What is a Parlay Bet? – Parlay Betting Explained

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Written by Dan Fitch

Updated: 08:17 am EST, 04/07/2024

A parlay is a type of bet containing multiple picks combined into a single wager. All elements of it must win for parlay payouts to a bettor. We’re going to take a deep dive into the topic of what is a parlay bet so that you know exactly how they work and will be confident in placing one yourself.

How Does a Parlay Bet Work?

A parlay is often known as a multiple bet or accumulator. It is when you group together two or more separate wagers to form one bet.

All of the selections in your parlay have to be successful for the overall bet to win. If one or more of the picks in your parlay fail to win, then the parlay as a whole will be a loser.

Parlays are a very popular choice amongst bettors. For one, it is a way to combine picks with low odds such as favorites, to create one overall bet with a potentially larger payout.

It is also a fun way to create interest from a packed night of NBA fixtures, or from a Sunday afternoon of NFL games. You can even create a parlay with picks from different leagues and sports.

Parlay Bet Example

Having explained the parlay bet meaning we’re now going to give you an example that shows you exactly how one works.

We’ll keep it simple with a treble, another name for a three-team parlay. These are our chosen parlay wagers below:

There are three baseball teams, all favorites, to win based on moneyline bets:

  • Baltimore Orioles at -144
  • Boston Red Sox at -161
  • New York Mets at -118

We have placed a $10 bet which will see us win $40.75 if all three of our teams are successful in their games. If one or more of our selections fails to win, then our parlay will be a loser.

So how does this parlay return $40.75 from a $10 bet, when all of our picks are strong favorites? Let’s break it down.

When a leg of your parlay is successful, the stake and winnings from that leg transfer onto the next leg. So in this case it would work out as follows:

  • $10 on Baltimore Orioles wins at -144 = $16.94 ($6.94 in winnings + $10 stake)
  • $16.94 on Boston Red Sox at -161 = $27.46 ($10.52 in winnings + $16.94 stake)
  • $27.46 on New York Mets at -118 = ($23.29 in winnings + $27.46 stake)

Each time a leg of the parlay wins, the winnings and stake rollover to the next part of the parlay. So combining three strong favorites with $10, can collectively return a decent sum of $40.75.

As you might imagine, it’s difficult to work out the potential returns from a parlay, especially if it contains lots of selections. For this reason we recommend using a parlay bet calculator, where you can select the number of picks then add in the odds for an instant calculation.

Different Types of Parlay Betting

Now it’s time to take a look at the different types of parlays that you can create.

2-Team Parlay

Also known as a double, this is the simplest parlay that it is possible to create. There are only two selections, so depending on the odds of your picks, there can be a strong statistical likelihood that a two-team parlay will win.

3-Team Parlay

As we explained with our example, a three-team parlay is known as a treble. Again, if you choose picks with really short odds you can create a strong likelihood that your treble will win. Equally, as our example demonstrated, there is the potential to get a significant return on a three-leg parlay, even if all the picks are favorites.

4-Team Parlays & Up

Anything above three selections is generally just known as a parlay, though sometimes you might say four-team parlay or 5-team parlay, to indicate how many selections the parlay contains. With larger parlays we move into the territory of being able to land huge rewards, but of course the risk is greater too. There is no limit on the amount of picks you put into a parlay, though the more you have, the stronger the chance that at least one will let you down.

What is a Parlay Bet in Combos & Systems?

Another possibility when placing a bet with a number of selections is to create types of wagers known as combo bets or system bets.

With these popular type of bets a parlay containing all the picks is included, but other combinations are also made. So a trixie for example, contains three selections which combine to make up a total of four different bets. There’s a treble containing all three picks and also three doubles.

A patent is exactly like a trixie but with single bets included on the three picks. So this type of system bet contains seven individual wagers. It’s not a single parlay bet.

