Parlays and teasers (also called “combo” bets) are one of the most fun and exciting types of NFL gambling out there. Combo bets are also among the most advanced forms of betting, as they subsume the individual strategies involved in other types of betting (such as moneyline bets and bets against the spread) into an entirely different and more advanced format.
So if you are still at the level where terms like “moneyline” and “against the spread” are new and still slightly confusing, spend some time gaining familiarity with those types of betting before you graduate up to combo bets. Because parlays and teasers are no joke.
But for those gamblers who feel that they are ready to take their gambling game to the next level, the rest of this page is for you.
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Now that you know where to go, let’s discuss the purpose of a parlay. In simple terms, the purpose of a parlay is to combine together multiple wagers that are low risk, in order to create a single, multi-wager combination bet that offers higher potential reward. If all of the outcomes you parlay together win, you get a higher profit, but if any one of those outcomes loses, you lose the entire parlay. A teaser is simply a specific type of parlay.
It’s possible to parlay (or tease) outcomes and wagers from multiple sports into a single bet, but as a pure NFL betting strategy specialist, I make sure to avoid these bets – tempting though they may be. The following page will focus exclusively on using parlays and teasers for NFL wagers. If you’re look
In addition, one final note for advanced gamblers: It’s possible at certain sportsbooks to arrange a parlay where you still make money even if some of the outcomes involved lose (sometimes called a “progressive” parlay). Accordingly, the payout is less if all of the outcomes involved win. For me personally, I generally stay to traditional parlays and teasers, so I won’t go into progressive parlays here.
With these caveats being given, read on to find answers to the following questions:
- How do parlays work, and how do you calculate the odds?
- How do teasers work, and how do you calculate the odds?
- How do you make money in the long run with combo bets?
So without further ado, let’s dive into the question of how parlays work, and how the odds are calculated.
How Do Parlays Work?
As I mentioned above, parlays provide gamblers an opportunity to combine together multiple different wagers – from entirely separate bets – into one combination bet. Let’s start out with a very simple bet, just to give you the idea.
Let’s say you and your best friend are watching a fireworks display. Your best friend says: I bet you $100 the next firework will be red. You’re not at all confident, so you say: No bet. But then, your friend says: I bet you $200 that the next firework will be red, and the firework after that red one will be blue. Now you do feel confident that this is too unlikely to ever happen, so you take the bet.
This, in a nutshell, is the idea of a parlay. By stringing together multiple independent events, you are increasing the risk that all of the individual events win independently. Thus, because the risk is greater, it makes sense that the reward should be greater if all of the events do win independently.
At most sportsbooks, you can link together between 2 and 12 separate wagers into a single parlay. As I mentioned above, every single wager in a parlay has to win in order for the parlay to pay out. If even a single wager loses, the entire parlay loses.
The only exception to this rule is in the event of a push – if one of the events that you link together pushes, the bet reduces down to the next smallest number of wagers. So for example, if you have linked together four separate events into a 4-team parlay, and one of these four events pushes, you are simply left with a 3-team parlay. (In the event of a two-team parlay with a push, you simply revert to an individual bet).
Below, I’ll go into detail about how to make money with parlays. But the general idea is as follows: The payout is greater if all wagers win inside of a parlay than it would be if each wager won individually. This, in short, is the financial appeal of a parlay. Let’s take an example.
Let’s say that in a given week of the NFL regular season, there are three games that you feel good about. Let’s say that the Patriots are at home playing the Jets, the Steelers are at home playing the Browns, and the Seahawks are at home playing the 49ers. You think all three home favorites are going to win, both moneyline and against the spread, but none of these potential wagers offers any good value.
This would potentially be an opportunity to use a parlay to increase your potential payout. Despite the fact that none of these three bets offered any significant value individually, when you combine them together in a parlay your odds improve exponentially.
