How to Read Parlay Odds

Commercial Content. Play Responsibly. 21+

There are several reasons why sports bettors like betting parlays. For some, parlays represent an opportunity to win big (though it’s never a sure thing). For others, adding a game or two to their bet ticket boosts the potential payout if they have keyed in on a heavy favorite. Whatever the reason, parlay betting is one of the most popular ways to bet on sports. So, you may be wondering how to read parlay odds. Let’s find out.

Reading Odds

As you probably already know, knowing how to read odds tell you, among other things, how much you stand to win. If you see the New Jersey Devils listed on the moneyline at -125, you need to wager $125 to potentially win $100. Alternatively, if the Devils are priced at +125, a winning $100 bet would net you $125 in profit.

A number preceded by a “-” sign means a team is favored while a number preceded by a “+” sign means the team is an underdog. As the gap between the two numbers grows, the potential payout on the underdog increases while the potential payout on the favorite decreases.

If the Boston Red Sox are -550 versus the Baltimore Orioles, a Red Sox moneyline bettor would need to risk $550 to win $100. To many experienced bettors, the risk of making this wager starts to outweigh the rewards.

Can you imagine how those who backed Mike Tyson against Buster Douglas felt in 1990 after putting up large chunks of cash for such small potential payouts? Even if Tyson won the fight, the reward would have been minimal, to say the least. 

parlay odds

Why Bet Parlays?

The great thing about parlays is that they allow you to boost the odds. Sure, laying down $550 to win $100 isn’t too appetizing. However, if you combine that $550 wager with another favorite like the New York Yankees at -200 versus the Toronto Blue Jays, you now stand to profit $425 from that same $550 bet amount. That’s a lot more appealing.

Of course, the biggest drawback to parlay betting is that you need to get all of your predictions correct. In the above scenario, a loss by either Boston or New York kills your ticket. Such is the nature of gambling.

Parlay bets also give you a shot at a big payday. Many parlay bettors have won huge sums of money by successfully parlaying multiple games with high odds. And it doesn’t just have to be strictly high odds.

In 2015, a lucky NFL bettor had a 15-leg parlay consisting of 14 spread picks and a total. The odds ended up being a whopping 20,000-1. With a ton of help from the gambling gods, her $5 bet won and she came away $100,000 richer. There are plenty of examples of parlay bets paying massive dividends.

It’s important to keep in mind that every bet you add to your parlay lowers your chances of winning. You lose if you miss just one pick. Many parlay bettors have experienced an excruciating punch to the gut after the last pick of their multi-leg parlay fell flat.

How to Calculate Parlay Odds

Calculating parlay odds is a simple exercise if you know how to multiply. If you aren’t very good at multiplication, worry not. Online sportsbooks automatically calculate bets and update your parlay odds as you add each pick to your ticket. There are also plenty of free parlay odds calculators that you can use to figure out parlay odds using American odds, fractional odds, or decimal odds.

Step 1: Convert American Odds into Decimal Odds

For those who want to calculate their parlay odds by themselves, the easiest way begins with converting American odds into decimal odds. Use the following formula for “+” odds:

  • (American Moneyline Odds / 100) + 1

Putting the formula to practical use, let’s say you want to convert +120 into decimal odds:

  • (120/100) + 1
  • = (1.2) + 1
  • = 2.20

Converting “-” American odds to decimal form is a little different but still pretty simple. The formula is:

  • (100 / American Moneyline Odds) + 1

Using the formula, let’s convert -200 into decimal odds:

  • (100 / 200) + 1
  • = (.50) + 1
  • = 1.50

Step 2: Multiply the Decimal Odds of Parlay Picks Together

Let’s assume you have chosen five games to parlay and you have converted the odds to decimal form. Take the decimal odds and multiply them together. For example:

  • 2.20 x 1.50 x 1.75 x 2.50 x 3.25

The product of this equation totals 46.92. This is your parlay odds. 

Step 3: Calculate Potential Parlay Payout

To find out what the parlay’s potential payout is, simply multiply parlays odds by the amount you wish to wager. If you want to bet $5, then multiply 46.92 by 5. That equals $234.60, which is the amount you would receive if all picks were correct.

Combination Parlays 

You already know that one of the biggest drawbacks to betting parlays is that you need to correctly predict each leg or the ticket loses. The exception to this rule is combination parlays or combination bets. 

In a nutshell, combination bets consist of several smaller parlays within a single parlay ticket. Instead of having to get each pick correct, you can make money if only some combinations within the parlay are correct. Confused? Don’t be.

Let’s start with a four-game combination bet (already converted to decimal odds) consisting of the Red Sox at 1.45, Los Angeles Dodgers at 1.80, Philadelphia Phillies at 2.60, and the Chicago Cubs at 2.70. Within these four games are four separate 3-leg parlays plus one 4-leg parlay:

Ticket #12345
BetsRed Sox 1.45
Dodgers 1.80
Phillies 2.60
Red Sox 1.45
Phillies 2.60
Cubs 2.70
Red Sox 1.45
Dodgers 1.80
Cubs 2.70
Dodgers 1.80
Phillies 2.60
Cubs 2.70
Red Sox 1.45
Dodgers 1.80
Phillies 2.60
Cubs 2.70
Parlay Odds6.7810.187.0512.6318.32
Wager$10$10$10$10$10
Potential Payout$67.80$101.80$70.50$126.30$183.20

Odds of the Parlay Winning

Keeping it simple, you would be betting on five separate parlays with each one offering different parlay odds. You could miss one of your predictions and still win money. In the above example, the wager amount is $10 per combination for a total bet amount of $50.

So, the best-case scenario would have all four picks winning. This would mean you win every bet and come away with $549.60. The worst case would be if two or more of those teams lost. The ticket would be toast.

Now, if only the Red Sox lost, then you would still receive $126.30 with ticket 4. If only the Dodgers lost, ticket 2 cashes for $101.80. If only the Phillies lost, you would get $70.50 on ticket 3 while a Cubs loss would leave you with $67.80 on ticket 1. See? You can miss one and still make a profit.

There are several different types of combination parlay a sports bettor can make. Choose 5 games and combine ten 3-leg parlays, five 4-leg parlays, and a single 5-game parlay. Throw a bunch of 2-game parlays in the mix if you want to. The cost of a combination parlay ticket can add up, but so can your profits.

Find an Edge for Parlays and Parlay Odds

Grinding out a profit by betting on sports is tough which means parlay bettors need to take advantage of any edge they can get. Shopping around for the best odds greatly increases your chances of coming out on top in the long run. Why settle for less? 

Parlay bettors also do themselves a favor by taking advantage of the promotions that many sportsbooks offer to parlay players. Parlay odds boosts and enhanced odds are just a couple of ways to get added value and more profitable payouts from parlays. Many bookies also offer Acca insurance, which rewards parlay players even if they miss one of their selections.

There’s no time like the present to give parlay betting a whirl. You’re not going to win every time, but when you do, the financial and emotional payoff will be more than worth it.