Arbitrage Betting & Sure Bets – A Complete Guide on How to use this sports betting strategy
Table of Contents
- best betting sites for arbitrage betting in the usa – our 2023 recommendations
- what is arbitrage betting?
- how does arbitrage betting actually work?
- sure bet calculations
- how is arbitrage betting possible?
- finding sure bets
- potential risks of arbitrage betting
- tips for arbitrage betting
- arbitrage betting guide: conclusion
If you’ve already heard about arbitrage betting, you might think that it’s too good to be true. But this sports betting strategy, whose name is borrowed from the world of finance, really does work.
The idea is to play bookmakers off against each other, creating a situation where you make a guaranteed profit. It’s perfectly legal, but it’s definitely not a “get rich quick” scheme. We’re here to explain the mathematics behind arbs, as well as offering advice on how to find these “sure bets”.
Although arbing is a very real thing, there are certainly a few things which can go wrong. But if you follow the tips in our guide to arbitrage betting, you can avoid these common pitfalls and make money. So stick around and get ready to learn all you need to know about sports arbitrage.
Best Betting Sites for Arbitrage Betting in the USA – Our 2023 Recommendations
Before we dive into the details of how arbing works, let’s first reveal our favorite sportsbooks for arbitrage betting.
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The following bookmakers have each been scrutinized by our expert panel of industry stalwarts. They assess dozens of criteria, including the number of markets available, the size of the odds and the payment methods on offer. Crucially, all of these sports betting sites are legal and fully licensed.
What is Arbitrage Betting?
In short, arbitrage betting is a way to make profit on a sporting fixture, regardless of what happens in the game. You may immediately recall the old adage that if something is too good to be true, then it probably is. But arbing is a very real thing and we’ll explain how it works shortly.
The word “arbitrage” is actually a trading term borrowed from the world of finance. It refers to a trade which exploits a discrepancy in price to both buy and sell at a certain profit. But thanks to the many different bookmakers out there, not to mention betting exchanges, such situations can also occur in sports betting.
At its core, arbing involves exploiting the difference of opinion between bookies regarding the probability of something happening. By betting on all eventualities with multiple sportsbooks, it can be possible to make a guaranteed profit.
A single arb might not return a huge figure. But if you are able to successfully pinch one or two percentage points consistently, it will become a long-term money maker. That’s not to say things can’t go wrong, however. We’ll discuss the potential risks later in our arbitrage betting guide.
How Does Arbitrage Betting Actually Work?
Before we can understand exactly how arbitrage betting works, we need to learn the fundamentals of bookmaking. Let’s take a very simple example to illustrate things. Imagine a tennis match between Madison Keys and Simona Halep. Let’s say the line at DraftKings Sportsbook looks like this:
The sportsbook is telling us that both results are equally possible. But due to the built in edge, known as the “vig” or the “juice”, this market is said to be “over round”. With odds of -110, the implied probability is 52.40%. If both outcomes have the same probability, that adds up to 104.80%, meaning that the bookmaker’s margin on this line is 4.80%.
Betting On Both
Imagine you placed an equally-sized bet on both sides of the market. Due to the vig, you’d certainly lose. Let’s say that Keys wins the match:
$100 on Keys @ -110 = WIN (+$90.91)
$100 on Halep @ -110 = Lose (-$100.00)
Overall you’ve spent $200 here for a return of just $190.91, a loss of $9.09.
Why does any of this matter? Well, if the prices reflected the true chance, 50% probability and odds of 2.00 each, the bookmaker would not make a long-term profit. With a perfectly balanced book, they would simply break even. Similarly, if you bet on both sides of the market, you’d also break even.
Exploiting Different Prices
However, let’s say that FanDuel Sportsbook takes a different view on the game. They feel that Halep is actually the favorite, so they price it up like this:
You’d still make a loss by betting on both players with this bookmaker. However, if you bet on Keys here and Halep with the DraftKings sportsbook, you can now make a guaranteed profit. Here’s what happens if Keys wins:
$100 on Keys @ +115 = WIN (+$115.00)
$112.62 on Halep @ -110 = Lose (-$112.62)
And here’s what happens if Halep wins:
$100 on Keys @ +115 = Lose (-$100.00)
$112.62 on Halep @ -110 = WIN (+102.38)
As you can see, this is a guaranteed return of $2.38 no matter which player wins.
