HOW NFL PARLAY BETS WORK
When it comes to betting on professional football, NFL parlay bets are not as simple as other NFL bets. However, that doesn’t mean they’re very complex or difficult to understand, either.
In the simplest terms, a parlay bet is just a series of individual bets put together on a single ticket. Parlays are sometimes referred to as chain bets or joint wagers.
Assembling a winning parlay ticket is equal parts art and science. Because they’re considered one of the advanced NFL bet types, parlays are not recommended for first-time bettors, but if you already understand NFL gambling basics, you should give them a try. Just be sure to familiarize yourself with the various definitions and parlay strategies on this page, because nobody wants to be flagged for a false start!
To get you in shape for NFL prop betting this season, we’ve provided examples, and a detailed explanation for each type of prop bet you’ll encounter when legally betting on NFL football this year. Additionally, we’ve also included our recommended list of the best NFL prop betting sites, so you can see all the proposition wagers offered for yourself.
Is It Legal To Make Parlay Bets In 2022?
Yes, as long as there are no specific state laws that outlaw offshore betting or domestic parlay betting. There are no federal gambling laws preventing US citizens from making parlay bets on NFL games or any other sport. Only Washington has enacted laws against online betting. Residents from this state can still access legal international gambling sites, and even though these state restrictions are not enforced, technically it is still illegal.
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Understanding NFL Parlays
You should never attempt a parlay without first understanding how they work. The draw of NFL parlay betting is that while these wagers are often no more expensive than betting against the spreads or totals bets, they pay out much more. As a result, beginners are often drawn to them before they know all the details, which can hurt their bottom lines.
Remember: In parlay betting, your task is to combine multiple bets into a single wager. These wagers can include NFL proposition bets, game lines, or NFL futures. However, all the different constituent bets – usually called “legs” – will have to hit in order for your ticket to win.
Why Parlay Payouts Are Higher
A parlay bet’s payout will always be higher than the sum of the payouts for all the individual bets that make it up. This is because you have a much lower probability of winning a parlay than of winning any of its constituent legs. Consider the following three NFL straight moneyline bets:
- Chicago Bears +130 at Indianapolis Colts -150
- San Francisco 49ers +165 at Kansas City Chiefs -190
- Seattle Seahawks -170 at Los Angeles Chargers +150
Let’s say you want to bet $100 on the favorites in each of these three games. That means that if you win, a $300 total bet would result in winnings of $178.12. However, if you combine your choices into a three-bet parlay, the payout is $912.07. That’s a massive difference. Even if you only wager $100 on this parlay, if it wins, you’d get $304.02 (per Bovada’s parlay pricing).
The downside, of course, is that if you place the three bets individually, you don’t lose all your money if any of the three bets loses. In a parlay wager, if any single bet in the chain loses, you lose the entire thing. High risk, high reward!
Common Types Of NFL Parlays
Like a Patrick Mahomes bomb, the parlay betting rabbit hole goes pretty deep. Many advanced parlay permutations will only be available at one site or another, too, as each NFL sportsbook likes to put their twist on the more common offerings. For now, though, you should only worry about the old standards, as you’ll need to master these before moving on. These include standard parlays, teaser bets, pleaser bets, if bets, and reverses.
The standard parlay merely requires you to assemble a chain bet or joint wager as described above. Most sportsbooks will accept parlays of 10 or more wagers, and the only thing to remember is that in order to win a parlay, all your wagers have to be correct. If you lose any bet within a parlay, you lose the entire parlay. The more teams you include in the parlay, the higher the payout odds will be.
Teaser betting odds are parlays made up of spread bets where the lines are all shifted by a fixed amount in the favor of the bettor. If you assemble a 7-point teaser, for example, a team favored at -8.5 will be teased down to -1.5. Similarly, an underdog with +2.5 odds will be teased up to +9.5 odds. Teasers make it easier to win spread parlays, but the payouts are substantially reduced.
Pleasers are the exact opposite of teasers, moving the spreads in a parlay in the sportsbook’s favor. For example, a 5-point pleaser will make a -6 favorite into a -11 favorite, while a +7.5 underdog would have their line set at +2.5. Because pleasers are much harder to win, the payouts are much better than standard parlays.
There is some debate as to whether or not if bets are actually parlays, but for our purposes, they’re close enough. In if betting, each wager in a parlay only has action if the previous leg is a winner. The reason that NFL if bets are popular is that they limit bettor liability. Let’s say you’ve chosen to make an if bet by picking the favorites from the following two wagers, putting up an initial risk of $100:
- Bet 1: Baltimore Ravens -235 at Miami Dolphins +195
- Bet 2: New York Giants +260 at Dallas Cowboys -320
If the Ravens lose Bet 1, the bet is graded a loser, and you’re out $100. However, if they Ravens win Bet 1, you get a payout of $42.55. Then, your initial $100 stake is applied to Bet 2. If Bet 2 is a winner, you get a payout of $31.25, for a total if bet winnings of $73.80.
