Accumulators and Combination Betting Explained Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Accumulators and Combination Betting Explained

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To scoop more than half a million is beyond any punter's wildest dreams and better than winning the lottery!
- Darren Yates, 1996

On 28 September, 1996, 30-year old builder Darren Yates came home from an afternoon playing park football to find himself half-a-million pounds richer. His fast-track to financial success had been to put £69.76 (including betting tax) on a £0.50 Super-Heinz and a £2.00 each-way accumulator on seven Frankie Dettori ridden mounts during one Ascot race meet.

It is reported that the success of Dettori in all seven races cost the UK betting industry some £30 million.

The Accumulator

An accumulator bet, sometimes known as 'laying a parlay', is a way (if successful) of converting a relatively small stake into a large dividend by carrying over the winnings on one event to be placed as the stake on the next event, and so on, for a pre-determined number of events.

For example, consider the punter who backed the winning horse in each of those seven consecutive races, by placing in each case one pound (£1) on the nose1. At the odds quoted for the winning horses:

Frankie Dettori's Magnificent Seven
Cumberland Lodge StakesWall Street2-1
Racal Diadem StakesDiffident12-1
Queen Elizabeth II StakesMark of Esteem100-30
Tote Festival HandicapDecorated Hero7-1
Rosemary Related StakesFatefully7-4
Blue Seal StakesLochangel5-4
Gordon Karter HandicapFujiyama Crest2-1

... he would have walked away with £36.33 (£29.33 winnings + 7 x £1.00 stake, notwithstanding betting taxes).

Consider instead if he'd taken the total return (dividend plus stake) from the first race (£3) and wagered it on the second race. Again ignoring betting taxes, at 12-1 he'd get a return of £36 dividend, plus his £3 stake, ie £39. On and on for seven races, this lucky punter would theoretically be leaving the Tattersalls with £25,096.50 in his pocket, for an initial outlay of only £1. Clearly an altogether happier situation for the punter concerned.

Note, though, that this logic could be flawed for two reasons.

First, specifically in a totaliser or starting-price betting system (where the total stakes put down are shared among the winning gamblers after the bookmaker's cut is deducted) after the third or fourth race, the size of the stake being put down would probably significantly reduce the odds on the horse being wagered upon, so the consequent returns would be lower.

Second, it is doubtful that any punter, having started out with a single £1 stake would have the nerve to place the full value of the higher bets, even as early as the second or third races. Certainly, unless one is extraordinarily rich, staking £8,365.50 on the result of the last race and then losing it all is just asking for problems at home.

Hence, the accumulator bet can (but not necessarily will) resolve both these problems.

By committing his winnings in advance to an accumulator, there is no chance that the punter will 'bottle it' between events. The stake is tied in, and any winnings cannot be withdrawn until the completion of the last race. Further, providing the punter can get fixed odds in advance when placing the bet (as opposed to a tote or starting-price system) the odds will not reduce as the amount staked increases.

A further bonus of accumulator betting is that simultaneous independent events (such as a Saturday afternoon football programme, for example) can be treated as consecutive events. In a similar fashion, in 1999 one Basingstoke punter successfully forecast the seasonal champions of all football divisions in England and Scotland, resulting in a jackpot of nearly £600,000: reportedly bookmaker Coral's largest ever single bet payout.

The major drawback of a straight accumulator, of course, is that any one of the events may not yield a dividend, thereby causing the whole accumulator to fail, regardless of success in the other events. At a race-card, if it's the first race that fails, it doesn't really matter much because one has only lost a single stake, although it does take the gloss off the whole afternoon. Conversely, if it's the last race, although in practice having still only lost a single stake, a punter has the distinct impression of having lost a whole lot more.

Combination Bets

Hence, consider the beauty of the combination bet, which provides the possibility of winning big 'accumulator fashion' while maintaining a 'hedge' in case one or more events fail. The initial stake is higher because the combination bet is not a single bet, but a series of small bets. Thus the chances of losing are less and, most importantly the opportunity of walking away 'holding folding' remains.

The combination bet requires the punter to place a series of bets on the same events, some of which are single bets, the success of which depend on any single event being successful, some of which are multiples, the success of each of which depend on correctly selecting the right outcome to a given combination of events, and one of which is the full multiple, the success of which is dependent upon all events being forecast correctly.

These combination bets have commonly accepted names and are listed in the table below.

Combination Bets
BetSinglesDoublesTrebles4-folds5-folds6-folds7-folds8-foldsTotal Stakes
Lucky 154641000015
Lucky 31510105100031
Super Yankee010105100026
Lucky 636152015610063
Super Heinz021353521710120

Thus, in the example of the Darren Yates wager, he'd put a 50p Super-Heinz on Frankie Dettori's seven mounts. That's 120 bets at 50p each... 60 quid. In the event that only one selection had come in, he'd have ended the day £60 lighter, because the Super-Heinz doesn't pay on singles. If, say only four of the seven had come in, he'd have effectively had a winning Yankee, 11 winning bets (but 109 losing bets) paying out all 11 combinations of two, three and four event accumulators. Depending on which four came in (Lochangel was a 'dead cert'; Diffident was a long shot), four out of seven should have been sufficient to break even. As it turned out, he had all seven. Lucky man.


It should be noted that gambling is not to be relied upon as a way to make money. Over the long term (and more often than not over the short term) gamblers lose money and bookmakers make money.

Do not gamble if:

  • You are not legally allowed to.
  • You cannot afford to lose the stake money.
1 On the nose is a racing/betting term meaning to win the race, which also means to be spot on or to have aimed perfectly.

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