NFL Parlay Betting Strategy

NFL Betting Strategy Course 106
Among the many ways one can bet on the NFL, parlays are one of the most popular. The lure of a larger payout from accurately predicting the outcome of two or more offerings together instead of just one entices many recreational NFL bettors. While you are unlikely to find many sharps playing tickets with massive parlay combinations, there are very real benefits to parlaying two or three bets together. This article contains an introduction and overview of parlay betting. It will also cover several tips and strategies bettors can implement when it comes to betting NFL parlays. The last sections allude to various benefits and risks of parlay betting.

Parlay Betting Overview

By definition, a parlay is a single bet that combines together two or more individual wagers and is dependent on all of those wagers winning together. Other common names for parlay bets include accumulator, combo, or multi bets. Parlays garner much of their popularity as a result of the increased payouts that they offer compared to traditional straight betting. The combination of multiple bets into one decreases the odds on the entire parlay bet winning. These longer odds naturally result in higher payouts.

Parlay Bet Example

The best way to illustrate exactly how a parlay bet works is to show an example. Suppose a bettor is interested in betting each of the favorites in the three NFL games shown below on the moneyline.

NFL Lines Parlay Example

Because betting moneyline favorites means that you will be dealing with a significant amount of juice, this can lead to an extremely limited profit, especially for bettors operating with a smaller bankroll that they must distribute across the three games. Parlay betting to the rescue!

After selecting each of the three bets from the odds list individually, they show up on the bet slip as seen in the image below. Note the total potential payout of $43.30 if a $10 wager on each bet were to cash.

Individual Bets Slip

When you switch over from the “Singles” tab to the “Parlay” tab on the bet slip, you will see that the odds on a parlay of all three wagers together are calculated automatically and displayed. For those betting with a smaller bankroll, and therefore in smaller amounts, a parlay bet with +197 odds is certainly a more profitable venture than betting any of the favorites individually with significant juice. Compare the $43.30 payout of the three $10 individual bets above to the $89.06 winnings of the $30 parlay bet below. The total wagered amount in both cases is $30, but thanks to the parlay, the bettor has an opportunity to make a much greater profit.

Parlay Betting Slip

Parlay Betting Odds

When it comes to how sportsbooks generate parlay odds, systems can vary. For most Las Vegas books, the standard multiplier is as follows:

Parlay Odds Calculation System

Most odds will be similar regardless of where you bet, however, several online and offshore books offer better odds than Las Vegas sites for parlays with three or more legs. There is a common perception that parlays are sucker bets. While this is not generalizable to all parlay bets across the board, there is a point on the ladder at which sportsbooks gain a tremendous mathematical advantage.

To illustrate this, consider that you start an NFL season with a bankroll of $1.00. You plan to grow this amount by betting your entire bankroll on a single game each week for eight weeks. You will either go 8-0 or lose it all. Here is what the potential winnings would look like assuming every bet was made with odds of -110.

Individual Bets Rollover Payouts

Compare those payouts to the standard parlay odds calculator shown above. The advantage that belongs to the sportsbooks starts to take shape with parlays of four different bets. With 4-leg parlays, the sportsbook has an advantage greater than 31% as opposed to the payout of making the wagers individually. The advantage only grows from there. While the exact numbers will vary for different books and bets, this basic premise is a key factor in one of the parlay betting strategies discussed in the next section.

NFL Parlay Betting Strategy

Now that we have covered the basics of parlay betting, the question becomes how to incorporate this form of betting into an NFL wagering venture. This section discusses several things to keep in mind as you choose when and where to combine individual NFL game bets into a parlay.

Limit Your Selections

Now and then throughout an NFL season, you’ll hear the story of someone hitting a massive payday on a parlay ticket of 10 or more legs. While there is certainly a feel-good element to each of these occurrences, don’t be one of those bettors who automatically assume, “Why not me?”, and rushes to put in 10-leg parlays every NFL Sunday thereafter. When it comes to setting yourself up for disaster, there isn’t a much better way.

The first key to successful NFL parlay betting is to limit your selections. This rule applies to all other forms of sports betting as well. As a general rule, most intelligent bettors never exceed three legs in a parlay wager. Two-team parlays are the most common, with three-team parlays being quite rare among the sharp betting community. These typically don’t come into play unless at least one of the selections is a tremendous outright favorite.

When you consider how sportsbooks generally determine the odds for parlays of a given size as discussed above, capping the size of your parlays at three makes even more sense. Going beyond three legs shifts the advantage drastically in favor of the sportsbook. In cases of four or more legs, you are most likely better off from an odds and profitability standpoint to make each wager individually.

Note the Game Start Times

The simple yet effective strategy of parlaying games that have different start times fits right in with the typical NFL Sunday lineup. With games starting in the early afternoon (or morning depending on where in the country you are located) and continuing through primetime, finding games with different scheduled kickoffs is not hard. Even if the later game starts before the conclusion of the first game, the bettor can still utilize live betting to hedge and at the very least, limit their loss from the original parlay wager.

How would this hedging process play out? Quite simply, if the first leg of a typical two-leg parlay wins, the bettor would know of this result either before kickoff or during the early stages of the second game. This would allow placing a hedge bet on the opposing side of the parlay’s second leg to avoid losing the entire amount of the parlay wager. If the second leg of the parlay goes through, the bettor cashes the initial ticket. If the second leg of the parlay were to fail, the bettor is still able to net some return on their investment by taking the opposing side through the hedge bet. The concept is the same as hedging on NFL futures bets, discussed in detail HERE.