Of course, the risk increases too – all three of the wagers that you place (either moneyline or ATS) have to win. If any one wager loses, the whole parlay loses. But if you truly believe that all three home teams are going to take care of business in this example, then you should definitely consider making a parlay, as it could be a profitable move, and offer better odds.
How much better would the odds get? To understand this, let’s take a look at the way that parlay odds are calculated.
How Do You Calculate Parlay Odds?
First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t have to calculate parlay odds by hand. In the days before computers, it was necessary to know how the math worked and puzzle it out by hand. Nowadays, there are a million different odds calculators available that will do the work for you.
Even still, I firmly believe that it’s helpful for gamblers to understand how to calculate parlay odds long-hand, as it really helps you understand how parlays work, how odds work, and how to be smart enough to make money with parlays.
The first thing that you have to do to calculate the odds of a parlay is convert each component wager’s fractional odds (also called “American” odds) into decimal odds (also called “European” odds). For example, the standard fractional odds of -110 convert to decimal odds of 1.91.
Now stay with me here: Before we dive into the math, remember that there’s a very easy-to-understand relationship between fractional odds and decimal odds. If you put down $100 on a wager with fractional odds at -110, and you win, your profit is $91. This means your total payout is $191. Look familiar? $191 is precisely $100 * 1.91 (the equivalent decimal odds of -110).
In this way, we get a general understanding of what decimal odds are used for: Multiply your initial principle by your decimal odds to calculate the total payout of a winning bet. As with the difference between the US system and the metric system, American odds have their charm, but European odds sometimes just seem simpler to use.
So now that we understand decimal odds, it becomes easy to understand why we need to convert our fractional odds into decimal odds – because they’re easier to work with.
How do you convert fractional odds to decimal odds? Well first off, you can definitely use an online gambling odds converter/odds calculator. But to do it longhand, it’s pretty simple. For positive odds, divide the positive number by 100, and then add 1. For negative odds, divide 100 by the negative number, and then add 1. Let’s give some examples.
If you have fractional odds of -110, divide 100 by 110 (100/110 = 0.91), and then add 1 (0.91 + 1 = 1.91). If you have fractional odds of +150, divide 150 by 100 (150/100 = 1.5), and then add 1 (1.5 + 1 = 2.5). Fractional odds of -200? 100/200 = .5; .5 + 1 = 1.5. Fractional odds of +400? 400/100 = 4, 4 + 1 = 5.
Next, after you have all of the fractional odds for each individual wager converted into decimal odds, all that remains is simply to multiply the decimal odds together for each wager in the parlay. The combination of each of these odds, multiplied together, yields the total odds for the parlay.
Let’s take an example with a typical parlay. Let’s say that you combine together three moneyline favorites, who are getting -150, -200, and -250, and you string them together in a parlay with three wagers.
First, we convert the fractional odds to decimal odds. 100/150 = .66 + 1 = 1.67. 100/200 = .5 + 1 = 1.5. 100/250 = .4 + 1 = 1.4. So our three wagers have decimal odds of 1.67, 1.5, and 1.4. To get the decimal odds for all three of our wagers combined, we simply multiple 1.67 * 1.5 * 1.4, which comes out to 3.5.
For reference, decimal odds of 3.5 convert back to fractional odds of +250. So, in the end, here’s what we did.
If we imagine that we had placed $100 wagers on all three outcomes individually, and all three wagers had won individually, we would have made three individual profits of $66, $50, and $40, for a total profit of $156. Instead, by linking the three wagers together in a parlay, we increased the potential payout. If all three outcomes had won inside of the parlay, we would have ended up with a profit of $250 – an increase in profit of over 160%.
This is how parlay odds are calculated, and how they have the potential to dramatically increase payouts.
Now that we have a solid understanding of parlays, in the next section I’ll take you through teasers, which are like parlays in a lot of ways, but with a couple important tweaks.
How Do Teasers Work?
