Strategy For Building a Winning Parlay Bet

Is there a way to make money betting on parlays? Although they are typically regarded as sucker bets for casual bettors, one can make money betting into parlays. Finding winning parlays requires a unique way of thinking that is a little different from just betting spreads or money lines. Enough with the introduction, let’s dive right in and break down these parlay bets.

What is a Parlay Bet?

Parlay Example

Parlay Example

A parlay bet is a combination of individual bets that are made in tandem. These bets allow a bettor to risk a small amount of money in hopes of scoring a big payday.

In the example on the left, there are two unrelated games that we can combine into one bet. At most sportsbooks, one can add up to fifteen games to a parlay. In this example, however, we have what is called a “two team parlay”. Here, we have the Heat -4 and Lakers -9.5. Now, for this bet to win, both of these individual bets have to win. If either one loses, then the bettor loses as well. The benefit, of course, is that a $100 bet pays out over $264.

I Ran the Math. It Sounds Like Parlays Are Bad.

Are parlays bad? When the bets are uncorrelated (we will get back to this point), this is generally correct. Below are a few calculations listed next to the standard Las Vegas parlay odds. Specifically, “Vegas Parlay Odds” come directly from the BetMGM web site.

Parlay Odds Table

Parlay Odds Table

We can do some quick math to figure out how the books usually win here. For example, let’s start with $100 dollars and play the win-all-in method for six bets. Winning the first bet at standard -110 odds turns $100 into $190.91. Repeat this a few more times and after six wins, the bettor has won $4,741.27. Conversely, if the bettor made a parlay with the exact same six games and won, then they are left with a win of only $4,000 (6-game win: +4000). Interestingly, these is a very slight edge using a three game parlay over the all-in method. A three game parlay pays out $600 on a $100 bet versus the all in method which would only pay $595.79.

For those who can’t do the math, there are a lot of different online parlay odds calculators out there like the one at Don Best.

Parlaying Bets With Correlation

You may be getting some of their own ideas by this point. What if one could parlay the over for the 1st Half of a game with the over of the same game at Full Time? That is one way to get rich fast! We know that there is a ton of correlation between hitting the over in both of those events. If the first half goes over, then of course it is more than 50/50 likely that the full game goes over as well. Unfortunately, the sportsbooks know this too and this strategy is not allowed.

Back in the introduction, it was mentioned that one needs to change their way of thinking. The question becomes how to find correlation within bets where it seems like one doesn’t exist. One example is written about brilliantly by this sports bettor from Canada. He explains how the Patrick Mahomes injury could have been played as a parlayed bet with positive expected value.

An example of a strategy that I use is with the weather. Early forecasts of major storms or hurricanes are very unpredictable. On any given Saturday, there are hundreds of college football games that can be bet across the country. The timing of a storm hitting an area where a football game is played can have significant effects on the over/under of a game. Now combine that with an area of the country where there are multiple football games being played. Those thirty mile an hour winds are going to help keep the score of the game lower than normal. A parlay early in the week will be a play on this weather unknown. If the storm doesn’t hit, no big deal! The bet will likely be a loser, but the investment is minimal versus betting each game individually. If the storm does hit, then the over/unders will drop on all of those games in the storm’s path. Voila! Correlation!

In Conclusion…

I’ve only listed two examples above, but there are an infinite number of other ways to find correlation within bets to make them worth parlaying. Hopefully these examples will help train the mind to think like a sharp gambler. The sportsbooks will always have an edge with the viggorish, but clever thinking can overcome the edge they hold.