Opinion: Arbitrage Betting – Is This Method of Finding Guaranteed Wins Worth the Time?
Also known as ‘arbing,’ arbitrage betting is similar to matched betting insofar as you place bets on contrasting outcomes on a single sporting event with different bookmakers. However, there is a key difference. With matched betting, you are using free bets to make yourself a tidy profit. With arbitrage betting, you are taking advantage of the discrepancies in bookmakers’ odds to earn a guaranteed profit.
You should mainly consider arbing on bets with only two outcomes, such as the winner of a tennis match, over/under goals bet in football, or backing and laying a horse. You can earn risk free profits without knowledge of a sport, or any data or statistics.
If after reading this guide, you are keen to learn more about Arbing and Risk-Free profits, we highly recommend that you check this out…
A Hypothetical Example
To find an arbing opportunity, you need to find a bookmaker that offers odds higher than the market value. This isn’t an easy proposition because their business depends on ensuring their odds are below market value. When you look at the odds of any sporting event with a bookmaker, it should NEVER be below 100%. Everything above this level is a bookmaker’s overround, its profit.
I looked at a friendly international match at random; Italy versus Ukraine and checked out the 2.5 goals market. Over 2.5 was 2.20 and under 2.5 was 1.65. If you remember from early Football Advisor articles, you get the overround by dividing the odds by 100 and adding all bets together. In this case:
- 100/2.2 = 45.45
- 100/1.65 = 60.60
Add the two figures together, and we get 106.05. This means the bookie has an edge of 6.05%. The chances of finding an arbing opportunity are very slim here.
However, for the sake of providing an example, imagine if we found a bookmaker that offered 1.90 for under 2.5 goals. Suddenly, we have an edge of 1.92%. Although you could try to figure out the right stakes by yourself, it is best to use an arb betting calculator for this purpose. Here’s how you could guarantee a profit from arbing:
- £100 on over 2.5 goals @ 2.20 = £220 return.
- £115.79 on under 2.5 goals @ 1.90 = £220 return.
- £220 – £215.79 investment = £4.21 profit.
Obviously, if you could lay over 2.5 goals at 2.18 or less on the Betfair Exchange, you could manipulate the stakes to guarantee a profit.
Arbing Sounds Awesome – Why Do So Few People Do It?
Arbitrage betting IS awesome in theory, and in practice if you have the time, skill, patience, and betting bank for it. Here are four reasons why the vast majority of punters don’t bother trying to arb.
1 – Low Returns Versus High Time Investment
Although the lure of guaranteed profit is strong, even a successful arbing attempt is unlikely to yield a profit of more than 2-3%. In my example above, the ROI was 1.95%. That’s better than a savings account interest rate, and it is tax-free. The problem is, finding arbitrage opportunities isn’t easy.
You can forget about making a living from it because it would involve the need for a very high level of starting capital. Let’s use some very simple mathematics. Imagine you earned 2% profit on each investment of £1,000. That’s a £20 profit each time. To even earn £100 a day, which equates to £36,500 per annum with NO tax, you would have to find five arbitrage bets a day, every day. You could use a compound staking plan and simply bet more as your bank increases to speed up the process, but you still require several bets a day.
I will cover possible arbing opportunities below but suffice to say; you need a keen eye because most arbs are only available for a few minutes before the bookmaker in question catches on.
2 – Closed Accounts
You should be fine when you use a betting exchange, but most bookmakers will close the accounts of people who they suspect are arbing. Or, at the very least, they restrict accounts to tiny bets that ensure it isn’t worth your while. You can keep the wolf from the door by making sure you always bet whole number amounts. Bets of say £42.76 look suspicious whereas a £43 wager is less so.
You should also try and spread your arb bets around as much as possible with several bookies. There is nothing illegal about arbing, but as usual, bookmakers are allowed to make up their own rules. It is a similar situation to card counting in a casino; it is not against the law, but the casino can still kick you out.
3 – Cancelled Bets
This is another major risk because once again, bookies can do whatever they like. They can void bets at any time for any reason. The most common reason for a void bet is ‘palpable error.’ This means the bookie has made a ricket and is allowed to cancel bets to ensure it doesn’t pay for its mistake.
As a result, be careful if you find an arb that offers more than 5%. It could be a case of the bookie making a mistake, especially if it is the only site offering such generous odds.
4 – Mistakes
It is often said that professional arbers take up to three years to learn their trade. If you plunge headlong into the markets without the right level of training and experience, you could pay a heavy penalty.
