What Is A Parlay Bet?

Both sports bettors and sportsbooks seem to love parlays. The former because parlay paydays are so attractive and the latter because parlays are so hard to win.

According to data compiled by the UNLV Center For Gaming Research from 1984 to 2019, the win percentage Nevada sportsbooks enjoyed on parlays was over 30%, compared to around 5% for all sports bets combined.

Unless Michigan sports bettors prove infinitely sharper or choose to avoid parlay betting altogether, similar numbers should come out of this market.

Parlays are the most profitable bets for Michigan sportsbooks. That doesn’t mean you can’t win a parlay and enjoy the big payday it provides though.

Here’s a detailed explanation of parlay betting, to how you can place a parlay bet, and some of the odds on today’s most popular parlays.

Parlay betting explained

A parlay bet essentially combines two or more bets into one wager. The payouts increase exponentially on parlays because you have to win every bet, or leg, that is part of the parlay for it to pay anything at all.

In other words, if one bet loses, the entire parlay loses.

Of course, it’s hard enough to pick one winner, let alone two, three, four, or more, which is why sportsbooks are willing to offer such big odds on parlay bets.

Are parlay bets legal in Michigan?

Michigan sportsbooks will allow you to bet on parlays involving all kinds of sports, including NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAA basketball, and NCAA football games. They’ll also let you bet multi-sport parlays combining games from different sports.

However, it’s worth noting that most professional sports bettors avoid parlay betting despite the attractive nature of the big payouts involved. Michigan sportsbooks pay out less on winning parlays than the true odds of stringing together multiple betting winners.

But putting together winning parlays is not impossible, and parlay betting remains one of the most popular ways to bet on sports.

Parlay odds

Calculating parlay odds can be difficult because different sportsbooks employ different formulas, and the types of bets can vary so greatly.

What we do know is that Michigan sportsbooks consider both the currently posted odds on the individual bets and the probability of picking winners in the number of games that are part of the parlay to determine a potential payout.

You will be able to find various parlay calculators online that can give you close estimates on parlay payouts, but you’ll have to check with a Michigan sportsbook for precise potential payout information.

Parlay payouts are fixed at the time you place the bet. Even if the line changes for one or more of the games in your parlay ahead of the start, your parlay payout won’t. If the lines change in your favor you can always put together a new parlay with the same bets and an improved potential payout, but your original parlay, and its potential payout, still stands.

One Michigan sportsbook may offer a different payout for the same parlay as another, so it’s a good idea to shop around when betting parlays. Of course, this process will be made much easier when Michigan online and mobile sportsbooks go live in late 2020 or early 2021.

How to make parlay bets

Betting parlays is easy with online and sports betting apps and self-service betting kiosks at Michigan retail sportsbooks.

For the most part, you tap the screen on the sport you’re interested in betting on, browse through the betting markets, and tap on the bets you want to make a part of your parlay.

Once you’ve found them all, look for the parlay section on the instantly-created bet slip and fill in the amount you wish to wager. A potential payout will be displayed. Verify that all the information on the bet slip is correct and submit the bet.

Betting parlays at a ticket window in a retail sportsbook is all about conveying that same information to the cashier verbally and confirming. You can also fill out a parlay card with all your parlay information and hand it to a cashier at the window at most Michigan retail sportsbooks.

Parlay betting is infinitely easier and more convenient with online and mobile sportsbooks and self-service betting kiosks. Both allow you to see the potential payouts for a variety of different parlays and modify the bet as you see fit.

Most popular parlays

You can combine all kinds of standard bets into a parlay at Michigan sportsbooks. You can put together single-sport or multi-sport parlays with legs that include everything from moneyline, spread, and even futures bets. The one restriction is on bets involving the same event, which means you can’t combine moneyline and spread bets from the same NFL game, for example.

Here’s a look at some of the most popular parlays:

NFL parlays

NFL parlays are the most popular in US sports betting. The weekly NFL schedule allows you to make up to 13-game parlays almost every single Sunday. Taking a look at the NFL 2020-21 Season Week 1 odds at FanDuel Sportsbook you can easily see what makes NFL parlay betting so popular.

Making four Week 1 $25 spread bets on a series of underdogs might look like this:

  • Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs: Texans +10 (-115) – $25 to win $21.74
  • Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers: Cardinals +8.5 (-120) – $25 to win $20.83
  • Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions: Bears +2.5 (-120) – $25 to win $20.83
  • Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens: Browns +8.5 (-110) – $25 to win $22.73

If all four bets win, you’ll make almost $90 in profits.

