How does a parlay bet work?
Quite simply, a parlay is a bet where you combine two or more bets into one. By combining the bet, you increase your potential return. However, there is a risk, as you have to be right on all of your picks for the bet to win.
Parlays can be as simple as combining two moneyline picks from an NHL game on one ticket. If both of your teams win, you win the parlay. Otherwise, you lose. Parlays can also be a bit more complex, as you tie together multiple unrelated selections.
- Moneyline: New York Rangers over New Jersey Devils (-165 or 1.61)
- Puck line: Tampa Bay Lightning -1.5 over Detroit Red Wings (-110 or 1.91)
- Totals: Pittsburgh Penguins at Carolina Hurricanes, under 6.5 goals (-115 or 1.87)
- Three-leg parlay odds: +473 or 5.73
Various legal sportsbooks may have their own individual limits on exactly what you can combine and how many legs you can put together on a single slip. We’ll go over that in a bit.
What is a same game parlay?
Parlays have been a big part of Canadian sports betting landscape for decades, but sportsbooks have traditionally had strict rules on what you can and can’t include. For years, outside of combining a spread or moneyline with a total on a single game, same-game options were nonexistent.
The sports betting industry continues to evolve, however, and so too has its stance on same-game parlays, also known as single-game parlays or one-game parlays. Industry giant FanDuel Sportsbook tends to receive credit for starting the trend of letting bettors pull together multiple choices from a single game. For example, the next time the Toronto Raptors take the floor, you could combine something like this:
- Moneyline: Toronto Raptors over Orlando Magic
- Total: Points over 218.5
- Prop: Pascal Siakam total points over 22.5
- Same-game parlay odds: +250 or 3.50
If all three of those things happen, you win. Just like a regular parlay, a single wrong choice would mean you lose. It remains a risky wager that is tough to hit consistently.
Sportsbook rules and payout limits for parlays and SGPs
Parlay betting is available at all of the top legal online sportsbooks. You need a minimum of two legs, while each book may have its own limits on maximum legs and payouts. Many of the top books allow a maximum of around 10 to 12 legs with payouts on any one single parlay capped at $1 million.
Same-game parlays are a newer development, but they continue to gain popularity. They’re available at all of the biggest sportsbooks for now, with more likely to join moving forward.
Best parlay betting sites in Canada
Here are the best sportsbooks for parlay betting online:
- DraftKings Sportsbook: Nice layout and user-friendly platform with dedicated links for eligible games.
- FanDuel Sportsbook: The driving force behind the rise of same-game parlays.
- BetMGM Sportsbook: Available for most of the top sports. There’s also an easy parlay builder.
- Caesars Sportsbook: For SGP-eligible games and events, there’s a dedicated tab inside of the listing.
Once again, each book may have its own rules on what you can include in a parlay, as well as on how many legs you can put together. When you click on the SGP icon or link, you should see all of the available options.
Parlay betting examples
When putting together a parlay involving multiple games, you can go in lots of different directions. You can stick to a single sport, or even mix and match among games from various leagues.
It’s the same story with types of bets. You can do a parlay of all spreads or totals, or make a mix of the two until you find a combo that you like. For a simple example, you could put together a four-leg moneyline parlay for upcoming NHL games.
When you want to add games to the slip, you just click the online betting odds that go with your selection. Let’s say that you like the following four games:
As you add bets to the slip, the odds will change based on your selections. The more choices you add, the more profit potential there is. However, remember that the chances of actually winning decrease with each additional leg.
Same-game parlay betting examples
Legal online sportsbooks that offer same-game parlays will clearly mark which games are eligible. Over on FanDuel, there’s an SGP icon on the main game listing.
Once you click that, you’ll arrive at a new screen where you can browse the options and make your picks. After doing so, you may come up with something like this:
If all four of these outcomes come to pass, you’ll be in line for a fantastic return. However, the same basic parlay rules apply: The risk rises as the size of the parlay increases. It’s certainly possible to nail all of your selections, but it’s also imperative to understand the likelihood of that happening.
Odds and payouts for parlay bets
For both regular and same game parlays, the odds and payouts will depend on how many options you add to the ticket, as well as the odds for each individual selection. If we go back to our four-leg NHL moneyline parlay, we selected a mix of three big favourites and one underdog. That translated into odds of +536/6.36. Here’s what a winning $40 bet would pay:
On the same game parlay, the four choices that we put together resulted in astronomical odds of +3033/31.00. If we place a $10 bet and win, we’d be in line for quite the payday:
The lure of phenomenal returns makes parlays a popular option at online sportsbooks. However, they are also a large source of money for sportsbooks, which is why they keep offering them.
