27 Jul

How to Pick and Win Parlays like a Beast

How to Pick and Win Parlays like a Beast - How Parlay Bets WorkFor Canadians like myself, there’s nothing unique about how parlay bets work. They are the only legal form of sports gambling we have access to within the borders of our country; hence the love / hate relationship. Still, they do present some interesting opportunities to win a large sum of money without making a large investment.

How Parlay Bets Work and Tips to Win

Parlays (a.k.a. Accumulators) are a special type of bet that is far more complicated than straight win bets, point spreads or totals. These bets are not recommended for beginners. Without the right knowledge and experience, they can be very costly. If you already understand the aforementioned wagers, keep reading to learn how to pick and win parlays.
  • Understanding Parlays: Parlays are bets that accumulate higher payouts for making multiple correct picks. But if just one pick is wrong, you lose everything.
  • Calculating Payouts: There are two ways sportsbooks can calculate payouts for parlay bets. True odds combine the unique odds of each pick, and fixed odds are presented on picks where the odds all match.
  • Progressive Parlays: The hidden gem of accumulators, progressives can be won even if all your picks don’t come in. At a cost, of course…
  • Picking Winners: Parlay betting strategy isn’t exactly rocket science, but it doesn’t have to be like playing the lottery either. These tips should help you win parlays more often.
DisclaimerNot all forms of gambling are legal in all provinces of Canada. The legal age to gamble also varies by province. Breaking the law is a serious matter. The information provided on this website is meant for educational purposes only, and we will not be held liable for any irresponsible / illegal activity on your part. Know the gambling laws in your province and follow them. The following pages provide more information on Canadian gambling laws:


Learn How to Pick and Win Parlays

We touched briefly on the subject of parlay betting our comprehensive tutorial, How to Bet on Sports. Today we’ll cover the topic in more detail, with a few examples to drive the point.

A parlay bet is simply a single wager on multiple outcomes. The minimum is always 2 or 3 picks, but the maximum number of picks allowed depends the sportsbook. It could be 6, 8, 10, sometimes even 12. Just know that the more picks you make, the less likely you are to win, because every single pick must be correct. If just one of your selections doesn’t win, the entire bet is lost.

What Bets Can I Choose From?

Parlays are typically offered on straight win bets, point spread bets, and over/under totals. Proposition bets may also be offered as parlays, so long as the outcome is evenly matched. For instance, there’s a 50/50 chance on what team will win the coin toss before a football game.

If you are not already familiar with each of these sports bets, please take a moment to learn more about them before you continue. The links below open in a new window so you won’t lose your place here.

Sample Betting Slips

Here are a two examples of parlay bets, and what they might look like on a betting slip.

Bet Slip #1 Bet Slip #2
True Odds Parlay Betting Fixed Odds Parlay

Each slip shows four bets placed on basketball games. On the first slip, the punter has made straight bets to win on four teams, where the odds are different for each. On the second slip, we see four bets on the same four teams, but this time, the punter has chosen point spread bets. As such, the odds are the same for each bet (1.90).

At the bottom of each slip, we see that the punter wants to risk $10 on these parlays. Bet slip 1 shows a total payout of $98.44 for a win. Bet slip 2 has a $100 payout potential. The difference here is explained in our next section, Calculating Parlay Payouts. But first, a quick word on the laws surrounding domestic and international sportsbooks…

Parlay Betting In and Outside Canada

I mentioned above that parlays are the only legal form of sports betting here in Canada. Each province offers some sort of sports lottery where punters can bet on up to 6 picks at a time. However, thanks to the internet, Canadians are free to explore their options outside the country, with no threat of legal recourse.

We are perfectly free to deposit and gamble at online sportsbooks hosted by offshore operators. These websites are licensed in jurisdictions where sports betting is not limited to parlays. If accumulators are the only type of bets you’re interested in, you may wish to restrict your bets to local provincial sports lotteries. However, it does pay to shop around. Not only might you find better parlay odds on internationally regulated sites, you can also participate in a wider variate of sports bets, including single-event wagers.

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How Sportsbooks Calculate Parlay Payouts

There are two ways sportsbooks can set the payouts for parlays and accumulators. The first way we’ll discuss is called True Odds, designated for bet slips where the odds differ. The second is called Fixed Odds, used for picks where the odds all match. To better explain, we’ll use the same sample bet slips as before.