In short, a teaser is a type of parlay that gives a gambler the opportunity to push (or “tease”) the lines for the component wagers a set number of points, in either direction. Here’s an easy way to remember the difference between parlays and teasers.
Imagine that you’re talking with an ancient, wrinkly old gambler, who is trying to goad you into betting with him on the outcome of two separate NFL games. He says: I think the Cowboys will cover and the Patriots won’t. In response, you say, You’re wrong: I think the Cowboys won’t cover and the Patriots will. In response, this ancient gambler smiles and says, You wanna bet?
Now here’s where the difference comes in. If you were to simply bet that both the Cowboys won’t cover the spread and the Patriots will cover, that would just be a regular old parlay.
But let’s say that you don’t want to bet, and the old man goes even further trying to convince you to take the bait. The old man says: How about this. I am so confident that I’m right, that I will give you extra points on the lines. I’ll bet you that the Patriots won’t cover their line even if I add a touchdown to their total, and the Cowboys will cover their line even if I subtract a touchdown from their total.
At this point, you begin to think that the old man is just plain crazy. You thought that the Cowboys wouldn’t cover and the Patriots would cover before this looney old man tacked on these extra points, so now you’re totally sure of yourself. You’ve been given an extra incentive to take the bet, but you still don’t trust the old man: You can tell that he’s pushing your buttons intentionally; he’s goading you on; he’s teasing you with those extra points.
This is the key difference between a teaser and a parlay: A teaser acts just like a parlay, with the added incentive (or “tease”) of allowing you to swing the line either 6, 6.5, or 7 points in the direction of your choosing. All of the outcomes still have to win, but you get some say in which direction things will go.
There are a few minor notes specific to teasers: You can tease anywhere between 2 and 10 teams, and teasers reduce down the same way that parlays do. However, most types of bets can’t be included in teasers, including futures, prop bets, live betting, and moneyline bets.
Really, you can generally only tease wagers with spreads or point totals, which makes sense because there has to be a line that you can move for the wager to be a teaser. In addition, there is also such a thing as a “sweetheart teaser,” which lets you push the odds by 10 or 13 points (instead of 6-7) for three or four teams. However, the payout ends up at -110 or -120, so there isn’t good value to be had.
Now that we’ve got a basic understanding of how teasers work, let’s take a look at how the odds are calculated.
How Do You Calculate Teaser Odds?
Teaser odds differ significantly from parlay odds. As I mentioned above, it’s possible to put bets that don’t have a line (such as moneyline bets) into a parlay, but all of the wagers that you throw into a tease have to have a line (otherwise there would be no way to utilize the extra points that you are given).
This difference turns out to be very significant as far as the calculation of the odds are concerned. Basically, doing a teaser (compared to a parlay) means sacrificing some reward in exchange for lower risk. In essence, you pay for the extra points you’re given by getting worse odds than parlays.
But the difference between teaser odds and parlay odds isn’t just that teasers are generally more limited in terms of overall payout. Also, teaser odds are much more consistent than parlay odds. This goes back to the fact that teasers involve bets with lines, and I’ll explain why.
One of the core principles of NFL betting is that the goal of the sportsbook is to prompt even action on all sides of a wager. This is how the sportsbook covers itself and ensures that no matter what the outcome is, the sportsbook makes money.
With wagers that don’t involve a line (such as moneyline bets), the only mechanism of control that the sportsbook has to push gamblers towards one outcome or another is by manipulating the odds. Gamblers are incentivized to wager their money on unpopular outcomes by the promise of spectacular payouts.
By contrast, wagers that do involve a line have two mechanisms of control: the odds, and the line itself.
So let’s say that the Patriots are playing the Browns. With moneyline odds, the sportsbook has to try and prompt even action by manipulating the odds, so maybe the odds end up at Patriots -800, Browns +600. But a bet against the spread for this same game has two control mechanisms: The odds-makers might set the line at Patriots -13.5, for which the odds might even out at -110 on both sides.