It should go without saying that you must paper trade initially, and start with tiny amounts before graduating to the big leagues. It is normally best to avoid arbing close to the start of an event because wildly fluctuating odds can ruin your position.
In-play betting is even more of a minefield. If you don’t know precisely what you’re doing, you could be in desperate trouble. Let’s say you backed the under 2.5 goals bet in the game between Italy and Ukraine, and are just getting ready to bet on the over 2.5 goal bet at 2.2 Suddenly, Italy score! Goodbye arbitrage, hello misery.
Finding Arbitrage Bets
First and foremost, I am assuming that there is no commission involved in any of these bets. Make sure this is the case with all arb bets performed on any betting exchange. It should go without saying that you can forget about sports events that are heavily bet. Perhaps you can find the odd blunder on a Premier League corners market, but such mistakes are rare.
Instead, you need to check out lesser known leagues where bookmakers are often slow to alter their odds. I actually found an arb on a Hong Kong reserve game while writing this article. It was possible to do the following:
- Bet £100 on Kitchee reserves to win at 1.33 on the Exchange for a return of £133.
- Bet £29.56 on Hoi King reserves to win or draw at 4.5 on Bet365 for a return of £133.
- The total profit was £3.44 for an ROI of 2.65%.
It is also a prime example of the need for speed. I only spotted it a few seconds before kick-off and was unable to act (as I was writing this piece!). Seconds later, Kitchee’s win odds dropped to 1.28 on the Exchange which meant the arb was no longer available.
Now and then, you may find a ‘stray’ bet waiting for you on the Exchange which helps create an arbitrage. Often, you will probably only make pennies, so it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth your while. I saw odds of 1.67 for Stumbras II to beat Zalgiris II in the Lithuanian Second Division.
On Bet365, you could back Zalgiris II or a draw at 2.62. This was clearly an arbing opportunity, but low liquidity meant there was only a £4 bet available at 1.67. In this instance, you could do the following:
- £4 on Stumbras II @ 1.67
- £2.55 on Zalgiris II or draw @ 2.62
- Profit of £0.13
Hardly worth getting out of bed for, is it? Obviously, you’re not going to waste your time on such small profit margins so make sure you wait for a genuine opportunity.
Horse racing offers the potential for arbing, but once again, you need to be extremely quick on the draw. This tactic works well in the morning when the markets are just open. The downside is that even if you find an arb, liquidity on the Exchange is likely to be fairly low.
Alternatively, you can try to find an arbing opportunity in the last few minutes before the race. Bookies are often slow to get in line with the Exchange at this point. However, it is exceedingly difficult because you have just seconds to spot the arb, make your calculations, and place the bet. It is all too easy for the market to fluctuate away from you.
Final Thoughts on Arbitrage Betting
There is a lot to like about arbing. Most pertinently, the fact that you guarantee profit regardless of the outcome once you know what to look for. If you are patient, you can boost your bankroll slowly but surely for many months. I recommend looking at horse racing bets early in the morning, and lesser known football leagues.
Alas, there is a multitude of downsides. Finding the arbs is difficult in the first place, and there is always the risk of a bookmaker voiding the bet. If you don’t act fast, the arb opportunity will be lost. Although you can find arbing opportunities by comparing two ‘traditional’ bookmakers, you’ll normally need to use an Exchange for best results.
If you’re contemplating arbitrage betting, it is imperative that you learn the art of arbing before risking your own money. If you don’t have the time to dedicate to it, you shouldn’t proceed because it is extremely time consuming if you wish to make a reasonable profit.
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Jon is the Founder and Chief Tipster at Football Advisor and Predictoloy. He started life as data analyst in the digital marketing field before find his true calling in the world of Football and Horse Racing Betting.
Jon has been sharing his professional expertise since 2009 and specialises in using objective data analysis and subjective experience of betting built up over more than a decade of professional betting.
In 2014, Jon also launched (and continues to run) the trusted Football Advisor service service which provides a variety of football and horse racing betting models and portfolios. A few years later, Jon launched the Predictology platform which is the worlds first betting system builder and analyser covering a wealth of football betting related statistics covering more than 200,000 matches.
Jon has also lent his knowledge and expertise to several of the trusted Premium Services offered by the respected Secret Betting Club, including Football Lay Profits. Racing Bet Profits and, most recently, Racing Lay Profits.