Everybody loves parlay bets. The promise of a big payout on a relatively small bet is certainly appealing. However, picking one winner is hard enough, let alone stringing multiple winners together in a parlay, where every leg must come in for you to get paid anything.
The truth is that many a sportsbook has been built on the back of parlay betting. Data shows most sportsbooks post a 30% win percentage on parlays, compared to somewhere around 5% on all types of sports betting combined. That makes the parlay easily a sportsbook’s most profitable bet.
That doesn't mean parlays are impossible to win. But it does tell you betting parlays is risky. If you want to make parlays a part of your betting repertoire, take a look at our guide to parlay betting in Indiana below. It includes all the different types of parlay bets and how to make them, minimize risk by building parlays you can hedge/cash out/get parlay insurance on, and the sports best suited to parlay betting.
What is a Parlay Bet?
Parlays combine two or more bets into one. The potential payout is increased on a parlay compared to the sum of the individual bets, or legs, that are a part of it. That’s because you must win every leg for the parlay to pay off. Put another way; if one leg loses, the entire parlay is a loser.
It’s so difficult to pick a single winner, let alone string two, three, or more wins together. That’s why sportsbooks offer big odds on parlays and the bigger the parlay, the bigger the potential payout will be, even when you bet a small amount of cash.
Indiana sportsbooks offer parlay betting on various sports, including the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB, plus college basketball and college football games. You can confine your parlay bets to a single sport or bet multi-sport parlays. Almost anything goes.
Round Robins, Teasers and Pleasers
There are also different variations of parlays, including:
Round robins offer you a way to place multiple parlay bets at the same time covering different outcome combinations. It's like boxing exacta or trifecta bets in a horse race.
Just choose three and eight teams or totals and how many teams or totals to tie together. The number of teams or totals to tie together dictates how many different parlays you’ll ultimately bet. Round robin eight teams or totals tying two together and you’ll be betting 28 different two-leg parlays. Change that to eight teams or totals tying three together and you’ll have 56 different three-leg parlays. The potential payouts are the same for round robins as they would be if you place the parlay bets individually.
Teasers and pleasers
Teasers allow you to manipulate the spread or total line on the different legs in a parlay.
You can move each point spread or total up or down anywhere from six to 10 points. Each leg of the teaser must be moved by the same number of points.
Theoretically, giving underdogs additional points and allowing favorites to give away fewer points makes teasers easier to win. As a result, these bets pay less than a traditional parlay will.
Pleasers are a type of teaser that move the betting line in the opposite direction, taking away points from underdogs and forcing favorites to cover even larger spreads. As a result, these bets pay out more than the traditional teaser will.
How Much do Parlays Pay?
Although it can vary, sportsbooks generally pay on parlays involving typical 50/50 bets according to the following schedule:
- 2 teams 2.6 to 1
- 3 teams 6-1
- 4 teams 10-1
- 5 teams 20-1
- 6 teams 40-1
- 7 teams 80-1
- 8 teams 150-1
Two-team parlays paying 2.6 to 1 and three-team parlays paying 6-1 are paying something close to the true odds, or actual probability, of stringing together two or three winners. However, that stops with the 10-1 on four teams, which is much lower than the true odds of all four legs in the parlay coming in.
How Many Legs are Optimal on a Parlay Bet?
Ultimately that means betting any more than three teams in a parlay is a bad idea unless you can get better odds. That would make three legs the optimal number of legs in the parlay.
Should I combine heavy favorites on a parlay bet?
It's hard to make money betting on heavy favorites straight up. They’re very often priced at a point where the tiny reward is not worth the risk of the upset.
That all changes with parlays. Parlaying multiple heavy favorites can get you a bigger reward without increasing the risk too much.
Betting $100 on a -200 favorite only sets you up for a potential profit of $50. However, adding another -200 favorite to your bet could increase the profit to $125. Add another and you’re looking at $237.50.
Is putting multiple heavy favorites together in a parlay a good idea? If you were already planning on placing these bets individually, then it’s a solid move. Just be aware that upsets can happen and don’t blow your entire bankroll betting these types of parlays.
Should I combine all underdogs on a parlay bet?
It's hard to make money betting exclusively on heavy underdogs because they don’t win all that often.
The thing about all-underdog parlays is that they can offer huge potential payouts. Unfortunately, potential won’t keep the betting bankroll in good shape year-round. In other words, you’ve got to win one of these bets now and then, earning enough to cover all the losses you’ve piled up to realize that potential.
Is putting together multiple heavy underdogs in a parlay a bad idea? It probably is. However, if you research to make sure the dogs you back have a realistic chance and limit the number of legs and the size of your bets, you might make a profit. Even if you only win a small percentage of the all-underdog parlays you play.
When Should I Parlay a Bet?
Don’t bet parlays thinking they offer great value or that you’re getting the best of it. The odds aren’t exactly fair. The truth is that the odds a parlay pays are always lower than the probability of winning it. That makes a parlay the definition of a suckers bet.
So, why should you bet parlays? Because the odds they offer are still bigger than what you’ll get betting just about anything else. Betting parlays is about chasing the big payday and the odds are often so big you can chase it with small, affordable bets.
How Much Should I Bet on a Parlay Bet?
If you accept that betting parlays are entirely about chasing the big payday, then you must first determine how you can set yourself up for that.
The odds are so big on multiple-bet parlays you can chase the big payday with small bets. The odds are much smaller on two-bet parlays; therefore, you need to bet more to increase the potential payout.
No matter what, you should never bet more than you can afford to lose and follow proper bankroll management principles.
That means setting up a betting bankroll of a certain affordable amount and never betting more than 1%-5% of it on any bet.