This is often the pattern with all bets that have lines: Because the line offers odds-makers a second control mechanism, odds often hover much closer to even. For this reason, teaser odds are much more regimented, and odds-makers can get away with providing consistent teaser odds regardless of whether or not there are fluctuations in the odds. If there are fluctuations, they are bound to be minor.
These consistent odds are often provided in the format of a table. You may see minor differences between sportsbooks, but what follows is a pretty standard teaser odds table:
|Teaser size:||6 points:||6.5 points:||7 points:|
As you can see from the table, the more points you get, the worse the odds become. And also, naturally, the more independent outcomes you throw into the teaser, the higher the payout.
Before we move on, I’ll give you a basic example of how a teaser would work in practice. Let’s imagine the following three games:
- New York Jets @ New England Patriots; Jets +13.5 (+100), Patriots -13.5 (-120)
- Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers; Browns +10.5 (+120), Steelers -10.5 (-135)
- San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks; 49ers +9 (-110), Seahawks -9 (-110)
Now let’s imagine (as I mentioned above) that you believe that all three home teams are going to take care of business. But now, let’s say that even though you believe all three home teams are going to win, you’re not 100% sure that they are each going to cover the spread. At the very least, you think it is going to be close.
So you decide to throw these three home teams into a three-team teaser, and you purchase an additional 6 points to tease each of these lines. So, in essence, you now have the Patriots -7.5, the Steelers -4.5, and the Seahawks -3. Now, let’s say that the three games feature the following outcomes:
- Jets 6, Patriots 38
- Browns 10, Steelers 20
- 49ers 7, Seahawks 28
In this example, all three teams cover their teased spread: The Patriots won by more than 7.5, the Steelers won by more than 4.5, and the Seahawks won by more than 3. So you win your teaser and get a payout of +160 (the entry in the table at the intersection of “3-team” and “6 points”). This contrasts the odds that you would have gotten in a 3-team parlay, which would have been just above +500.
However, it’s important to note that if you had put these three games into a parlay instead of a teaser, you would have lost the parlay: Look at the Steelers’ original line (-10.5). Given that they only won by 10, a wager on the Steelers to cover would have lost, and thus the whole parlay would have lost. But by teasing the lines down 6 points, you bought yourself some leeway, and this ended up saving the bet.
Now that we have a basic understanding of how both parlays and teasers work, and how their odds are calculated, let’s talk now about the strategy involved in using these combination bets to make money.
How Do You Make Money with Parlays & Teasers?
As I mentioned in the introduction, parlays and teasers are advanced forms of NFL gambling. Think about it like high school math: You can’t start doing calculus until you have a deep understanding of trigonometry and geometry, and you can’t understand trigonometry and geometry until you’re really good with the basic concepts of algebra.
Parlays and teasers are the same way. Managing the balance between the higher risk and higher reward of teasers and parlays is an advanced skill: You need a really strong foundational understanding of the individual bets that you’re going to place into a parlay or teaser before you can hope to make money. And in turn, there are even more basic decision-making skills involved in moneyline and ATS bets.
Having given this caveat, however, there are certainly some advanced strategy considerations specific to parlays and teasers that I am happy to share with you. In fact, professional gamblers have traditionally split into two camps on parlays and teasers. I’ll take you through both sides of the argument.
On the one side, there are those gamblers who believe that parlays and teasers are never a good idea if your goal is to make money. For these gamblers, parlays and teasers should only be employed for purely recreational purposes, such as betting on the Super Bowl prop bets with totally unpredictable outcomes, like the color of the Gatorade that will be dumped on the head coach, or the outcome of the coin toss.
To explain the logic employed by this side of the argument, let’s use an example. In fact, let’s think about coin tosses.
It’s a foundational truth of gambling that the closer the probability of an event approximates a 50-50 chance, the closer the odds will be to even odds. Very evenly matched games – moneyline or ATS – usually end up with odds at -110, or sometimes even odds.