True Odds Parlays

True Odds Parlay BettingIn our True Odds sample, we see there are four different odds posted on each of the picks. To determine the payout for this 4-pick parlay, we use the following formula:

Odds x Bet – Bet = Win

Start by multiplying all of the odds together:
1.45 x 2.45 x 1.65 x 1.85 = 10.844

Next, multiply the answer by the bet to get the total return.
10.844 x $10 = $108.44

Now, subtract the original bet amount of $10 and you get the ‘To Win’ total.
$108.44 – $10 = $98.44

Fixed Odds Parlays

The second sample bet slip depicts Fixed Odds, where each bet is made on a point spread with matching odds of 1.90. For parlays like this, the payouts are predetermined, or fixed, based on the number of selections.

Fixed Odds Parlay

          # of Picks          Odds

                    2                    3.60
                    3                    7.00
                    4                    11.00
                    5                    21.60
                    6                    41.00
                    7                     76.00
                    8                    151.00
                    9                    301.00
                    10                  701.00


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Progressive Parlays: A Punter’s Paradise?

Progressives are a unique kind of parlay, and probably the best way to go about placing accumulators. Instead of requiring every pick be correct to get paid, you can miss a few and still score a profit. I like to think of it as the Keno of Parlay Bets.

In exchange for this fantastic perk, you’re going to suffer diminished odds on your accumulators. You’ll need to make at least 4 selections. And where a winning 4-pick parlay normally pays out at 21.00 (or 20 to 1), a 4-pick progressive will only pay 6.00 (or 5 to 1). If you pick 4, and 3 are correct, you’ll only win even money (i.e. odds of 2.00, or 1 to 1).

Still, if you like the concept of betting small to win big, and you think you’ve got a collection of winning bets to place, progressive parlays aren’t a bad deal. Here’s a glimpse of a common pay table for 4 to 12 picks.

Progressive Parlay Pay Table
# of Picks
Odds/No Loss
Odds/1 Loss
Odds/2 Loss
Odds/3 Loss

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Tips for a Winning Parlay Bet Strategy

Most people think parlays are sucker bets. That’s because so many people let fan-bias sway their picks. For these bettors, it’s true – there is a huge disadvantage to betting accumulators. But if you know how parlay bets work, and you understand there are genuine strategies you can employ, you can learn how to pick and win parlays like a beast. Here are three tips to help you win more parlays, more often.

#1 True Odds vs. Fixed Odds

If you were paying attention above, you probably noticed that our bet slip samples showed different payout rates for True Odds and Fixed Odds. In the example, fixed odds of 1.90 paid better, but it’s not uncommon to get greater payouts with true odds. It all depends on what picks you want to make. The higher the odds per match, the higher the overall payout.

Example: You want to pick five point spreads for your parlay. They’re all priced at 1.90. Fixed odds would pay 21.00 odds. True odds would pay:

1.9 x 1.9 x 1.9 x 1.9 x 1.9 = 25.76

But if you pick these 5, you’re going to get the cheaper 21.00 fixed odds. The trick is to make one pick that doesn’t display the same odds. Try exchanging one of your point spreads for an outright win bet. So long as the odds of just one of your picks doesn’t match the rest, even if it’s as close as 1.88, the sportsbook will be forced to give you true odds on the parlay.

#2 Don’t Just Pick Favorites

Did you know that underdogs win about 1/3 of all major sports games? In the NHL and MLB, it’s over 40%. That’s not point spread victories, either. Those are outright wins over teams that were projected to be the favorites. If you’re running 3+pick parlays and picking all favorites, you’re actually going against the odds, not with them. Which brings us to…

#3 Correlating Bets

When betting parlays, try to make picks that complement one another. If you pick the Rams to win the coin toss, pick them to score first, too. If you choose one team’s MVP to be the top scorer for a game, also pick that team to win. Maybe a QB is feeling under the weather, but still scheduled to play. Pick his running back to have a good day, but the other team to win. Simply put, correlating parlay picks make it easier to win because, if one pick wins, the others are more likely to follow.

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