston Texans -1 (-110)

As you can see, combining these selections into one wager will provide a much larger return, rather than betting each one individually. As you continuously add legs, the payout can reach as high as six figures with just a modest bet. This is what makes the parlay bet so attractive.

What Happens If There Is a Tie?

Occasionally a game will end in a draw. More commonly, the spread will finish exactly the value set by the bookie. This is known as a "push.” In this case, if all other legs were graded as a win, the parlay would still payout but at a lower amount. In the above example, if the Texans won by exactly 1 point, the +2872 odds would be decreased to +1457.

Sure, it can be frustrating when one of your legs results in a push, but even though you are receiving slightly less than the original payout, the return is substantial nonetheless.

How to Effectively Bet a Parlay

I would be lying to you if I told you that the majority of bettors don’t bet parlays. They do. That’s what makes gambling fun. We all want to be the parlay king, sharing snapshots of your booty on Instagram with everyone (not that type of booty). Or, in our wildest dreams, we’ll turn out like Parlay Patz and make millions (but hopefully avoid jail time). Unfortunately, a score like the one I mentioned earlier doesn’t happen very often. There are, however, smarter ways to build a parlay that offer a greater chance of success.

Keep the legs at a minimum: Instead of constructing those highly improbably 12-team parlays; keep it at a maximum of two or three selections.

Reduce the odds of heavy favorites: Occasionally you might want to place some action on favorites, but the odds that come with these are usually pretty bad and don’t offer much value. A strategy that I like to use is to parlay 3 or 4 heavy favorites. You can still get plus odds. And as long as there is not a huge upset, you’ll make some cash.

What Else Should You Know About Parlays?

The most important thing to remember about betting parlays is that the majority of the time they won’t hit. This is especially true once you add more than 4 or 5 legs. Those 12-leg parlays should be considered a dart throw and shouldn’t be the primary way you place wagers.

If you end up following this guide, you will know how to appropriately incorporate parlays into your betting strategy. For more tips focused around preserving your hard-earned cash, visit our bankroll management article.

For additional advice to help sharpen your betting sword, go check out the rest of our Gambling 101 guides and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We provide an abundance of FREE information that will improve your chances of success.

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