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Parlay Bets in the NFL
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Introduction
In gambling terms, "parlay" means to bet on at least two events, letting the winnings ride after each win. Usually you lose, but when you win, and depending in part on how many events were parlayed, you can win big.
In sports betting, the bettor can parlay wins even if the games occur simultaneously. This can be done either "off the board" or with parlay cards. This page address both methods and included three common types of parlay cards. What I hope to convey via this page is that randomly making selections on parlay cards is a bad way to bet sports and results in a high house edge. However, the sharp bettor can take advantage of line moves off common margins of victory in the NFL and gain a strong advantage, of 30% or more, on half point parlay cards.
Let me make a disclaimer to take any win probabilities and expected returns on this page with a grain of salt. I had to make assumptions about how point spreads on parlay cards were deliberately moved to either an integer or not an integer, depending on the card. My data also does not reflect the fact that lines often move from the time a parlay card is printed to the time of the game. On the one hand, the card maker may carefully set the point spreads to minimize player advantage. On the other, it is a known fact that closing lines are sharper than opening lines, and the player can take advantage of these line movements by putting in parlay cards at the last minute. All things considered, I believe there are large advantages to be gained with half point parlay cards, but the advantages can not be calculated exactly. They could be greater or smaller.
After reading this page, skeptics may wonder if it is so easy to beat half point parlay cards, why isn't everybody doing so? A lot of bettors are. Sports books are nervous about taking them, because they do tend to get hammered on the same side of certain hot games. However, I imagine to many professional gamblers, they are not a viable advantage play because:
 It is hard to get a lot of money down. The most you can usually bet on a single parlay card is $200, and even a bet of $100 may set off red flags if all the choices are correlated on the hot sides.
 They are time consuming to bubble in.
 It is feast or famine. Generally speaking, the more legs the player makes, the greater the advantage. For example, an 8leg half point parlay pays at most 200 to 1. Of course, such longshot bets usually lose.
You'll have to decide for yourself if parlay cards are for you. However, if you do bet them, hopefully you'll learn a thing or two from my analysis.
Methodology
All win percentages in this page are based on the 4,950 games played in the 1994 to 2012 seasons. Except as noted, all picks refer to betting against the spread. I don't recommend betting totals on parlay cards unless there is a significant line movement.
Off the board parlays
"Off the Board" parlays are based on the current point spreads on the betting board at the time of the bet. No card is filled out. Instead, the bettor tells the writer the bet numbers he wishes to parlay and the amount of the bet. The following table shows what parlay bets pay according to the number of picks and the sports book group, assuming that odds on each leg individually are 110 (bettor must risk $11 to win $10). Wins in this table are on a "to one" basis. In other words, the original wager is returned if the bet wins.
Parlays off the Board — Pay Table
Sportsbook  Legs  

