Making longshot parlays your sole sports betting strategy obviously isn’t the best idea. Instead, see parlays as a one-off for a fun sweat where you hope to get extremely lucky.

You aren’t going to hit that 12-leg NFL parlay – but betting a few bucks on it (if you can afford to lose it), can be fun.

When North Carolina finally legalizes online sports betting, you’ll be able to bet parlays and same-game parlays on all the major sports (and then some).

Here are the key things to know about parlays and how to get the most out of them.

What is a parlay bet?

Put two or more bets together into a single wager and you’re betting a parlay.

You get better odds than you would if you made each bet individually, but there’s a catch. You must win every bet in the parlay, otherwise known as a leg, to get paid.

Lose even one leg in any multi-leg parlay and that parlay is a loser.

The difficulty in stringing multiple winners together is why the odds are so big and why parlays give you at least a shot at a big payday, even if you bet just a small amount. And as you can probably tell, the more legs you add, the better the parlay odds but, the more difficult that parlay will be to win.

Parlays are available for every bet on the board at a sportsbook. Anything goes. You can combine different sports, different games, and different bet types.

You can even bet parlays with each leg involving the same game. Plus, teaser and pleaser parlays allow you to play around with the sports lines in exchange for either reduced or even bigger odds.

How to place a parlay bet online

Parlay bets take up a significant portion of the weekly handle at NC sportsbooks. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Browse through all the available bets and click on the first bet you want to make a part of your parlay to create a bet slip
  2. Continue browsing and add more bets to the slip by clicking on each one
  3. The bet slip will give you the option of putting the bets together in a parlay or leaving them as individual bets and show you the odds
  4. Enter the amount you want to bet, and the bet slip will show you what you stand to win
  5. Confirm and place the bet on the parlay with one final click

On a typical mid-NBA season Tuesday Night we put together a 3-leg point spread parlay at Caesars Sportsbook. We did so by clicking on the following:

  • Milwaukee Bucks -1
  • Brooklyn Nets -4
  • Philadelphia 76ers +1.5

Caesars offered +581 odds on this 3-leg parlay. We plugged in $5 as the bet amount, and the slip told us the total payout would be $34.07 if all three teams covered.

After that, we tried betting $2 on each one of the three games individually and saw we could only earn $11.38.

Of course, betting each leg individually meant we wouldn’t need to win every leg to earn at least a little something. However, the potential payout was exponentially larger on the parlay, even though it was a slightly smaller bet amount.

What are the odds of hitting a parlay?

The odds of hitting a parlay vary based on the number of legs and the odds of winning each bet individually.

Using the standard -110 odds you’ll typically see for even-money/small vig bets like point spreads and totals, the odds of winning are as follows:

  • Two-team parlay – 27.47 percent
  • Three-team parlay – 14.37 percent
  • Four-team parlay – 7.52 percent
  • Five-team parlay – 3.94 percent
  • Six-team parlay – 2.06 percent
  • Seven-team parlay – 1.08 percent
  • Eight-team parlay – 0.56 percent
  • Nine-team parlay – 0.30 percent
  • 10-team parlay – 0.15 percent

How much does a parlay bet pay out?

Parlays filled with standard even-money/small vig bets like point spreads and totals typically pay around:

  • 13:5 for 2 legs
  • 6:1 for 3 legs
  • 10:1 for 4 legs
  • 20:1 for 5 legs
  • 40:1 for 6 legs
  • 75:1 for 7 legs
  • 150:1 for 8 legs

On the same typical mid-NBA season Tuesday Night we mentioned earlier we put together a 3-leg point spread parlay at Caesars Sportsbook where all three legs were listed individually at -110 odds. These bets included:

  • Brooklyn Nets -2
  • Portland Trail Blazers +5.5
  • Philadelphia 76ers +1.5

Caesars offered +596 odds on this 3-leg parlay, which meant it paid close to the standard 6:1 with a bit more of a vig baked in. We plugged in $25 as the bet amount, and the slip told us the total payout would be $173.95 if all three teams covered.

The odds listed above can be used as a guideline, particularly when you’re ticking boxes picking games on a parlay card.

Parlay cards list all the bets you can put together as a part of a parlay in one place. You tick the boxes on the legs you want and hand over the card and your cash at the betting window.

Sportsbooks might put together parlay cards for every game in a single day or even a single sport’s slate of games on one day, like a typical NFL Sunday.

However, the best way to see the potential payout on any parlay is to enter that parlay into a bet slip at an online sportsbook. Various parlay calculators are also available online that will help you quickly calculate parlay odds and the payout of your bet.

Why bet parlays over other bets?

The main reason to bet parlays is to increase your bets’ odds and potential payouts. Bet multiple favorites individually, and the reward is rarely worth the risk.

Put those same bets together in a parlay, and suddenly it may be. That said, there are no guarantees and winning every leg in a parlay is tough, even picking all favorites.

Parlays can turn a bunch of favorites into a longshot and a bunch of longshots into an even longer one. While it’s certainly worth it trying to turn a small bet into a big payday with parlays, this is most definitely not the kind of bet you can expect to win consistently.

That’s why professional sports bettors tend to avoid parlays. However, parlays can be fun, and the story of a recreational gambler who turns a few bucks into a few hundred thousand with a massive parlay win will always grab headlines and keep people playing parlays.

What is the optimal number of legs in a parlay?

Three-leg parlays that pay close to 6:1 odds or better are considered optimal. They offer the big potential payout and something close to the odds of putting together three winners.

The payout isn’t big enough on two-leg parlays, and the odds come up short of true odds when you make it four legs or more.

