Also known in the United States and other areas as a “parlay,” an accumulator bet allows two or more selections to be combined into a single wager. By doing so, the successful linked selections will return higher odds than they would if they had been bet on individually.
For example, consider wagering £2 apiece on each of three football teams to win at evens (1/1). That’s a total outlay of £6. Assuming all three selections succeed, the payout would be £2 + £2 + £2 = £6. By comparison, wagering £2 on a three-team accumulator would pay 6/1. The total outlay is just £2 and if all three succeed, the payout is 6 x £2 = £12—a lower amount risked and a higher amount return.
The downside, of course, is that every selection on an accumulator must succeed in order for the wager to yield a return. In the example above, if one team loses, betting on the three teams individually would still pay a profit of £2 + £2 - £2 = £2. For the three-team accumulator, if just one selection fails, the entire wager is forfeited. The risk of that happening is what accounts for the higher odds being offered.
An accumulator made up of just two selections is commonly called a “double.” One made up of three selections is referred to as a “treble.” Accumulators with four or more selections are known as a four-fold accumulator, a five-fold accumulator, a six-fold accumulator, etc.
Accumulators have long been offered for horse and dog racing, and they have more recently become popular for almost all major sports. In fact, at some bookmakers it is possible to link wagers on different sports into a single accumulator.
The most basic type of accumulators is wagered “against the spread” (ATS) using the point line, puck line or run line for selection so that each one is taken at evens. Point line accumulators offer a fixed payout based upon the number of successful selections. A winning double will typically pay odds of 13-to-5 and a treble will offer 6-to-1. A winning four-fold accumulator is usually worth 10-to-1, and the odds continue to increase: 20-to-1 for a five-fold accumulator, 40-to-1 for a six-fold, 75-to-1 for a seven-fold, and so on up to 1,500-to-1 for a fifteen-fold accumulator.
Another type of accumulator is based upon the money line for each selection using “straight up” odds. Calculating the potential payout is a bit more complicated because it involves taking into account the specific odds for each individual selection.
One of the most publicized money line accumulators in history was put into action in 1989. A Newport night-shift worker bet £30 that five events would occur by January 1, 2000. His accumulator included Cliff Richard being knighted at odds of 4- to-1 and U2 remaining a pop group at 3- to-1. The other three selections related to popular British television shows remaining on the air, with associated odds of 5-to-1, 5-to-1, and 8-to-1. All five predictions came true and the South Wales resident won massive £194,370 at 6,479-to-1 odds.
For sports betting, accumulators can include over/under bets on the final scores of games as well as selecting which sides will win. There may be “props” offered, too, such as which team will score first or which will score last. Obviously, a relatively small bet can add up to a huge payout. At most bookmakers, the minimum bet required for a point spread accumulator is £2, although some may have them from as little as 10p.
One concern of both bettors and bookmakers is what happens in the event of a draw. Terms and conditions must be clearly spelled out to protect both parties. In some instances, a “must win” rule applies and the entire accumulator will be deemed a loser in the event of a single draw. In other cases, the wager may be reduced by one selection, so that a four-fold accumulator becomes a treble and is rewarded accordingly. Some bookmakers have also introduced “ties win” accumulators at reduced odds, while others offer “half-point” spreads so that no selection can result in a draw.