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Parlays are a really popular kind of bet, they have a good potential for big payoffs compared to the size of the wager, and they're quite a really simple form of bet.
There are 2 different kinds of parlay. You can wager against the point spread, or against the money line. When wagering against the spread, the payoff is fixed, with the payout increasing the more teams you bet on. The payoff can range from 13-5 on a 2 team parlay to 600-1 on a 10 team parlay. This means that if you bet on two teams, you can win $13 for each $5 you bet. If you bet on 10 teams and win, then you will get $600 for every $1 you had wagered.
Bets against the money line do not use fixed odds, instead your overall payoff is calculated based on the odds of each team. This is because a spread assumes a 50-50 chance on each one (team), while money line bets just require the team to win or lose without points being taken into consideration.
A money line parlay will take the amount of your bet and place it on one team, then re-calculate your bet for the next team, until the bet has been placed on all of the teams. This can often work out better in terms of payoff than a points spread parlay, especially if one of the teams is not favoured to win.
Point spread parlays are usually not worth betting on, as they offer a weaker payout than the true odds for the parlay. Your chances of winning a three or more team parley are quite low, and the payoff doesn't reflect this. The 600-1 payout on a 10 team parlay may sound attractive.
You may get better payouts on a money line parley, and it is worth running the numbers before betting to find out, but in general, a straight bet is the best idea. It only takes one loss to lose an entire parley bet – if you lose a straight up bet then all you have lost is the wager for that game – you have not, in the process, lost any other wagers you made at the same time.