Parlay Bets for Beginners

Californians aren’t giving up on legal online sports betting in California. Legalization efforts in California are on the verge of a sequel; therefore, it’s a good time to learn about the types of bets that may be offered by California sportsbooks. Today’s focus is on parlay bets, which can yield epic wins, even though they can be challenging to hit. 

It’s a combo bet that merges multiple bets into one, with the winnings from the first selection rolling over to the next in a multiplier fashion. 

This guide will cover all aspects of parlay betting, from calculating payouts to tips and the best sportsbooks where you can place this type of bet.

What Are Parlay Bets?

Parlay is a go-big-or-go-home type of wager. It combines multiple selections (legs) into a larger bet. For a parlay to cash out, you must hit the nail on the head with all your picks. If only one of the predictions from the slip is off, the parlay loses. 

The biggest hook with these bets is their ability to produce mouth-watering wins with a small stake. Parlaying multiple selections can generate a bigger payout than betting on each selection individually. Here’s an example that illustrates this. 

Let’s say you take both LA teams on the spread in their respective NBA matchups, staking $10 for each bet. 

LA Lakers @ New York Knicks 

LA Lakers -3.5 (-110)

LA Clippers @ Orlando Magic

LA Clippers – 4.5 (-110)                           

The LA teams have both beaten their opponents by double digits. Kudos — you’ve won both of your wagers and earned $18.18. 

However, parlaying both games would have yielded greater profits. Specifically, a $20 two-leg parlay with each selection priced at -110 would have generated a payout of $26.45. 

In most cases, though, the enhanced payouts parlays offer aren’t enough to offset the risk increase. Just hitting a single bet is challenging enough, never mind going 5-of-5 with your picks. And trust us — the legends of the 10-leg parlays you may have heard of are almost in the sci-fi realm.

Parlays are ubiquitous in the sense that they are available for every sport. Typically, they consist of one bet per matchup, with the games sometimes coming from different sports. 

In recent years, a new form of parlay has been introduced, allowing bettors to combine multiple picks within the same game. This feature, known as a same-game parlay, was first adopted by FanDuel in 2019 and has become a staple of US sports betting since.

How to Calculate Parlay Winnings

The system calculates potential winnings automatically as soon as the selections are added to the slip, so bettors don’t need to crunch the numbers. 

We’ll show you how to determine the payouts of your parlay if you’d like to work out the math manually.

The winnings for this bet are calculated by multiplying the stake amount by the odds of each individual bet. To use the formula, you must convert moneyline (American) odds to decimal ones.

Apply the following equation to convert positive moneyline odds (odds on underdogs) to decimal ones:

Moneyline odds/100 + 1 

Negative moneyline odds can be converted to decimal ones using this formula: 

100/moneyline odds + 1

Let’s put all this into practice and see what kind of payout we can expect from a $20 five-leg, all-Californian parlay with five random moneylines.

PicksMoneylineConversion to decimalDecimal
Clippers to beat the Timberwolves-102100/102 + 11.98
49ers to take down the Chiefs+230230/100 + 13.3
Giants to win against the Yankees+170170/100 + 12.7
Lakers to win against the Celtics-107100/107 +11.93
Ducks to beat the Red Wings+330330/100 +14.3

Multiply the decimal odds of the picks you’ve made by one another. Then multiply that value by the stake. That’s your payout.  

  • 1.98 * 3.3 * 2.7 * 1.93 * 4.3 * 20 = 146.41 (total odds) * $20 (stake) = $2,928.18. 

If you hit all five of your picks, you would win almost $3,000 with a $20 bet. And if you added a few more selections to your parlay, you would be looking at a five- or six-digit payout.

Surely, it takes some skill and a whole lot of luck to make money off a parlay like this. It’s no coincidence sportsbooks make five times as much money from parlays as they do for any other type of bet. Nailing a few long shots and raking in the dough without having to put in many dollars seems like a dream come true. However, statistically, you’d be better off playing something else. If you’re just playing for fun, though, and you have some “throwaway” money, then go for it. 

