Are Parlays Worth It? Analyzing Risks, Odds, And Potential Winnings

Parlays involve combining multiple bets together for bigger potential payouts, but require getting every pick correct. This high-risk, high-reward approach is popular among sports bettors looking to amplify winnings. But are parlays ultimately worth it compared to safer bets?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll analyze the pros and cons of parlays, crunch the numbers on odds and payouts, and compare to alternative betting strategies to determine if parlays make sense for your sports betting goals.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick take: Parlays offer tantalizing potential payouts but long odds of actually winning. For the average bettor, safer bets like moneylines and spreads will typically yield better returns in the long run.

But parlays can still be worth it for more recreational betting if you only wager small amounts for fun and hit an occasional big score.

Understanding How Parlays Work

Parlay Definition and Mechanics

A parlay is a type of sports bet where you combine multiple individual bets into one single wager. In order to win a parlay, all of the individual bets included in the wager must be correct. This means that if even one of the bets in the parlay is incorrect, the entire bet is considered a loss.

Parlays are popular among sports bettors because they offer the opportunity for significant payouts with a relatively small initial investment.

When placing a parlay bet, you can choose to include bets from different sports, or you can focus on a single sport. For example, you could create a parlay bet that includes picks from football, basketball, and baseball games.

The more bets you include in the parlay, the higher the potential payout will be, but the risk also increases.

Parlay Odds and Payout Calculations

Calculating the odds and potential winnings for a parlay can be a bit more complex than for a single bet. The odds for each individual bet in the parlay are multiplied together to determine the overall odds of the parlay.

For example, if you have three bets with odds of 2.00, 3.00, and 4.00, the overall odds of the parlay would be 2.00 x 3.00 x 4.00 = 24.00.

To calculate the potential payout for a parlay, you simply multiply the amount of money you are wagering by the overall odds. For instance, if you are betting $10 on a parlay with overall odds of 24.00, your potential winnings would be $10 x 24.00 = $240.

Hit Rates Compared to Straight Bets

One of the main advantages of parlay bets is the potential for higher payouts. However, it’s important to understand that the hit rate for parlays is typically lower compared to straight bets. In a straight bet, you only need to be correct on one individual bet to win.

But with a parlay, you need to be correct on all of the individual bets included in the wager.

This means that while the potential winnings may be greater with a parlay, the chances of winning are lower. It’s essential to carefully consider the probability of each individual bet before deciding to include it in a parlay.

It’s also important to manage your bankroll effectively and not bet more than you can afford to lose.

According to Legal Sports Report, the average hit rate for parlays is around 30%. This means that, on average, only 3 out of every 10 parlays will be successful. However, when they do hit, the payouts can be significant, making parlays an enticing option for sports bettors looking for a big win.

Pros and Cons of Betting Parlays

Big Potential Payouts

One of the main reasons why people are attracted to parlays is the potential for big payouts. Unlike single bets where your winnings are limited to the odds of that specific bet, parlays allow you to combine multiple bets into one ticket, resulting in significantly higher potential winnings.

This means that if all of your individual bets win, the payout can be much greater than what you would earn from individual bets alone. This is particularly appealing for those looking to make a substantial profit from a small initial investment.

Fun and Excitement

Betting parlays can also add an extra level of excitement and enjoyment to watching sports. It’s thrilling to have multiple bets riding on different games or events, and the potential for a big win can make the viewing experience even more exhilarating.

The anticipation and the thrill of each game can be heightened when you have a parlay on the line, making it a popular choice for those who enjoy the adrenaline rush of sports betting.

Increased Risk and Lower Odds

While the potential payouts of parlays are enticing, it’s important to consider the increased risk and lower odds associated with this type of bet. Since parlays require multiple bets to win, the chances of all of them being successful are lower compared to individual bets.

This means that the odds of winning a parlay are typically lower, and the risk of losing your entire wager is higher. It’s essential to weigh the potential rewards against the increased likelihood of losing before deciding to place a parlay bet.

More Variance in Results

Another aspect to consider when betting parlays is the increased variance in results. With each additional bet you add to your parlay, the potential outcomes become more unpredictable. While this can be exciting when all your bets are successful, it can also lead to more frequent losses.

