Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Betting: What you need to know about parlays

While most people who bet on football stick to the basic bets like moneylines and spreads, there is a huge array of options at your fingertips. It’s good to have a keen understanding of all bet types from straight bets to teasers to parlays because they all have different uses depending on the situation.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at parlays and the strategy behind them.

Understanding Betting Odds

Before you grasp parlays, you have to have a basic understanding of betting odds. Let’s do a quick run through to make sure you know how to read the betting lines. Let’s use the following example:

Dallas Cowboys +150

Philadelphia Eagles -200

As you can see, there are two teams here with odds next to their names. The first thing you want to take note of is the positive or negative sign in front of the odds. If it’s a minus sign, that indicates how much you’d bet to win $100. In this case, a $200 bet on the Eagles would return $100 in profit. On the other hand, a plus sign suggests how much you’d win if you bet $100. If you bet $100 on the Cowboys, you’d win back $150.

Of course, you aren’t tied to betting in $100 increments but this just gives you an idea of how the odds work and how to calculate the payout.

What Are Parlays?

Parlays are a type of NFL bet where you link multiple outcomes together. For you to win your bet, all of the outcomes in your prediction have to be correct. If any of them lose, then you lose your entire bet. Let’s use the following example:

Dallas Cowboys -2.5

New Orleans Saints -9.5

Chicago Bears -1.5

A parlay can have as many picks inside in it as you like – three, four, five, six, seven, etc. – but in this case, we’ll stick with three. In the above example, there are three picks in the parlay, that means you are playing a three-game parlay. That means the Cowboys, Saints and Bears all have to cover the spread for you to win your parlay. If any of them lose, you lose the entire bet.

As you can tell, this type of bet is more difficult to win since you need to be right about multiple outcomes instead of just one. However, the benefit is that parlays payout exponentially more than regular bets. We’ll take a closer look at the payouts in the next section.

Understanding Parlay Payouts

Although it’s not overly relevant these days (we’ll explain at the end of this paragraph), if you’re wondering how to calculate a parlay, here’s how to do it.

Let’s say you’re working with a three-team parlay with the following teams:

Green Bay Packers -150

Los Angeles Chargers -120

Buffalo Bills +170

When you see odds like “-150” or “-120”, those are called American Odds. The first thing that you’ll want to do here is convert those into decimal odds. To do that, you simply divide the total payout for the game (odds and stake) by the risk amount. For the Giants, it’s $150 to win $100, so the total payout is $250. You divide that by $150 and get 1.66. For the Bills, the total payout is $270 and the stake is $100, so the decimal odds are 2.7. And for the Chargers it’s 1.833.  

Then, you multiply the three numbers by each other, which gives you 8.2495. So if you be $100 on this parlay, you’d win back $824.95.

While it’s nice to know how to calculate the winnings, BetDSI does all of the work for you. Just pick the games you want to add to your parlay and it will immediately give you the odds right back. You can also use parlay calculators, which are readily found online. You won’t get stuck doing complicated math in your head or on paper.

The Pros and Cons Of Betting Parlays

There are some wide-ranging thoughts in the betting community when it comes to parlays. Some people love them and endorse them, others avoid them at all costs. Let’s take a closer look at both sides.

Of course, there are many people who are against parlays and the logic is simple: they are risky. It’s hard enough to win at sports betting, so why increase your risk? Playing parlays of three, four, five games or more can be extremely challenging. If one game loses, you lose your entire bet. All of your handicapping, planning and picking goes down the drain. Let’s say you bet three games in a parlay and two of them win. Had you bet the three games as individual bets, you’d still have two winners. And even if you lose two but won once, you’d have something to show for your efforts. In a parlay, those would be losses and that’s where it hurts.

On the other hand, you could win big. As the saying goes, “without risk, there is no reward”. If you were to win three individual bets versus a three-game parlay, your payout would be much smaller. That’s why it sometimes pays to play parlays. And while most people view them as risky, consider the following situation: let’s say you bet three individual bets and lost them all. That could hurt you more than betting one parlay with the three teams and losing the one bet.

While parlays are risky, there’s a time and place to use them. They can be a reasonable part of anyone’s sports betting strategy.

Conference Championships NFL Parlay of the Week

Saints -3.5 vs. Rams

Patriots +3 at Chiefs


With only two games to choose from (plus their respective totals), it can be difficult to prepare an NFL-only parlay this weekend (same goes for Super Bowl Sunday, when there are tons of prop bets but many cannot be included in parlays). So proceed with some caution here, or consider combining the NFL bet you like the most with a contest from the NBA, college basketball, NHL, soccer or the Australian Open.

But if you’re sticking purely to the NFL, there is a seemingly good option for a parlay. The early game is the NFC championship, at 3 p.m. ET, and it features the New Orleans Saints at home against the Los Angeles Rams. A well-publicized stat is that the Saints have never lost a home playoff game in the Sean Payton/Drew Brees era. That almost came crashing down last week, when New Orleans had to dig out of an early 14-0 hole and then hang on with a late dropped-pass interception to hold off the reigning champion Eagles. But that doesn’t mean the streak can’t or won’t continue. The Saints likely won’t play as poorly as they did for the first quarter and a half against Philadelphia, and the Rams won’t be able to run wild against New Orleans’ defense like they did last Saturday against Dallas — in fact, the Saints haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 11 of the 2017 season. The Saints beat the Rams 45-35 in November, and while both offenses have regressed a bit since then, it’s the New Orleans defense that has improved the most. Combine that with the Superdome’s formidable home-field advantage, and the Saints are the pick.

Now for the late game. The Patriots have been using a “go ahead, bet against us” theme all week, and while playing the no-respect card as the most successful pro sports franchise of the past 30 years is farcical, it also doesn’t mean that you should in fact bet against New England. This figures to be a close, cold game. We know Tom Brady can perform in the cold, but we don’t know that about Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Even if he can (and smart money says he’ll be fine), this game figures to come down to the wire. In that case, you’d much rather be getting the three points than laying them, and you’d much rather have the coaching acumen of Bill Belichick than Andy Reid, who for all his overall brilliance tends has made some head-scratching decisions late in games.

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