Sure Bet Calculations
In the above example, we used a stake of $112.62, which is very unusual. Why did we choose that number? Well, once you realize that you’re looking at an arbitrage betting situation, you can use a special sure bet calculator. This will help you to determine the exact numbers to bet in order to guarantee an equal profit. There are many to be found online.
Although you could work out the mathematics yourself, we don’t recommend it. The calculator will speed things up greatly, as well as reducing the chances of you making a costly error. All you have to do is enter the different odds and the stake on one side. Then the arbitrage betting calculator does the rest for you.
If you insist on performing a manual calculator, we’ll reveal how to do this later in this guide to sports arbitrage betting.
Have I Found an Arb?
Before we explain how to identify arbs, we should say that it’s quite hard to find them using US style odds. It’s much easier to work in decimal prices, so we recommend learning this format if you wish to get into arbitrage betting. You can find odds conversion tools on the internet to help you get started.
To determine whether an arb actually exists, you must calculate the implied probability percentage of each outcome. You then add them together and if your value is greater than 100%, the book is still over round. This is not an arbitrage betting opportunity.
However, when the percentages are lower than 100%, the book is said to be “over broke”. This is your chance to make a guaranteed profit. But how do you calculate the implied probability?
Let’s revisit our earlier tennis match. If you remember, the odds were:
DraftKings: Halep: -110
FanDuel: Keys: +115
First we need to convert those figures to decimal odds using an online calculator. The new odds are as follows:
Halep: -110 = 1.91
Keys: +115 = 2.15
Once you have the decimal odds, the calculation is simple:
(1 / Decimal Odds) * 100 = Implied probability percentage
Running the above odds through this formula gives us the following:
(1 / 1.91) * 100 = 52.36%
(1 / 2.15) * 100 = 46.51%
Total percentage = 98.87%
Since this book is over broke, or lower than 100%, we have the perfect arbitrage betting situation.
Now that you’ve confirmed you’re looking at an arb, here’s how you can work out your expected profit with using a calculator:
(Total Investment / Total Probability) – Total Investment = Profit
Let’s say you wish to spend $300 on this particular arb. Plugging in the above numbers gives us the following result:
($300 / 0.9887) – 300 = $3.43
Again, if you want to do the math manually, you can calculate the required stakes like so:
(Total Investment x Implied Probability) / Total Probability = Required Stake
So if you wanted to spend $500 on this particular arb, your calculation would look like this:
Halep: ($500 x 0.5236) / 0.9887 = $264.79
Keys: ($500 x 0.4651) / 0.9887 = $235.21
How is Arbitrage Betting Possible?
Arbs come about through differences in odds between multiple sportsbooks. You might think that the probability of something happening is set in stone, regardless of the bookmaker. But it’s not the case, for a variety of reasons.
First of all, many sportsbooks employ different mathematical models, software and odds compilers. All it takes is for one person to have a slightly different opinion, and the final prices could vary compared to the rest of the market.
Further, each company has its own business model, betting to their own unique profit margins. A sportsbook that offers more generous odds than average will have different prices even if they agree with everyone else on probabilities. These sites are prime candidates for finding arbitrage betting opportunities.
Odds can also change based on the weight of money. If a bookmaker sees huge volumes of bets on one side, they have no choice but to trim the price to discourage further bets. As a result, they will increase the odds on the other side, attempting to draw in new bettors and balance their book.
Finding Sure Bets
Okay, we now understand how arbitrage betting comes about. But how can we actually find some arbs for ourselves? There are three main approaches to identifying a sure bet.