2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  
Boyd  2.6  6  10  20  40  80  160  
Cantor  2.6  6  10  20  40  
Golden Nugget  2.6  6  11  22  40  75  140  
Caesars  2.6  6  10  20  40  75  140  
LVH  2.6  6  11  22  40  75  140  
Jerry's Nugget  2.7  6.5  13  26  47  92  180  
MGM  2.6  6  10  20  40  80  150  
Stations  2.6  6  11  22  40  80  150  
Stratosphere  2.6  6  11  22  40  80  160  
Treasure Island  2.6  6  10  20  40  80  160  
William Hill  2.6  6  11  22  45  90  180  360  720 
Wynn  2.6  6  10  20  40  
South Point  2.6  6  10  20  40  75  150 
What this table shows is that Jerry's Nugget has the most liberal off the board parlay odds across the board. Other than convenience, there should be no reason to make off the board parlay bets anywhere else in Vegas.
When players include a leg in a parlay that doesn't pay 110 odds, then the above pay tables are not used. Instead, when the writer enters the legs of the parlay, the computer will perform a calculation for what the bet should pay. It does this as if each bet were independently made, letting all wins ride. For example, if you parlay one game against the spread at 110 and another against the money line at +250, and both win, then you will be paid (210/110)×(350/100)  1 = 5.68 to 1.
With the exception of the threeleg parlay, and the generous Jerry's Nugget odds, you will get a better value mixing in at least one leg not at 110 in a parlay. Here are three ways to do it:
 Mix in a money line bet, preferably on an underdog.
 Mix in a lopsided line, which are usually off of three points. For example, laying 105 or 115 on one leg.
 Buy a half point off of one leg. They probably won't let you do it off of three points, so preferably lay 120 to get +7.5 on a 7point underdog, or 6.5 on a 7point favorite. When in doubt, go with the underdog at +7.5.
Let's see how this works with an example.
 Jesse does a sixleg parlay, all against a 110 spread, at one of the many sports books that pay 40 to 1. His probability of winning is (1/2)^{6} = 1.5625%. His expected return is (1/2)^{6}×(40+1) = 64.06%.
 Walter also does a sixleg parlay on the same teams. Five he leaves alone at 110 odds. On the sixth, he buys the half point off a 7point underdog, to get +7.5. He must pay 120 for the half point. The parlay will pay (210/110)^{5}×(220/120)  1 = 45.49 to 1. Besides getting a much larger win, his probability of winning goes up too, because of the extra half point. To be specific, the probability of winning the leg with the extra half point off seven is 51.95%. So, his overall probability of winning is (1/2)^{5} × 0.5195 = 1.6234%. His expected return is 0.016234 × (45.49+1) = 77.10%.
So, by buying that half point off of seven, Walter increases his expected return by 13% compared to Jesse.
As mentioned, an exception to the above advice is the standard pay of 6 for a threeleg parlay is more generous than what the 5.96 that the calculation method would give you. To summarize here is my advice for off the board parlays.
At Jerry's Nugget: Stick with 110 events, except for a sixteam parlay, where it is marginally better to mix in at least one pick that isn't 110.Not at Jerry's Nugget: With a threeteam parlay, stick with 110 events. Otherwise, mix in any event that isn't 110.
Yet another piece of advice, and this is the single most important piece of advice when it comes to betting sports, is to bet on underdogs! Since 1994, 51.6% of underdogs beat the spread in games resolved. If you think that trend is over, the following table shows the underdog win rate against the spread year by year.
Underdog Win Rate against the Spread
Season  Wins  Losses  Win Rate 

1994  236  206  53.39% 
1995  254  226  52.92% 
1996  244  240  50.41% 
1997  248  210  54.15% 
1998  222  254  46.64% 
1999  274  228  54.58% 
2000  266  234  53.20% 
2001  248  230  51.88% 
2002  284  236  54.62% 
2003  254  254  50.00% 
2004  272  240  53.13% 
2005  214  298  41.80% 
2006  298  218  57.75% 
2007  244  260  48.41% 
2008  264  250  51.36% 
2009  264  254  50.97% 
2010  268  250  51.74% 
2011  264  238  52.59% 
2012  262  252  50.97% 
Average  4880  4578  51.60% 
It is important to emphasize this point, so let me give you a chart as well.
In conclusion, my advice for betting parlays "off the board" is:
 Bet on underdogs.
 Bet at Jerry's Nugget or make at least one pick that isn't 110 odds.
 If you must stick to the 110 events, and aren't at Jerry's Nugget, bet only the threeleg parlay.
Half point parlay cards
What distinguishes half point parlay cards from other parlay cards is every point spread or total always ends in one half. Thus, there can never be a tie. Most places call these a "1/2 Point Parlay Card," but some just title them a "Parlay Card." The random picker can expect to get 50% of picks correct.
However, the smart picker can gain an extra half point compared to integer "off the board" numbers. For example, suppose the Saints are a fivepoint favorite over the Falcons, off the board. The half point card is very likely to move that point spread to either 4.5 or 5.5. If they move it to 4.5, then bet Saints 4.5. If they move it to 5.5, then bet Falcons +5.5. Better yet, get those extra half points of the key numbers of 3 and 7, because 25.35% of NFL games end in a margin of victory of one of those two key numbers.
The following table shows what half point parlay cards pay at various sports books around Las Vegas. Wins in this table are on a "for one" basis. In other words, the original wager is not returned, even if the bet wins. If forced to choose the best, I would say it is William Hill, who have the best, or tied for the best, payoffs for all number of picks except 10 and 12. In those cases, MGM Premium Payout card is the best.
Half Point Parlay Card — Pay Table
Sportsbook  Legs  

