Best Place To Bet: How to Bet Parlays in Sports

Best Place To Bet: How to Bet Parlays in Sports


The general rule regarding parlays is: DON’T.

Parlays generally carry a higher house edge than straight bets, which means you give the book a bigger advantage over you when you play them.

That, by itself, is reason enough to suppress the misplaced feelings of greed combined with fear that often lead to betting parlays.

People think they are risking less with parlays, but they are not. They believe they can win more with parlays, but they cannot.


The higher win with parlays is far outweighed by the higher probability of losing. Parlay bettors are actually risking more, with less probability of collecting.

A parlay is not a single bet. It is two bets — a one-unit bet on one team and a two-unit bet on the other. Which team gets the two-unit bet?

In point-spread betting at constant money odds, if both teams win or both teams lose it doesn’t matter which team gets the double bet. When one team wins and one team loses, however, the double bet is presumed to have been on the loser.


How smart is that for the bettor? Go ahead, make a parlay. We’ll wait until both games are over, and in case of a split we’ll put the double bet on the loser. If your bookmaker sold you a parlay with that line, how many of you would still make the bet?

A parlay is also bad money management. In a parlay you either bet double on the second team, or nothing on that same team, depending upon whether the first game won or lost. That adds an element of luck to your betting that doesn’t need to be there.


The skilled handicapper is always seeking to make smart investments. He tries to eliminate the effect of luck to the greatest extent possible in order to make his results as predictable as possible.

As with every rule, however, there are exceptions. The exception to the rule regarding parlays occurs when the two bets are co-dependent.

I knew one bookmaker who was taken for tens of thousands because he didn’t understand the co-dependency of certain bets. He allowed a player to consistently parlay the first half with the game.

The player parlayed totals by combining the over in the first half with the over in the game, and the under in the first half with under in the game. Both parlays were made in the same game.

Each time the player won he would win 2.6 times his bet. Betting $100 on each parlay, if one of them won, the player would win $260 and lose $100 on the other parlay for a net win of $160. He could never win both parlays. If he lost both parlays he would lose $200.

At first glance, this appeared to be a great opportunity for the book. The normal coin-flip odds of winning one parlay out of the two are 50-50.

As far as the bookie was concerned the bettor should be winning $160 half the time, and losing $200 half the time.

The bettor, however, making $500 parlays, was ahead more than $20,000 after 6 months, and the book began to look at what the bettor was doing more carefully.

The problem for the bookmaker was that the two halves of each parlay were co-dependent. At the end of the first half, the bettor was almost never in a 50-50 situation.


Take the Thursday night game between Utah and Air Force. The game total was 53 and the first half total was 27. At the end of the first half, the score was 31-21, for a total of 52 first-half points.

The first half of one of the parlays, the “over” in the first half was a winner. For the parlay probability to be correct, there should now be a 50-50 probability of winning the “over” for the game.

Obviously the odds of winning the “over” in the game were not 50-50 but better than 99% in favor of the “over.” The player only needed to win the first half of the parlay to be virtually assured that he would collect 2.6 times his money instead of just $10 for $11.

Before you rush out to try this, be aware that most off-shore books are far too smart to allow you to parlay first half to game. If they do allow you to do this, start worrying about collecting because that book will soon be taken to the cleaners.

There are, however, some less obvious co-dependent parlays that can still be made at many books. One type of co-dependent parlay is the parlay of the side and total in the same game.


Any game in which the total is less than double the spread can give you an advantage in parlaying side to total in the same game. We’ve already discussed, in a prior article, how to use these anomalous side and total combinations to hedge one another and increase your win with very little increase in risk.

Such a bet, however, required that you have an opinion on the side or the total. Parlaying is another method to increase your potential win on these games, or to create a potential win if you have no opinion.

There are two games this Saturday that qualify. They are Virigina -25 over Duke with a total of 48 ½, and Kansas St. -24 ½ vs. North Texas with a total 46 ½).

In the Virginia game, if you believe that Virginia will cover the 25 points, then they must hold Duke to no more than 11 points or the game will go over the total. The more likely it becomes during the game that Virginia will cover 25 points, the more likely it becomes that the game will go over 48 ½.

The wider Virginia’s winning margin, the more likely the game will go over. If you like Virginia to cover the spread, and you believe that Duke will not be shut out, then your probability of winning a parlay on Virginia and the over are higher than the normal 25%.

Likewise, if the scoring stays low, it is less likely that Virginia will cover the 25 points. As a result, the probability that a parlay of the under with the underdog will win is higher than the normal 25%.

If you have no opinion on the game, you can parlay the favorite with the “over” and the underdog with the “under” and collect sufficiently often to exceed the losses when both parlays lose.

In the only other game meeting the qualifications this week — Friday’s game between California -30 against New Mexico State with a total of 58 — the under has already won with the underdog for a winning two-parlay spread.

The closer the posted total is to the spread on the side, the better win-rate will be on the parlay “spread” bet.

The co-dependency in side to total parlays is not as strong as parlaying first half and game totals (if it were, most books would not allow such bets), but there is a sufficient co-dependency in the games with low totals and high spreads to make the strategy profitable long-term.

Not all bookmakers will allow you to parlay the side to the total in the same game, because more and more are realizing that these bets are sometimes co-dependent. But, enough books still do allow such bets for you to consider including such bets in your professional betting arsenal.

If your bookmaker provides “if/reverse” bets, you can replace the parlay bet with an “if/reverse” bet and achieve greater success.

RJ Bell is the founder of – Where sports bettors get ready. RJ has been an expert contributor to Maxim Magazine,,, and ABC News – and has won 3 world handicapping championships!

Located in Las Vegas, the team works at adding to your betting confidence with powerful game insights and sportsbook reviews., the biggest daily sports betting newsletter, delivers help from famous handicappers.