What Are Parlay Bets?

Samu-Ville Lampiranta
By Samu-Ville Lampiranta
Sports & Casino Expert
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Updated Jan 17, 2023
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Read time 8 min

Parlay bets are a tricky form of betting to master, but these bets can be quite rewarding once you get the hang of it. Read our parlay betting guide to learn everything you need to know about online betting parlays and parlay betting strategy. 

How Do Parlay Bets Work? 

There are two types of available parlay bets: regular parlays and match parlays. Whichever you choose, it’s good to know the basics before you start staking your own money. Here are the most common types of parlay betting explained. 

Regular Parlays 

Regular parlays are sometimes called combination or combo bets, or accumulators. Whatever you choose to call them, the idea stays the same. In parlay bets, you choose several outcomes on one bet coupon, raising the odds and potential payouts significantly. The downside is, you’ll need to get all of them right to win the bet. 

Let’s take an example: you bet on the NBA and pick home teams to win. Here are the matches and their odds: 

  • Celtics – Wizards, odds 1.40
  • Bucks – Pistons, odds 1.30
  • Pelicans – Suns, odds 1.80. 

The final odds are 3.27 (1.40 x 1.30 x 1.80), so with a $60 bet your total payout would be $196.56. If you placed a single bet of $20 on each of these matches, the total payouts combined would amount to $144, so roughly 25% less. 

Match Parlay Bets

Many betting sites offer match parlays for some sports, like football and ice hockey. In these bets, you increase the odds by adding certain events of the same match to the same bet. 

For example, when you bet on a football match, you can predict the winner and add a goal scorer bet. You can also include the number of corners taken by the other team, and the amount of cards shown during the match. 

Match parlays are great when there is a clear favorite in the match, as you can try to increase the odds by adding more elements to them. 

Push On a Parlay 

Push means a bet is voided.   This could happen for a number of reasons. One unfortunately quite common reason is a match being canceled due to bad weather or other circumstances that can’t be controlled by the participants. 

But what happens to an online betting parlay in these cases? If only one match in your parlay is canceled, it does not mean the whole bet is voided. Instead, only the odds of that one match are. Let’s take an example. 

You bet on the English Premier League that  these matches will  end in a tie with the following odds:  

  • Arsenal – Chelsea, odds 3.00
  • Everton – Liverpool FC, odds 3.00
  • West Ham – Crystal Palace, odds 3.00.

It just so happens that the weather in Liverpool is horrible, and the Liverpool derby is canceled. If it was not, your odds would be 27.00 (3 x 3 x 3), but as one match has been canceled and the odds voided, your new odds are now 9 (3 x 1 x 3). 

Parlay Betting Strategy 

When you start making your first parlay bets, it might feel like a good idea to just pick some matches and outcomes at random. That’s a poor decision, though it might result in a win every now and then. 

One thing you should always keep in mind is the more matches you add to your parlay, the less likely you are to win. Surprises are a part of sports, and with parlays, only one surprise is enough to ruin everything. 

The more likely the outcome of an event, the lower the odds. Betting only on lower odds means you are more likely to win, but then again, surprises can give your parlay odds a big boost. Consider how big of a risk you want to take before you start parlay betting online. 

Football Parlay Betting 

Football is one of the most common sports in parlay bets. If you want to try out something a bit different from the regular 1X2 parlays, you are spoiled for choice. Try betting on total corner kicks or offsides, or even match total goals if you want to try something new. 

Tennis Parlay Betting 

Tennis parlays are often used to getting better odds, as the heavy favorites usually have very low odds. You can also combine set betting, handicaps, or any other types of tennis markets, so you’re not forced to only bet on match results. 

Basketball Parlay Betting 

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the betting world. Much like in tennis, the favorites usually have not-so-tempting odds. This can be easily fixed with parlays, as you can simply put a few favorites together for higher odds.

Parlays Can Be Lucrative, But Be Careful 

Thanks to the potentially massive payouts, parlays are tempting. However, that comes at a cost: you’ll need to be perfect and get every leg on your coupon right, or otherwise, the whole bet is lost. That’s why it’s important to keep a few rules of thumb in mind: 

  • Choose lower odds and more likely outcomes
  • Don’t add too many markets on the same coupon
  • Don’t use your whole betting budget on one parlay. 

Parlays can be a lot of fun and very lucrative, but you might need a bit of luck. There are no certainties in sports, so weigh the risk against the potential reward carefully when you create parlay bets.

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Samu-Ville Lampiranta
Samu-Ville Lampiranta
Sports & Casino Expert

Samu-Ville knows the ins and outs of online gambling having worked in the industry since 2013 in various roles from customer support agent to content writer and manager. He knows how to look at casinos and sports betting sites from both sides of the fence, and uses his experience to give his articles a unique view from the inside.