While straight bets are the most popular type of wager, parlay bets aren’t far behind. Alternatively called multipliers or accumulators, parlays give you the opportunity to win big from small wagers, making them a very enticing prospect for bettors.

What are NFL picks and parlays?

A parlay is a group of straight up bets that are linked together and considered one big wager. Every individual wager must come through for you to win a parlay, so one mistake causes you to lose the entire bet. As such, parlays are much less easy to win than straight bets.

How do NFL picks and parlays work?

Parlay wagering simply involves making two or more betting ‘picks’ (i.e. picks and parlays). The more you add, the bigger the odds you’ll get, but considering every bet needs to come through, it will leave you with a lower chance of winning the parlay. For example, a 2-group parlay might pay 2.6:1; 3-group parlays 4:1; 4-group parlay gives 10:1, and so on. Any push (a tie between the bettor and the sportsbook) returns the bet to the lower number group parlay. So, say you have Team A, Team C, Team E and Team G in a 4-group parlay at 10:1, a $10 play pays $100. If one group ties, it returns to a 3-group parlay, so your result goes to 4:1 odds. You just lost $60.

What are the different types of NFL picks and parlays?

Parlays tend to incorporate various forms of straight bets, which are wagers on a single outcome of a game, such as the final result or the total number of points scored. That said, you can also include futures bets (wagers on future events) and props bets (wagers on events in games not directly relating to its final outcome) in parlays too.

Moneyline NFL picks and parlays

Moneyline — or straight up — betting is incredibly simple. All you need to do is choose a winner for a single game, and if they come through, you win that wager. Parlaying moneylines can be very profitable if you’re good at predicting upsets, or have a strong feeling about a number of teams during a particular gameweek.

Point spread NFL picks and parlays

Spreads let sportsbooks even the playing field between teams. This is achieved by setting a number (the point spread) that must be covered by the favorite to be considered a winner, or beaten by the underdog for a winning bet. For example, with a 7.5 point spread, the favorite needs to win by eight points or more in order to cover the spread, while the underdog must lose by seven or fewer — or win outright — to do the same.

Over/under NFL picks and parlays

Over/under betting, or betting the total, is a wager on the combined total number of points scored by both teams in a game. This involves you betting on whether you think the total will go over or under the projected line. So, say the over/under total in a game was 45 and you bet the over, a 20-27 scoreline would see you win your wager.

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What do NFL picks and parlays look like?

Now we’ve gone through the various forms of parlay, let’s look at what one looks like:

Los Angeles Rams to beat the New Orleans Saints | +200

Los Angeles Chargers to beat the Detroit Lions | +250

New England Patriots to beat the Miami Dolphins | -400

New York Giants to beat the New York Jets | -500

The above is an NFL parlay ticket covering four different games on the moneyline. Remember, each has to win for the bet to come through.

The significance of true odds

What are true odds?

There are two types of odds: “fixed odds” offered by bookmakers and “true odds”, the more accurate odds of a certain outcome. Fixed odds are lower than what they should be statistically so that bookies don’t lose too much money. Doing this is ultimately how they turn a profit, by guaranteeing that they have a sharper edge than the bettors. The only way to circumvent this is to spend time looking at stats to find your own edge. By finding “true odds”, you can exploit them when opportunities arise.

True odds: an example

Let’s imagine we’re betting on a coin flip. One flip is a 50/50 bet, of course, but say you wanted to parlay the outcome of three consecutive coin flips. With only two possible outcomes it is simple to work out the “true odds” here. Three tosses of a coin yields eight possible unique results —  tails/tails/tails, tails/tails/heads, tails/heads/tails, heads/tails/tails, tails/heads/heads, heads/tails/heads, heads/heads/tails, heads/heads/heads.

Each of these outcomes has the same chance of happening considering a coin flip is a totally random event with no opportunity to find an angle to improve our winning prospects. So, the “true odds” are worked out by figuring out how to break even in the long term. To do this we will pick the same combination of flips each time — statistically we will win every eight flips. As such, the “true odds” of 7/1 would be required to break even in this situation.

True odds applied to betting

We can now apply “true odds” to betting. By comparing odds given by bookmakers to our calculated probability, we’re able to see if they have value or not. So, in the above scenario, any offer of 8/1 or above would provide value, because the expected winnings would be higher than our calculated true odds of 7/1. Looking into the numbers like this is a great way of evaluating the odds offered and making money wagering on the NFL.

How to work out true odds

Now that you know all about true odds, it’s time to learn how to calculate them for your parlay bets. First things first, we must change the odds listed from the American format into decimal odds. While the parlay calculator displayed below can do this automatically, it’s advisable to learn how to do this yourself to best understand parlay betting.

