What is an Accumulator or ACCA bet?
All of the advertising, inducements, bonus offers, and marketing of accumulator/ACCA bets give the impression that they are incredibly popular. Potential winning accumulators can seem like a small lottery win, just for picking the right outcomes of a few sporting events - and this is the attraction, potentially huge wins for a relatively small outlay.
But it should come as no surprise that bookmakers see accumulator bets as a major source of income. Mainly because most punters are unaware of their chances of winning, or are ignorant of how to make a profit from them.
What is an Accumulator/ACCA bet?
Accumulator bets, or ACCAs, are usually high risk, high return bundles of uncorrelated bets.
An ACCA, also known as a parlay bet or a combo bet, is a single investment comprising two or more individual wagers known as ‘legs’ or ‘folds’. For example, a two-fold accumulator or ‘double’, consists of bets on the outcomes of two independent events; a three-fold bet (a ‘treble’) is composed of bets on three outcomes, and so on.
An ACCA is high risk, but with high returns
An ACCA is a high-risk venture because its success depends upon the correct prediction of all outcomes in the bet-bundle – One wrong prediction forfeits the entire stake.
Higher Number of Legs = More Risk Involved = Higher Potential Returns
The level of risk is obviously reduced with fewer legs but, of course, a lower risk goes hand-in-hand with lower returns.
An ACCA is a bundle of bets
The returns from an ACCA are far higher than splitting a stake of the same size, and placing a series of individual bets on the same outcomes.
Think of winning a spin on ‘black’ at roulette and then leaving the original stake together with the winnings riding on ‘red’ for the next spin – planning to do this, say, four times in a row is the same accumulative investment process as a four-fold bet.
Both exhibit a form of progressive staking, which continues until either the bet is let-down by the failure of any particular leg (spin), or all legs (spins) win. Both wagers are literally ‘all or nothing’ propositions.
The whole of the ACCA stake, therefore, rides on the first leg and, if it wins, the amount won plus the original stake forms a running total to be staked on the second leg. After each leg, the running total is passed onto the next bet in the list until a conclusion is reached.
Bets in an ACCA must be uncorrelated
The bundle can contain bets from a range of sports – it does not necessarily have to be limited to bets from any particular sport or any one league. In this way, the scope for different styles of bets contained within a single ACCA is almost limitless.
But bets chosen for the ACCA from the same sporting fixture (i.e. the same match) must be independent of each other. For example, it is okay to include team X winning the first half of a game and to have a different leg of the ACCA predicting team Y to win the match outright.
How to place an ACCA
Here’s a typical bet slip showing an ACCA involving four football matches:
As mentioned before, the slip might just as well be a mixture of football matches, tennis matches, horseraces or, indeed, whatever you fancy from the huge selection of outcomes offered by the bookmaker of your choice.In this case, all we have done is click on the prices for the outcomes we fancied to add them to our bet slip:
At the bottom of the slip, you can see that we have entered a £10 stake in the ‘4 Folds x 1’ option.
By multiplying the odds of our four selections together, we have created a multi-layered bet returning odds 63.29, equating to a possible win of £632.90.
The attraction and popularity of ACCAs should now be apparent. £632.90 for an outlay of just £10 does seem very attractive. But, remember, all four results have to go our way for that bumper pay-day to materialise.
What are the chances of success
Odds are purely indicators of implied probabilities at the time you view them or buy them. They will change throughout the ante-post market (i.e. prior to kick-off), depending upon the weight of money wagered.
High demand for one side of an outcome leads to a drop in price (i.e. demand exceeds supply), whilst the odds for the other, more unpopular outcome at the time rises to provide balance. Bookmakers use this pivotal pricing mechanism to balance their books and ensure a margin of profit regardless of the outcome.
It is therefore difficult to estimate accurately what the chances of our four-fold ACCA actually are. We can work out our own odds using historical statistics and compare them with those bought to establish the amount of value in our bets. There are many ways of doing this, and one man’s estimate of the true odds will probably differ from the next.
However, what we can do is work out from the four odds we have bought, what the implied probability of our ACCA is. This should provide us with a rough idea of its chances of success.
The four odds are:
Convert these to implied probabilities by taking each odds, and performing the following simple calculation:
100/Odds & express the result as a percentage.