- Online Communities. Many forums and discussion groups exist on the internet, built around sports betting. A lot of these focus on arbitrage betting, as well as other strategies. Such communities share the arbs they find with each other. Although these are free, the information is public, so these sure bets won’t be around for long. You need to be quick!
- Subscription Services. It’s also possible to find paid subscription services which identify arbs for you. Sites like RebelBetting and OddsMonkey are good examples of such businesses. Because fewer people get to find out about these arbs, it will be easier for you to get your bets on. But naturally, the downside is that the monthly fees will eat into your long-term profits.
- Manual Research. If you have the time for it, scouring the many different bookmakers and odds comparison sites is the best approach. It’s extremely labor intensive, but when you do find an arbitrage betting opportunity, you’re almost guaranteed to get on. Nobody else has spotted it, so you can fill your boots before the betting sites and other barbers realize.
Potential Risks of Arbitrage Betting
Although arbitrage betting offers guaranteed profits when done correctly, it does not come without risks. Lots of things can go wrong that could have a negative impact upon your results. Pay close attention to the following potential threats and try to minimize such events.
1. Price Changes
Arbitrage betting is all about finding price discrepancies. But sometimes, online betting sites display prices which are slightly out of date. You may have correctly calculated your arb, but when you come to strike the bet, the line has moved. If you already placed the other side of the bet at the first bookmaker, this could leave you out of pocket.
To avoid this particular pitfall, make sure to refresh both betting sites before placing the bets. And double check the bet slip after confirming, to ensure the bet was actually placed at your desired odds. This is particularly relevant if you’re live betting, where prices change rapidly.
2. Rule Differences
Because arbitrage betting involves multiple bookmakers by definition, you will understandably encounter rule variations from time to time. Try to avoid arbing on sports where it’s common to see many differences between sportsbooks to minimize this risk.
A common example that causes issues for arbers concerns injuries to players in tennis. Some bookmakers rule that if a player retires hurt, the bet is void and stakes are refunded. But more commonly, the other player is deemed the winner because they earned a walkover and progressed to the next round. What a disaster if you backed the injured player who is deemed to have lost!
3. Bet Acceptance
There are many reasons why a bet might not be placed at the first attempt. Perhaps the market has a maximum stake allowance, or maybe your own account has a unique restriction. Or it might be that a price has changed, especially when betting in-play.
In such cases, when you try to confirm the bet, you’ll receive an error notification and the wager will not be confirmed. Take care to make absolutely sure the bet was struck before moving to the next bookmaker.
4. Bet Cancellation
Sportsbooks always reserve the right to cancel a bet, for whatever reason. This condition is always buried away somewhere in the Ts & Cs, in order to protect the bookmaker against questionable practices.
Whenever you’re involved in arbitrage betting, there’s a slight risk that one of the betting sites will cancel your wager. A common explanation would be that they saw suspicious betting patterns on that market and opted to suspend it pending investigation. Naturally, this could destroy your sure bet.
5. Human Error
By far the most common risk when arbitrage betting is human error. Even if you calculate your arbs flawlessly every time, which is unrealistic since all humans make mistakes, there are still other variables.
It’s easy to accidentally type the wrong stake, for example. Sometimes you will click “confirm” and not realize an error message has appeared, so the bet hasn’t been placed. By the time you fix it, the odds have changed and your sure bet is ruined. All kinds of things can go wrong when arbitrage betting, so be careful to triple check everything.
6. Account Closure
A big problem that all arbers face is having their account closed. Bookmakers have long been wise to the art of arbitrage betting and they don’t all like it. If you’re caught, many sportsbooks will simply shut down your account and bar you from opening new ones.
In arbing slang, this is known as having your account “gubbed” and it’s hugely problematic. You need access to multiple bookies in order to find sure bets and the more that ban you, the harder your task becomes.
Tips for Arbitrage Betting
Although arbing is easy in theory, it’s a lot more difficult to put into practice. But if you follow the tips in the next section of our guide, you’ll be well on the way to mastering arbitrage betting.
