What is parlay betting?

What is a parlay bet?

A parlay bet is a bet involving two or more separate selections, all of which must come in for the bet to win. These selections can be on the same game or event, or multiple different ones, and can feature different betting markets including the moneyline, point spread, total or over/under, or prop bets.

The main advantage to parlay betting is that it can massively boost your payouts compared to betting on each selection as individual bets. However, as you are relying on more than one outcome to happen, they are naturally harder to win.

Parlay odds are calculated by multiplying the odds of each selection within it. For instance, if you placed a $100 parlay bet with two selections both priced at -100 (a payout of 2:1), the payout would be $400 (2x2:1).

Some sportsbooks, such as FanDuel, exhibit their most popular parlays that day, so that you can be aware of where other bettors feel there is an opportunity for a big payout.

How can you place a parlay bet?

As mentioned, parlay bets can be made across multiple different markets and games. Here is a $100 parlay bet featuring three selections on three different NHL games and markets:



Tampa Bay Lightning to beat Ottawa Senators


New Jersey Devils @ Columbus Blue Jackets: Over 6.5 goals


Edmonton Oilers to beat Philadelphia Flyers


Three-way parlay odds


The odds for this parlay bet are +477, meaning if all three selections came in the bet would win $577 (your $100 bet plus $477 profit).

As you can see, this is a much better return than if any of the three selections won as a bet on its own, but comes with much longer odds as a result. If you want to, you can also make parlay bets across different sports.


How to calculate parlay bets

Many online sportsbooks will automatically work out parlay odds for you as you add each selection to your bet.

If you wish to manually work out the odds for a parlay bet, then you essentially need to convert each selection into decimal odds if you’re not using them already. You can do this as follows:

  • Negative odds: (Amount you are betting / Number listed after -) + 1

  • Positive odds: (Number listed after + / Amount you are betting) + 1

Here’s how this would work out for the example listed above:

  • Selection 1: (100/425) + 1 = 1.235

  • Selection 2: (100/120) + 1 = 1.833

  • Selection 3: (155/100) + 1 = 2.551

To work out the payout for the parlay bet, you need to do the following:

  • Amount you are betting x (Selection 1 x Selection 2 x Selection 3)

  • 100 x (1.235 x 1.833 x 2.551) = 577.48

As we now know that the payout would be $577.48 from a $100 bet, we now also know that the overall odds for the parlay bet are +477.

Does betting the parlay provide value?

Value can be found with parlay betting by the fact that it boosts your overall payout by increasing the odds using outcomes independent of one another. Even if the odds for each selection within your parlay bet are short, the payout will always be higher than if you placed each selection as an individual moneyline, point spread, totals, or prop bet.

In the example described above, the individual selections had odds of -425, -120, and +155. This means that if you placed individual $100 bets on each of them and they all won, your total payout would be $561, equaling $261 profit. By comparison, a successful $100 parlay bet would win $577 for a profit of $477 – over $200 more.

However, you arguably need to be more confident when placing a parlay bet then any other type you can wager with a sportsbook. As they involve more selections, there are more things that can potentially happen that can cause your bet to lose. The payouts for parlay bets will always be greater, but it’s a case of balancing the risk against the reward.

Single-game betting vs. parlays

If you are Canadian, you may be familiar with Pro-Line or Sports Select. For years, the only way to legally gamble on sports was at the same place you picked up your lottery tickets, and the only way to play was with a parlay bet. You had to select a minimum of three games on the same ticket to make a wager.

As of 2021, Canada has legalized single-game betting, so now a parlay is only an option instead of a necessity. The obvious advantage to single-game betting is that your odds of cashing in a winner are much greater. While your payouts may be smaller, the likelihood of predicting the outcome in one game is much easier than for three or more.

Therefore, whether you would prefer single-game or parlay betting will probably depend on how you enjoy following the action. If you enjoy betting on specific teams or on games at specific times, you may want to try single-game betting, whereas parlay betting may be preferable to sports fans who love following multiple matches at once.

Picks and parlays

You should research your selections for a parlay bet as you would any other type of bet – after all, one bad selection can cause your entire bet to lose. If you are less certain about one of your selections for a parlay bet, it may be worth removing it from your parlay to reduce the risk.

There are many sportsbooks and sports sites that offer parlay picks from professional tipsters. Many of these use stats and data to explain their selections, so this can be useful if you are struggling to decide on your selections.

Parlay betting FAQs

How does a round-robin parlay work?
What are parlay picks?
Is there a limit on how many selections a parlay bet can have?

All betting guides on BET.CA are written by in-our house team, who have over 40 years’ experience in the sports betting and gaming industries, and have worked and written for several of the world’s leading sportsbooks. They possess in-depth knowledge of betting markets and strategies, as well as an understanding of what is important to bettors, meaning you can read on with the confidence that they will help improve your betting.

BET.CA staff
BET.CA staff