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A Parlay bet - or simply Parlay - is what is known (mainly in America) as an “exotic” bet due to its potential for high rewards, though as a consequence, it is also high risk.
A Parlay is also known as an accumulator, or a combo bet. It involves two or more selections, all of which have to win for the bet to pay out.
The big appeal of Parlay bets is, of course, their potential for very large wins. Like all bets, the Parlay is dependent on the odds of your selections and how many selections you make. But the cumulative odds and, therefore the potential returns, can be enormous.
At the same time, a Parlay isn’t necessarily an outlandish longshot bet each time you place one.
For example, if you picked four of the top English Premier League clubs to win at home in the Third Round of the FA Cup, each against non-league opposition, you might reasonably expect your Parlay / accumulator to pay off. So, let’s assume this was the case and that each club was at odds of 1/5 to win their tie. In this example, your odds would be calculated as 1.2 x 1.2 x 1.2 x 1.2. So, for each £1 staked, your total return would be £2.07, a £1.07 profit for each £1 staked.
But if we look at a Parlay on the flipside of the same coin whereby you take the four longshot non-league clubs to do a little giant-killing, each at odds of 8-1, then for your £1 stake - should this unlikely scenario actually occur - you would receive a total of £6,561 back from the bookmaker.
The Parlay bet works in exactly the same way as your single four-fold bet in a Yankee or your five-fold accumulator in a Canadian bet, but without all the other doubles and trebles etc. that are involved in those bets. In this way, it’s cheaper (just one bet) but also far less likely to come off. It’s usually the Parlay’s very high risk, very high reward nature that appeals to punters (though not in every case - as illustrated by the football example above).
Make sure you look at the bookmakers’ pay-out limits before placing a multiple parlay. Often, major bookmakers have different maximum payout limits on different sports and different events. These are generally higher for horse racing and football than for other events, and usually up to £1 million or £2 million for the major bookies. These limits are vital to check out for Parlay gamblers, however, as there is no point increasing your risk by exceeding these limits. So, it’s worth calculating your Parlay’s cumulative odds beforehand and adjusting your stake and/or selections accordingly to make sure you aren’t going to go over the bookmaker’s limit.