The more bets you include in a parlay, the more variables you introduce, making it harder to accurately predict the outcome. This increased variance can add an element of unpredictability to your betting experience and may not be suitable for those who prefer more consistent results.

Expected Value and Return Analysis

When it comes to determining whether parlays are worth it, one important concept to consider is expected value (EV). Expected value is a statistical measure that calculates the average outcome of a bet over the long run. It takes into account both the probability of winning and the potential payout.

EV Compared to Moneyline Bets

Compared to traditional moneyline bets, parlays generally have higher potential payouts due to the combination of multiple wagers. However, this increased potential reward comes with a higher level of risk.

The EV of parlays tends to be lower compared to moneyline bets because the odds of winning all the individual bets in a parlay are lower. It’s important to weigh the potential winnings against the probability of winning in order to make an informed decision.

According to a study conducted by Sports Insights, parlays typically have a lower EV compared to individual moneyline bets. This means that, on average, bettors can expect to lose more money over the long term when placing parlays.

However, it’s important to note that individual results may vary, and there is always a chance of hitting a big win.

Long-Term Yield Simulations

Long-term yield simulations can provide valuable insights into the potential profitability of parlays. By running thousands of simulations based on historical data, analysts can estimate the expected return on investment (ROI) over a large sample size.

These simulations take into account the odds, probabilities, and potential payouts of the bets included in the parlay.

According to a study published by The Journal of Political Economy, long-term yield simulations showed that parlays tend to have lower ROI compared to individual bets. This suggests that, on average, bettors may have a better chance of making a profit by placing individual bets rather than parlays.

Assessing Risk of Ruin

Another important aspect to consider when analyzing the worth of parlays is the risk of ruin. The risk of ruin refers to the probability of losing an entire bankroll due to a series of consecutive losses.

Since parlays require all bets to win for a payout, the risk of ruin is generally higher compared to individual bets.

It’s crucial for bettors to assess their risk tolerance and bankroll management strategies before deciding whether to engage in parlays. Understanding the potential downside and being mindful of the risk of ruin can help bettors make more informed decisions and protect their bankrolls.

Strategies for Betting Parlays

Keep Parlays Small

When it comes to betting parlays, it’s important to keep your wagers small. While the allure of a big payout is tempting, the reality is that the odds are stacked against you. Parlays involve combining multiple bets into one, and the more bets you add, the lower your chances of winning become.

By keeping your parlays small, you can minimize your losses and increase your chances of making a profit in the long run.

Pick Correlated Lines

One strategy for betting parlays is to pick correlated lines. This means selecting bets that have a relationship or connection to each other. For example, if you’re betting on a football game, you might consider combining the point spread with the total points scored.

By choosing lines that are likely to move in the same direction, you can increase your chances of winning the parlay.

Hedge with Safer Bets

Another strategy is to hedge your parlay with safer bets. This involves placing additional wagers on individual bets within the parlay to reduce your overall risk. For example, if you have a four-team parlay and three of the bets have already won, you could place a separate bet on the remaining game to ensure you walk away with at least some winnings.

While hedging reduces your potential payout, it also provides a safety net in case one of the bets in your parlay doesn’t come through.

Shop Lines and Maximize Value

When betting parlays, it’s essential to shop lines and maximize value. Different sportsbooks offer different odds, so it’s important to compare them and choose the ones that give you the best chance of winning.

By finding the best odds and maximizing the potential payout, you can increase your overall profitability. Websites like can help you compare odds from various sportsbooks and make an informed decision.

Remember, betting parlays involves a higher level of risk, and there are no foolproof strategies that guarantee success. However, by keeping your parlays small, picking correlated lines, hedging with safer bets, and shopping lines for maximum value, you can improve your chances of winning and make the most out of your parlays.


Parlays can provide big payouts when you get lucky, but are poor long-term bets for serious bettors looking to profit. Occasional small parlays can be fun for recreational players, but safer bets like spreads and moneylines will give superior returns in the long run.

Bettors should use parlays sparingly and strategically to minimize risk and maximize upside.

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