Parlays: A More Complex Bet

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Parlays can be enticing because of their potential payouts, but you have to get everything exactly right to win.


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Parlays can offer some enticing payouts, but you have to get everything exactly right.

Up until this point, our guide has focused on single scenario wagers – picking the winning team, or the over/under on a particular game statistic. A parlay, by comparison, goes in a different direction.

A parlay is a type of sports bet where you have multiple scenarios that all need to happen for you to win your bet. For example, you could have a ticket that, with one bet, places a bet on the outcome of five games. To win this bet, you’ll have to be right on all five selections – get just one wrong pick and the bet is a losing one. (In sports betting terms each outcome on a parlay bet is known as a leg.)

Generally speaking, you need to be both very knowledgeable about what you’re betting on, as well as very lucky, to see these through. The payouts can be very tempting – bet a small amount to have a chance to win really large amounts.That said, the reason why casinos can offer this is because the odds of succeeding gets slimmer and slimmer as the number of outcomes increase.

A quick Internet search around parlays shows a lot of educational content about how to do them, many written by the same sportsbook providers that offer them. Parlays have long existed in sports betting, but they’ve grown in popularity because of the chances of winning big on small bets. More sportsbooks have in turn been implementing stronger Parlay capabilities, and encouraging players to give them a try.

This mirrors trends of players of slot machines, for instance, being interested in games with higher volatility for a chase of a bigger win, even though an individual’s odds of winning overall goes down. The same goes for lottery games like Powerball and Mega Millions, which have heavily decreased the odds of winning the top prizes, but have been able to increase those prizes to make them more enticing to players.

As a result, those long odds often work in favor of the sportsbooks offering them, as the chances of paying them out aren’t as high – and therefore generally also offer strong margins for the casino because of how they’re structured.

Single/Same-Game Parlay: Quickly Growing Variation

Same-game parlay examples on BetMGM
Same-game parlay examples on BetMGM

With the continued ability for technology to facilitate sports betting, an area that has grown quickly in recent years is what’s known as the single-game parlay.

With the single-game, or same-game, parlay, sportsbooks have introduced the ability to make multiple bets on a single game, such as who scores the first touchdown or whether a team will beat the other by five points or more. 

This can be appealing because all of the legs on a single-game parlay resolve within a single game, as opposed to a longer window of time, whether it be a week in the NFL schedule, an entire sports season or even wagers that cross between sports over a matter of months.

But as with any parlay bet, every outcome you bet on must all come true to win the payout – it’s literally all or nothing. If one leg isn’t successful, the bet is lost.

Parlays are best for players who have already become acclimated to sports betting, as each of the individual bet types are available as a leg in a parlay. Of course, for those who want to take a chance on a more difficult swing, you can certainly do so even as a beginner, but it’s important to realize it can be much harder to realize a win on a parlay than on a single outcome wager.


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