Parlay Bet: What It Is and How It Works

In the realm of sports betting, the parlay bet stands out as an intriguing option for those looking to amplify their potential winnings. By understanding what a parlay bet is and how it works, bettors can make more informed decisions and enjoy the thrill of higher stakes and greater rewards.

What Is a Parlay Bet?

A parlay bet, also known as an accumulator or multi-bet, involves combining two or more individual wagers into a single bet. For the parlay bet to succeed, every individual bet (or leg) within the parlay must win. This means that if even one of the bets loses, the entire parlay bet is lost. While this makes parlay bets riskier compared to single bets, the potential payouts are significantly higher due to the compounded odds of the individual bets.

Key Takeaways

  • A parlay bet consists of multiple individual wagers combined into one.
  • Sportsbooks offer higher payouts for parlay bets due to their increased difficulty.
  • Popular mobile betting platforms like BetMGM, FanDuel, and DraftKings support parlay betting formats.

How to Make a Parlay Bet

Making a parlay bet is straightforward, whether you are betting online or on a physical sportsbook. Most sportsbooks provide the option to create parlay bets by selecting multiple bets and combining them into one. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Choose Your Bets: Select the individual bets you want to combine into a parlay. These can include different types of bets such as point spreads, money lines, or totals.
  2. Combine the Bets: In your betting slip, combine the selected bets into a single parlay bet.
  3. Place Your Wager: Enter the amount you wish to wager on the parlay bet and confirm your bet.

Casinos often provide parlay cards that bettors can fill out and submit to a ticket writer, but online platforms simplify this process with easy-to-use interfaces.

Calculating Payouts

One of the complexities of parlay bets is calculating the potential payout. Here’s a simplified method:

  1. Convert American Odds to Decimal Odds: For each individual bet, convert the American odds to decimal odds.
  2. Multiply the Decimal Odds Together: Combine the odds by multiplying them.
  3. Multiply by Your Bet Amount: Multiply the combined odds by the amount you bet.
  4. Subtract Your Original Stake: To find your profit, subtract the initial stake from the total amount.

For example, if you have three bets with odds of -110, you first convert these to decimal odds (1.91). Multiplying them together gives you 6.97. Betting $10 on this parlay would result in a total payout of $69.70, with a profit of $59.70 after subtracting your $10 stake.

Risks and Rewards

Parlay bets are enticing due to their high potential payouts, but they come with significant risks. The requirement for all bets to win means that the likelihood of a successful parlay is much lower than winning individual bets. Sportsbooks promote parlay bets because they are lucrative, often showcasing big wins to attract bettors.

Steven Petrella, deputy editor for The Action Network, explains, “Parlay bets are popular because everyone dreams of turning a little bit of cash into a big payday. However, bettors are far less likely to win parlay bets than individual bets, and sportsbooks make more money from parlay bets than single wagers.”

Practical Example

Consider a bettor who believes both the Kansas City Chiefs (+4) and New York Giants (-6) will cover their spreads. They could bet $10, splitting it into two $5 individual bets. If both teams cover, the total winnings might be around $19. However, by parlaying these bets, they stand to win around $26.50. The outcomes vary:

  • Both teams cover: Win ($26.50)
  • Chiefs cover, Giants do not: Loss (-$10)
  • Giants cover, Chiefs do not: Loss (-$10)
  • Both teams do not cover: Loss (-$10)


Parlay bets offer an exciting way to potentially earn large payouts by combining multiple wagers into one. While they are riskier and harder to win than single bets, the allure of turning a small stake into a significant return makes them popular among sports bettors. As with any form of betting, it’s crucial to understand the risks and approach parlay bets with a strategy and caution.

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