3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  
Aliante  6.5  12  25  50  100  180  375  800  1300  2500 
Boyd  6.5  12  25  46  90  170  375  800  
Caesars  6  12  22  40  85  170  340  700  6/60/1400  
Golden Nugget  6.5  12  25  50  100  180  400  800  
Jerry's Nugget  6.5  12  25  40  80  160  375  750  
LVH  6.5  12  22  42  80  156  400  800  1500  
MGM  6  11  22  42  85  170  340  700  1400  
MGMPP  45  88  190  375  850  1600  3000/50  
South Point  6.5  12  25  50  100  175  375  800  
Stations  6.5  12  22.5  40  80  160  350  800  
Stratosphere  6.5  12  25  45  85  170  375  800  
Treasure Island  6.5  12.5  25  45  85  160  350  800  
William Hill (Southern Nevada)  6.5  13  25  50  100  190  400  825  1500  3000 
William Hill (Northern Nevada)  6.75  13  26  52  104  208  425  850  1500  3000 
Max  6.75  13  26  52  104  208  425  850  1600  3000 
Note:
 The Caesars Super Parlay Special pays 1,400 for catching 12, 60 for 11, and 6 for 10 .
 The MGM pick12 Premium Payout parlay card pays 3,000 for catching 12, and a "bad beat" pay of 50 for catching 11. More on those below.
Random Picker
The following table shows the probability of winning and expected return of a random picker, based on the William Hill (Southern Nevada) odds. The probability of each pick winning is exactly 50.0%. The table shows a very high house edge. If you must pick randomly, the lowest house edge is 16.92% on both the pick10.
Half Point Parlay Card — Random Picker
Legs  Pays  Prob. Win  Exp. Value 

3  6.5  0.125000  0.187500 
4  13  0.062500  0.187500 
5  25  0.031250  0.218750 
6  50  0.015625  0.218750 
7  100  0.007813  0.218750 
8  200  0.003906  0.218750 
9  400  0.001953  0.218750 
10  850  0.000977  0.169922 
11  1,600  0.000488  0.218750 
12  3,000  0.000244  0.267578 
Gaining a Half Point
The following table shows the probability of winning and expected return of someone who randomly picks off all games with an integer point spread on the board, to gain the extra half point. The probability of each pick winning is exactly 52.76%. The pays are based on the southern Nevada William Hill card. The table shows a player advantage starting with the pick4, with a maximum advantage of 38.35% on the pick12. The best Kelly bet is on the pick6, where the ratio of advantage to variance is 0.001403.
Half Point Parlay Card — Half Point Picker
Legs  Pays  Prob. Win  Exp. Value 

3  6.5  0.146839  0.045548 
4  13  0.077468  0.007081 
5  25  0.040870  0.021743 
6  50  0.021562  0.078082 
7  100  0.011375  0.137528 
8  190  0.006001  0.140239 
9  400  0.003166  0.266435 
10  825  0.001670  0.378025 
11  1,500  0.000881  0.321827 
12  3,000  0.000465  0.394713 
Gaining a Half Point off of 3 and 7.
The following table shows the probability of winning and expected return of someone who randomly picks off all games with integer point spreads of 3 and 7 only, to gain the extra half point. The probability of each pick winning is exactly 54.42%. Again, the pays are based on the southern Nevada William Hill card. The table shows a player advantage on every number of picks, with a maximum advantage of 103% on the pick12. However, 25.03% of NFL games have a point spread of 3 or 7. Based on a 16game week, you can expect four games only to meet that criteria. The best Kelly bet is conveniently on the pick4, where the ratio of advantage to variance is 0.010380.
Half Point Parlay Card — Half Point off 3 and 7 Picker
Legs  Pays  Prob. Win  Exp. Value 

