How Parlay Betting Works, Moneyline Parlay, True Odds & Payouts

February 25, 2020

Parlays are one of the hottest bets in the sportsbook world. They are a great way for players to increase their payout without increasing their wager. For this reason, we’ve put together some great information on parlays for you. We will discuss exactly what parlays are, and how they work. This article will explain the difference between the types of parlays, such as point spreads and moneylines. We will also talk about other facets of parlays, such as what the rules for bets that push in a parlay, and what is a key parlay. We will also give you some tips on how to customize your parlay setup.

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How Does Parlay Betting Work

Let’s answer a common question we hear from a lot of players and local bookies: “how does parlay betting work?”. When your player places a bet, they are normally betting on just one thing. A race, a game, a score, etc. In a parlay bet, they are combining multiple bets. They must “hit” on all of the bets, meaning pick the winner correctly. If they do, they will see a substantially larger payout than a single bet. In a three-game parlay, the standard vegas parlay payouts is 6 to 1 (American +600) which is a huge payday.

Parlay Settings customization screen on
When using as your pay per head sportsbook provider, you have in-depth parlay controls to customize every aspect of your parlay offering. You can even select in which sports, leagues, periods or quarters your players are able to place parlays.

Another way to look at it is if they’re going to place three different $50 bets anyway, why not make them a parlay. They only need to hit on the parlay once in six times and it will do better than break even.

Parlays are good for minimizing losses as well. Let’s say a player bets $50 on three different games ($55 x 3 = 165), and they win one and lose two. They’ve lost $60. If they had parlayed those bets, they would only be down $50.

So even though the more games they add to a parlay, the harder it gets to win, the payout continues to be better than the risk. This should answer the common question: “How Does Parlay Betting Work?”

Point Spread Parlays

A typical points spread parlay looks something like this:

2 teams13/5
3 teams6/1
4 teams10/1
5 teams20/1
6 teams40/1
7 teams75/1
8 teams150/1

That means that if a player bets a four-team parlay and all four bets hit, they win $10 for every $1 they bet. So if they bet $100 on a six-team parlay and hit all six games, they will win $4000. Parlays allow players to win big money with relatively small bets. This is why parlays are so popular in sports betting.

Point spread parlay bet slip view on
Your players can see the final payout right within the betslip widget.

How Do Moneyline Parlays Work (Moneyline Parlay Formula)

With a moneyline parlay, the odds of winning vary from team to team, so they don’t use fixed odds like point spread parlay. The point spread evens the odds of each team winning, but a moneyline parlay doesn’t do that. If one team is a heavy favorite, the parlay odds payout will vary accordingly. This is part of the moneyline parlay formula.

How moneyline parlays work view from
The parlay payout will differ depending on the actual moneyline odds. The bet-slip shows you players the final payout instantly.

As the player wins a moneyline parlay, the money rolls over to the next game. Let’s look at an example of how the moneyline parlay formula works. Your player places a $10 moneyline parlay on the St. Louis Cardinals at +160 and the Texas Rangers at -130. The Cardinals bet wins and pays out $26, which rolls over to the Rangers bet. So the Rangers bet is $26 at -130. If the Rangers also win, the player has turned $10 into $46. That’s a $36 profit. If the player had made a point spread parlay on those games, the profit would have been $26. The difference comes from the fact that the Cardinals did not have good odds of winning.

What are True Odds in Parlays

Another important point to cover when answering the common question of: “how does parlay betting work?” is understanding True odds in parlays. As we talked about earlier, fixed odds means that all bets are 50/50 odds, this type of parlays use the standard parlay odds payout table discussed previously. If one team is better than the other, or one side of the bet is more likely, true odds are given. This is the typical scenario when placing a moneyline parlay. It’s important to understand that the term “true odds” does not refer to the actual odds of winning.

True odds parlay
The purpose of the point spread is to level the possibility of each side and make it a 50/50 bet for the player. The moneyline shows a clear favorite and underdog. This causes the parlay true odds formula to differ from the fixed point spread parlay calculation.

Let’s look at how the moneyline parlay formula works. In a true odds parlay, each of the bets is converted into a multiplier. In the moneyline parlay formula, the equation to get the multiplier goes like this: “return amount” divided by “risked amount”. Let’s do math. If the true odds are -110, a $110 bet returns $210 because $110 + $100 = $210. $210 return divided by $110 risk is shown as 210/110 = 1.91. That’s the multiplier. On -115 odds, the multiplier would be 215/115 or 1.87.