100/3.2 = 31.25%
100/3.9 = 25.6%
100/1.47 = 68%
100/3.45 = 29%
Now multiply these four percentages together:
31.25% x 25.6% x 68% x 29% = 1.58%
Based on the odds we have just bought, the implied chance of all four of the predictions coming to fruition is just 1.58%.
But it is not all doom and gloom, because if the first leg wins, the chances of the four-fold improve to the probability of the remaining three legs:
25.6% x 68% x 29% = 5%
If the first two legs win the chance of success improves to:
68% x 29% = 19.8%
This progressive improvement of the odds, as each leg completes, provides important benchmarks to gauge risk in order to make decisions whether to let it ride or to lay it off at any point. It also keeps emotions in check as expectations are known at the start of each leg.
The pitfalls of Accumulator bets
There are several things to bear in mind when placing an ACCA bet:
The particular bookmaker’s maximum pay-out should be known when compiling a multi-leg ACCA. There is no point compiling, for example, a 15 leg ACCA, to win £250,000 if the maximum pay-out with that bookie is limited to only £150,000. Read the terms and conditions of each bookmaker in your portfolio carefully before embarking on any ACCA adventure.
It is also important to be aware that some bookmakers offer reduced odds on outcomes included in an ACCA than can be obtained from betting on the same outcome with them as a single bet. This erosion of value gives the bookie a constant edge.
The more legs that are included in an ACCA, the lower the probability of success. The usual low probabilities make ACCAs very profitable for bookies, and so newsworthy stories of lucky punters striking it rich become national news for a reason – to encourage more people to have a go.
Cashing out of a bet before its conclusion has also become a popular recent development, although the offers made for an early profit when ahead are usually grossly under-valued. In this way, the bookmaker maintains a stranglehold over its customers by depriving them of value.
Embarking on a career of accumulator bets can be a financial and emotional roller coaster ride. The profit and loss curve will usually be very jagged; full of deep crevasses with the occasional mountainous peak.
Advanced ACCA tips
Most major bookies offer ACCA ‘insurance’ - whereby guaranteeing the return of your stake in full if the combo is let-down by just one bad result - although do read the terms & conditions carefully, as there is usually a minimum odds threshold for each leg/total, the stake refund will be in free bets only & up to a maximum amount, etc.
Many bookmakers offer bonuses for winning accumulators, the size of which, is usually dependent on the number of legs in the bet. You will again need to understand the terms and conditions of each bonus offer and relate it to that particular bookmaker’s maximum pay-out – is the bonus paid over and above the maximum pay-out or is it an absolute limit, etc?
Cashing-out by laying-off
If the first three of your four selections were successful, then there is temptation to lay-off the final leg to guarantee a healthy profit.
The hard work has already been done, and it would be a tragedy to fall flat on the final game. So, it is worth considering laying-off the potential big win, by playing the reverse result of the leg in question, to guarantee a smaller, but welcome profit. Especially so if that last ACCA leg fails – better to have half the money banked versus zero (and if you have ACCA insurance, then at least you may also end up with your stake back as well).
Successful gamblers do not sit still waiting for things to happen – they will always try to manage an investment for profit, however small it turns out to be. ACCAs are therefore very useful tools in building-up a sizeable pot that can be laid-off for profit at any stage.
Creating a portfolio capable of managing for profit in this way is all about considering the timing of the bets included in the ACCA. Giving time between the legs, provides the opportunity to review the situation, and give space & time to calculate a lay bet at any stage. There would have been fewer opportunities to control the situation if all the games kicked-off at the same time or overlapped in any way.
Successful betting of any nature is all about remaining in control and being strong enough to make the right decisions when they are needed. Understanding the playing field and careful planning of any ACCA portfolio is essential to retain control.
Key take out
ACCAs can be great fun as each leg is chalked off the list in victory, but they can also be very short-lived when the first leg fails miserably.
Decisions need to be made regarding the timing of the portfolio, and whether to give the ACCA a chance to get going by entering the arena with an uncovered, shorter priced lead bet or playing a covered, larger odds outcome as the first leg. The decision is yours.
But, in short, to pick a big, big win, a good deal of luck is involved, with the odds invariably stacked against you.