Parlays combine a series of individual bets into one large bet. This has the effect of multiplying the odds but can also mean if only one of the bets loses, then the whole parlay is lost. They are also known as multiple bets and accumulators.
3 leg parlay example
In the first round of the FIFA World Cup, you think Chile, South Korea and USA will win their games and you are willing to put 300 m฿ on them at these odds.
Combined your bet would be at odds of
1.74 X 2.30 X 3.10 = 12.40
For a stake of 300 m฿ you are hoping for a return of
300 m฿ * 12.40 = 3720 m฿
To understand the payout better imagine they are 3 separate bets starting with 300 m฿. After each bet wins, the full payout is put on the next bet, like this
The first bet is on Chile, that wins so
300 m฿ * 1.74 = 522 m฿
This payout is then put on the next bet in the parlay, South Korea. That wins so
522 m฿ * 2.30 = 1206 m฿
Now that is put into the remaining leg of the parlay on Team USA. That wins so
1206 m฿ * 3.10 = 3720 m฿
They all won so it doesn’t matter which order you look at them in. If you had have made 3 separate bets each with a stake of 100 m฿ and they all won you would have only won 714 m฿ for the same total risk of 300 m฿. That is the appeal of the parlay.
Larger complex variations
A popular option is to combine 8 games into an 8 leg parlay. You could increase your chances for a return buy including all 5 leg combinations possible for your 8 selections so that you only need 5 out of 8 legs to win for you to see a profit. That would be 56 different five-fold parlays.
You won’t have to do this manually; the sportsbook will have various parlay options available at the click of a few buttons. If 5 out of 8 teams win the amount of your return will depend on what the odds were on those 5 teams.
You could take a goliath which is a parlay consisting of 247 bets involving 8 selections in different events. The parlay breakdown is 28 doubles, 56 trebles, 70 four-folds, 56 five-folds, 28 six-folds, 8 seven-folds and one 8-fold. If any 2 teams win you will see some return, though it may be less than your total stake.
Should you make parlays or single bets
Sportsbooks love to encourage bettors to take parlays because they multiplies the odds. The odds include the sportsbook’s overround, so multiplying the odds multiplies the overround, which is bad news for the bettor. In fact unless you only include positive expected value bets, the more legs you have in a parlay the worse value you are getting.
Parlays are great fun but serious bettors looking to make long term profits are better off betting on individual games with a customized staking plan. If you do want to make parlays consider including smaller combinations within the parlay. This means that one loss won’t derail the whole bet.
Nitrogen (review) and mBit (review) are the best sportsbooks to make parlays at because they are so easy to setup and adjust in the bet slip. They are also top shelf operators all round so if you want to try parlays you would do well to open an account with them.