3  6.5  0.161187  0.047718 
4  13  0.087722  0.140384 
5  25  0.047740  0.193507 
6  50  0.025981  0.299068 
7  100  0.014140  0.413966 
8  190  0.007695  0.462074 
9  400  0.004188  0.675146 
10  825  0.002279  0.880285 
11  1,500  0.001240  0.860536 
12  3,000  0.000675  1.025093 
Southern vs. Northern Nevada
Not only does northern Nevada enjoy plenty of water (at least until we build a pipeline to take it from them) but a more generous William Hill half point parlay card. As an example of how much these premium pays help, the following table shows the expected value under both the southern and northern Nevada parlay cards, based on a hypothetical 54% chance of correctly picking each leg, which I think is a reasonable estimate.
William Hill Parlay Odds — Southern vs. Northern Nevada
Legs  Southern Nevada Pays 
Northern Nevada Pays 
Prob. Win  Southern Nevada Exp. Val. 
Northern Nevada Exp. Val. 

3  6.5  6.75  15.75%  2.35%  6.29% 
4  13  13  8.50%  10.54%  10.54% 
5  25  26  4.59%  14.79%  19.38% 
6  50  52  2.48%  23.97%  28.93% 
7  100  104  1.34%  33.89%  39.25% 
8  190  208  0.72%  37.37%  50.39% 
9  400  425  0.39%  56.17%  65.93% 
10  825  850  0.21%  73.94%  79.21% 
11  1500  1500  0.11%  70.77%  70.77% 
12  3000  3000  0.06%  84.44%  84.44% 
MGM Premium Payout Card
The next table analyzes the MGM pick12 Premium Payout parlay card. This bet is characterized as paying a "bad beat" win of 50 if the player picks 11 out of 12 correctly. The following table analyzes the bet for a random picker. The lower right cell shows a return of 87.89%.
12Leg Premium Payout — Random Picker
Correct Picks  Pays  Probability  Return 

12  3,000  0.000244  0.732422 
11  50  0.002930  0.146484 
10 or less  0  0.996826  0.000000 
Total  1.000000  0.878906 
The next table shows the return for the pick12 Premium Payout for a "half point" picker, who always chooses lines a half point above the market line. The lower right cell shows a return of 164%!
Premium Payout Pick 12 — Half Point Picker Picker
Correct Picks  Pays  Probability  Return 

12  3,000  0.000465  1.394713 
11  50  0.004996  0.249788 
10 or less  0  0.994539  0.000000 
Total  1.000000  1.644501 
Caesars Super Parlay Special
The next table analyzes the Caesars pick12 Super Parlay Special. This bet is characterized as paying 1,400 for catching all 12 picks, 60 for 11, and 6 for 10. The following table analyzes the bet for a random picker. The lower right cell shows a return of 61.43%. Compared to the 95% return for the MGM's Premium Payout card, under the same assumptions, the odds are not as good.
Super Parlay Special — Random Picker
Correct Picks  Pays  Probability  Return 

12  1,400  0.000244  0.341797 
11  60  0.002930  0.175781 
10  6  0.016113  0.096680 
9 or less  0  0.980713  0.000000 
Total  1.000000  0.614258 
The next table shows the return for the Super Parlay Special where the bettor always gets a half point in his favor. The lower right cell shows a return of 109.02%. Compared to the 176% return for the MGM's Premium Payout card, under the same assumptions, the odds are not as good.
Super Parlay Special — Half Point Picker
Correct Picks  Pays  Probability  Return 

