Parlay Cards

Parlay Cards

Parlay cards are essentially the lottery version of sports betting, in which bettors try to make a lot of money for a minimal investment. While most sportsbooks offer parlay cards, they are extremely popular among illegal bookmakers. The basic difference between a parlay card offered by a sportsbook and an illegal bookmaker are generally in the payouts, with the sportsbook typically being more generous that the illegal bookmaker, although both are much lower than the true odds.

For example, the true odds on a three-team parlay are 7-to-1. A parlay card filled out at a sportsbook will typically pay 6-to-1, while the illegal bookmaker will offer a 5-to-1 payout. (A complete list of standard payouts and true odds can be found at the end of the article.)

Ties Lose

Many sportsbook parlay cards will simply reduce the number of teams you have selected on your parlay card if one of the teams ties against the point spread. For example, if you have a six-team parlay at a sportsbook and one team ties, you will then have a five-team parlay and will receive a payout based on a five-team parlay should your other games win.

Illegal bookmakers aren't as forgiving on ties, however, and a tie counts the same as a loss. To make matters worse, illegal bookmakers will typically adjust the odds a bit hoping for ties.

For this reason you will see the majority of point spreads on the key numbers, such as 3,4,6,7,10,13,14,17 and 21.

If the Las Vegas line has a team favored by 16 points, the illegal bookmaker will use 17 as the point spread, as more games are decided by 17 points than they are by 16 points.

For vs. To

Another trick some illegal bookmakers use is to offer payouts such as 10-for-1 as opposed to 10-to-1. A $10 parlay winner at 10-for-1 odds would return $100, while at 10-to-1 the return would be $110.

So it pays to read the fine print on a parlay card, as those offering payouts using "for" instead of "to" are putting you at even more of a disadvantage.


The poor payouts compared to the true odds are the primary reason why parlay cards should be avoided. On a straight bet, the house advantage is 4.55 percent. On a parlay card the house advantage starts at 14.2 percent and can reach as high as 80 percent if you select 10 teams.

Parlay cards can be a fun, inexpensive way to enjoy a little action of the weekend's games, but they are a poor wagering proposition.

Parlay Card Odds

Illegal Bookmaker Payouts
3 Teams5-to-1
4 Teams10-to-1
5 Teams15-to-1
6 Teams25-to-1
7 Teams50-to-1
8 Teams100-to-1
9 Teams150-to-1
10 Teams200-to-1
9-of-10 Teams20-to-1

Sportsbook Payouts
3 Teams6-to-1
4 Teams10-to-1
5 Teams20-to-1
6 Teams40-to-1
7 Teams75-to-1
8 Teams100-to-1
9 Teams150-to-1
10 Teams300-to-1
9-of-10 Teams25-to-1

True Odds
3 Teams7-to-1
4 Teams15-to-1
5 Teams31-to-1
6 Teams63-to-1
7 Teams127-to-1
8 Teams255-to-1
9 Teams511-to-1
10 Teams1,023-to-1