With this bet type, your unit stake is multiplied by how many wagers are in the combination bet. So a $10 trixie would cost you $40 ($10 stake x 4 bets), while a $10 patent would cost you $70 ($10 stake x 7 bets).

The advantage of these types of bets is that you can get a return on your investment, even if one or more of your selections in the system lets you down. You don’t need the entire parlay to win.

So say that only two of your patent selections were winners and the third pick lost. You would still have two winning singles and one winning double. Depending on the odds of the selections, it would be possible to make a profit from just two of your three picks winning.

The disadvantage is the extra expense. If two of your three patent picks lost and you only had one winner, that winner would need to be priced at relatively big parlay odds for you to see a profit.

How to Place a Parlay Bet

By now you might be considering placing a parlay of your own. Follow our step-by-step instructions for placing a parlay. We’ve used BetOnline as an example.

1. Visit the Sportsbook Site

You’ll need to visit your chosen offshore sportsbook. Follow our example from BetOnline exactly, or pick another bookmaker of your choice.

2. Register Your Details

Click on the green button marked ‘Join Now’ (or similar if on another sportsbook). This will take you to the registration page where you can add your details.

3. Deposit Funds

You’ll need to add some funds before you can make a bet. Go to the cashier section, choose a payment option, the amount that you want to deposit and confirm.

4. Pick Your Parlay

Navigate around the sportsbook and pick the selections that you want to add to your parlay, by clicking on the odds.

5. Place Your Parlay

When you click on the bets you want to make they will be added to your bet slip. Select the parlay tab at the top of the slip. Choose your stake and confirm your parlay.

What is a Same Game Parlay Bet?

Until relatively recently it was impossible to create a parlay with picks from within the same sporting event. This is because of a factor known as related contingency.

Say you were betting on a soccer game and tried to create a double where a certain team won and a player from that same team would score a goal. The fact that the player scored, would automatically make it likelier that the team would win, making the parlay somewhat difficult to calculate.

This was a puzzle for sportsbooks to overcome and they have done so with the same game parlay. They’ve managed to create a system that factors in the related contingency aspect and is able to offer you modified odds on your parlay.

Same game parlay betting is now a popular choice for bettors. They can combine several bets from within the same game. You can go for a big win with lots of selections, or just try to create a little extra value by combining a couple of favorites at short odds.

Parlay vs Straight Bet Pros & Cons

No investigation into what is a parlay bet would be complete without looking at the disadvantages, along with the perks. In our opinion, these are the pros and cons of the traditional parlay alongside straight bets.


  • Possible to either play it safe or create parlay with huge potential payout
  • Fun bet choice for when there’s a packed schedule of sporting action
  • Flexibility in terms of choosing picks from different sports and events
  • Same game parlays are a great choice for betting on a single game


  • Just one losing pick makes your whole parlay lose
  • More picks in parlay increases your chances of failure

Effective Parlay Betting Strategy & Tips

Now that the parlay bet definition has been explained, you may be considering placing one of your own. Here are some parlay sports betting strategies that will boost your profitability.

Do Your Math

It makes sense to work out how much you can win from a parlay before you commit to it. Is it necessary to add that extra pick that will only slightly increase the overall odds, but adds more risk? With a parlay calculator you can work through your varying options, before committing to your final parlay.

Consider Hedging

Say you’ve got a five-team parlay where four of those teams have already won and you are just waiting on the final result to see if your parlay wins. You could just hope for the best, or you could hedge the bet. Hedging, although it shares some similarities with how arbitrage betting works, means backing the opposite outcome of your remaining bet. It is done in a way that protects your stake or guarantees you a profit either way.

Make Use of Sportsbook Features

Some online sportsbooks reduce the need to hedge by offering a cash out facility, where they give you an offer on your parlay, so that you can cash out early. Parlay insurance is another feature to look out for. If only one of your picks loses, you get your stake back. A parlay boost offer means that the more picks you choose in your parlay, the greater percentage of bonus funds will be added to your winnings.


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