Sport Arbitrage Basics
Sports betting is the activity of placing a wager on the outcome of a sports event. If we take a football match for example, you can bet on your favourite team to win, but if the match ends in a draw or your team loses, you will lose your stake. So betting is a case of “you win some, you lose some.” Bookmakers, on the other hand, set their odds in such way that they are insured profit regardless of the outcome of an event; that is, if you back all outcomes at a single bookmaker, you will end up a with a few percent loss.
Sports Arbitrage Betting
It is possible, however, to back all outcomes at different bookmakers with guaranteed profit. This is called sports arbitrage betting. The best way to clearly explain arbitrage betting is by giving an example, so let’s look at the bookmakers’ odds for a football match and bet on number of goals scored by the visiting team.
Bookmaker 1 has odds of 1.55 on the visiting team not to score
Bookmaker 2 has odds of 2.95 on the visiting team to score one of more goals
With this two bets we cover all possible outcomes (the visiting team will either score or not). If you now bet €65.56 at Bookmaker 1 and €34.44 at Bookmaker 2, you will make 1.55*€65.56=€101.6 if the visitors score or 2.95*€34.44=€101.6. Whether the visitors score or not, you make a €1.6 profit.
In addition to arbs found within regular markets such as Match Result, Under/Over, Asian Handicap, etc., there are cross market arbs that combine bets from different markets. Such arbs last longer than regular ones, giving you more time to react and place your bets. Here is an example for a cross market arb (Note that these are not the actual odds, we messed with them a bit for the sake of the example):
Bookmaker 1 has odds of 11 on the correct score 0-0
Bookmaker 2 has odds of 1.3 on the home team Total goals over 0.5
Bookmaker 3 has odds of 15 on the visiting team to win to nill
Now, if the match ends 0-0, you win your bet at Bookmaker 1. If home team score, you win your bet at Bookmaker 2. Finally, if visiting team wins to nil, you win your bet at Bookmaker 3.
Risks of sports arbitrage betting
There is no such thing as 100% risk-free betting. While you don’t have to worry about the outcome of a sports event, there are other risks connected with sports arbitrage betting.
First, bookmakers can sometimes make an obvious mistake while quoting the odds; for example, they can accidentally reverse the odds of a sports event. Such mistake is known as a palpable error or palp. Bookmakers hold the right to cancel the bet at any time claiming it was a palp. If that happens, you should minimize the risk by finding the next best odds and covering your bet.
Second, the odds are constantly changing. It may happen that you confirm a bet at one bookmaker, but the odds change before you place a bet at the other bookmaker. This may reduce your profit or even create a loss. To minimize the risk, you should take Bookmaker 1 to the final confirmation page. Then go to Bookmaker 2 and place your bet there. When that bet is accepted, immediately place your bet at Bookmaker 1.
Next, if you keep betting on arbs (and especially on palps), bookmakers may limit your stakes or even close your account. Some books will limit you sooner, some later, while some will never do that. There is no cure for this, but again you can take some steps to try to avoid, or postpone, being limited. Confirm your bet first at the bookmaker who is (in your opinion) least willing to accept it and then move on to other(s). Round your stake to even 5s or 10s and instead of betting €67.83, bet €65 or €70. Don’t bet on obvious palps (high profit arbs) and keep your withdrawals from books to a minimum.
Before you start arbing, you must understand odds, bet types, and the way bookmakers work, so take some time to get familiar with sports betting and bookmakers rules in general.
To avoid other risks, first and foremost you have to make sure you have to double check the odds with bookmakers before placing your bets and make sure those are still valid. Don’t spend much time between placing two bets. On the other hand, do not rush. If you do, you may make blunders such as placing a wrong bet.