Arbitrage Betting Strategy – What Is It & Does It Work?

Arbitrage betting is the only way to consistently make money betting on sports, regardless of the bets you make. Arbitrage betting is also known as surebets, surewins, or simply as arbs.  Unlike other sports, where handicapping and knowledge of the sport helps improve your odds, arbitrage betting is based purely on math. Bettors don’t need any prior sports knowledge to profit from arbitrage betting.


Putting it Into Practice

Betting on opposites of the same contests at the same online sportsbook or bookmaker will almost always result in a loss, provided that the odds are the same and players are charged the bookie’s 10% vig.

Arbitrage betting is sort of like line shopping on steroids, where players use sports with two possible outcomes to find differing odds at multiple bookmakers to lock in a profit for themselves.

When betting on arbitrage, it’s absolutely important that you’re aware of all the possible outcomes of each sport. Some sports, like tennis and basketball, have only two possible outcomes, but for instance, soccer and even NFL regular season games can end in a tie (albeit rarely in the case of the NFL).

Here’s an example of an arbitrage betting opportunity using an NFL futures prop:

NFL Season – Quarterback to Throw Most Touchdowns

Sportsbook A: Peyton Manning (+350)

Sportsbook B: Not Peyton Manning (Field) (-200)

In this example, we’re betting on Peyton Manning at Sportsbook A and wagering on the other QBs in the league, the whole pool of players, “the field” that aren’t Peyton Manning, at Sportsbook B.

Here’s what our bet would look like if we wagered $1,000 on these two markets.

If we wagered $300 on Peyton Manning to win at +350, our winning wager would pay out at $1,050, including our $300 original stake. If we used our other $700 to place a bet on the field at -200, our bet would pay $1,050, including our original stake of $700.

$300 on Peyton Manning (+350) = $750 net profit, plus our original stake of $300 = $1,050.

$700 on Not Peyton Manning (-200) = $350 net profit, plus our original stake of $750 = $1,050.

Since we’ll lose our original stake on one of the bets, we would prefer to lose the $700 field wager, but regardless of which player throws the most touchdowns, we’ll guarantee ourselves a $50 profit.

This is a rather simple example of an arbitrage, but one that successfully guarantees a 5% ($50 for our $1,000 wagered) return no matter the outcome.

Arbitrage opportunities or percentages can range anywhere from 1% to however high your advantage might be between sportsbooks. Usually, sports bettors will have a hard time finding arbs where they are able to lock down more than a 15% profit, and even that’s on the extreme end. Most arbitrages have a profit margin of just 2–5%.


Why Arbitrage Opportunities Occur

There’s not a sole reason why arbitrage opportunities happen. In some cases, bookies may differ in opinion on games or markets, and other times it is because they need to balance their books from one-sided action. Either way, when linesmakers disagree or sportsbooks move their odds to layoff action, and their lines vary widely enough, arbitrage opportunities occur.


Do Sportsbooks Care if You Arbitrage?

Yes, most bookmakers have an unfavorable view of arbitrage betting. Few sportsbooks welcome it openly because in many cases you’re chasing a move or an off-market line. Many bookmakers will limit or ban players who bet a lot of arbitrage wagers, which can hurt players’ ability to exploit an arbitrage properly. Another pitfall is when one side of the arb is cancelled due to a line error, which happens more frequently than some think.


How to Win at Arbitrage Betting

Winning money through arbitrage betting isn’t some pipe dream; it’s something that sports bettors do every day. With that said, betting arbs is still a tough process to profit from heavily.

Today, there are services or software packages that bettors can buy that will help them analyze arbitrage opportunities and alert them to changes in the market. Even with these tools and if you made arbing your full-time job, you might still miss some opportunities. The chances to arb may stay on the board for less than 15 minutes.

Bettors will need a substantial bankroll to make six figures a year betting arbitrages, but making an extra $15k plus a year may be possible just doing it part time. Players can start arbing with as little as a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands or millions. However, the larger the bankroll, the tougher it will be to get the full amount down on your arbitrages. Using your bankroll effectively and getting all the money down you want becomes a lot harder as it grows.

Having funds at a lot of online bookmakers is an absolute must, the more, the better. Those who bet arbs seriously should have accounts at 10 or more sites. Players will be able to earn extra bankroll in the early stages because they can take advantage of sportsbooks bonuses.

Depending on your location, arbitrage betting can be a lot harder compared to other areas, or much simpler. This is due to differing online gambling laws worldwide.

For example, in the United States, where online gambling isn’t legal (nor is it illegal on the individual level), sports bettors will have a lot fewer chances to find arbitrage opportunities because a large percentage of online sportsbooks don’t accept players from the US. The same can be true for other areas.

On the opposite spectrum, places like the United Kingdom and Ireland have fully legal and regulated online bookmaking industries. Citizens from these countries can wager at just about any online bookmaker in the world, which makes betting arbitrage opportunities a lot easier.