Parlay Correlated Results Together

Looking for instances in which you can parlay two related bets together is another sound strategy to implement. The most basic example of this when it comes to traditional wagering is to parlay a large point spread favorite with the over on a low total that just doesn’t make sense given the size of the spread. If you are incorporating NFL prop betting into your handicapping, there can be any number of prop offerings that directly correlate with one another. If you love a quarterback to go over on their total passing yards prop for a game, chances are you also will like the team’s leading receiver to go over his yardage prop and/or score a touchdown. In the same scenario, a preference for a big passing day for a quarterback could also correlate nicely with an over bet on the total for the game. This strategy is not foolproof, and blindly parlaying bets that seem to be correlated is not advisable. But when the opportunity presents itself, this is a great facet of parlay betting to keep in mind.

Look for Big Moneyline Favorites

As alluded to in the example from above, one of the best parts about parlays is the ability to combine multiple moneyline favorites and generate a much more favorable payout. There are any number of different combinations to implement this strategy, and it ultimately boils down to what the odds are on the games in question. Once again, don’t get caught up in constantly stringing together massive amounts of favorites. Use this strategy in moderation and with caution, for even the biggest of NFL favorites are prone to being upset.

Utilize Teasers

A specific kind of parlay that is popular when it comes to betting on NFL games is the teaser. Different sportsbooks will offer different options and rules for buying points, but the most common form is the 6-point teaser. The basic premise of this type of bet is that it gives the bettor six points to add to the point spread for a game. The spread is teased up or down six points in the direction of the bettor’s choosing. This type of bet is very useful when it comes to implementing key NFL betting numbers into the handicapping process, discussed in detail HERE.

The catch with teasers is that to tease one line, you must parlay it with a second teased line. The other thing to be mindful of with teasers is that, contrary to standard parlays, the odds go against you. This is because of the deviation between the market game spread and the advantage gained by the bettor from teasing the spread in his/her favor. For typical spread odds of -110, a two-leg 6-point teaser has -120 odds.

In the image below, a 6-point teaser bet would move the Chiefs from 10-point favorites down to -4 and the Bears from 1.5-point underdogs up to +7.5. Note how a $20 teaser bet looks compared to betting $20 on each point spread individually or combining them in a traditional $20 parlay.

NFL Teaser Parlay Example

Benefits of NFL Parlay Betting

If one goes about it in a smart and strategical manner, there are several advantages to be gained from making parlays a part of an NFL betting endeavor.

The opportunity to obtain greater value on big favorites is enticing for any bettor regardless of bankroll size. For those operating on smaller budgets, parlays offer a much more lucrative payout when you can combine a large favorite with more even odds or put 2-3 large favorites together.

As touched upon in the strategy section above, parlays are easy to hedge. Even if you are unable to parlay games with different start times, you can hedge all at once by betting each of the two or three games in your parlay in the opposite direction.

Finally, parlays are a great way to utilize any bonus bets that you get from your sportsbook. Since bonus bets only yields the winning payout of the bets and the bonus wager amount is not returned, it makes sense to try and get as much of a payout as possible. Being able to place large-payout parlay bets with smaller amounts of bonus bets is a great strategy to maximize your bonus funds.

Risks of NFL Parlay Betting

With the good comes the bad. While parlay betting offers NFL bettors various benefits, there are also numerous risks to be mindful of.

It is easy to get carried away when combining bets to form a parlay. Again, the importance of not exceeding two or three legs in a single parlay cannot be overstated. Parlaying with a limit is practical from both an odds and betting value standpoint.

Another thing to remember when considering NFL parlays is that simply parlaying favorites together does not guarantee success. Parity reigns king in the NFL as much as any other professional sports league. Blindly throwing parlays of favorites together every week is a recipe for failure. Parlays are not a shortcut around doing good research and picking your spots.

Finally, it is much more difficult to shop lines when you are looking to parlay bets together. Trying to find one sportsbook that offers better odds on each of the two or three games you are hoping to combine is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. As such, betting in the form of parlays compromises one of the most important strategies of sports betting.

Final Thoughts

Parlay betting can add a layer of excitement to the NFL betting experience. It is important to approach parlay betting strategically. It is critical to not get overzealous and limit the number of games you parlay to two or three, maximum. Parlaying games with different start times can help bring to light one of the biggest advantages of parlay wagering: the ease of hedging. Looking to parlay correlated results, large moneyline favorites, and utilizing teasers are all additional tactics to incorporate into an NFL parlay betting strategy. Keep in mind that although parlay betting has its place, it should not be looked at as a prime means of making a profit. Know the benefits and risks and stay smart as you incorporate the powerful parlay into your NFL wagering repertoire.

Henry is pursuing a Communication Studies degree and a Psychology minor at SUNY University at Buffalo. He has been a passionate sports fan from a young age and got hisstart writing about Fantasy Football. In an effort to combine an aspect of specialization along with his enjoyment of any and all sports, Henry expanded to cover other Fantasy Sports while also foraying into the Sports Betting sector. He continues to relish every opportunity to learn, grow and network within the industry. He counts the New York Jets, Toronto Raptors, Vegas Golden Knights and San Diego Padres among his team loyalties. In addition to school and sports, Henry is passionate about health and fitness and is currently studying to earn certification as a personal trainer.

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