Best Sportsbooks for Parlays

The term “line shopping” refers to looking at different sportsbooks to find the best odds for your desired outcome. This is a one-size-fits-all strategy for all sports bets. You can use it to squeeze out the most value from your bet.

Here’s an example of how much a parlay payout can differ between three sportsbooks.

Suppose you’ve constructed a parlay bet using only local California teams. You’ve picked four teams to win straight up: the Warriors, Kings, Padres, and Angels. 

Sportsbook A 

  • Picks: Golden State Warriors -105; Sacramento Kings +200; San Diego Padres +160; Los Angeles Angels -115
  • Stake: $100
  • Profit: $2,747.08

Sportsbook B 

  • Picks: Golden State Warriors -102; Sacramento Kings +220; San Diego Padres +180; Los Angeles Angels -105
  • Stake: $100
  • Profit: $3,364.7

Sportsbook C 

  • Picks: Golden State Warriors -102; Sacramento Kings +240; San Diego Padres +190; Los Angeles Angels +100
  • Stake: $100
  • Profit: $3,805

As you can see, the difference in payouts can be substantial. If you go with Sportsbook A, you’ll be looking at a payout of $2,747.08. Nevertheless, if you choose Sportsbook C, you’ll be cashing in at $3,805. That’s a sweet $1,058 difference just for shopping around and comparing odds.

Line shopping is a no-brainer strategy for every bet in general, but it’s even more effective for parlays because there are more odds on the line. It can be time-consuming, but it pays off big time. If you aren’t up for it, then just stick with social sportsbooks like Fliff that have a reputation for providing the best sports betting odds in California

Try parlay betting on Fliff Social Sportsbook: Claim 100% Up to Fliff Cash + Fliff Coins on Deposit

Variations of Parlay Bets 

The entertainment value with parlay bets is through the roof. However, if you aren’t a big fan of this form of betting but are attracted to the prospect of making big bucks with a small amount, here are a few alternatives to consider:

  • Teasers: This is a combo bet that allows you to adjust the point spread in your favor while giving up some payout. Rather than taking the spread as it is (for example, Lakers at -10), you can “tease” it by 6 points in your favor (reduce to Lakers at -4). With the new line, the Lakers must beat their opponents by 5 points instead of 11 to cover the spread. The new lines, however, might be priced at -150, a substantial reduction from the original -110. Teasers are a good option if you want to shoot for the stars and have a more realistic chance of success than standard parlays. They are only available for spreads and totals.
  • Round robins: This type of parlay involves betting on several teams in multiple games, but instead of putting them all together in one big parlay, you’ll be breaking them up into a couple of smaller ones. Say, for instance, you want to wager on six different games. Rather than placing all six picks in the same parlay, you could place three in one and three in the other. Therefore, instead of placing all your eggs in one basket, you will spread your risk out. You will still get a decent payout even if you only hit one parlay.
  • Pleaser: This is the opposite of teasers. With a pleaser, you are “pleasing” the spread or total against you. If you bet on a basketball game with a -7 spread, you can “please” it to -11.5. This will make it harder for you to hit the bet, but you’ll get a larger payout if you get it right. 

Some sportsbooks offer parlay insurance, a promotion that gives you a refund on your stake if you hit all but one of your picks. It softens the blow a bit. 

Early cashout is also a popular feature among parlay bettors. It allows you to pull the plug on your bet and take the payout from your parlay before all events are finished. If you want to lock in profits or protect your parlay, this tool can be quite handy.  

Suppose you bet $100 on three different teams, and the first two have already won. The third team is currently ahead, but the game will come down to the wire. Early cashout allows you to receive a payout before the game ends, so you don’t have to risk losing your entire wager. In this case, the payout amount would depend on how well the remaining leg of the parlay performs at the time. However, the payout may be lower than what you were supposed to earn originally. Therefore, you need to weigh the pros and cons of cashing out early before you do so. 

