Arbitrage betting, also known as 'arbing', 'surebets' or 'value bets', is a relatively simple and extremely effective way of making a guaranteed profit by covering all outcomes of an event. For example, in a tennis match there are two possible outcomes. Either Player 1 wins or Player 2 wins. With the right conditions (the odds being favourable), it is possible to make a profit regardless of the result by placing bets on both players.
In this article we'll be taking a look at how it's possible to lock in a profit from these opportunities, how to find them and how to stay under the radar of the bookies who generally aren't too keen on customers placing arbs.
Arbitrage betting isn't something that you should get into if you have no experience of betting. The majority of people who get into arbing have some experience in either trading or matched betting. Despite being a relatively simple concept, it is possible to lose money if you place bets with the wrong stakes or at the wrong odds. Arbing is a logical progression from matched betting as if you've been matched betting for a while, you will understand how odds and betting exchanges work. You may have also been 'gubbed' by certain bookmakers when matched betting which means you are ineligible to qualify for free bets and other promotions and are looking for another way to make a profit from betting. If so, arbing may be the perfect solution for you since it doesn't require the use of any free bets at all.
How does arbing work?
Arbitrage betting works by covering all outcomes of an event so that one of your bets wins whatever the result is. There are two ways you can cover all outcomes:
- Back an outcome with a bookmaker and lay it on a betting exchange
- Back each outcome with different bookmakers
back and lay arbing
If you've done matched betting before then you'll be familiar with back and lay bets. It's possible to lock in a profit regardless of the result with this method when the back odds with a bookmaker are greater than the lay odds on the betting exchange.
The example below shows us that 'Spotify' is 5.0 to win the 16:00 Longchamp with Racebets and the lay odds for the same horse on Betfair Exchange are 3.0.
By simply backing this horse at Racebets and laying it on Betfair Exchange, we're able to make a profit whether it wins or not.
To ensure that we make the same profit regardless of the result, we can use an arbing calculator or matched betting calculator to determine the ideal stakes.
As you can see, using a £100 stake with the bookmaker for 'Spotify' to win, if we lay the horse with a stake of £169.49, we will make a profit of £61.02 whether the horse wins or doesn't.
Arbing without lay bets
Another arbing method is to only use bookmakers. This can be slightly more time consuming depending on the number of possible outcomes but can be equally profitable.
To keep things simple, let's use a tennis match as an example which has only two possible outcomes.
Below is an example of a profitable arbing opportunity given the odds on each player from two different bookmakers.
Bookmaker A Odds
Bookmaker b Odds
If we were to back each player with a single bookmaker, we would end up with a loss. However, if we choose the highest odds from each bookmaker for each player, we are able to lock in a profit.
We need to use an arbing calculator to determine the ideal stakes so that we return the same profit regardless of which player wins the match.
The calculator shows us that using a combined stake (the total stake across the two bets) of £100, if we place a £65 bet on Player 1 to with with Bookmaker A and a £35 bet on Player 2 to win with Bookmaker B, we will make a £4 profit if Player 1 wins and a £5 profit if Player 2 wins.
You can adjust the stakes slightly so that you return exactly the same profit whichever player wins but in this example we have rounded our stakes as recommended by the calculator so that our bets look more natural to a bookmaker. Placing a bet with a stake of £34.67 may raise suspicions that you are arbing and increase the chances of your account being stake limited by the bookmaker at some point.
how to find arbs
Finding arbs manually is an extremely difficult process. There may be hundreds if not thousands of sporting events taking place at any one time and tens or hundreds of thousands of markets throughout those events, all with their odds changing frequently. Therefore, the use of some automated software is essential if you want to make sport arbitrage betting profitable based on your time spent doing it. Placing arbs is straight forward and quick but it's the finding them that takes time if done manually.
arbitrage betting software
There are various pieces of arbing software which you can use to find profitable arbs. The costs for these services vary as do the quality of the software but if you choose the right one, the profit you make should more than cover your subscription fee.
If you are mainly searching for back & lay arbing opportunities then a matched betting odds matcher from sites such as ProfitSquad or OddsMonkey may suffice. However, if you want to find the most profitable arbs and arbs where betting exchanges are not required, you should opt for dedicated arbitrage bet finder software. There are many of these about, some of which we have tested ourselves.
