Betting expert and former bookie Malcolm Boyle explains how to avoid the pitfalls of football accumulators
Inmates staying at ‘Her Majesty’s pleasure’ can often be heard cursing their bad luck: ‘Oh, if only I’d not been a little too greedy and spent a bit more time working out a more professional gameplan, I’d be living it up on civvy street’.
Yeah, right. Punters are equally adept at making excuses where accumulators are concerned. How many of you fans of ‘accas’, as they’re known, sit around on a Saturday evening lamenting the bet that got away? How many of you complain that three out of your four bets came in, only for the last one to trip you up and cost you a big night out?
The first thing to say is that if you’re placing an accumulator, you’re a mug. At least, that’s what the professional punters would tell you – anyone who makes a good living out of betting on football matches would rather pull out his or her own wisdom teeth (without anaesthetic) than place an accumulator bet. They simply don’t offer good value: predicting the outcome of one match is bad enough, but when you need to correctly call two, three or even more matches to see a return, you’re virtually entering the world of guesswork.
However, very few people out there make a good living out of betting on football matches [speak for yourself – Ed], and for the rest of us, accumulators can provide some entertainment at the end of a working week. After all, it’s more fun trying to guess the outcome of two or three matches than one.
Moreover, the chance – however slim – of a decent return at low stakes is enough to whet most gamblers’ appetites.
Your number’s up
If you must have an accumulator bet, I’ve got some advice for you. I settled football wagers in betting shops for more than 15 years, and the mistake punters made week in, week out was adding too many teams to their accumulators. There’s nothing wrong with speculating a little, provided you appreciate the fact that every time you add another selection to your accumulator, you’re reducing your chances of winning, however ‘hot’ you reckon that extra selection might be.
Accumulators were invented by the bookmaker, for the bookmaker, just like all other gambling opportunities. Don’t fall into the bookies’ traps. By adding the odd 2/7 chance over and above your original selections, you’re putting all of your hard work at risk, and for what? A measly couple of extra quid that could ruin your initial investment? It’s hardly worth it.
How many accumulators were sunk at teatime on 8 January when Manchester United failed to beat lowly Exeter City at Old Trafford in the FA Cup third round? United were generally priced at 1/20 that day. Exeter’s brave men ruined many a betting slip and caused plenty of hair-tearing among punters who had added United to their betting slips just to increase their potential returns a fraction.
Before you place an accumulator, there are two basic rules to consider:
Never include teams you initially ignored when studying the coupon just because they might add extra money to potential returns.
Be disciplined in your approach: pick teams on merit, and work out the sums later. If you add teams to your accumulator just because it will take you past the £500 potential winnings mark, or whatever, you will come unstuck. There’s only one way to be successful, and that’s to make your selections ‘blind’ – in other words, don’t consider the potential winnings when placing your bet. There’s no point wasting valuable time evaluating returns that will probably never occur.
Never involve your own team in your selections, even if you think they might be beaten.
Why? Because it’s simply impossible to look at the action objectively. You’re too close to the situation and that’s always a negative scenario when punting.
I’ve been talking about football betting in the main, as that’s where the majority of accumulators are placed these days. Football punters at least have an argument for placing accumulators, because so many of the matches they’re considering kick off at the same time and you have a fixed-odds coupon available for a couple of days in the run-up to the matches.
That isn’t the case in horse racing. Unlike football matches, horse racing odds fluctuate. No matter how much you’re tempted, a racing accumulator bet is a short-cut to betting oblivion. Where’s the logic in placing an accumulator when the odds aren’t even known? Why risk losing a 5/2 winner by also betting on other horses whose odds will be determined by factors outside your control?
One of the basic principles of betting is to bet when you think the price is wrong. The nature of horse racing odds, where prices are changing right up until the race starts, makes this virtually impossible.
So if you’re determined have an accumulator bet, stick to football, and be sure to follow the advice here. Bookmakers invented accumulators not only because the odds are stacked against the punter, but also because they know bettors simply can’t resist the temptation.
If you’re still in any doubt about the lack of value in accumulators, consider this dilemma: would you rather back five football teams all to win at odds of 1/5 each, or one team at 6/4? It’s a no-brainer – it’s got to be one team at 6/4 every time – and it produces a bigger profit, too.