Best Strategy for Parlays 

It would be contradictory to talk about an efficient parlay betting strategy. Still, we want to share some tips that might increase your hit frequency a bit: 

  • Research your picks: When placing a parlay bet, it’s important to research the teams and players involved. You should also factor in their recent performances, injuries, and head-to-head records — basically, any stat that might indicate how the game will unfold. Do this for all your selections. 
  • Keep it simple: If you’re just getting started in sports betting, you should stick to simple parlays with a small number of legs. By doing this, you’ll reduce the complexity of the bet and make it easier to predict the outcome.
  • Look for parlay boosts: Many sportsbooks offer promotions that can boost your payouts on parlays. It’s always a good idea to look for these California sports betting bonuses, as they can add extra value to your wagers.
  • Use correlated parlays: Correlated parlays involve betting on two or more events that are likely to happen together — for example, betting on a team to win both the first half and the full game. This approach has been well-received among seasoned bettors. 
  • Take advantage of hedge betting: By using this strategy, you bet against your last remaining leg from the parlay to minimize your losses. For example, if your remaining selection on the parlay is a moneyline bet on one team, you could also place a smaller moneyline bet on the opposing team to win. By hedge betting, you’ll still have a chance to recoup some of your losses, even if your initial bet loses. It’s a smart way to manage your risk and avoid being wiped out if things don’t go as planned.

Sports That Offer Parlay Bets 

When it comes to parlaying bets, no sport is off-limits. These are available across all four major leagues, college hoops, the NCAAF, WNBA, niche sports — you name it. If you wanted to enter a parlay that included all Californian teams (the Angels, Lakers, Clippers, Kings, 49ers, Sharks, Giants, etc.), you could do that theoretically. 

In most sportsbooks, you can combine multiple wagers within one game using the same-game parlay feature (also known as a single-game parlay or one-game parlay on some sites). PointsBet takes this a step further by offering same-game parlays for live bets.

Most sites limit the number of selections you can put into your parlay to 10-12. 

How To Place a Parlay Bet on an Online Sportsbook App

Here’s a quick guide for placing a parlay bet on a sports betting app:

  1. First, you’ll need to register for an account on the sportsbook app. This will typically involve providing some basic personal information, like your name and the last four digits of your SSN, as well as creating a username and password.
  2. Log in to your account.
  3. Open the A-Z list of sports via the menu on the left.
  4. Once you’re in the sports section, you’ll see a list of different sports and leagues. Select the one you want to bet on.
  5. Next, you’ll see a list of games or events for that league. Choose the ones you want to include in your parlay bet. Some sportsbooks have a specific section for games that allow same-game-parlays. 
  6. Once you’ve assembled your parlay, go to the slip where you can enter your bet amount and view the potential payout. There’s usually a separate tab within the slip for round robins and teasers for those who want to try out these alternatives. 
  7. Review your bet slip and make sure everything is correct. If it is, go ahead and place your bet.

Note that different sportsbooks may have slightly different layouts and navigation, but the general process for placing a parlay bet should be similar across most apps.

Parlay FAQs

How are parlay odds calculated?

Parlay odds are calculated by multiplying the moneyline odds of each individual bet within the parlay. For example, if you have a two-team parlay with Team A having -110 odds and Team B having -120 odds, the overall odds for the parlay would be (-110) * (-120) = +132.

How popular are parlays?

Parlay bets are straight-ahead crowd pleasers, as they offer the potential for large payouts with a single bet. They’re especially popular among recreational bettors.

Which sportsbooks accept parlays in California?

Since California doesn’t have a legal market for sports betting yet, the only way for you to check out how parlays work is to go to a social sportsbook like Fliff

Does DraftKings offer parlays?

Yes, DraftKings offers parlay bets and same-game parlays. They also offer teasers and round robins. Parlay boosts and insurance are also available at DK for select markets. 

About the Author

Joshua Buckley

Sports Content Manager
Joshua Buckley is Sports Content Manager for CaliforniaCasinos.com. Along with award-winning experience as a sports editor in Alabama and Texas, he has also spent time in public relations for the tourism and blood banking industries. Joshua is co-host of "Whole Lotta Wolves," the only U.S.-based Wolverhampton Wanderers FC podcast.