If you are looking to make a profit in sports betting, there is only one way that does not leave it to chance. This is called arbitrage betting. This type of wagering is the best opportunity to make at least some money in sports gambling with minimal risk.
Here we will get into the basics of arbitrage betting. This will include how arbitrage works and how to spot arbitrage opportunities. We’ll also provide examples of arbitrage betting, assess the risks, and offer strategies to mask your arbitrage betting.
What is Arbitrage Betting?
Arbitrage betting is to place wagers on opposite sides of the same sporting event. They must be placed at odds that guarantee a profit regardless of the outcome. On simultaneously available odds, this will generally only occur at different sportsbooks. You may find opportunities for arbitrage at the same sportsbook due to odds movement. Still, it is best to avoid arbitrage betting at one sportsbook. You’re looking out for differences in odds.
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How Arbitrage Betting Works
You may have heard of the concept of arbitrage betting and wonder how arbitrage betting works exactly. Arbitrage sounds fairly complex but can be broken down into simpler terms. While there are a few different ways to locate arbitrage opportunities in betting, they all come down to one concept.
Arbitrage is when you can place two bets on the same sporting event and guarantee a profit regardless of the outcome. This is done by locating betting odds on both sides of the event that enable this. You will generally need to place one bet on one sportsbook and the other on another.
One reason is that it is fairly uncommon that a sportsbook would enable an in-house arbitrage opportunity. This would guarantee a loss for the house.
On top of it, it would be easy to spot an arbitrage bettor who is taking advantage of these types of opportunities at one sportsbook. You would likely be limited or banned by the sportsbook very quickly.
Now you understand the basic concept of what arbitrage betting, or “arbing” entails. So, let’s take a look at how you would go about finding arbitrage opportunities. We’ll discuss the basics of what to look for in an arbitrage bet.
How to Find Arbitrage Betting Opportunities
Assuming you want to get into arbitrage betting, you must locate opportunities to arbitrage on sportsbooks. It will be helpful to access an arbitrage betting calculator. There are a few available throughout the industry that you can use for free.
This will enable you to ascertain whether there are opportunities for arbitrage. You can also quickly calculate exactly how much to bet on both sides to maximize your profit.
The method for finding arbitrage opportunities entails looking for significantly differing odds on the same sporting event. If the odds differ greatly enough, there is a reasonable chance for arbitrage. A betting calculator will tell you how much opportunity is available.
It helps to look at some real-world examples. Let’s get into some of these to help you quickly spot arbitrage bets at sportsbooks.
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Simultaneously Differing Moneylines
Perhaps the Angels are playing the Royals, and the Angels are +110 on the moneyline at one sportsbook. The Royals are +110 at another. Say you bet $100 on the Angels at one sportsbook and $100 on the Royals at the other.
Your $200 in total will result in collecting $210 and making $10 in profit. You will not likely find an opportunity like this, but this helps illustrate the concept easily.
It is more likely that you might see the Angels at -105 while the Royals are at +110. If you bet $107.56 on the Angels and $100 on the Royals, you would guarantee $2.44 in profit. Your $207.56 will collect $210 on one side or the other regardless of the outcome.
This may seem like a trivial amount of money. Still, the goal is to bet significantly more than $100 when you find such a scenario. This, paired with frequently locating and taking advantage of arbitrage, can lead to significant profit.
Simultaneously Differing Props
This example is essentially the same as our moneyline scenario. Yet, you may find it on the over/under in a prop betting context.
Once again, baseball is a good place to look for these opportunities, so we will use the MLB as an example. Starting pitcher strikeout props, in particular, are an excellent way to find them. So, let’s consider an O/U 6.5 line on Justin Verlander’s strikeouts on a given start.
Say one sportsbook has the over at +125 and another has the under at +130. To maximize profit on a $200 total bet, you would wager $98.90 on the under and $101.10 on the over.
This would guarantee you a payout of $227.47, regardless of which bet hits, for $27.47 in profit. It is unlikely that you would see an opportunity quite this lucrative. Still, this clearly illustrates the concept of arbitrage in this type of instance.
Odds Movement After Initial Bet Placement
It can be difficult to find simultaneously posted odds that enable arbitrage due to the general similarity between sportsbooks. Looking for odds movement after placing an initial wager can be the most effective way to find arbitrage in betting.
One method to consistently find these opportunities is to notice line movement trends. Either among specific sportsbooks or teams/players and how the betting public reacts.
