Parlays & Teasers Explained

Updated April 2nd, 2020
Published March 16, 2018

Parlays and teasers are a great way to mix things up by betting on multiple games and outcomes at one time. Betting on single games is a reliable way to grow your bankroll with some basic sports betting strategy, but these ‘multi bets’ offer huge potential to increase your winnings when you’re supremely confident in more than one pick. 

Parlays and teasers allow you to combine different bet types in a single stake. It’s harder to get all of your selections in a parlay or teaser correct, but if you do, the payoff can be immense.

This guide covers everything you need to know to begin constructing parlays of your own, and enjoying the massive windfall that comes with a hard-earned win.

What Are Parlays?

A parlay is a bet that connects the outcomes of multiple sporting events in a single wager. To win the parlay, you must correctly select the outcome of every event included. When you wager on two (or more) games at once, your chances of success get smaller, but your payouts get significantly bigger. 

With a parlay, you can combine multiple wager types (bets against the spread, moneyline bets, over/under betting, etc.) into a single stake. Each outcome included is called a ‘leg’, and every leg must be successful for the parlay to ‘stand’ as a winner.  For example, a parlay with four games or legs in which only three of the picks win will be considered a loss, and you will surrender your wager. Parlay bets are sometimes referred to as multi bets or multiple bets. 

To win the parlay, you must correctly select the outcome of every event included. When you wager on two (or more) games at once, your chances of success get smaller, but your payouts get significantly bigger.

For example, if you think the Patriots will cover the spread against the Chiefs and also like the Packers to beat the Seahawks the same week, you can combine those bets into a single parlay. But you aren’t limited to parlaying just two events or outcomes – the more legs you add to the bet, the higher the potential payout. Needless to say, your likelihood of winning also decreases with each leg you include with your wager. 

Each bookmaker has their own limit on how many games you can add to a single parlay and what type of bets can be included as legs. Some online betting sites allows for cross-sport parlays, while others limit bettors to selecting legs from a single sport. 

What Can’t You Parlay?

While building your own parlay gives you a lot of say over the terms of your wager, most sportsbooks do have some restrictions.

Most sportsbooks will not allow you to parlay the moneyline and the spread of the same game. As a general rule, you can’t parlay events that are connected, as the moneyline and spread obviously are. From the sportsbook’s perspective, offering a parlay on events with related outcomes represents a financial liability – it would basically be a giveaway to bettors. 

Most sportsbooks will not allow you to parlay the moneyline and the spread of the same game. You can’t parlay event outcomes that are directly connected.

The same logic applies to parlays involving futures bets. If the outcome of one selection in your parlay is even partly connected to another, your sportsbook isn’t likely to allow you to parlay them. For example, if you’re betting on Winnipeg Jets to win their Western Conference Playoff Finals, you can’t parlay this bet with the Jets winning the Stanley Cup.

Lastly, it’s rare to find a sportsbook that will let you parlay first half/first quarter sides or totals with full game sides or totals.

Of course, there is no definitive answer for what all online sportsbooks will allow with parlay bets. Taking a detailed look at the terms and conditions or rules page of your favorite online betting site is the best way to determine what’s allowed.

What’s the Payout for Parlays?

There’s no pre-determined formula to calculate how much your parlay will pay out. As a result, it is crucial that you closely evaluate your bet slip to see how much you stand to win before placing any parlay wagers.

Say you are considering a two-team parlay linking two point spread wagers listed at -110 odds:

  • If you place either of these bets as an individual $100 wager, you stand to return $191
  • If you take them both individually, you would risk $200 for a potential $382 payout
  • If you combine them with a single $100 parlay, you’d be paid out approximately $365 using current numbers from one popular online sportsbook. This is nearly the same amount you would win if both bets succeed as individual wagers, but you’ve risked only half the amount with the parlay.

Clearly, parlay payouts will reward you for taking on the extra liability of tying two event outcomes together. For reference, the following payout guidelines are pulled from a popular online betting site. As you can see, your payout will grow significantly we each leg added.

Parlay Size Payouts (Profit/Risk)
2-Team 2.645/1
3-Team 5.958/1
4-Team 12.283/1
5-Team 24.359/1
6-Team 47.413/1
7-Team 91.424/1
8-Team 175.446/1
9-Team 335.852/1
10-Team 1226.701/1

Remember to closely evaluate the terms at your sportsbook of choice, and that these numbers are only intended to provide a general sense of how much parlays pay out.

How Does a “Push” Affect Your Parlay?

There’s always the possibility of a “push” (aka tie) in one leg of your parlay.