12  1,400  0.000461  0.645619 
11  60  0.004963  0.297754 
10  6  0.024476  0.146858 
9 or less  0  0.970100  0.000000 
Total  1.000000  1.090231 
Ties win parlay cards
Normally on a parlay card, if there is a tie, then it "reduces," as if the bettor never picked that game to begin with. For example, if a pick5 card resulted in four wins and one tie, then the bettor would be paid based on a pick4 card. However, as the name states, a tie counts as a win on a "ties win" card. To make things even better, most spreads are integers, making ties more likely.
The only point spread you generally don't see is 3 and 3, because 15.7% of games in the NFL end in a margin of victory of 3. It would be too advantageous to give those ties to the player, so they move those spreads to 2.5 or 3.5.
My advice on ties win parlay cards is as follows:
 Pick spreads on a "key number." In other words, a frequent margin of victory. The table below shows the top ten.
 Pick games where there is at least a half point difference between the market "off the board" line and the line on the card.
Margin of Victory
Rank  Margin of Victory  Frequency 

1  3  15.7% 
2  7  9.3% 
3  10  6.2% 
4  6  5.4% 
5  4  5.0% 
6  14  4.8% 
7  1  4.0% 
8  17  3.6% 
9  2  3.5% 
10  5  3.2% 
For example, suppose the Chargers are a 9.5point underdog off the board but 10 points on the card. This is like getting 10.5 points on the Chargers, or a full extra point, because of the ties win rule.
The following table shows what ties win parlay cards pay at various sports book groups around Las Vegas. Wins in this table are on a "for one" basis. In other words, the original wager is not returned, even if the bet wins. It is hard to choose the best group, because it depends on the number of picks made, as follows:
 Pick 3: Lots pay 6.
 Pick 4: Treasure Island at 11.
 Pick 5: Lots at 20.
 Pick 6: Golden Nugget and South Point at 40.
 Pick 7: Lots at 75.
 Pick 8: Lots at 150.
 Pick 9: LVH at 305.
 Pick 10: Jerry's Nugget at 625.
Ties Win Parlay Card — Pay Table
Sportsbook  Legs  

Pick  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12 
Aliante  6  10  20  40  75  150  305  600  1200  2000 
Boyd  6  10  20  36  75  150  275  600  
Golden Nugget  6  10  20  40  75  150  275  600  
Jerry's Nugget  6  10  20  39  70  150  302  625  
LVH  6  10  18  33  62  120  305  600  1150  
South Point  6  10  20  40  75  150  275  600  
Stations  6  10  20  35  65  130  250  600  
Stratosphere  6  10  20  36  75  140  275  600  
Treasure Island  6  11  20  38  75  140  300  600 
To estimate the value of Ties Win cards, I had to make assumptions about how the sports books created the lines on the card. As mentioned, they like to give the player the chance at a tie, by making integer spreads, except +/ 3. Where the point spread is +/ 3 off the board, I moved it to +/ 2.5. Otherwise, if the point spread is already an integer off the board, I assume it will stay the same on the card. If it ends in 1/2, I move it a half point to an integer spread. Based on these linemaking assumptions, I show the overall probability of a tie is 2.89%. Otherwise, the probability of win or loss is equal at 48.56% each. So, the random picker can expect to get 51.44% of picks correct.
The following table shows the expected return for a random picker based on the best available win for each number of picks. As you can see, the house edge ranges from 20% to 31%, depending on the number of picks.
Ties Win Parlay Card — Random Picker
Pick  Pays  Prob. Win  Exp. Value 

3  6  0.136149  0.183104 
4  11  0.070041  0.229546 
5  20  0.036032  0.279353 
6  40  0.018537  0.258535 
7  75  0.009536  0.284795 
8  150  0.004906  0.264133 
9  305  0.002524  0.230256 
10  625  0.001298  0.188544 
11  1,150  0.000668  0.231894 
12  2,000  0.000344  0.312786 
It should be noted that sometimes the card makers don't like point spreads of +/ 7 either, which would lower the probability of winning to under 51.44%.
The next table shows the expected return for the bettor who makes picks only where the point spread on the card is a half point better than the "off the board" spread. Such a bettor can expect to win 53.18% of picks. Again, this table assumes the maximum available win. The return column shows a range of a house edge of 14.9% to a player edge of 13.1%.
Ties Win Parlay Card — Extra Half Point Picker
Pick  Pays  Prob. Win  Exp. Value 

