Even if you are new to the world of sports betting, you may have already heard of the term “parlay“—either in reference to gambling or just the general idea of combining ideas or elements into a broader result. In a parlay wager, bettors need multiple outcomes to be correct for the bet to win. It’s all or nothing.
Parlays are a popular way to bet on the NFL. There’s the potential to cash in a big payout despite the difficulty of winning. Even if you get four of five outcomes correct, the entire bet is a loser due to the single incorrect leg of the parlay. That does not scare away many bettors, though. Some sportsbooks say 50 percent or more of their revenue comes from parlays.
It’s all a balance. There’s a huge appeal to long odds and glorious paydays. There’s a huge risk of falling short routinely with just one error.
In this guide, we will take you through the basics of NFL parlays. We’ll discuss how odds work and the various parlay variations, as you prepare to consider some parlay betting when sports betting goes live in Texas.
Why are NFL parlay bets so popular?
The biggest pull for bettors is the idea of risking a small amount of money in exchange for a major payout with a winning wager.
Additionally, the NFL’s weekly game schedule lends itself perfectly to parlay wagering. From early September through the start of January, the NFL always offers a broad Sunday game slate. Bettors can take a shot at parlays while enjoying a full day of NFL football.
There’s also the appeal of customization. Bettors have the freedom to create their own wager by linking multiple combinations of bet types. These include the moneyline, point spread, over/under, props and more.
How do NFL parlays work?
Each bet in an NFL parlay is called a leg. If you get a single leg wrong in the parlay, the entire bet is a loss. For a bet to be considered a parlay, there must be a minimum of two legs. The maximum number of legs varies by sportsbook. Many books will max out at 10 or 12 legs, but you will have to check out the rules and regulations.
A few variations to consider within parlay betting include progressives, multi-chance and open spots. In a progressive parlay, sportsbooks may offer reduced sports odds but still some sort of payout as long as you predict a predetermined number of legs correct. Once you hit a certain threshold of outcomes, every correct leg afterward increases the payout.
A multi-chance parlay is similar, but the payout would be the same no matter how many additional outcomes are correct after you reach the minimum threshold of legs. In an open-spot parlay, you put together a parlay bet, and if you predict all legs correctly, you can let it ride on a future outcome.
How do NFL parlay odds work?
The standard odds for an NFL point spread or over/under is -110. Below, you’ll see what parlay odds look like if all legs of the parlay were set at -110. Clearly, the payout increases as the number of legs increases.
- Two-team parlay: +265
- Three-team parlay: +597
- Four-team parlay: +1231
- Five-team parlay: +2442
- Six-team parlay: +4755
- Seven-team parlay: +9173
- Eight-team parlay: +17612
- Nine-team parlay: +33730
- Ten-team parlay: +64515
To put a dollar amount on it, a $10 wager on a two-team parlay would net $26.44. Meanwhile, a $10 wager on a 10-team parlay would result in a $6,420.30 profit.
How much do NFL parlays pay out?
Below is a real-life example of a DraftKings Sportsbook bet slip. Here, you’re taking the Dallas Cowboys against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and parlaying that bet with the Houston Texans over the Indianapolis Colts. A $10 wager with +264 odds would result in a total payout of $36.44. (That’s your original wager, plus the profit.)
How to bet NFL parlays online at Texas sportsbooks
When sports betting officially goes live in Texas, there will be a number of operators. Some of the main options will likely include the FanDuel Sportsbook app, DraftKings Sportsbook, and BetMGM Sportsbook app.
Here’s an example of a three-way parlay bet for the NFL that should be possible at most major sportsbooks. On this hypothetical NFL Sunday, you’re combining a point spread, an over/under and a moneyline wager.
- Dallas Cowboys +4.5 (-110) vs. Green Bay Packers
- Chicago Bears vs. Houston Texans OVER 42.5 (-110)
- Tennessee Titans moneyline (-180) vs. Cleveland Browns
The odds would come out to return a $46.68 profit despite risking just $10. This is why many bettors love parlays.
Same game parlays
While some may look to spread their money around on an NFL Sunday, betting on multiple legs in the same game has become a popular bet in recent years. Not every betting type is allowed in an NFL same game parlay, but sportsbooks will look to offer as many parlays as possible without bringing in much liability on their end. After all, they don’t want to risk profit by letting you combine easy bets.
