The betting term 'accumulator' refers to a single bet that involves at least four selections, but possibly many more than four. The most important difference that separates accumulator bets from other bet types is that all selections must come true in order for the bet to pay out.
Accumulator betting has become very popular in the UK and around the world in the last 20 years, particularly in sports like football. It has become common parlance in the pubs and betting shops of the UK to refer to the "acca" that you've got lined up for the weekend's fixtures, and these bets have become something of a ritual for many football enthusiasts.
The attraction to accumulators is, for many people, two-fold. Most importantly, the combination of four or more different selections means that all the different odds get combined, creating the potential for some remarkable wins and odds that are very difficult to find on standard match betting.
The second factor is the sheer excitement of having a stake in so many different games happening simultaneously around the country. During the football season, every Saturday at 3pm there can be more than 40 matches all kicking off together. An accumulator bet can transform those run-of-the-mill, lower league contests into crucial games as far as your potential winnings are concerned.
The thrill of having a crucial goal clinch your accumulator at the last minute is difficult to match in sports betting, and this excitement is what makes accumulator betting so popular in football. It is, of course, popular in other sports, too, but it has almost become part and parcel of football culture in recent years.
How do accumulator bets work?
Some bookmakers include doubles and trebles in their definition of accumulator, and technically there is no reason not to do so. However, with one of the most important parts of the appeal of accumulators being the chance to rack up huge odds and very large potential returns, it seems more appropriate to focus on bets including four or more selections.
Perhaps the easiest way to think about how accumulator bet odds are calculated is to imagine that each part, or 'leg', of your bet comes off and pays out, and you then place the winnings on the next leg of your bet.
So, if you are placing an accumulator bet on football matches in the Premier League, your selections and odds might look something like this:
• 1) Everton to beat Aston Villa at 3/1
• 2) Tottenham Hotspur to beat Chelsea at 4/1
• 3) Manchester United to beat Manchester City at 3/1
• West Ham to beat Arsenal at 7/2
Let's imagine your stake is £10 on an accumulator bet including the results listed above. For your accumulator to pay out, you need all of your selections to prove correct.
If all of your results come in, your winnings would be calculated as follows:
• Your initial stake returns £40 from your bet on Everton to beat Aston Villa (£30 winnings, plus your £10 stake).
• This £40 becomes your stake on the Tottenham vs Chelsea game, and pays out £200 (£160 winnings, plus your £40 stake).
• The £200 goes on Manchester United to beat Manchester City, and when they do so it turns into £800.
• Finally, West Ham do the business over Arsenal in the London derby and your dreams come true: you've just turned £10 into £3,600!
Accumulator bets are by no means restricted to football, and are hugely popular in tennis, cricket, rugby, American football, horse racing, and basketball.
You can also place bets across different sports, so you might have selections from PGA Tour golf, Major League Baseball, and the 3.30 at Epsom all involved in the same bet.
This can be a great way to enhance your enjoyment of new sports, and a powerful way to unlock some fantastic odds and sizeable payouts.
Each-way accumulators and non-runners
In accumulator betting, non-runners simply mean that the relevant selection is removed from your accumulator, and your odds adjusted accordingly. So if your horse never ran, or your football fixture was cancelled due to bad weather, your bet still stands but with the odds adjusted.
Each-way accumulators involve two bets: one on the selection to win, and one on the same selection to be placed. If your accumulator includes each-way bets, you stand to win the overall amount if your place bets come true, but your odds will be adjusted accordingly.
Each-way accumulators are a great way to increase the chances of your accumulator paying out, but they do bring down the total amount that you stand to win.
What you can win with accumulator bets
The potential winnings with accumulator bets are almost limitless. The clue is in the name - "accumulator" - meaning your winnings accumulate with each selection that proves correct, creating chances to win staggering sums of money.
A prime example of the power of an accumulator bet is the story of Fred Craggs, who placed a 50p stake on an accumulator featuring eight different horses running at various locations, back in 2008.
His selections all had long odds, and the accumulated odds reached 2,000,000/1, but somehow the likes of 'Isn't That Lucky', 'A Dream Come True' and 'Racer Forever' all managed to win their respective races, along with Mr Craggs' five other horses, earning the Yorkshireman a payout of £1,000,000.
An even lower stake that turned into a dream bet saw a Manchester United fan turn 30p into £500,000.
The Staffordshire-based fan placed the bet at the start of the season, selecting 15 matches in his accumulator, for which the combined odds reached a dizzying 1,666,666/1.
His predictions for the champions of the Premier League, each division of the Football League, and the Conference all came true, along with his choices for the Scottish lower leagues, and the rugby union Premiership.
To seal his winnings, he just needed Surrey to win the County Cricket Championship, which they did, and then he was relying on Bayern Munich to defeat German rivals Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final.
The match was level at 1-1 in the final minute, when Arjen Robben struck a late winner to give Bayern the title, and earn that lucky Manchester United fan a payout of half a million pounds.