Opinion: Accumulators Part 1

Why the Bookies Celebrate Like It’s Christmas

Personally, I have steered clear of accumulators for several years now and seldom contemplate anything above a double. Back in my early betting days I suffered from the same fate as everyone else who dabbles with an ‘acca.’ You select five outcomes, and invariably, you end up with four wins and one loss. The following week, you feel bolder and choose seven outcomes. Guess what, six of them win, and one loses by a goal; oh, the agony!

We count ourselves unlucky, but in reality, it happens so often that it has nothing to do with luck at all. It’s simply a case of pushing the envelope too far. In the interests of balance I have agreed with Jon to do a two-parter on accumulators. In part 1, I will focus on why they are a poor betting strategy. In part 2, I look at how you can change a few things to increase your chances of success.

Accumulators Are Bad Value!

For every punter who boasts about his 6-team winning acca, countless individuals fail by the slenderest of margins. The thing about accumulators is that you lose regardless of whether you pick 5 from 6 or 0 from 6. Yes, there is ‘acca insurance,’ but that’s nothing more than a marketing gimmick.

In January 2013 one punter missed out on winning £506,000 from his exact match score accumulator. Leeds won 2-1 but were denied another goal when Randolph Austin shot into an empty net at the very end of the game only for referee Kevin Friend to blow for full time. The punter needed the game to end 3-1!

The reason why your accumulators keep going against you is that they are terrible value in the long term. Remember, the bookies have an overround of anywhere between 2% and 8% on every single game. How often have you seen an online site offer odds of 1.9 (9/10) on a game having an odd or even amount of goals? For the record, 0 goals is considered ‘even’ for the bet.

If you attempt a 6-bet accumulator featuring these forms of wagers (1.9 instead of the true odds of 2.0), a £1 bet could yield the following:

1.9 x 1.9 x 1.9 x 1.9 x 1.9 x 1.9 = 47.05 (just over 46/1). (100 / 47.05) = 2.13% chance of winning (rounded up from 2.125).

However, the actual chance of winning is:

2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 64.00 (63/1). (100 / 63) = 1.59%

In other words, you are giving the bookie an added edge of over 25% which is very bad news when your chances of winning are rather low in the first place.

By the way, in a two-way market like odd/even goals where you receive 1.9 for both instead of 2.0, you are giving away a 5.26% with every single bet. To make a sliver of profit using our six-bet acca above, you would have to win once every 47 bets when your real chance of winning is 1 in 64.


The Greater the Number of Permutations, the Bigger the Risk

Once you start picking teams to win, you are entering the complex 3-way market

In this League 1 example, the bookmaker has an overround of 2.51%.

  • 100/2.1 = 47.62
  • 100/3.5 = 28.57
  • 100/3.8 = 26.32

Add them together to get 102.51. However, the bookmaker’s vig isn’t even the biggest problem here. If you back Charlton to win at 2.10 for example, you are wagering that one of three outcomes will occur. If you bet on a win double, there are already 9 possible combinations of results (3 x 3). If you go for an extravagant 6-team accumulator, there are an incredible 729 potential outcomes (36).

The ‘Win and Both Teams to Score’ bet is becoming increasingly popular as punters chase enormous wins. I chose a random five-bet accumulator using this wagering style on League 1 and League 2 matches and received odds of 4,474/1!

You receive these odds because it is an incredibly hard bet to win. Not only does your team have to win, it must score at least twice because its opponent also has to score in a losing effort! It is hard to call such an outcome once let alone five times!

It is maddening to see punters complain because their 10-team accumulator lost out by a single bet. Of course, it did; THAT IS A BOOKMAKER’S DREAM! They want you to lose out narrowly as often as possible because it will make you more determined to land that big win. After all, you were so close the last time. If you routinely pick 5-team accumulators and only 1 or 2 bets win, you’ll soon stop, won’t you?


Is It All Bad?

The world of betting is seldom black or white. Yes, accumulators practically always offer bad value unless you find a strange scenario where a bookmaker gets its pricing wrong for four or five games over a weekend, and you discover them all. In that case, you’re the one with the edge, but it’s a situation even less likely than winning on your 10-bet accumulator (I once won a 12-bet acca at odds of 61/1, but that was unquestionably a freak occurrence).

Rather than persisting with a 5-team accumulator, perhaps it is a better idea to split your selections into 10 trebles? It isn’t a tactic that makes sense with odds-on bets, but for League 1 and League 2 matches, it offers better value than a 5-team parlay. Let’s say you enjoy a £20 dabble at the weekend, splitting it into 10 x £2 trebles should provide better value over the long-term, especially if you habitually win three or four bets.


I picked out a 5-team acca at random. If you place £20 on it and manage an unlikely win at odds of 204.68, you earn a fantastic profit of £4073.60 plus your stake. We all know it won’t happen because at least one of these sides will draw or lose. If you divide it into 10 x trebles, and the shortest odds trio win, you earn a profit of £2.68. If the longest odds trio wins, your profit swells to £77.47.

Remember if you are a typical ‘missed out by one bet’ punter, if four of the teams win, you will be very happy with the outcome when choosing trebles instead of an accumulator. Let’s say Tranmere Rovers draw with Colchester; you still end up with four trebles (each team features six times in the ten bets) for an overall profit of £199.82; better than ‘acca insurance’ for sure!

The main downside is that you ‘only’ make a profit of £509.24 if all five teams win instead of the £4k+ you would get for your full accumulator. You can slightly mitigate the pain of this happening by betting £2 on the 5-teams to win and £1.80 on the trebles to take the maximum profit potential to almost £900.

In any case, Part 2 of Accumulator betting,  will look at other ways to improve your odds and ensure you’re not simply throwing money down the well. As I’ve previously touched on in this article, the key is to find the best value bets and stake sensibly.


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