Some sport arbitrage betting software which we recommend are:
There are a few things to be aware of when arbing which will minimise the risk of losing money and ensure you're able to return a profit on a long-term basis.
huge arbs can be too good to be true
Every now and again you'll come across huge arbs where the odds at one bookmaker are a lot higher than at others. It can be tempting to use these bets to lock in a large amount of profit but be wary of bookmakers miss-pricing bets. It's not uncommon for bookmakers to occasionally make an error when pricing bets and he majority, if not all, will have clauses in their terms and conditions which allow them to void bets which are priced incorrectly due to human error. If you wager on these miss-priced bets and either lay or bet on other outcomes with another bookmaker, you could end up with a loss should your voided bet win.
Use your common sense when determining whether or not the odds are correct. If an arb seems too good to be true, it usually is.
using incorrect stakes
This warning goes for any type of betting whether you are having a punt, matched betting or arbitrage betting. Placing bets with incorrect stakes can cost you money so it is always best to double check your calculations before placing any bets. An arbing calculator will help you determine the correct stakes but it is also useful to understand how stakes are calculated so that you are able to spot obvious errors before it's too late.
getting stake restricted / gubbed
It's no secret that bookmakers do not like customers arbing. Arbitrage betting takes advantage of favourable odds at bookmakers and so by placing arbs, you are taking value away from the bookmaker.
Arbing can return high profits on a monthly basis and so to continue to make a profit from arbitrage betting in the long-term, you need to preserve your bookmaker accounts in any way that you can.
The following tips may help you to stay under the bookies radar and mask the fact that you are arbing.
stick to high-profile / popular events & sports
Arbs are available across any sport and market and so it's likely that you'll come across a number of profitable arbs which are on obscure sports which the average punter may not usually bet on.
For example, you may find an arb from which you can make a quick £20 on by covering all outcomes on a Water Polo match in Iceland. However, would you usually bet on Water Polo? Does this bet look natural in the eyes of the bookmaker? If not, then you're at an increase chance of having your account reviewed which could lead to you being stake restricted.
Although we'd recommend staying away from obscure sports and markets, it can be a good idea to look for arbs on sports other than the likes of football or tennis. Lots of arbers jump on these types of arbs as there are usually quite a lot of them about and as there are only 2-3 outcomes, they are very quick and easy to place. Other sports such as boxing and golf are still very popular with punters but less so with arbers. Therefore, your bets are less likely to raise suspicion and you should be able to preserve your accounts for longer.
avoid large bets
If you find a profitable arb then it becomes more profitable the more you increase your stakes. However, placing bets dramatically higher than your average stake size with a bookmaker is likely to raise suspicion. Think about the size of your past bets and increase them at a gradual rate rather than jumping from £50 bets to £1,000 bets. By doing so you're a lot more likely to stay under the bookies radar.
Adjusting your bet size depending on the sport and market is also worth considering. If you're average stake on the match result of football matches is £200 then it is unlikely that you would place a £200 bet on a correct score market as these bets usually attract much lower stakes.
use multiple bookies
Having accounts at multiple bookmakers gives you more options when arbing. Many smaller bookmakers tend to copy the odds from larger bookmakers and so there are plenty of arbing opportunities to take advantage of.
Also, if you get stake restricted or gubbed with a smaller bookmaker you probably won't be as bothered, whereas if you lose one of your main accounts then you could be missing out on betting promotions and offers over time.
does your betting profile look like that of a regular punter?
Overall, you want the bookmakers to think that you are an average punter and not a bet-savvy arber. Take a step back and look at your bet history. Is it full of bets on unusual sports or markets? If so, you may want to think about diluting some of those bets with regular bets so that if a bookmaker does review your account, they're less likely to think that you are only placing bets to take advantage of their odds.
Mug betting is a term which you will be familiar with if you have done matched betting and it involves placing bets with no intention of making a profit. You can still lay these bets and should only make a small loss on each one. By doing so, you should be able to preserve your accounts for a lot longer and continue to make a profit from arbing despite taking a small hit from mug bets.