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What Are Sports Betting Parlays?

Updated: October 2017

Sports betting parlays are a technique of sports betting whereby you make a number of bets on the same "ticket". What this means is that, in order for you to win, all you wagers on the same ticket must win in order for you to receive a profit.

This is attractive to many beginning bettors, as it seems that there are the possibilities for really high payouts with less risk. However, this is simply not true and an experienced bettor sees right through this.

Parlays in fact, have lower or equal payouts and higher variance compared to the straight bets. For the most part, sports betting parlays are seen as "sucker bets" - explained in detail below - but there are also some specific instances where this technique makes sense, and this will be described in brief as well.

What Makes Sports Betting Parlays "Sucker Bets"?

In short, a sucker bet is one that gives the bettor the illusion of good odds for a high payout, when an illusion is merely all it is. In these types of betting schemes, the odds are often stacked against you. Using the example of the coin toss to illustrate this concept, if we were going to flip the coin two times, there would be four possible outcomes: heads/heads, tails/tails, heads/tails, or tails/heads. By using this as our example in illustrating a sports parlay, you would bet on one of these outcomes resulting.

This gives you 3-to-1 odds, with a low payout. Whereas if you place separate bets, using our coin tossing example, you can risk a certain amount on different outcomes, and the payout seems to be much greater when using individual bets. Parlays are often "edged" towards the "house", or bookie, and to a much higher degree than bets on regular sports books, which often range from 4-5% as opposed to 30-40% on parlays.

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The Times When Sports Betting Parlays Make Sense

The Correlated Parlay
If betting on events that are correlated - meaning they relate to one another in some sense - is an instance where sports betting parlays make sense. Due to the related nature of the events, you would have a much higher likelihood of generating a larger profit than by betting separately.

Sportsbook Bonus Offers
Sometimes, with certain sports book betting operations, cash bonuses or free "credits" are awarded. We can look at these rewards as "free bets" and thus be willing to take higher risk on them, as their bankroll can only be positively affected by the outcome. Using your free bets to use sports betting parlays is a way to stretch out those free dollars and make high risk bets.

To Circumvent Limits
Many sports book limit the amount that one can bet. Even using a number of different sports books, so-called "High Rollers" will soon find that they've quickly met the limits of betting on these books. The use of sports betting parlays is a great way of getting around these limits. There aren't many instances when parlays are actually beneficial strategies to employ.

So far we have managed to find three instances where parlay betting can make sense. There is also one more potential alternative of a parlay that can be profitable - a teaser. In general these are sucker bets, but there are also some profitable examples.

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