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When is a parlay a wise bet?

Author: americangambler | Last Updated: August 7, 2019

Parlays is like the chocolate sundaes of sports betting. Every once in a while, they can prove to be a delightful addition to your wagering menu. But if you try to feast on a steady diet of each of these exotic delicacies, your waistline will balloon and your bank account will evaporate.

Parlay betting

Winning parlay bet with 9 selections. What a strategy!?

Is parlay a good bet?

Some bettors look upon parlays as fool’s gold, nothing more than a sucker bet. They scoff at the parlay chasers in the same manner that horse players shrug off the antics of those who perennially wager on exotics at the racetrack like triactors and Pick Fours.

The chocolate sundae parallel is spot on, because parlay bets are like tasty sweets when you’re on a diet – ever so tempting. But you know, as much as they seem like a good idea in the moment, there’s going to be nothing but regret on the other side of this outcome.

So why play a parlay?

Well, unless you’re independently wealthy and can afford to wager major sums on straight bets, the chance of scoring big betting on sports is remote. 

The parlay bets offer the chance for the little guy to make the big hit. Successful parlay plays can result in six or even seven-figure payouts. Yes, those are extreme longshot wagers but every once in a while, a longshot does come in.

When is the time to play a parlay? Read on before you place parlays at BetAmerica or William Hill NJ and we’ll let you in on the secret.

How to win sports betting parlays?

Being patient with a parlay bet pays dividends. A friend who was a long-time horse bettor followed the same approach to playing the horses. Each morning, he’d get that night’s program. He’d spend the better part of his morning perusing the races, calculating, deciphering, deciding. 

When he was done, he might’ve picked two or three wagers to play that night. On the other hand, if there was nothing there that caught his fancy, he’d pass and keep his money in his wallet. 

But you know what? More often than not, he hit on his parlay bets. He won more than he lost. He came out ahead. Sounds like a good parlay betting strategy?

Likewise, another friend was a slots player. He’d go to the casino with $20, put it into a machine and begin playing. When the $20 was done, he was done. And if he hit a winner, he was also done. 

He might only be a little bit ahead – one night, it was a mere $7 profit – but his point of view was he’d be going home with more money than he had in his pocket when he’d arrived.

This is the type of approach you need to take toward parlay wagering. It isn’t something you do on a daily basis, because let’s face it, the chances of hitting a parlay are remote. 

What is the best way to play parlays?

Among other rules and strategies this one is a crucial one – with parlay betting you have to stay patient and stay vigilant. Watch for games that are good plays, Maybe it’s a team that hasn’t won in a city for a very long time, or a tired club finishing out a long road trip. Couple those games with a longshot underdog and you just might catch yourself a tidy payday.

The Odds Are Against You

They don’t keep building more casinos and opening more sportsbooks because they are money losers. Likewise, sportsbooks don’t offer a vast array of parlay wagers because they regularly pay out on them. 

No one walks out of their local convenience store clutching a lottery ticket, striding confidently to the car enriched with the knowledge that they hold the winner in their hand. You buy that lottery ticket so that you are in with a chance. 

It’s the same to a lesser extent with parlays. 

Before doing a parlay betting, know that the chances of winning even a three-team parlay are remote at best. A skilled handicapper is lucky to pick winners on 55 percent of their bets over the course of a season. And that’s when making straight bets. 

Factor in two or more games to the equation and it’s not difficult to imagine how the chances of winning are diminished.

Three is the lucky number

When playing parlays in NFL, for example, three is the magic number. To play a parlay of more than three teams is a foolish move, not only because it is unlikely to come in but also because you give far too much to the house in terms of  the vig, the fee charged by a sportsbook for accepting a gambler's wager.

On a two-game parlay, the odds are 3-1 against you hitting a winning wager. Increase it to a three-game parlay and now the odds are 7-1 against you. What’s curious in this equation, though, is not only that the odds are so strong in favor of the house but also, the payout from the house is reduced due to the vig taken by the sportsbook on each parlay wager. Industry standards, based on odds of -110, will get you 6-1 odds if you play a three-game parlay and 2.6-1 odds is the price offered on a two-game parlay.

As you increase the number of games in your parlay play, the odds continue to tilt significantly toward the house on both sides of the equation. It’s 15-1 that you’ll hit on a four-game parlay but if you do it only pays out at between 10-1 to 12-1. At eight games, the chances of a successful parlay wager are 255-1 but the payout if you’re a winner is generally between 150-1 and 175-1. 

This is why three should always be your limit when you opt to parlay. The chances of hitting it are much better, and the odds in terms of the payout are almost identical. 

It’s hard enough to beat the house as it is. Why would you want to give them such a huge take on what is the hardest wager of all to win.

Most sportsbooks will provide a chart displaying their payouts on parlay wagers. Shop around to get the best odds before placing your bet. Likewise, the majority of sportsbooks will calculate an updated payout on their website as you input a parlay wager. You can decide if it’s worth the risk before placing the bet.

Seek out parlay insurance

Some sportsbooks will offer you what’s called parlay insurance. At FanDuel, for instance, insurance is offered on any parlay of four games or greater. They will provide you a maximum refund of $25 if you hit three of four legs on your parlay.

In other words, should you pick a $25 parlay of four NFL games – let’s say Cleveland over Cincinnati, Seattle over San Francisco, Minnesota over Detroit and New England over Buffalo. Let’s assume that the Patriots, Vikings and Browns all come through for you and win but the 49ers upset the Seahawks. 

Go three-for-four and this is a no-lose proposition for you, because FanDuel will refund the $25 wager to your account. And if all four teams in your parlay win, it pays off as a winner. 

Naturally, you’ll want to read the terms and conditions at any sportsbook before placing a wager with parlay insurance.

Know your limits

Parlays bets should not be a staple of your wagering blueprint. Every once in a while, though, it doesn’t hurt to bet outside the box, have a bit of fun and try to hit it big.

A parlay play can turn a small wager in a significant score. That’s the lure. It’s also why sportsbooks play it up big whenever some makes a major score from them on a parlay wager, to entice others to try and dream the impossible dream.

Like we said before, treat a parlay like a lottery ticket. It’s okay to play one every so often but don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s going to come in for you.

Parlay plays are like the nerd who asks the homecoming queen to the prom, or the mail-room clerk who applies to be CEO of the company. It’s unlikely to end in a positive outcome but you have to admire them for dreaming big.