Sports Arbitrage Betting GuideSubscribe to RSS Feed
Arbitrage betting (also known as surebets, miraclebets, sports arbitraging) is not one of many “sure systems” that promise you fast and big money (and for which you have to pay a “symbolic sum”). It is free to everyone and actually guarantees you risk-free bets!
With simply language, arbitrage (in bettors' slang “arb” and people who use arbitrage are “arbers”) is betting on both sides of the event at different bookmakers to guarantee a profit no matter of the outcome. Here’s one simple example for understanding (not very realistic though). Imagine Djokovic plays against Federer. Book A offers 1.80 for a Djokovic’s win and 2.10 for Federer’s. Book B is opposite and sees Federer as a slight favourite. They offer 2.10 for Djokovic and 1.80 for Federer. So, arbitrage would be placing a bet at book A (let’s say $100) on Federer and $100 at book B on Djokovic. Total stake is $200 and whoever wins the match, you have one winning bet and guaranteed profit of $10 ($100 x 2.10 = 210)!
Arbitrage in Theory
There are few different types of arbitrage. Arbitrage using bookmakers is the most popular and it uses the advantage of different odds offered by different bookmakers. For the easier understanding I’ll explain it with events with two possible outcomes, although the arbitrage can be used for more outcomes as well. And some more serious calculations must be included for a real example. Imagine another tennis match. Djokovic is facing Fernando Verdasco instead Federer. Bookmaker A offers 1.30 for Djokovic and 3.50 for Verdasco. Book B is more generous for Djokovic with 1.44, but shorter for Verdasco with 2.90. Bookmakers have very important rule, the sum of the inverse of all outcomes of an event will always be greater than 1. In this example:
Book A 1.30-1 + 3.50-1 = 1.055 and
Book B 1.44-1 + 2.90-1 = 1.039
It is called “balanced books” and on that way bookmakers earn from every single event regardless of the outcome. In this example, book A expects to earn 5.5% on bets on this tennis match, book B expects 3.9%.
And here we come to the arbitrage. Idea is to find different odds at different bookmakers that will produce a result below 1. It is the case when bookmakers have different opinions about the chances for the outcomes and that can be used to obtain a profit. For example, when England plays a football game against other national team, UK books will have lower odds on England and inflated price on the opponents. Because the most bets will be supporting England. In non-UK books, the odds will be different and closer to the real probabilities.
In tennis example, betting on Djokovic at book B and on Verdasco in book A would be:
1.44-1 + 3.50-1 = 0.98
Placing a $1000 bet on Djokovic at book B and a $414.43 (1000 x (1.44 / 3.50)) on Verdasco at book A would ensure $28.57 profit to the bettor whoever wins the match!
Djokovic: 1000 x 1.44 = 1440
Verdasco: 411.43 x 3.50 = 1440 and
1440 - 1411.43 (total stake) = $28.57
Arbitrage in Practice
Although it should be a “risk-free”, there’re plenty of threats every “arber” is facing with.
Arbitrage disappearance is always present. Usual time for arbitrage is not more than only 15 minutes and reaction should be immediate. Without fast action, “arber” could miss to cover all outcomes and arbitrage would transform to a high-stake bet.
Human error could cost a lot. There are thousands of bets and numberless bookmakers. Finding arbitrage by your own research could be a real torturing which will demand a large amount of time and effort. Plenty of online calculators and paid services should reduce the possibility of human error, but mistakes always happen. Due to the high number of bets or simply because the excitement of action, arber can place the bet on wrong outcome, make a wrong calculation or doesn’t have enough funds on the betting account.
Bookmakers sometimes make unintentional errors and offer much higher odds than their competition. Usually, it results in cancelling all the bets for that event. That puts the arber in very dangerous position as his other bet is still alive. He should act very fast, find the other best price and will have to make an acceptable loss instead profit.
Arbitrage is absolutely legal (like financial trading), but there’s no bookmaker that will watch on this with a smile. Those that suspect arbing can set a very low maximum stake limit which cuts the profit from arbitrage and makes it pointless. Other measure is to make depositing money very easy, but withdrawing very difficult. Keeping a track record becomes very hard task and it should force an arber to “change the house”.
Other Types of Arbitrage
Back-lay sports arbitrage is basically the same as using bookmakers, just “place” is different. Betting exchanges (Betfair, Betdaq, WBX) became popular with the offer to bet against others, instead the house (lay bets). Arbitrage occurs when one exchange offers a lay bet with the shorter odd than a back bet at another exchange or bookmaker. However, every calculation must include the commission charged by exchange or bookmaker.
Bonus arbitrage uses the offer that almost every bookie has for the first time users. Bonus could be in the range of $10 - $200, but requirement is to bet few times with the bonus amount. Arbitrage is using bonus instead “real money”, while other outcome is covered from other betting account. Advantage of this method is arber doesn’t need to find a real arbitrage, since the minimal loss would also mean a profit.
Sports betting arbitrage is really risk-free and it is possible to make real money. However, it is far from being easy as it looks at a first glance and it demands time, pretty big effort and especially patience.
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