There is much debate about sports arbitrage betting. Advocates consider it to be a great way to deliver an almost guaranteed profit, while many detractors find it too risky due to its complications and possible implications once bookmakers discover this is what you are doing. Here we will look at both sides of this argument and leave you to draw your own conclusions.
What is Sports Arbitrage?
Arbing, as sports arbitrage is commonly called, is a betting scheme where punters place multiple bets with multiple bookmakers in such a way as to guarantee a profit whatever the outcome of the events. It works by exploiting odds differences between different bookmakers.
Let’s say for example there is a tennis match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. One bookie has Federer at 11/10 (2.1), whilst another bookie has Nadal at 6/5 (2.2).
You could bet £100 on both players at the two bookies and be guaranteed a profit whatever happens.
If Federer wins the match, you win £110, minus the £100 you put on Nadal, leaving you with £10 profit.
If Nadal wins the match, you win £120, minus the £100 you put on Federer, leaving you with £20 profit.
Now it is worth noting firstly that you are unlikely to get such a good arb on a high-profile match like this, but it is just an example. Secondly if you are going to arb on tennis, pay attention to the bookies’ terms and conditions as they vary on what happens if a player retires hurt. Some pay out on the result regardless whereas others will count it as a void bet.
As the odds differences in arbs are usually minimal, you need to invest a large sum of money to make a relatively small profit. But if your profit is guaranteed, it’s the same as putting your money in a savings account, only at a much higher interest rate than banks can offer you.
Is arbing really risk-free?
Unfortunately, there are risks. In any betting scheme, there are always things that could go wrong, Odds can change very quickly, and you must be nimble on your feet to keep up with it all. Arbing isn’t something you can do and sit back from.
However, you must be disciplined in your approach and resist any outliers however tempting they might seem. But, with care, there are excellent and reliable profits to be made. Sports arbitrage works. Just look at those who have made significant profits using it – for a time at least.
Best Software for Sports Arbing
There are quite a few arbing products out there, with probably the best of the bunch if you are serious about your arbitrage being Rebel Betting. They have a large number of bookmakers and sports available and include dutching opportunities which is a useful feature allowing you to go a bit more under the bookies’ radar than straight arbs. It is generally used by the professionals.
If you are looking for something more straightforward (and cheaper) then Oddsmonkey has an odds comparison tool which can be used to find arbs.
The most significant danger is your bookmaker
The most significant threat, though, is your bookmaker. Bookmakers hate successful arbing, as it robs them of their profits. If you are making substantial profits arbing, then they are likely to severely restrict or close your account. You will have allowed them to do so by signing up to their terms and conditions.
Naturally, you never read them, who does? You had no choice but to accept them. But they will state that your account may be closed at the discretion of the bookmaker at any time and there is no right of appeal. Even if you do protest, it would be unusual for them to overturn their decision.
How do bookmakers know you have been arbing?
An important rule is to never underestimate bookmakers. There are good reasons why you rarely see a poor one. They are very smart organisations run by bright people and can quickly spot the tell-tale signs that identify potential arbitrage betters. If you are arbing, here are some tips to hide your trail.
- – Don’t sign up with a new bookmaker, make a large deposit, and make a maximum bet on a selection. This is certain to raise suspicions.
- – Don’t stake strange amounts. Your arbitrage strategy/algorithm might indicate an optimum bet is £18.42, but if you bet that amount it is clearly identifiable as an unusual bet, especially if you bet strange amounts frequently. At least make your bets look usual by rounding them up or down.
- – Be careful about frequently placing bets at high odds. This is a typical arbitrage pattern that bookmakers look out for.
- – If you can, also do some “mug bets” from time to time to throw the bookies off your scent and make them think you are an amateur punter. Nothing says mug more than throwing in a few accas here and there. Of course if you wanted to reduce the risk of said mug bets you could also lay them off at the exchanges.
- – It would also help to follow these steps to try and keep your bookie accounts open.
What About Exchange Arbing?
One possibility that gets around the risk of bookie restrictions is to arb between exchanges like Betfair, Smarkets, Betdaq and Matchbook. They have no problem with arbers because all they are interested in is bets being matched, regardless of whether you are making a profit by arbing, matched betting or doing anything similar.
If you watch the exchanges closely enough you may spot the odd arbing opportunity, but it must be said they are few and far between and usually disappear pretty quickly.
That may be because bots are operating arbing strategies between exchanges and are hoovering up any opportunities as they arise. Such bots are quite commonplace in the (largely unregulated) crypto markets, although most we have seen are of dubious quality. We haven’t seen any available for the exchange markets, but if anyone would like to develop one we would be all ears!
Of course if you are going to arb between exchanges, don’t forget to factor commission into your calculations.
So, what’s our conclusion?
As we said at the start, we will leave you to draw your own conclusions. But we must point out that many professionals and amateurs alike make healthy profits from arbing – for a time anyway. There is nothing illegal about it. Just make sure you have the right tools and take as many steps as you can to try and keep your bookie accounts open for as long as possible.
Inevitably if you are going to arb the bookies will close your accounts, it’s just a question of when. In our view, matched betting through a service like Profit Maximiser is probably a better option, as you can generally keep your bookie accounts open for longer and make more money from it.
For those outside of the UK and Ireland who don’t have access to free bets and bonuses in order to do matched betting however, arbing is another low-risk option to make money from the bookies.