You can also set a unit amount equal to 1% of your bankroll and bet anywhere from one to five units on any bet based on your confidence in the bet. Or, in the case of parlays, based on the amount, you should bet to set yourself up for a decent payday, 1% for multiple-leg parlays and up to 5% for two-leg parlays.
Find two heavy NFL moneyline favorites and set yourself up for a decent payday by betting 5% of your bankroll on a two-team NFL parlay. Or, pick a winner for all 10 NBA moneylines on a typical Monday night and bet 1% or even less of your bankroll on a 10-team parlay. Betting as little as $1 could set you up for a huge payday on a parlay this big.
Are Parlays Best Suited to one Particular Bet or Sport?
Except for bets involving the same game (although some Same Game Parlays are now allowed), you can combine all types of basic bets into a parlay. You can put together single-sport or multi-sport parlays, including moneylines, spreads, totals (over/under), futures and props.
No one sport is more suitable for parlay betting than any other. However, NFL football parlays are the most popular because of the NFL’s schedule. With up to 13 games on any given Sunday, there’s a lot of room to put together big and small parlays alike. Plus, adding a Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football bet to a parlay can set you up to hedge potential winners.
NBA, MLB, and NHL betting parlays are almost as popular. Mostly because of the large number of games held throughout the year, including up to a dozen or more each night.
Live Betting Parlays
Live betting takes the excitement surrounding most sports to another level by allowing you to bet on games that are already underway at odds that change alongside the action and the score.
It's mostly betting on the same lines you bet on pregame at odds that change throughout. That means the same restriction on same-game props involving correlated plays will usually apply, making it hard to find in-game parlays. However, there is also an increased number of props available live, and you may be able to combine them into a live parlay.
The thing about live betting is that it’s almost impossible to do without a sportsbook app installed on your phone or tablet. The lines change so quickly, a mobile sports betting app is the only way to get bets down fast enough.
So, if you want to bet games live, parlays, or otherwise, you've got to download and install your favorite Indiana sportsbook's mobile app
Cashing Out a Parlay Bet
Sportsbooks will often offer you the chance to cash out a parlay bet, as long as each leg is still live or you’ve already won it.
It’s a good option when you’re less than confident in the legs that are still live, or simply want to lock in some profit, limit your losses, and remove all the risk.
Cashing out early lets you take home a part of your potential winnings if a parlay looks good early but doesn't seem like it’ll end up a winner, or get you a partial refund on an otherwise losing bet. It’ll let you make some money while avoiding getting nothing at all on a loss.
The Cash Out feature is only available with Indiana online sportsbooks & apps. The potential cash-out amount will be listed on the parlay in your active bets. If you like the price, simply click the Cash Out button to take it.
Just remember it’ll never be as much as you would have made if you let all the legs play out and win. Plus, whether you’re winning or losing, the cash-out amount will never represent the current expected value of your ticket.
Can I Parlay Player Prop Bets?
Yes. Betting player prop parlays is almost like playing daily fantasy sports in that you’re betting on multiple players achieving certain statistical milestones.
The big differences are that you’re not necessarily competing against the performance of other athletes besides the ones you’re betting on, and you can build a “team” of props beyond what a daily fantasy sports budget allows.
That means there’s no need to seek out value daily fantasy sports picks and bet on players no one is betting on to win. Betting player prop parlays is more about combining props everyone agrees are huge favorites to happen in order to get a better price than you would be betting on these props individually.
You can also combine player and team props to get better prices than standard moneyline betting might offer. For example, Patrick Mahomes to score a rushing TD and a Chiefs win parlay has become one of the most popular in NFL parlay betting. It’s a great way to improve the price on the Chiefs when they are a heavy favorite.
How Does Parlay Insurance Work?
Parlay insurance is a type of promo that sportsbooks run. It’s free and offers you a refund up to a certain amount if you hit all but one leg of a parlay. The refund almost always comes in site credit, meaning you have to use it to bet. Plus, there will be a minimum number of legs you need to bet and a maximum amount that can be refunded. If you’re going to bet multi-game parlays, parlay insurance promos are something you should take advantage of. The refund might not add up to much, but it’ll take away a little bit of the sting of coming within one leg of a big payday.
Biggest Parlay Betting Mistakes to Avoid
One look at the potential payout for a big multi-leg parlay and it’ll be hard to avoid betting at least a little something on it. The thing is, it’s hard enough to pick just one winner, let alone the winner of half a dozen bets or more. Plus, bet and lose enough big multi-leg parlays and the losses will add up, even if you’re betting small.
That said, there a couple of things you can do to help make parlay sports betting profitable for you, including avoiding the following four parlay betting mistakes:
1. Too many legs
Just because there are 13 games on the NFL slate this Sunday doesn’t mean you have to bet on them all in one parlay. Don’t make the mistake of betting parlays with too many legs. Look to combine two or three games in multiple parlays instead. These bets might not pay as much, but they’ll come in more often.
2. Too much money
Just because you have a lot of money in your bankroll doesn’t mean you should bet a lot on a single parlay. Don’t make the mistake of betting too big on parlays. The whole idea is that you can go after a big payday with a small bet, so do that instead.
3. Forgetting to combine favorites
It’s hard to make money betting big favorites unless you combine them in parlays. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting to combine big favorites into a parlay. Combining big favorites into a parlay is a great way to bet the “almost sure thing” and get paid for it without much risk.
4. Forgetting to hedge
Put together a parlay the right way, and you might be able to hedge against its last leg. That means locking up some winnings by betting against yourself in the last leg. It’s like taking out insurance on the bet. Don’t get drawn in by the size of that potential payday and forget to hedge. Instead, lock in some profits and take away the risk of walking away with nothing.