1. Two-Way Markets
It’s certainly possible to find arbs and sure bets that involve multiple selections, which is known as “dutching”. However, your life will be a lot easier if you stick to two-way markets.
Not only is it much less time consuming to compare two sets of odds than three. But there are also fewer opportunities to make errors when placing the bets or running your calculations.
2. Double Check Your Calculations
Speaking of calculations, getting the calculations correct is the single most important consideration when it comes to arbitrage betting. And the more arbs you successfully place, the more likely you are to get complacent.
Don’t take the numbers for granted. Always use a proper arbitrage calculator, rather than fudging the calculations on paper or in Excel. And whatever you do, make sure that you double check the numbers before striking your bets!
3. Team Up
A good way to eliminate that complacency is to get trusted friends involved in your arbitrage betting activities. Having a fresh pair of eyes run the rule over your calculations can help to spot and reduce errors.
But even better, it’s an awful lot easier to actually find potential sure bets when there’s a whole team pulling together. Further, the more people involved in the operation, the bigger your potential bankroll and the more betting accounts you’ll have access to. This helps to reduce your chances of being gubbed by a bookmaker.
4. Maintain a Bankroll
As with any serious form of gambling, a properly maintained bankroll is critical to arbitrage betting success. Make sure to log all of your arbing activity so that you can monitor your profits and assess your performance. Check regularly for mistakes or holes in your strategy.
In addition, try to spread your funds across multiple bookmakers. Having pre-funded accounts will make life so much easier when placing sure bets. Making deposits wastes time that could be better spent finding arbs. And few things are more frustrating than spotting one, only for the price to change as you are trying to fund your account.
5. Capitalize On Bonuses
A good way to quickly build a bankroll is to also engage in what’s known as “matched betting”. This is quite similar in principle to arbitrage betting, but it’s a lot easier and it involves bookmaker bonuses and free bets.
When you register a new sportsbook account, there is usually some sort of welcome offer. And much of the time, it’s possible to use these deals to place bets, while covering the other side of the market elsewhere. Either by dutching with other bookmakers, or laying the same selection on a betting exchange like Betfair.
Furthermore, as you open more and more betting accounts, you’ll qualify for reload and loyalty bonuses. Lots of sportsbooks run special offers around big sporting events, too. All of these free bets can be matched to guarantee profit.
Arbitrage Betting Guide: Conclusion
Hopefully, our complete guide to arbitrage betting has successfully answered all of your questions. We’ve supplied all the necessary tools, including the various calculations involved, plus some pitfalls to avoid and tips to get started. So why not get out there right away and find some sure bets?
What is a sure bet?
A “sure bet” is actually a combination of bets that covers all possible outcomes and guarantees a profit. This is also known as an “arb”, which comes from the term “arbitrage betting”.
What is dutching?
Dutching is a form of arbitrage betting named after an old gangster from the US. It involves placing bets on multiple selections in the same event. Dutch Schultz was known as a mathematical genius who liked to manipulate odds at racetracks, making millions in the process.
How does arbing work?
Arbitrage betting, or “arbing” for short, involves playing multiple bookmakers off against each other. If a line differs by a wide margin at two separate sportsbooks, it’s possible to cover all sides and guarantee a profit. To learn more about how these “arbs” or “sure bets” work, including how to find them, scroll up the page.
What are the best sportsbooks for arbitrage betting?
Any sportsbook that offers generous odds is a good candidate for arbitrage betting. You can find a list of the best online betting sites in the USA towards the top of the page. Each of these legal bookmakers was hand-picked by our expert team based on multiple criteria, including competitive lines.
Is arbing legal?
As long as it’s legal to place bets where you live, and you’re old enough to do so, then arbitrage betting is allowed. Although there is nothing illegal about arbing, most bookmakers frown upon the practice and may close your account.
What are the best sports for arbitrage betting?
As a general rule, the best markets for arbitrage betting have just two options. Most US sports, like basketball, football and baseball, offer such lines. These are especially good options as they have a lot of liquidity, making your arb much less obvious. Tennis and cricket are also good sports for arbing.