In order to convert underdog odds we use the following formula (ODDS+100) ÷ 100. So the previous parlay we looked at would have the following odds:

Los Angeles Rams +200 to beat the New Orleans Saints |(200+100) ÷ 100 = 3.0

Los Angeles Chargers +250 to beat the Detroit Lions | (250 +100) ÷ 100 = 3.5

The principle is the same for favorites with another straightforward formula: (ODDS +100) ÷ ODDS. So the favorites in the example would have the following odds:

New England Patriots –400 to beat the Miami Dolphins | (400 +100) ÷ 400 = 1.25

New York Giants –500 to beat the New York Jets | (500 + 100) ÷ 500 = 1.2

After converting all of our odds to decimal form, the next step is to multiply each with the integer below. Our equation would look like this:

3.0 x 3.5 x 1.25 x 1.2 = 15.75

Once we’ve added each game together we now have “true odds”, but they are still in decimal form. To convert them back we just multiply 100, subtract 100 and there you go. Our combined parlay equation would be:

(15.75 x 100) -100 = 1475

This means the “true odds” for our four-team parlay would be +1475 to win.

For comparison, we can examine what that same four-team parlay would look like at a casino or sportsbook that used fixed odds payouts for parlays offered.

These can be considered an average payout chart from a casino or sportsbook.

22.64/1
36/1
412.28/1
524.35/1
647.41/1
791.42/1
8175.44/1
9335.85/1
10642.08/1
111226.70/1
122342.79/1
134473.51/1
148541.25/1
1516306.94/1

Looking back to our four-team parlay above, which came out at +1475, you can see in the chart above that betting using these standard “fixed odds” would payout just 12.28/1 or +1228. This is an 18.28% decrease in your potential weekend payout. Some books do offer parlays which qualify for “true odds” payouts if you pick more than 15 teams, while others cap players to a dozen, which is just another reason to spend time finding the right betting outlet. 

How to avoid fixed odds on NFL picks and parlays

Let’s say we’re betting an eight-team parlay with fixed odds of -110, for instance. The trick here is to include one bet that is not priced at -110, as this forces the book to use “true odds.” So if you make the seven picks at -110 and a single leg at -115, using the same system as above to calculate true odds our output would be (1.91 x 7) * 1.87 = 173.41 or +173.41. This is a 23.41% increase in your payout in comparison to the fixed odds you would get with eight bets at –110.

Modifying your NFL picks and parlays

There are a few ways to modify your parlay bets to best suit your requirements, including:

Teasers

Teasers enable bettors to adjust the point spread to make a single leg win more probable. This means that in situations where an underdog gets trounced or a favorite ekes out a win, you may still win your bets. The main drawback, however, is that the more points that are modified, the lower your payout will be, as the bookmaker will adjust the odds accordingly. 

Pleasers

Pleasers, or reverse teasers, are where the spread is moved in favor of the bookmakers and not the bettor. As a result, favorites now have to thrash the opposition, and an underdog has to narrowly lose in order to cover the adjusted spreads. Obviously the main advantage of pleasers is the huge rise in your payout potential should you string together a few unlikely wins. Because of this, ties are often counted as losses on pleasers, so make sure to check the terms you are betting under. The risks are obvious, but if you have a good feeling about a few underdogs, you might be able to win some serious money with this type of parlay.

Round robin parlays

Round robin betting lets you tie multiple parlays together at once, creating a parlay of parlays. For instance, if you’ve got a good feeling about three NBA teams for the upcoming gameweek, you can instead create three separate two-team parlays rather than betting on a parlay with all three sides on it. Not only can this approach be incredibly profitable, but it enables you to still win money if one team fails to win their game. However, the main drawback of round robin betting is the amount you need to wager in order to cover the bet.

NFL picks and parlays betting tips

There are a number of ways bettors can gain an advantage when making NFL parlay bets, including:

Do your research

Research is all-important. Great ways to give yourself a betting edge include watching NFL teams to get a feel for the way they play, looking at NFL statistics, and shopping odds. To help support your efforts, be sure to explore the rest of our NFL betting content.

Circumvent betting limits

Parlays can sometimes be used to avoid betting limits at certain sportsbooks. Let’s say that the Packers line opens at +200 when, based on your research, it should really be closer to +150. By making 10 different parlays with two teams each, and using the +200 line with a randomly selected –110 game, you’re able to lay five times the maximum bet.

Correlate parlays

Say a bookie offers you two bets: “Will there be a lightning storm today?” and “Will there be a thunderstorm today?”. Wagering both of these on a parlay either yes or no would be a very strong move. Although this is a simplified example, there are actually occasions when you can bet on correlated outcomes. So, say the total in a game is 50, and one side is favored by 35 points, then it stands to reason that if the favorite covers the spread, the game will likely go over too. Finding angles like this isn’t easy, but can be profitable for those who put in the hours.

Don’t stake too much

Finally, it’s important to keep your stakes small when making parlay bets, ideally in the $10-$20 range to start with. Even winning a 15-team parlay with just a $10 bet will give you a massive payout, so there’s no need to go overboard on your stakes. People often get carried away and win way too infrequently to justify their outlays. Instead, be sure to spread your money around when betting on parlays, rather than putting all of your eggs in one basket.