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Parlay Bet House Edge

Dear Mark,

I typically play three, four, or five team parlays. Could you please give me the exact house edge on playing these amounts of games as a parlay bet?

Jimmy L.

The Parlay is a way of simultaneously betting multiple sporting events with a hope for a humongous payoff if you hit on all of them. All games generally have the same point spread as straight bets off the board. With parlays, if one game doesn't win or at least tie, you lose your entire bet.

If one of the events is a tie, then that game is disregarded and you get paid according to the number of games that you did win. The corresponding house edge, based on the number of events and what the casino typically pays is as follows:

  • Three teams pay 6 to 1, with a house edge of 12.50%
  • Four teams pay 10 to 1, with a 31.25% casino advantage
  • And five teams pay 20 to 1, with a house edge of 34.38%.

Because of the steep house edge, I have never been a fan of parlay wagering. Besides, it's hard enough for me to win just one game against the spread.

But a better way to play a four or five team parlay is to bet your first game as a straight bet, then let the winnings ride to the next game, then the next, then the next.

Except for winning three separate sporting events, where the house edge is slightly less than on a parlay card, it's the smarter way to play a group of games, one at a time, then parlaying your winnings.

The house edge is reduced for four games to 16.98%, and 20.75% for five games, but for three-team straight play, the casino advantage is slightly higher at 13.03% versus 12.50%.

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