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Should I Bet Parlays – Yes or No?

Scott Morris | August 19, 2023
betting parlays - is it worth it?

There’s a reason why seasoned gamblers stay away from betting parlays. However, is there any situation where betting a parlay might be a good idea? The average bettor sees the plus-money odds on a parlay and begins to salivate. The problem is that winning a parlay is a bit harder than the average bettor thinks. 

If you have any sports betting experience, you probably know that in order to simply break even you’ll need to hit 52.38 percent of your bets at the standard odds of -110. The 52.38 percent represents the probability of winning a bet at -110 odds. You would also know that a parlay is a single bet consisting of multiple bets. When you add in another wager, the probability of hitting both of them drops significantly. That’s why sportsbooks love them.


The Dream Parlay

Bettors dream of the day they hit a 10-leg parlay. A parlay can consist of virtually anything that your sportsbook will allow. You could bet on one sport, say football. The bets could be moneyline bets, point spread bets, totals, even props. A parlay could consist of multiple sports too. You might have a couple MLB games tied in with some NFL and college football games, for example. 

The payout on a 10-leg parlay? 720-1 is what most sportsbooks will pay. The true odds of hitting a 10-leg parlay are about 1023-1. There’s another reason why sportsbooks love parlays. They don’t pay out the true odds value. Regardless, a 10-leg parlay is difficult to win. Every wager you add to a parlay lowers the probability of it winning. Adding a second wager and making a two-leg parlay reduces the likelihood of winning to 27.38 percent. A third leg takes it down to 14.35 and a 10-leg parlay has a probability of winning of … wait for it … 0.16 percent!


How to Bet Parlays

Knowing that the deck is stacked against you as a bettor in terms of parlays, you have to pick and choose when to make a parlay wager. It’s very similar to a diet. If you have heart issues, you have to watch your cholesterol. Eating a greasy diet full of fatty foods will kill you. 

It’s the same with parlays. A steady diet of parlays will eventually bankrupt you. Just betting two-leg parlays means you have to be successful nearly 73 percent of the time just to break even. Imagine making one two-leg parlay bet per day for ten days. Do you think you’ll consistently hit seven of those 10 bets? That’s why you need to choose wisely when betting parlays.


Three- and Five-Leg Parlays

Expected value is something beyond the scope of this article, but we should understand it. Expected value in our case is what we expect to make or lose on a bet. Parlays will always have a negative expected value. The expected value (EV) decreases as you add legs to a parlay bet. However, the EV actually increases when you add a third leg. That is why it makes sense to add a third leg to a parlay, if possible. 

When adding a fifth leg to a parlay, the change in EV is negligible. If you have four legs, you should add a fifth, if possible, in order to get the higher payout.


The Teaser

The NFL two-team teaser is a type of parlay bet that is pretty popular. A teaser is a form of a parlay bet where the bettor can adjust the point spread in his/her favor. The tradeoff, of course, is a lower payout. 

Two point spread bets at -110 odds parlayed together will pay out at -120. The teaser is a much safer bet because of the ability to control one of the variables. In the NFL, scoring is fixed and, as a result, there are some key numbers. Most games end with a scoring margin of three points. Other key numbers include six and seven.

Knowing these key numbers bettors can take two games with point spreads of say -7.5 and +2.5. With the 6-point tease, the new spreads become -1.5 and +8.5. The favorite now only has to win by two and the underdog can lose by eight or less. 

The bottom line is this. Treat parlay bets like you would any of your vices. Having a cold one every now and then is fine. Drinking the entire case usually leads to bad results. It’s the same with parlays. Don’t let them ruin your bankroll by using them too often.


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