Betting 101: Accumulator / Parlay Bets

Mon 11 Sep 2023

An Introduction to Accumulator Bets

Time to Read: 6 mins

What is an Acca?

An Acca (or accumulator and in the US a parlay), is one bet that is made up of multiple parts or "legs". In we just refer these to "multiples".

For the bet to win, each leg of the bet must succeed. Let's look at a few examples. The simplest multiple consists of two legs and is called a "double" e.g.

Bayern to win (at home to Bremen) AND Villa to win (away at Everton).

Match Selection Odds
Bayern Munich vs Werder Bremen Home Win 1.2
Everton vs Aston Villa Away Win 1.8
Total Odds 2.16

For my bet to succeed both of my selections must win. There are a couple of things to note from this simple example. Firstly, to get the overall (decimal) odds multiply the odds of each selection together 1.2 * 1.8 = 2.16.

For the bettor, placing a bet on Bayern at odds of 1.2 may not be considered a particularly exciting bet. I place a bet of 10 and if, I win I only get 2 profit. This may be a good bet based on other metrics but for many bettors they would prefer a higher return at higher odds (a tendency known as long-shot bias). If I place an Acca I get to increase the odds and potential return. Obviously, the increased odds means increased risk.

In the example above we used the Full-time Result market and whether teams would win. We could opt to bet on draws in the same market or make selections in different markets. The general idea though is that each leg would be based on a different event (they don't necessarily even have to be the same sport althought this is most common).

Other Flavours

In our simple example above we had just two selections, but it's possible to have more. A "Triple" would be 3 selections and after this they're not really named. But we could have 4, 5, 6, etc. It's not uncommon for people to have 10 or more legs in their accumulator bets.

The interface of most online bookmaker websites allow you to easily add multiple selections to 'build' the Acca of your choosing.

There are other flavours, which tended to originate in horse racing, which layer different combinations together. These are not so commmon for betting on football so will not be discussed here but are things suchs a "Trixies", "Yankees" etc. Google "types of accumulator bets" if you wish to learn more.

Bet Builder Bets

It's increasingly common for online bookmakers to offer "Bet Builders". These are the same as Acca's with one important distinction: the bets are all based on the same event - but different markets (whereas Acca's are, typically, the same market but different events). Let's look at an example.

Brasil vs Venezuela: Brasil to Win; AND Over 2.5 match goals; AND Casemiro to get a yellow card; AND Neymar to score.
Selection Odds
Home Win 1.2
Over 2.5 goals 1.7
Casemiro to get a yellow 1.07
Neymar to score 4
Total Odds 8.73

These bets work in the same way as normal Acca's whereby each 'leg' must succeed for your bet to win. The same logic also applies as for normal Acca's: they act to increase the odds and come with increased levels of risk.

Bookmaker Offers

Given that Accumulators are so profitable for bookmakers, many provide a range of offers to encourage bettors to take such bets. These tend to fall into three categories:

1/. If one leg of the acca loses your stake is returned; or
2/. If your acca wins you get boosted profit (of X %) - this is essentially boosting the odds.
3/. Place a bet builder bet of X amount and recieve a freebet.

Bookmaker offers will have terms and minimum requirements. This is usually a minimum number of selections and overall total odds and/or minimum odds per leg. A typical example might be: Stake returned on Accas containing a minimum of 5 legs; each leg to have a minimum odds of 1.2; and overall odds to be over 4.00.

Is it possible to profit from accumulators?

This depends on the whether the bookmaker is making an offer, the odds provided and the particular strategy employed.

The matched betting fraternity have been taking advantage of Acca's for many years and this is a profitable enterprise (acccount restrictions aside). Matched bettors will calculate the expected value (EV) of the bet to determine whether a profit can be made. On a normal Acca there is unlikely to be value, however when we take account of bookmaker insurance / refund offers, some value can be found (alhtough not with all).

In such cases it is possible to to lay each leg in turn to end with an overall, small profit (usually around 1 GBP on a stake of 10). With this approach the legs in the Acca need to be played at different times to enable the lays to be calculated. Alternatively, and a little more more efficiently, you can simply place the bet, not lay at all, and the expected value will come through over time with enough bets - although there will be variance. The key to such approaches is being able to effectively identify accas that have value.

For bet-builder bets, offers tend to come with a free bet, so the typical matched betting strategy would be to lay the qualifier and then seek to profit from the free bet. However, it is far more difficult to lay these bets and some thought has to be given to choosing a bet combination that will enable the bet to be layed. For example, Barcelona to Win, Both Teams to Score Yes, and Under 3.5 Goals is equivalent to Barca to win 2-1 on the correct score market.

Other options and approaches

Acca's can be great fun, but as touched upon above, while they offer increased odds this comes with increased risk and this needs to be considered - there's good reason why bookmakers love them.

It is possible to lay off final legs of an acca to "lock-in" a profit if the first legs have won. In which case, choosing matches that are not played at the same time gives you flexibilty to review your position and take action. Selecting legs with strong home favourites as the first matches played can also enable you to be able to exit early with a profit.

There are plenty of other ways to enjoy accas, so we'll come back to this topic in the future and also expand on some of the points discussed but for the purposes of this brief intro, we'll conclude here. is currently working on a tool to calculate EV of Accas so we'll update this article and provide a dedicated article when the calculator is ready. Watch this space!

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