This may enable you to predict when the odds are likely to move. You can then preemptively place bets expecting movement in your favor to allow arbitrage.
The problem is that you cannot guarantee this line movement in any scenario. You may be stuck with your single bet that you only placed in the hopes of a later arbitrage opportunity. It is important only to wager what you are comfortable with if you must let your original bet ride unaccompanied.
This particular strategy is crucial to only implement at different sportsbooks. You may have the opportunity to do so at a single sportsbook, but it is best to avoid the temptation.
Betting opposite sides of the same game at one sportsbook is a huge red flag for the house. They may ban or limit your account on the suspicion that you are indeed arbing.
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Example of Odds Movement Arbitrage
For a scenario involving this form of arbitrage betting, consider an example where the starting moneyline on the Tigers is +110. Say you bet $100 on them to win against the Guardians.
Perhaps significant money is placed on the Tigers by the public and the line moves. They are now favored by -110, while the Guardians are +105 underdogs.
You would now have the opportunity to bet the Padres for $100. You would guarantee either a $5 or $10 profit in any eventuality.
This is the most practical and likely scenario in which you will find arbitrage possibilities. It requires diligence and the willingness to stick with your original bet if the opportunity does not arise. Still, it is more likely that you will come across these scenarios than arbitrage on simultaneously posted lines.
Risks of Arbitrage Betting
In its most effective and pure form, arbitrage betting is as close to a “sure bet” as you will find in sports wagering. Still, all gambling involves some risk. Let’s take a look at some of the foibles of arbitrage betting.
Making Calculation Mistakes
Of course, calculating arbitrage is not rocket science from a mathematical perspective. Plus, arbitrage betting calculators are available to help.
Still, it is conceivable that sports bettors can make mistakes in calculating an arbitrage opportunity. This can lead you to make bets that can only result in a loss.
It is important to exercise caution and be careful in your assessments. Especially as they are often made quickly in an effort to take advantage of the opportunities while they last.
Cancellation of Bets
One way that arbitrage can totally fail is with a bet cancellation. This does not occur all that often, but can.
A great example would be when a starting pitcher is scratched in favor of another. The sportsbook may then void your bet.
Perhaps you have placed two wagers as an attempt at arbitrage. One bet is canceled, and the other isn’t. This now means that you are on the hook for your single bet.
The Odds Move Too Quickly
You will rarely see an arbitrage opportunity that lasts very long due to the effectiveness of sportsbooks in setting odds. You will need to jump on these odds quickly before they have an opportunity to move.
It is possible that the line on your second bet may rapidly move away from your favor. This can occur before you get to it after placing your first wager.
In this instance, your strategy has been canceled as the odds no longer allow for arbitrage. For this reason, it is important to move quickly when arbing.
Being Banned or Limited
Being banned or limited by an online bookmaker is the biggest hurdle you must cross in an attempt to be a significantly profitable bettor. This is why pro bettors employ syndicates of people placing smaller bets to mask their advantage play at sportsbooks.
Say you are placing large enough wagers to make a significant profit at the low margins arbitrage betting allows. It will be clear to sportsbooks that you may be up to something.
Although arbitrage betting enables close to guaranteed profit, it may be risky. Arbing can lead to you being unable to bet as you would like to at your sportsbooks of choice.
Falsely Anticipating Line Movement
You will not often find simultaneous odds that allow for arbitrage. This is all the more true on any bets other than props.
For this reason, you are much more likely to find arbitrage bets when line movement occurs after placing an initial wager. One of the best strategies for effective arbitrage betting is to place a wager close to when the odds open, anticipating movement.
Arbitrage betting generally involves a very low-profit margin. So, you will likely want to place sizable bets to make the effort with it.
Therefore, when placing a bet expecting line movement, you run the risk of the odds staying the same. They may even move away from your favor. In this case, you may be stuck with a large initial wager you only placed hoping to arbitrage.
Taking Fun out of the Equation
If you are only betting in an effort to make money, arbitrage betting is, in essence, a good idea. Yet, some people like to gamble on sports to sweat the fun of the action. Wagering can deepen the enjoyment of sporting events.
Getting into arbitrage and other advanced betting techniques may cause sports gambling to lose its luster. It is wise to consider why you are involved in the first place before taking the leap into arbitrage betting.
For a great example, consider our earlier Tigers/Guardians example. Yes, upon odds movement occurring, you are guaranteed a profit if you arbitrage by betting the Guardians at +105. Provided, of course, that you have already placed your +110 wager on the Tigers.
