Betting on accumulators

How to bet on football accumulators

Sporting Life's guide on how to bet on football, including vital insight on whether or not punters should bet on accumulators.

Do you often find yourself religiously checking scores from up and down the country on a Saturday afternoon, only to realise that a last-minute goal against the run of play has put paid to your eleven-fold accumulator?

Do you then find yourself questioning why the same fate seems to befall you week on week? Asking why you cannot land just one big payout?

There is a reason for this.

As well as accumulators having a low probability of actually landing, bookmakers also take something called margin, meaning that often the price you are getting does not represent the true probability of the outcome.

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What is margin?

Imagine a coin. One side heads, one side tails. The probability that the coin win land on heads when flipped is 50%, while the probability that it will land on tails is also 50%, meaning the true price for heads would be even money, or 2.0m while the true price for tails would also be even money.

However, a bookmaker would likely offer you 5/6 about heads, and 5/6 about tails. With the probability implied by the odds of 5/6 at 55%, that means the bookmaker is applying a 5% margin to both outcomes, giving the "book" as a whole an overround of 10%.

The same principle is applied to football betting, meaning the odds on offer are very seldom the true price.

Why do my accumulators lose?

If you imagine that each selection you pick out has margin added to the price, therefore represents negative value, when you add that into an accumulator with another selection that holds potential negative value, you are multiplying the amount of margin in your bet, hence making it far more difficult for your accumulator to land.

Even though the price may seem appealing, the likelihood is, it will represent nowhere near the true probability of such a bet landing.

For example, should you add a selection with a 2% margin, onto another selection with a 2% margin, you would be betting on a double with a margin of 4%.

Should you add in another selection with a margin of 2%, then your treble would now have a margin of 8%.

Add another selection and the margin stands at 16%. One more selection would give the bookmakers a margin of 32%, and a final selection, making up a six-fold, would mean the accumulator you are betting on has a margin equivalent to 64%.

So, whilst a six-fold paying out say, 100/1, would appeal as a nice payday, there would be 64% of margin applied to that price, meaning the true probability would be less than 1%, which would mean that if you backed the same accumulator 100 times, you would be far from guaranteed to make your money back, which you should if the odds were truly representative of the probability.


Should I bet singles?

The simple answer would be, yes, where possible, you should bet on singles.

There is an argument that if you identify value in more than one selection, then multiplying them will increase the value, but by doing so you are also decreasing the likelihood that the bet will land.

A lot of casual punters would never consider betting on a short-priced single, with a bigger outlay needed for less reward, but becoming a successful gambler is about growing your bankroll, not hoping for that one big payoff.

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Be happy with small wins

So, instead of building a large, high-return but low-probability accumulator this weekend, try to concentrate on two or three matches, identify any oversight you think the bookmakers may have made, and place two or three single bets.

Don't worry if they are short prices, and the potential returns are low, just concentrate on slowly building up your bank balance.

You may not hit that 500/1 acca that your friends in the pub brag about, but you will get far more pleasure in knowing you have beaten the bookmaker through wits, rather than dumb-luck, and eventually, you will fare far better than most Saturday punters who spend their weekends checking through their 16-folds, only to find they have lost once again.

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Safer gambling

We are committed in our support of safer gambling.

Recommended bets are advised to over-18s and we strongly encourage readers to wager only what they can afford to lose.

If you are concerned about your gambling, please call the National Gambling Helpline / GamCare on 0808 8020 133.Further support and information can be found at and

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