Now let's look at an example of a moneyline parlay bet. Our example is a four team parlay with true odds. Here are the odds:

Bet 1-110
Bet 2-140
Bet 3+210
Bet 4-110

Let’s say our player bet $300. Our first step is to get our multiplier using the math equation return amount divided by risk amount. Here are our multipliers.

Bet 1-1101.91
Bet 2-1401.71
Bet 3+2103.10
Bet 4-1101.91

Continuing with the moneyline parlay formula, now we multiply the multipliers, and come up with 19.3385. If we take this number and multiply it by our players bet amount ($300), we get $5801.55. Remember to take away our original bet of $300, and our player is left with a four team parlay profit of $5501.55. Not bad.

Reduce Odds

As a bookie, when using our pay per head platform (request a free demo here), you can adjust the true odds by the “Reduce Odds By” option. This takes away a percentage from all true odds parlay payouts. (Example: True Odds -10%). This is a great aid for local bookies wanting to offer a reduced payout not only on fixed odds parlays (those with a spread of -110), but also those with different moneylines, hence using the true odds moneyline parlay formula).

Reduce odds payouts for true odds parlays -
Most pay per head sportsbook solutions don’t give you any tools to deal with true odds parlays. This means the player simply needs to enter a non-(-110) line to force the system to use true odds instead of fixed parlay payouts (which are more beneficial to you as the bookie). With our pay per head solution ( you can reduce the parlay payout to any given percentage.

Push in a Parlay

Normally when one of the games in a parlay pushes, that bet is removed from the parlay. This is the most common behavior of a push in a parlay. So if the player wagers a three-team parlay, and game three ends pushes, the wager turns into a two team parlay, and therefore the payout is calculated as a 2-team parlay payout. But that’s not always the case. Here are three examples of how sportsbooks treat a push in a parlay:

  • The entire bet is deemed a loss and the player loses the full amount wagered
  • The entire bet is deemed a push, and the players wager amount is returned
  • The leg of the parlay that pushes is removed, and the parlay continues. This is yet another way to handle a push in a parlay

As a bookie working with, you get to decide how you handle a push in a parlay. Using our pay per head sportsbook solution, you have the choice of setting your players’ parlays to “Remove Leg” or “Loss”.

Each bookie operates under slightly different rules. Making your rules clear to your players is important to help them avoid unnecessary losses and complaints towards your business.

What Is A Key Parlay

Another relevant issue to address is: “what is a key parlay? Key parlays is a topic not frequently discussed when answering the question: “how does parlay betting work?”. A key parlay is another way of linking wagers. In a key parlay, the player selects a team as the key, and parlays that team with other teams. This is the basics of “what is a key parlay”.

Let’s look at an example to better answer the question: “what is a key parlay?”. Let’s consider team A, B, and C. Team A is the key. He parlays Teams A/B, and Teams A/C, but not Teams B/C because that doesn’t include the key.

What is a Key parlay
In this example, 3 teams have been used for 2 parlays with Pelicans +8 as the key, and the two combination: Thunder -6.5 and Pistons +575

Now let’s use three baseball teams as an example. Our player plans to bet on the Reds, Astros, and Cardinals. He uses the Reds as his key. So he parlays the Reds and Astros to win, and also parlays the Reds and Cardinals to win. But NOT the Astros/Cardinals, because that doesn’t include the key. With this concept, you can also have multiple keys and multiple teams in the parlay. These are the basics to understand “what is a key parlay”.

Vegas Parlay Payouts (Standard Parlay Odds Payout)

Las vegas parlay payouts in most sportsbooks are slightly less than the actual odds of winning. Take a look at the standard parlay odds payout chart below.

TeamsActual OddsLas Vegas Payout

As a local bookie, you have the ability to change the standard parlay odds payout from the traditional “vegas parlay payouts” using our pay per head service. These only apply if your player is betting at -110 odds (to see how you can reduce the true odds payout see the “Reduce Odds” section).

For example, you could set a two team parlay to pay at 2.1 instead of the traditional vegas parlay payout of 2.6. You also have the ability as a local bookie to set the maximum parlay payout. For example, a four team parlay with a wager of $100 would normally pay out $1228. But you can set your max parlay payout to $1000, instead of the full amount.


In this article we’ve talked about what parlays are and several different types of parlays. Parlays are a great way to keep players interested and keep the bets going, as well as a way for players to increase their potential earning while risking the same amount. We have also given you several ways to customize your parlays on your sportsbook.

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If you’d like more information on how to begin using the parlay information you learned here, as well as all of the other tools available on our pay per head sportsbook, simply request a free demo account today!

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