Are Parlays Worth It? | Sports Betting 101: The Parlay Bet

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Parlays can be tempting because they offer the potential for a large payout if all of the bets in the parlay win. However, mathematically speaking, a parlay is almost never worth it. Parlays are far riskier than individual bets because if even one of the bets in the parlay loses, the entire bet is lost.

is a parlay worth it

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Are Parlays Worth It? | Sports Betting 101: The Parlay Bet

Parlays can be tempting because they offer the potential for a large payout if all of the bets in the parlay win. However, mathematically speaking, a parlay is almost never worth it. Parlays are far riskier than individual bets because if even one of the bets in the parlay loses, the entire bet is lost. As a result, parlays generally require a higher win rate to be profitable compared to individual bets, making them more difficult to win over the long term, and almost never worth it.

Let’s look at the math and statistics behind a parlay, why the sportsbooks can gain such a huge advantage, and why in almost every situation a parlay is like lighting money on fire. LeansAI is a statistical analytics website. Any analysis on this channel and derivatives of this channel, including leans, projections, analysis, and/or insider content is provided for entertainment purposes only, and falls under the LeansAI Terms of Service.

What is a Parlay Bet in Sports Betting?

Regular Parlay

A parlay is a type of bet in which multiple selections (typically between two and twelve) are made on the outcome of different events, with the winnings from each correct pick being used to fund the bet on the next. If one pick is incorrect, the entire bet is lost. Parlays offer the potential for large payouts, but the odds of winning are lower than with straight bets on individual events.

Same Game Parlay

A same game parlay is a type of sports betting where you combine multiple wagers on a single game into one bet. For example, you might choose to place bets on the winner of the game, the total number of points scored, and the first team to score, all in a single parlay. If all of your wagers are successful, the payouts from each are combined into one larger payout. The advantage of a same game parlay is that it allows you to increase your potential winnings with a single bet, while also taking on the risk of losing all of your wagers if any of them are unsuccessful.

A same game parlay can be entertaining because you can watch a single game and be pulling for multiple outcomes to happen. This experience can be enhanced if certain parlays are tied to one team doing particularly well, in which case several wagers hit as the team overperforms the anticipated lines.

What are Parlay Odds Examples?

Whether or not a parlay is worth it can depend on several factors, including the odds of the individual bets being combined, the size of the bet, and the specific betting strategy being employed. The table below shows that unless one is using a strategy or handicapping service that provides a significant lean against a line or spread, the implied probabilities suggest the optimal mathematical wager is $0 for any parlay from 2-8 legs.

LegsOdds Per LegOdds Per LegTotal OddsProbability of WinOptimal Mathematic Wager

It’s also worth noting that sportsbooks often take a higher commission on parlays, which can reduce the potential payout even further. In general, parlays can be a good option for those who are willing to take on more risk for the potential for a larger payout, but it’s important to have a solid understanding of the odds and betting strategies involved, as well as a strong approach to risk management.

is a parlay worth it

Why to Avoid Parlays

Parlays are where all the sportsbooks (Fanduel, DraftKings, BetMGM, etc) make a lot of their money. People fall in love with the idea “I was just one game away from winning that parlay”, which is exactly where the sportsbooks love to keep players, one game away with the illusion that they’re really that close to winning big. But the math almost never makes sense.

From a mathematical perspective, the odds of winning a parlay are often worse than the odds of winning individual bets on each event. This is because the payout for a parlay is calculated by multiplying the odds for each individual pick, and the odds for each pick are often less favorable than the odds for a straight bet. In other words, the bookmakers are taking advantage of the increased risk involved in a parlay by offering lower odds.

In each of these examples, the bettor is using a consistent unit size based on their bankroll. This helps them manage their bankroll and make more informed betting decisions.

Does a Parlay Ever Make Sense?

Before betting on a parlay or any other type of bet, it’s crucial to understand the odds involved and to have a solid understanding of one’s own financial situation and risk tolerance. The only instances where a parlay might make sense, is when there is a 4-5 percentage point lean on every game in the parlay, OR if the sportsbook is offering a 2x odds booster. In any other circumstance, there is almost no mathematical reason for a parlay other than the thrill of getting close and the inevitable loss shortly after.

How do I Bet Parlays?

Those considering a parlay should build a spreadsheet factoring in win probability of each game, as well as payouts odds, and use a Kelly formula to derive a possible percentage of the bankroll worth wagering. But as mentioned above, unless each game has a legitimate 4-5% lean to one side of the implied probability, OR the sportsbook is offering a 2x odds booster (and enough of them that one could lose 90-95% of parlays before winning one), the math almost never makes sense.

We tend to avoid lighting money on fire, but you do you.

is a parlay worth it

Is a Same Game Parlay Worth It?

A same game parlay mathematically speaking can be treated exactly the same as a traditional parlay, meaning that the sportsbooks have a significant advantage and it is almost never worth it mathematically speaking to bet on a same game parlay. Although same game parlays can be fun and entertaining, the odds would have to be almost double what they typically are for the math to make sense. Or, you must have data to back up a significant lean on multiple wagers, at least 55-60% on each line, for it to possibly ever make sense.

If a Parlay isn’t Worth it, what Bets could be?

In sports betting, some types of bets have a higher expected value and, therefore, can be more mathematically advantageous to make. This doesn’t mean that these bets will always win, but over time, they have a better chance of yielding a profit than other types of bets. Here are some examples:

Moneyline Bets

– Moneyline bets are simply wagers on which team will win a game. They offer fair odds and are often seen as one of the most straightforward and easy-to-understand types of bets in sports betting.

Point Spread Bets

– Point spread bets involve betting on the margin of victory for a particular team. The odds for these bets are usually more favorable for the bettor than for moneyline bets. More specifically, if the bettor uses a system that calculates a statistical advantage or lean a team might have over a line or spread, over the long term spread bets are one of the few types that can be potentially profitable.

Totals (Over/Under) Bets

– Totals bets are wagers on the total number of points that will be scored in a game. This type of bet is less affected by individual player performance and team performance fluctuations, making it a more consistent betting option.

Prop Bets

– Prop bets are wagers on specific events or outcomes within a game. These bets can be on anything from the first team to score to the total number of yards gained by a particular player. Prop bets are typically offered at higher odds, making them potentially more profitable, but they can also be riskier because of their specificity.

It’s important to keep in mind that these types of bets can vary depending on the sport and the bookmaker, so it’s always a good idea to shop around and compare odds before making a bet. Additionally, it’s always wise to have a sound betting strategy and to manage your bankroll effectively, as this can help to mitigate the impact of losing bets.

Is A Parlay Worth It

Do Services Exist that Make Picks against a Line or Spread?

Yes, sports picks or handicapping services have been around for quite some time, and they are designed to anticipate if a team has an advantage over a line or spread, then sell that data to their clients. There are new services that are employing Artificial Intelligence (AI) into their sports analytics calculations, which are showing a more significant advantage in identifying a teams advantage or lean over a line or spread compared to traditional sports handicapping services.

What about Strong Favorite Parlays?

LegsOdds Per LegOdds Per LegTotal OddsProbability of WinOptimal Mathematic Wager

Again, unless you are using a very scientific strategy or precise handicapping service incorporating a significant probability of win advantage over the implied probability of win for each leg in the parlay, a parlay almost never makes sense. The math shows that you must have found a 3-5% lean over the line for each leg in the parlay for the math to even begin to make sense, and even then, alternative parlays like a Heinz57 or Goliath tend to be much more risk averse given the probability and payout odds.

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