Why are parlays high risk?

Sports betting is and always will be a risk versus reward proposition. In every bet, you must consider your risk versus the potential reward and decide if it’s worth it.

Parlays involve some additional risk. This stems from trying to put together multiple wins. The rewards are also bigger, making your entire risk versus reward calculation different when you’re considering betting a parlay.

The more legs in your parlay, the bigger your risk. But that also means your potential reward is bigger. Picking all favorites may sound like the perfect plan, but it really does very little to mitigate the risk. Upsets happen more often than you might think.

When it comes to parlays, calculating risk is more about how many legs you have than the individual odds of each one. However, that doesn’t mean the all-underdog parlay isn’t an even riskier proposition.

Is it better to bet favorites or underdogs on a parlay bet?

You want to find a balance of underdogs and favorites that works for you. An all-favorites parlay will likely win, but it’ll pay less than an all-underdogs parlay. The balance is found in choosing a reasonable number of legs with fair odds on each.

Of course, you can combine all favorites or underdogs, but finding that balance between risk and reward and placing bets with a realistic chance of paying off should always be your goal.

How much should you bet on a parlay?

Never bet more than you can afford to lose on anything. However, parlays should be about winning big with very little or taking small risks with the potential for big rewards.

That means you should keep your bets small. Take a chance with a few bucks here and there, and maybe you’ll get lucky.

Which sport is best for parlays – football, basketball or baseball?

No one sport is better than any other when it comes to betting parlays. That said, sports that feature a slate of games on any given day may be more suitable for parlay betting.

NFL parlays are the most popular because the NFL schedule can include up to 14 games on a Sunday, the chance to kick off parlays with Thursday Night games, and finish them off or hedge with Monday Night games.

NBA and MLB parlays are almost as popular because these leagues play multiple games every night of the week throughout the season, giving you many parlay betting opportunities.

Parlay odds vs. true odds

Parlay odds are what a parlay pays. True odds are the actual odds of you winning a bet, including a parlay. Your goal should be to find bets that pay something close to the true odds.

Regarding the best parlay bets, three-leg parlays are the only ones that really fit that bill. Most pay 6:1, which is close to the 14.37 percent chance of you winning all three legs.

What is a same-game parlay and why are they so popular?

Same Game Parlays are parlays put together with legs from the same game.

The popularity of these bets stem from how easy they are to put together, the speed with which they are settled, and the fact you can keep track of the entire parlay by watching just one game.

Same Game Parlays also let you string together correlated plays or closely tied together legs, giving you an even better chance of winning when you’re on the right side of things.

What are the key differences between same-game parlays and other parlays?

Obviously, the big difference between same-game parlays and other parlays is that the legs in a same-game parlay all surround a single game.

That means same-game parlays offer the chance to string together connected legs, otherwise known as correlated plays.

That means two things: A greater chance of winning and lower odds paid. Ultimately, these two things are the key differences between same-game parlay and other parlays.

Which sportsbooks offer same-game parlays?

What is Parlay Insurance?

Parlay Insurance is a promotion that different sportsbooks can run. Essentially, this promo offers a bonus bet refund when you come within a single leg of winning a parlay.

Quite often there are limits to the size of the refund you can get and a minimum number of legs in the parlay required.

Can I get an early cashout before the final leg of a parlay?

If the sportsbook you bet with offers early cashouts as an option on parlays, you’ll see the offer online before the final leg of the parlay is complete.

You can take it or let it ride, but keep in mind that hedging the bet yourself, by betting the other way on your final leg, may offer even more value than the early cashout.

Sportsbook rules for parlay betting payouts

Sportsbooks settle parlays based on official league data immediately after all games in a parlay are concluded and according to a published set of rules. Check with any sportsbook to see these rules before you place a bet.

Parlay payouts should be immediately found in your account once a winning parlay is settled, no matter how big that payout may be.

Parlay betting FAQs

What is a Round Robin Parlay?

Round Robin parlays take the teams you would otherwise bet in a larger parlay and group them together in different combinations of smaller parlays. The theory is you can still be profitable placing multiple parlay bets with a better chance of winning at least one.

What happens if a game is cancelled or suspended in your parlay?

If a game in your parlay is cancelled or suspended it is removed from your parlay and the odds are adjusted accordingly. You can still win a parlay with a cancelled or suspended game as long as you win every other leg involved. However, you will get paid less than the original potential payout.

What is a bing bong parlay?

Bing Bong parlays involve all New York teams. The term ‘Bing Bong’ comes from the sound the NY Subway doors make when they are closing.

What is the biggest parlay ever paid out?

In May 2022, one New York sports bettor won a record $219,746.19 on a $6.90 16-team parlay at Caesars Sportsbook. That’s a  31,847:1 payout. The ticket included eight MLB moneylines, an MLB run line, four NHL playoff game bets, and two NBA playoff game bets. In total, he bet ten favorites and six underdogs.

About the Author

Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire is Content Contributor with NC Sharp. He’s been writing online casino and sports betting content since 2007, making him a true industry veteran. Derbyshire has travelled to and written about casino, sports betting, and gambling culture all over the world, from the Las Vegas Strip and High Street Bookmakers in the UK to the casino resorts in the Special Administrative Region of Macau. Before immersing himself in the casino and gaming industry, Derbyshire earned a Post-Graduate Certificate in Journalism from Langara College in Vancouver, BC, and was a crime reporter in the Greater Toronto Area. Some of his top stories appeared in the Toronto Star. Derbyshire now lives with his family in Buriram, Thailand.