However, if you took that same $100 and put it on a four-team parlay involving the same bets you would stand to win more than ten times that. That’s right, the potential payout for a $100 four-team parlay involving these four Week 1 spread bets is a whopping $1,099.64.

NBA parlays

With so many games held throughout the season, including up to 12 a night at some points, NBA parlays are almost as popular as NFL parlays. Looking at some regular-season NBA game odds shows you how much more parlays pay than individual bets, even if you’re betting the favorites in just two games.

For example, the Milwaukee Bucks might be a -310 moneyline favorite over the Atlanta Hawks. Put $25 on the Bucks at that price and you stand to win just $8.06 plus your bet back.

On the same night, the Detroit Pistons might be -124 favorites over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Put $25 on the Pistons at that price and you stand to win $20.16 plus your bet back.

Winning both bets will get you about $28 in profit, but combining both bets into a $50 two-team NBA parlay will get you more than double that, paying $69.46 plus your $50 bet back.

MLB parlays

Like the NBA, with multiple games on most days and nights throughout the season, MLB parlays are quite popular as well. Picking MLB moneyline winners and betting $25 on each in the following games might lead to close to $75 in profits:

  • Tigers vs. Indians: Tigers -122 – $25 to win $20.49
  • Phillies vs. Mets: Phillies +112 – $25 to win $28
  • Yankees vs. Red Sox: Red Sox +100 – $25 to win $25

However, putting these three moneyline bets together as a part of a three-team $75 MLB parlay could earn you a whopping $503.66, even though you’d be risking the same amount of money.

With payouts like that it’s easy to see why MLB parlays are so popular.

Successful parlay betting tips

People see the potential payouts for parlays and can’t help but fire away. It’s only later they realize how hard it is to pick just one winner, let alone the winner of two or more games.

The world keeps turning and the sportsbooks stay profitable. Still, someone is bound to hit a massive 13-game NFL parlay for big bucks every year, and there’s no reason it can’t be you.

That said, it’s those who do a ton of research beforehand and make well thought out and carefully calculated plays that win parlays regularly.

These five parlay betting tips may help set you on that path:

Combine favorites

You normally have to put some pretty big bets down to make big favorites worth your time. However, you can make a profit with a smaller stake if you put two favorites together as a part of a parlay. This is a great way to bet the (no such thing as a) sure thing and get a decent return while risking a little less than you might normally have to.

Size down

Big odds might make you want to bet big, but increasing your normal bet size for a parlay isn’t always the wise move. Sizing down may be the prudent play. Bet big-paying parlays smaller and it won’t hurt too much when they lose, which happens more often than not. The payday on the right parlay will still offer a bit of that “wow” factor even with small bet size.

Find the hedge

Play a parlay correctly and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to hedge against the last leg. This means locking up some guaranteed winnings or at least your original stake by playing a little defense, betting against yourself, and taking out somewhat of an insurance policy. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be putting together parlays that naturally provide you the opportunity to lock in some profit midway through.

Multi-sport parlays

Betting parlays is still about finding the best value bets on the board. The big difference is you have to combine several bets. Multi-sport parlays are very often your best bet because it’s easier to find multiple bets with real value when you broaden your sporting horizons.

Limit the legs

There are 13 games on any given Sunday in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean you have to bet them all in the same parlay. Look for bets that offer value and combine them. If that’s only two or three games, limit your parlay to two or three legs. Smaller parlays don’t offer the massive paydays the larger one does, but they win more often.

Parlay betting: key takeaways

Parlays will continue to be among the most profitable bets for sportsbooks and sports bettors will remain attracted to the big payouts they often offer. In other words, parlay betting isn’t going anywhere.

It will be among the most popular types of sports betting in Michigan even as the market grows and matures Michigan sportsbooks will make money off parlay betting and the odd story about a massive parlay win will only add to sports betting allure here in the state. People will pay more attention to the big payday than the big picture.

However, there will be profitable parlay betting as well. Expert handicappers will combine favorites, size down bets, look for hedging opportunities, and bet multi-sport parlays with a limited number of legs, eking out small gains.

As long as there is sports betting in Michigan there will be parlay betting in Michigan and everyone will love it.

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