For example, if you bet on the Raptors at -8 against the Nets and they win by exactly eight points, this would be a “push.” If this event was part of your parlay, one leg would clearly be unsuccessful. One of three things happens in this scenario:

  • Your parlay could be deemed a loss and you would surrender the full amount of your wager
  • Your sportsbook could deem the entire parlay to be a “push” and return your original wager
  • On rare occasions, the sportsbook will simply remove the leg that “pushed” from your parlay and adjust the payout accordingly

The way a sportsbook handles a “push” in a parlay depends on their terms and conditions. Always read them before laying any cash down!

What Are Teasers in Betting?

Teasers are a type of parlay bet that can only include bets against the spread or on totals.

Teasers allow bettors to adjust spreads in their favor in exchange for a smaller potential payout. You may find a betting site that allows you to “tease” the spread of one game in either direction, but betting ‘teasers’ refers specifically to parlays in which the spread or total has been adjusted to your benefit.

Teasers in Action

Let’s say you like both Atlanta and Pittsburgh in the example below, but are worried about them covering their respective spreads. Instead of taking your chances with a regular parlay, you could tease the spreads in your favor to reduce your risk. 

You’ll be given the option of teasing the spread by 6.0, 6.5, or 7.0 points. If we teased our spreads by 6.0 points, our new spreads would be Atlanta (-0.5) and Pittsburgh (-3).

To get a return on your money, Atlanta would just need to win the game, and Pittsburgh would need to win by more than three.

Of course, your winnings will be diminished with favorable spreads, requiring you to risk more to collect a decent payout.

What Are Sweetheart or Monster Teasers?

‘Sweetheart’ or ‘monster’ teasers are a special breed that adjusts the point spread by a larger margin than traditional teasers. As with other teasers, they are a parlay variation that inextricably ties together the outcome of all events being wagered on.

Unlike standard 6, 6.5, and 7-point teasers, sweethearts offer negative odds that aren’t so sweet – you’ll always need to risk more money than you stand to win. That said, this reduced payout reflects the fact that shifting the point spread by ten points makes it significantly more likely that each leg of your wager will stand.

Let’s take a closer look at how these monsters work.

How Do Sweetheart Teasers Work?

Sweetheart teasers typically require you to tease the spread of three games by ten points. This is called a standard ‘3-Team 10-Point Teaser,’ and most online betting sites offer them at odds between -110 and -140.

Note that all spreads included as legs of a sweetheart teaser must be adjusted the same amount of points and in the bettor’s favor.

While the 3-Team 10-Point format is most typical, it’s not uncommon to find an option to move the spread by 13 points or to include four or five games or ‘legs’ in your wager.

As with other teasers, the point spread is moved in favor of the bettor, increasing your chances of success in exchange for a significantly reduced payout compared to both regular parlays and traditional teasers.

Are Sweetheart Teasers a Good Bet?

At first glance, it’s easy to think sweetheart teasers should present easy wins and lead to long-term profitability. After all – how could a point spread move ten points to the bettor’s favor and not come out a winner?

But because of the highly unfavorable odds (relative to other multi bets), you need to win at an incredibly high rate in order to break even. Even at the most generous odds generally available (-110), more than eight out of every ten legs (games) you pick (80.6%) need to hit just for you to stay in the green.

Compare this to the 52.38% break even point when taking -110 on straight bets, and you can begin to see why these bets are called teasers in the first place. This higher break-even point is a result of the fact that three picks must succeed rather than one, even though the odds are the same. Ultimately, it tells us to expect less value from our monster teaser bets.

One of the main draws to multi bets is the potentially massive payout that comes with correctly hitting your parlay. Even with the additional security of a heavily-adjusted point spread, sweetheart teasers simply don’t provide long enough odds to justify the extremely high success rate you need to cover and break even.

Are Parlays Worth the Extra Effort and Risk?

There’s no denying that parlays and teasers are a bit more complicated than single-game bets. That said, they offer an incredible return on investment if you’re confident in a number of different picks. It all comes down to the amount of effort you’ve put into handicapping each event you want to parlay, and your appetite for risk. The safer bet will always be to bet on each event individually. Parlays and teasers are often considered sucker’s bets because the math suggests that they rarely offer positive expected value.

We don’t mean to suggest there is never a time and place for parlays and teasers. Many a bettor has turned a healthy profit betting on them exclusively. If you do find a number of picks you’re sure will hit, don’t get turned off by the mechanics of constructing the parlay itself.

We have a tool to help with that…

Use SBD’s Parlay Calculator to Build Winning Combos

Depending on the number of events you’re tying together, constructing a parlay by pen and paper can get messy fast. Make it easy on yourself.

SBD’s Parlay Calculator does the hard work for you, displaying the best lines available across all sports so that you can parlay them easily and quickly. Experiment with the tool and see what you can do!

Build A Winning Parlay Here

Searching for more pointers, or seeking out more information about how betting works? Take the time to explore the rest of our betting 101 guides. 

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