What are the actual chances of winning a parlay?
For a simple rule of thumb, the larger the potential payout, the less of an actual chance you have to win. That’s pretty discouraging, but it’s also the reality of parlay betting. Think about it: Why would a sportsbook be willing to pay out an astronomical sum on a multi-leg parlay? Answer: Because the chances of the bettor being correct on all of the selections on the slip are slim.
To help visualize, let’s consider the odds of winning a multi-leg parlay. For this example, each bet has odds of -110/1.91.
- Two legs: 3 to 1
- Three legs: 7 to 1
- Four legs: 15 to 1
- Five legs: 31 to 1
- Six legs: 63 to 1
- Seven legs: 127 to 1
- Eight legs: 255 to 1
- Nine legs: 511 to 1
- Ten legs: 1,023 to 1
As you can see, the odds are more than doubling with each choice that you add to the slip. Additionally, remember that we’re using the same odds for each of the legs. What do you think happens to the chances when you’re adding in some underdogs? From a bottom-line perspective, parlays are risky bets. It’s important to understand that going in.
However, that doesn’t mean that you have to avoid them completely. If you’re comfortable with the risk, have a strict budget in place, and keep your expectations in check, parlays can be a good source of entertainment. For bettors who can’t check off those boxes, parlays are best left on the sidelines.
Parlay betting do’s and don’ts
While there’s no way to guarantee success with parlays or any other type of sports bet, there are steps you can take to limit the risk and keep yourself in the game:
- Take a calculated approach: Whenever you’re putting funds at risk in hopes of earning more, you should be taking the time to think it through. For parlays, the chances of being correct on multiple choices are pretty low once you get past four legs. As such, you should be putting together parlays that have more of a chance of success, such as a mix of high-probability favourites and an underdog that you’re confident in.
- Keep your expectations in check: For some bettors, all they need to see is the potential return to determine if the parlay is worth a chance. Don’t let that be you. Sure, you may win, but the possibility of going long stretches in between winners is high. Treating one parlay as a lottery ticket with a small dollar amount for fun isn’t the end of the world, but endlessly chasing big scores while burning through your bankroll can be.
- Have a firm budget in place: Along with expectations comes the reality of keeping your account funded. If you bet on nothing but parlays and have long droughts in between winners, you’ll be depositing a lot. Instead, balance out your parlay bets with a single-wagering strategy and work toward finding success with both. Your parlay bets should be a small percentage of your overall bankroll.
Along with the things that you should be doing, there are also several pitfalls of parlay betting that you’ll want to avoid:
- Wagering based on the potential return: If your goal with parlay betting is to win a life-changing amount from a single wager, there’s a strong chance that you’re going to be dealing with a lot of disappointment. While everyone wants to hit a home run, those who regularly get on base are valuable members of the team. Focus on singles and doubles, and limit the urge to consistently overreach for the moonshot.
- Attempting to wing it: Randomly throwing together combinations in the hopes that something will stick is an approach that will rarely turn out well. This is the equivalent of winging it, as in making no attempt to figure out what will actually happen while hoping for the best. Instead, remove the toss-up games and focus on ones where you have a better idea. From there, build a reasonable parlay ticket and keep your budget in check.
- Betting outside of your comfort level: Once again, we come back to the lure of the big score. Since you can make large returns on winning parlays, you’ll make that much more if you bump up the stakes, right? On paper, sure. In reality, unlikely. No matter what the bet is or the potential return that’s out there, you should never be betting outside of your zone. Doing so is a recipe for hitting the deposit button more than you should have to.
Are parlays and SGPs worth it?
If you looked solely at the potential return and considered nothing else, many bettors would consider parlays and same-game parlays to be no-brainers. However, betting that’s based exclusively on the possibilities won’t translate into long-term success.
When betting parlays, the return rises with every selection that you add to the slip. Meanwhile, the chances of actually winning the bet move in the opposite direction as you add choices to the ticket. If you can bet responsibly while keeping your expectations in check, then parlays can be fun, entertaining and worthy of an occasional wager. Once in a while, the stars may align just right to boot.