3  6  0.150409  0.097545 
4  11  0.079989  0.120117 
5  20  0.042539  0.149214 
6  40  0.022623  0.095084 
7  75  0.012031  0.097665 
8  150  0.006398  0.040255 
9  305  0.003403  0.037821 
10  625  0.001810  0.130994 
11  1,150  0.000962  0.106716 
12  2,000  0.000512  0.023591 
Ties lose parlay cards
Ties lose parlay cards are a horse of a different color. Unlike other parlay and teaser cards, ties lose parlay cards are usually based on just one or two games. During the regular NFL season, they are often based on the Sunday and Monday night games. As well as picking against the side and total, there are a host of props the player may choose from. An example of a selection likely to fall on a tie is over or under two interceptions. The following is my advice for playing ties lose parlay cards, if you must:
 Don't pick any event that is likely to end in a tie. For example, over/under three field goals.
 Don't pick any event that has more than two possible outcomes. For example, first score to be a touchdown pass, touchdown run, field goal, or any other score.
 Look for correlations. For example, the final score of one team to be odd and the other team to be even. 55.9% of games end in an odd total, which must be the sum of one odd and one even number.
Here are some miscellaneous statistics, which may or may not come in handy, based on the 2000 to 2012 seasons. An exception is the average number of field goals, which is based on the 2000 to 2010 seasons, for lack of data on the other years. Of course, you should also consider the dynamics of the actual game you are betting on. A couple things this table should show is the danger of betting over/under two interceptions or three field goals, since those are very close to the averages, and thus have a high probability of falling on a tie.
NFL Averages
Event  Average  

First quarter points  8.54  
Second quarter points  13.16  
Third quarter points  8.94  
Fourth quarter points  12.05  
Interceptions  2.03  
Penalties  12.46  
Fumbles  2.97  
Fumbles lost  1.43  
Punts  9.65  
Field goals  2.98  
First downs  37.46  
Rushing touchdowns  1.42  
Passing touchdowns  2.82 
As with any kind of parlay or teaser card, always shop around for the best pays. The following table shows what various sports book groups pay on ties lose cards. Wins in this table are on a "for one" basis. In other words, the original wager is not returned, even if the bet wins.
Ties Lose Parlay Card — Pay Table
Sportsbook  Legs  

3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  
Boyd  11  20  40  80  160  350  800  
Golden Nugget  6  11  20  40  80  150  300  800  
MGM  6  11  20  40  80  150  300  600/20  
South Point  6  11  20  40  80  160  350  700  
Stations  6  12  23  45  80  160  320  800 
The next table shows the expected return for each number of picks, assuming the best available pay table and a 50% chance of winning each pick. The right column shows the house advantage ranges from 21.9 to 37.5% (ouch!).
Ties Lose Parlay Card — Random Picker
Pick  Pays  Prob. Win  Exp. Value 

3  6  0.125000  0.250000 
4  12  0.062500  0.250000 
5  23  0.031250  0.281250 
6  45  0.015625  0.296875 
7  80  0.007813  0.375000 
8  160  0.003906  0.375000 
9  350  0.001953  0.316406 
10  800  0.000977  0.218750 
The following table shows the possible outcomes for the MGM pick10 ties lose card, assuming a 50% chance of each event winning. The lower right cell show an expected return of 78%.
MGM Pick 10 Ties Lose — 50% Picker
Correct Picks  Pays  Probability  Return 

10  600  0.000977  0.585938 
9  20  0.009766  0.195313 
8 or less  0  0.989258  0.000000 
Total  1.000000  0.781250 
Hopefully, I have convinced you that ties lose parlay cards are a terrible value. There is an exception, though. Sometimes parlay cards for the Super Bowl have soft lines. However, it is beyond the scope of this page to explain how to spot them.
Internal links
 Teaser Bets in the NFL
 Pleaser Bets in the NFL
 Betting the NFL
 Las Vegas Sports Book Groups
 Miscellaneous topics in betting the NFL
External links
 Las Vegas Sports Betting Survey — What each sports book family pays on parlays and teasers.