Arbitrage betting (otherwise known as ‘arb betting’) is an increasingly popular sports betting strategy where the bettor covers all possible outcomes. Regardless of the outcome of a match, you can guarantee a profit.
If you get it right, it essentially means that your bet cannot lose.
As such, arbitrage bets are now a tantalizing prospect among recreational and even professional sports bettors who want sports betting to either be a side hustle, or a full-time job.
But what is arb betting exactly, and how do you do it? More importantly, is it really true that you can’t possibly lose regardless of the outcome?
In this article, we take a look at everything you need to know about arbitrage betting.
Arbitrage Betting Explained
Arbitrage betting (or “arbing” as it’s known among the sports betting community who indulge in this bet) is a simple sports betting concept. It’s a system that allows you to not only place a bet on every single possible outcome of a match – but also to place them at evens or higher odds. Thus you guarantee a profit regardless of what happens. The outcome of an event is irrelevant to you.
For example, let’s take the example of soccer. Let’s say there’s a soccer match today between Manchester United and Real Madrid. As always, the game could either finish as a home win, a draw, or an away win.
Normally, a sports bettor who’s placing a moneyline bet will study the form, the lineups, the conditions, and so on before deciding whether to back the home team, the away team, or the draw. If they back the home team, but the away team wins (or it ends in a draw), they lose.
With arbitrage betting, there’s no need to study the form, the lineups, the conditions, and so on. Instead, you just need to find discrepancies between the odds that guarantee you a profit when you back the home team, the away team, and the draw.
Yep – arb betting in a soccer match is when you back all 3 possible outcomes. Normally, doing so would guarantee a loss. But when you find an arbing opportunity, it guarantees a profit.
Sounds Great But … How Does Arbitrage Betting Actually Work?
The thing with arb betting is that it doesn’t work on every single match ever. If it did, we’d all be doing it – and we’d all be winning. Thus, the bookmakers would shut down!
So how does it work?
Let’s use an example from tennis. Let’s imagine Novak Djokovic is playing Dominic Thiem. As we know, in tennis, there are two possible outcomes: Either the favorite will win, or the underdog will win. There is no tie. This makes finding an arbing opportunity a bit easier.
To find an arbing opportunity, we have to compare the odds offered by different bookmakers. This, of course, requires you to create accounts with multiple bookmakers before you start arbing.
So, let’s say that MyBookie is offering odds of 1.300 for Thiem to win the match and odds of 3.930 for Djokovic to win the match. The market is 102.4%.
Then, let’s say we’ve found Bovada offering odds of 1.420 for Thiem to win the match, and odds of 2.900 for Djokovic to win the match. The market is 104.9%.
Now, if we stick with Bovada, we can place a $140 bet on Thiem to win for returns of $142. After a bit of calculation, this means that if we were to stake $36.13 on Novak to win, we have matched the Thiem bet.
What this means is that we’re staking just over $136 in total but, no matter what actually happens, we’re guaranteed a profit of just under $6.
Basically, arbing is pitting odds against each other in order to find a value that guarantees profit regardless of what happens.
So, The Profits Are Small?
As you just saw in the above example, we’d be staking a fair amount of money for a $6 profit.
Normally, staking $136 for a $6 profit sounds risky. Moreover, who’s going to take that sort of risk for a mere $6?
With arbitrage betting, though, the profits are guaranteed if you can find an arbing opportunity. This means there is zero risk at all. It also means that, while the profits are small, they accumulate over time. If you’re able to find 20 arbing opportunities per week that all guarantee $5 profit, that equals $100.
Who Does Arbitrage Betting?
Because arb betting requires no prior knowledge of the teams that are playing (it just requires you to find a discrepancy between the odds), a lot of arbitrage bettors aren’t actually sports fans at all. They don’t care about who’s playing, the lineups, and so on. They don’t care about the outcome, and they probably don’t sit there watching the games. After they’ve placed their bets (knowing full well their profit is guaranteed), they probably go away and do something else.
In fact, a number of them are day traders who are just looking for another way to build up their profit.
How Come More People Don’t Do Arbitrage Betting?
Arbitrage betting is a pretty unsexy bet because a) there’s no risk and b) the profits and profit margins are small.
Many people who bet will say they always want to win. But part of the thrill of betting is that it’s always a gamble – and people love that sense of risk. Arbitrage betting removes all risk and isn’t even a form of gambling anymore. Therefore, it lacks allure.
Not just that, but arbing requires you to have a hefty bankroll in order to make a start. Not everyone has that.
Furthermore, it’s also worth pointing out that arbitrage betting is very time-consuming. Bettors will spend hours each week finding an arbitrage opportunity, often for very small profits. An arbitrage opportunity is out there at all times, but it takes a lot of digging to find. Indeed, most games will not present an opportunity for sports arbitrage.
Lastly, while arbing isn’t illegal, it is frowned upon by the bookmakers. If they suspect you of arbing, they won’t hesitate to either close your account, or severely limit your maximum stake. This is why many bettors switch to a betting exchange. Because a betting exchange pits bettors against bettors (as opposed to bettors against bookies), your account will never be limited.
What Tools Do I Need To Get Started?
If you want to start arbitrage betting, the main tools you’re going to need are a calculator (you can use an online one if you wish) and an odds comparison tool.
You’ll also need to sign up to multiple sports betting accounts in order to compare and contrast the odds.