However, if Bet 2 loses, you lose your entire $100 stake. But because the first wager won $42.55, your total net losses for the whole bet come to $57.45. You’ve still lost money, but you haven’t lost nearly as much as you would have had you placed this if bet as a standard parlay.
Reverses are the most complex of the common NFL parlays. They work like if bets, but in both directions. With regular if betting, you designate which bet will be graded first, and if that bet loses, the whole wager is lost. With reverses, there is no order, so all orders have action.
In a two-bet reverse, the initial stake will be twice as high as the same wager constructed in the if bet format. In a three-bet reverse, your risk will be three times as high, and so on. We do not recommend NFL reverses for anyone but expert bettors with lots of football wagering experience.
NFL Open Parlays
Standard parlay bets are fixed at the time you assemble your ticket, but open parlays allow you to keep the bet open-ended. For example, say you’d like to place a profitable parlay, but there’s only one NFL game you want to wager on this week. If you make that wager part of an open parlay, you can add a second wager next week and a third the week after that, etc.
Because open parlays can take several weeks or months to vest, professional bettors do not favor them, and they are attractive primarily for casual bettors and parlay beginners. Open parlays also allow bettors to collect more information on statistical trends from week to week, which can lead to more informed betting in general.
NFL Progressive Parlays
Progressive parlays offer “consolation payouts” if you lose some of the legs of your wager. Different NFL sports betting sites will have different rules for how many wins a ticket must accrue to pay out partial winnings, but the idea is that after a certain number of wins on your ticket, any further wins will increase your payout.
Progressive parlays are like insurance: Your chances to win at least some money are higher, but the payout ceiling for winning all the bets on your ticket is lower. Progressives are especially good for those just learning about NFL parlays.
NFL Round Robin Parlays
Round Robin parlays are standard chain bets that comprise all possible combinations. Let’s say you see five “sure things” on your sportsbook’s NFL betting board, but you only want to make a three-bet parlay. To increase your odds of winning, you can bet on every three-bet combination of those five total bets.
Round Robin betting is also called “boxing” you bets, and it increases your chances to earn a profit. The caveat: Your initial risk will be higher for each extra team you add to your Round Robin “pool” for a given number of parlay legs.
NFL Cross-Sport Parlays
For most American bettors during NFL season, there is no other sport that matters. However, you might be one of those total weirdos that also likes baseball or basketball – or even hockey! If so, you may elect to make a cross-sport parlay bet. Most of the top offshore sportsbooks will allow you to mix and match contests across different sports. If you want to make a five-bet parlay with three NFL bets, a baseball bet, and a basketball bet, you can! As with most parlays, these can be open parlays, progressive parlays, Round Robins, and so on.
NFL Parlay Tips And Tricks
How To Make A Parlay Bet
If you’re using an established, reputable betting site, there isn’t much involved in putting together your NFL parlays: Just pick the wagers you want to include, tap/click the parlay check box, type in your desired risk amount, and submit your ticket. For more exotic types of parlays, each sportsbook will have a different process to follow.
Know Your Sportsbook’s Parlay Rules
Each NFL sports betting site will have different types of parlays and parlay rules in effect. Many of the top offshore sportsbooks will offer handy payout charts, too, which are worth bookmarking. One of the main rules that vary from book to book are how push results are handled. Some online sportsbooks will call a push a win for parlay purposes, while others will not. Always read the fine print when putting together parlay bets.
Mix In A Few Underdogs
Most bettors will assemble parlay tickets full of favorites and call it a day. But upsets happen “any given Sunday” in the NFL. By mixing in a few underdogs, you lower your perceived chances to win, but you increase your payout potential considerably. The best time to assemble a parlay is not when you see a bunch of can’t-miss favorites on the betting board, but when you smell an upset. Surround that underdog pick with some easy favorites, and laugh all the way to the bank.
Don’t Get Greedy
Parlays pay out extremely well, which means that they’re going to entice lots of bettors to “go all in.” After all, why risk $100 to win a measly $150 when you could win $1000? The answer, of course, is because you can lose that $100 just as quickly. Always bear in mind that profitable sports betting is a long-haul proposition, not a get-rich-quick scheme. Small-dollar parlays add up over time.
Don’t Make A Parlay With Your Last Dime
When you’re down to the last $20 in your NFL betting account, you might be tempted to go for the jackpot and put all of it on a big parlay. Don’t do it! Parlays are harder to win than they seem, and when you have limited funds remaining in your online bankroll, you need to focus on building that bankroll up with small bets, one at a time.
Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
Again, parlays can seem like easy money. But looks can be deceiving, and it’s important that you don’t jump in before you know how to swim. Parlays, as a class, are the most complex kinds of bets in the NFL gambling market. Many professionals even call them “sucker bets,” because beginners will invariably take big risks too soon. Take your time to learn the plays, and parlays will eventually come naturally. Force the pass, and you can expect an interception every time.