There’s no gambling event closer to 50-50 odds than a coin toss itself. And for the Super Bowl coin toss prop bet, the odds are always -110 on both sides, for obvious reasons. So let’s imagine that you and a friend are doing some friendly wagering – just you, your friend, and an honest coin. Let’s imagine that your friend believes that parlays and teasers are not a good way to make money, and you do.
Now, let’s imagine that you and your friend both wager that the coin will flip heads three times in a row, except your friend bets all three events individually, and you string all three together into a parlay. Here’s how things shake out:
- HEADS: Your friend makes $91 profit, $91 total; you wait to see the outcome of your parlay.
- HEADS: Your friend makes $91 profit, $182 total; you wait to see the outcome of your parlay.
- HEADS: Your friend makes $91 profit, $273 total; you win your parlay and make $596 profit.
Clearly, you made out better in the end, because all three outcomes did end up paying out. But now, let’s say that you two do the exact same thing again – you each bet on heads to come out three times in a row – but things turn out in the worst possible way:
- TAILS: Your friend loses $100, -$100 total; you lose your parlay, -$100 total.
- TAILS: Your friend loses $100, -$200 total; you’ve already lost your parlay, still -$100 total.
- TAILS: Your friend loses $100, -$300 total; you’ve already lost your parlay, still -$100 total.
Now, in this case, because your friend put down $100 in principle three separate times, and you put down only $100 in principle across all three bets, you still made out better in the end. But you could have just as easily laid $300 on the parlay and been down as much as him.
Now, let’s say that you two do the exact same thing again, and get the following outcome:
- HEADS: Your friend makes $91 profit, $91 total; you wait to see the outcome of your parlay.
- HEADS: Your friend makes $91 profit, $182 total; you wait to see the outcome of your parlay.
- TAILS: Your friend loses $100, $82 total; you lose your parlay, -$100 total.
Now in this case, your friend came out ahead. So with the three options put in this way, the question of course becomes: Which of these three options is most likely?
Well, the coin is going to flip heads or tails 50% of the time in the long run. The Gambler’s Fallacy tells us that it’s foolish to expect multiple of the same outcome to occur in a row. The hard statistics for probability tell us that the coin has a 12.5% chance of flipping heads three times in a row (.5 * .5 * .5 = .125). Every other outcome – 87.5% of the possible outcomes – end up with you losing your parlay.
Whereas, on the other hand, if your friend continues to bet individual events for long enough (and if they become better than chance at guessing the outcome, up to being right about the coin flip, say, even 55% of the time), they’re going to turn a profit in the long run.
This is the logic behind the argument that parlays and teasers are not a reliable way to make money. This side of the argument states that by stacking together multiple independent outcomes and making them dependent on each other, the increase in the amount of reward never outgains the increase in the amount of risk.
On the other side, gamblers (like myself) who maintain that it is possible to make parlays and teasers a reliable part of your overall gambling strategy maintain the following: So long as the outcomes that you place into a parlay or teaser are more than likely to happen (say…55% likely or more), you will make money in the long run with teasers and parlays.
As you can see, on both sides of the aisle, the goal (as in all gambling) is to find that sweet spot where you’re going to be right about your bets more than half the time – that margin above 50% correctness is precisely your profit margin. The divide simply hinges on whether or not you are willing to take on the increased risk of parlays and teasers or not.
So in the end, the choice is up to you. Much in the same way that you can invest in mutual funds or in individual stocks, one being lower-risk-lower-reward and the other being higher-risk-higher-reward, you can also choose to bet on individual gambling events or string them together into a teaser or a parlay.
For me, I love parlays and teasers for the occasional change of pace. Acknowledging the increased risk, I maintain discipline in not using parlays and teasers too often – this is surely a way to break your bankroll. But in my opinion, variety is the spice of life, and I would hate to miss out on the opportunity to pepper in the occasional parlay and teaser. They’re just too damn fun!