Yet, there is now little fun at all in anticipating the outcome of the game itself. Perhaps you are in it for the thrill of the action and not the guarantee of a minimal margin of profit.
How to Mask Arbitrage Betting
The most considerable concern when arbitrage betting is that sportsbooks will limit or ban your account. This may occur upon their realization that you are employing this betting strategy. Arbitrage means a lack of profit for sportsbooks, which is not why they are in the business of taking bets.
Therefore, it is essential to mask the fact that you are arbitrage betting in an effort to avoid getting limited or banned. Here we will take a look at some of the best methods of disguising your arbitrage bets.
Mix Up Which Sportsbooks You Use and When
Rule number one is to ensure you never arb on the same sportsbook. You will rarely, if ever, find simultaneously posted lines on one sportsbook enabling arbitrage. Still, you may be able to employ the strategy in the case of odds movement.
Be sure to avoid this, as only an arbitrage bettor would generally place a wager on opposite sides of the same sporting event. Sportsbooks will notice this and act accordingly.
Yet, you will want to take it to the next level. Avoid displaying consistent betting patterns at different sportsbooks that denote arbitrage betting.
You may notice that one sportsbook offers opening lines that often result in arbitrage opportunities when paired with another sportsbook’s closing lines. Perhaps avoid frequently placing wagers at the first sportsbook upon odds posting and at the other close to game time.
Round up Your Bet Sizes
Arbitrage betting to maximize profit generally involves a particular amount of money to be placed on both sides. We have displayed this in our earlier examples.
If purely looking for optimal gains, you will often have unusual bet sizes that casual bettors would not often employ. Therefore, sportsbooks will look for odd-numbered wagers as they imply arbitrage betting.
Unfortunately, rounding your bets to more sensible numbers can result in a small loss of return on investment (ROI). Arbitrage betting is already a game of slim margins, making this less than ideal. Yet, living to arb another day is better than getting limited or banned.
Limit Withdrawals & Deposits
Profitable and professional bettors are more likely to make frequent withdrawals and deposits. Keeping this to a minimum will draw less unwanted attention to yourself.
It is wise to avoid making a lot of transactions. This can be a giveaway that you may be a profitable bettor.
Don’t Make Your Bets Too Big
Arbitrage betting rarely involves more than a 5% ROI. To make it worth your while, it can be enticing to place large wagers.
Yet, when you place huge bets, it can tip off the sportsbook that you may be arbing. You may, at minimum, imply that you are employing some sharp betting strategy that they should be aware of.
Casual bettors are unlikely to place huge bets. So, it can behoove you to keep your arbitrage wagers at a reasonable size to avoid setting off alarms at sportsbooks.
Keep Your Wager Sizes Consistent
A casual bettor will not generally place some wagers that are extremely large and others that are far smaller. It can help mask your arbitrage betting to keep your wager sizes fairly consistent in general.
In addition, keep them uniform regardless of whether you are arbitrage betting. Say you usually bet $50 a wager and suddenly bet $500 since you are arbing. This may tip the sportsbook off that you might be up to something.
Bet Parlays From Time to Time
Parlay betting is almost certain to lower your ROI, and serious and profitable bettors will rarely do so. This is why it can help to create the illusion that you are a casual bettor to place parlays. In particular large parlays that are very unlikely to win.
Yes, you take the hit to your profitability. Still, you are more likely to remain in the good graces of sportsbooks.
Bet Sides & Totals on Common Sports
Casual bettors are not likely to bet a lot on niche sports and look deep into the prop selection. If you want to hide your sharp betting, make a good number of what appear to be casual bets. Examples are NFL sides and totals.
These are the most difficult types of bets to win consistently and also the most popular. So, mixing in these wagers with your sharper bets is a great way to distract from your advantage betting strategies.
Conclusion – Is Arbitrage Betting Worth It?
Say you have placed a pair of effective arbitrage bets. Barring the cancellation of one of them, you will be guaranteed a profit. For this reason, with respect to making money betting in the short term, there’s no reason not to engage in arbitrage betting.
Still, it can take a lot of time and effort for a minimal ROI. Also, to make it worthwhile, you may need to work with a considerable bankroll. In addition, arbitrage betting is one of the easiest ways to get banned or limited by sportsbooks.
The question of whether to arbitrage bet depends on the time and money investment you want to make. This, and your goals in popular sports betting markets. Nonetheless, there is no question that arbitrage betting is the best way to all but guarantee a profit on your wagers.