Some online sportsbook sites, like DraftKings, will show a specific tab dedicated to same game parlays. It will feature a full list of items for bettors to select. One of the standard betting options would be to take one team to cover the spread and a particular side of the point total to hit as well. For example, the parlay might be Dallas Cowboys -2.5 / Over 51.5.
Correlated parlays can be fun to identify and can become a successful strategy for bettors. But as we said, sportsbooks will do everything they can to eliminate the possibility of bettors taking too much advantage. A correlated parlay consists of bets that are closely tied together—where if one side hits, the other is highly likely to be correct as well. One example would be betting on the first-half under along with the full-game under. Because those outcomes are highly linked, a sportsbook would likely disallow that bet.
Are there any more parlay variations?
Yes. Don’t forget about round robins, teasers and pleasers.
A round robin acts like a parlay in that you are betting on multiple outcomes, but you can still earn money without picking each leg correctly. Let’s say you are interested in betting on three-point spreads with the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints. Instead of making a standard three-leg parlay bet, you would essentially be making three two-leg parlay bets in this round robin wager.
- Cowboys and Texans
- Cowboys and Saints
- Texans and Saints
With this type of bet, you will have a better chance at a winning wager because you do not need to nail every outcome. Round robins allow you a safety net where traditional parlays do not.
Next, a teaser is a popular type of parlay that is especially useful in the NFL. It gives bettors an opportunity to move the lines in their favor. Let’s say you wanted to take the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans to cover the spread in their games.
- Cowboys -2.5
- Texans +3.5
By implementing a teaser, bettors can move the point spread by 6, 6.5 or 7 points. Let’s go with six points in this example, and here’s a look at what the new bet would look like.
- Cowboys +3.5
- Texans +9.5
This bet just became much easier to win. Of course, with a six-point teaser, the payout is substantially lower. You’ve made the bet safer but sacrificed potential profit. (That’s sports betting for you.)
Finally, a pleaser moves the numbers in the opposite direction. You’d only use this if you are extremely confident in a particular outcome. Let’s use the same example as the teaser above.
- Cowboys -2.5
- Texans +3.5
Now after implementing a six-point pleaser, here’s what the new wager looks like.
- Cowboys -8.5
- Texans -2.5
The numbers moved six points away from you, but the payout would be incredibly high if both legs cashed in this spot.
What are the minimum and maximum number of bets on a parlay?
The minimum number of bets for a wager to be considered a parlay is two. The maximum number of legs is usually set at 10 or 12. DraftKings, for instance, sets its limit at 10, but be sure to check your preferred sportsbooks to see the operators’ specific rules.
Should I bet favorites or underdogs in my NFL parlay?
If you wanted to bet moneyline favorites, you’d have a better chance at winning with a lower payout. On the other hand, parlaying underdogs on the moneyline would lead to a massive payout with a very slight chance at picking a winner, especially on a consistent basis.
What happens if a parlay pushes?
A push is a tie in sports betting lingo. They can be common, especially when there are multiple outcomes included. If you put together a four-leg parlay and one of the outcomes results in a push, that leg would be eliminated. The four-leg parlay would then turn into a three-leg parlay.
What is parlay insurance?
Some sportsbooks allow bettors to take advantage of parlay insurance, which can take on various forms. In short, you get to recoup something from an otherwise failed parlay. Parlay insurance will oftentimes appear on the “Promotions” tab of your preferred sportsbook.
After opting into the promotion, you must satisfy the requirements to put the parlay insurance into effect, like creating a parlay with a certain number of legs or specific odds. If the bet falls through, you can receive a refund up to a certain dollar amount or in the form of a free bet to be used on a future wager.
Can I cash out parlays early? Is it worth it?
Yes, bettors often have the opportunity to cash out parlays before their completion. For example, if you are tracking the final leg of the parlay and see it could come down to the wire, you may decide to cash out. That way, you don’t wind up losing everything should the final leg not go your way. You will not receive the full payout if each leg hits after you cash out, but this strategy guarantees you will receive some return.
NFL parlay betting strategy
Many successful bettors will avoid parlays altogether, but if you are serious about making money in parlay betting, search for potentially correlated parlays that sportsbooks either haven’t identified or don’t consider that much of a liability. One example would be taking the heavy favorite and the over or betting on the big underdog and the under. This strategy may work much better than randomly picking outcomes on an NFL Sunday. Either way, put your risk assessor’s cap on as you begin exploring NFL parlay betting.