So, you’ve heard about the art of ‘arbing’, but you’re not sure what it means in practice? It’s your lucky day. In the following guide, I’ll cover off some of the basics surrounding arbitrage betting, including how to discover opportunities and make risk-free backs. We’ll also discuss how to place an arbitrage bet and use some of the tools that have helped earn me a decent arbing income for the best part of a decade.
Let’s crack on!
What is Arbitrage Betting?
Simply put, arbitrage betting is the act of placing wagers on all the possible outcomes of an event at odds that guarantee profit — no matter the result. I believe the term “arbing” is actually borrowed from the stock market, where traders would buy an asset in one market while simultaneously selling elsewhere for a higher price. They’re also sometimes known as “sure bets”, “miracle bets”, or “sure wins” — essentially opportunities that allow you to make money entirely risk-free.
I know that might sound ridiculous given that the gambling industry in the U.K is worth around £15 billion. But bear with me.
Arbitrage betting, or arbing, might sound too good to be true — but there are actually more opportunities for sure wins than you might think. The key to arbing is to find discrepancies in the odds given for a particular event. This allows you to wager on an outcome at a higher price with a bookmaker, before betting against, or laying, that same very outcome at a lower price on a betting exchange. If you’re not familiar with the term “betting exchange”, I recommend taking five minutes to read this article before carrying on here. There’s also a definitive guide to matched betting, which should bring you up to speed with some of the terminologies I’m going to be using.
Read them? Great. Let’s carry on.
It’s important to note that while arbing shares some similarities with matched betting, they are very different. Where matched betting involves using free promotions and offers to generate profit, arbitrage betting requires finding discrepancies between the odds given by bookies and exchanges.
What is an ‘arb’?
An “arb” is simply the phrase used to describe an arbitrage bet. When we find odds on a sportsbook that are higher than the lay price offered by a betting exchange for the same market, it’s called an arb. It might sound a little complicated, but all you need to know is that whenever you find a back price higher than a lay price on the same event, you’re guaranteed to make a profit — or at the very least a risk-free bet.
How common are arbitrage betting opportunities?
Arbitrage opportunities are surprisingly common, and come up hundreds of times a day, especially in horse racing. These opportunities will, however, arise across multiple bookmakers, so it’s important to have as many active betting accounts as possible. Thankfully, the competitive nature of the gambling industry means we’re never short of bookmakers.
Arbing opportunities typically arise when bookmakers disagree on odds or make a mistake when pricing an event. This means that the key to leveraging arbitrage opportunities is speed. You have to act before the bookie catches up with the market or corrects their error.
For ease, let’s use an analogy that’s simpler to understand, such as shopping for a new phone. In this scenario, you want to get the best price for your desired handset so that you save money. Of course, you could use comparison sites or manually do your research by clicking on each phone shop to find the most competitive prices. But let’s also imagine that, once you’ve found the cheapest offer, you could buy the phone and sell it to someone else for a higher price. That’s essentially what happens when we arb. We’re offsetting the most competitive rates with a higher back price, ensuring we make money. Your profit is the difference between the cheapest rate (the lay) and the highest price (the back).
If that still sounds confusing, see it like this. You find a phone that costs £500, when the average asking price across the market is £600. You can now sell that phone for £600 to whoever is comfortable paying the going rate, making £100 profit in the process. That’s an arb.
How do I discover arbitrage betting opportunities?
In the phone example above, we mentioned two options: doing manual research or using comparison sites. Now, when it comes to arbing tools, we’re speaking about technology that allows us to do the latter — compare prices from across the market without having to spend hours rattling through websites.
Arbitrage betting software
The best arbitrage calculator by far is the Oddsmonkey Oddsmatcher tool.
This fancy bit of kit compares odds from both bookmakers and betting exchanges automatically, saving you the hassle of doing it manually. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this software alone has earned me several thousand pounds over the last year, highlighting opportunities that I would have otherwise missed. Best of all, there’s a free version, so you can test it out without spending a penny. However, I’d recommend signing up to the premium version for a small outlay every month — it soon pays for itself, and you’ll get extra access to more bookmakers’ odds, more betting exchanges, and a calculator which does all the maths for you.
Here’s an example of what the Oddsmatcher tool looks like if you were to scan for arbing opportunities on a horse race:
We can see that Betfred is offering a 7.0 back price, but Smarkets is showing a 6.0 lay price. The back is higher than the lay — so we’re guaranteed a profit when we bet on these two odds simultaneously.
Of course, you could highlight arbitrage opportunities manually by keeping a spreadsheet and recording odds across the market for a particular event. But, to be honest, this isn’t something arbitrage professionals would ever consider. It’s just too time-consuming.
Set up an account with Oddsmonkey and let’s move onto the fun bit — making a profit.
How do I place an arbitrage bet?
The easiest way to place an arb is to back an outcome with a traditional bookmaker while laying (betting against) that outcome on a betting exchange like Betfair. As with the horse racing example above.
To work out whether you have an arbitrage opportunity, we use an arbitrage calculator, which is no different to what you would use for matched betting. But thanks to the Oddsmonkey tool, we don’t need to try and find opportunities, as it will show us the latest ones automatically.
In the example above, we would simply open up the Oddsmonkey Calculator and input the odds. The calculator will take care of the rest, telling you exactly how much you need to bet and lay in order to make a healthy profit.
Here’s a screenshot from the calculator using a £100 back for “Vegas Boy” at Chelmsford City:
As you can see, the calculator tells us to offset our original £100 back bet with a lay stake of £116.67. In doing so, we’ll make £16.65 profit whether ‘Vegas Boy’ wins or loses. Not bad for clicking a few buttons!
One thing to bear in mind in the above example is that the commission rate is set to 0%. Now, in reality, this could be anything between 0 and 5%, so you’ll have to tailor the figure to whatever rate is offered by your exchange. I know that Betfair often offers 0% commission rewards for new customers — so it’s worth taking advantage of this if you aren’t already signed up.
How bookies prevent arbing
Bookies have zero tolerance for arbitrage betting, so it’s possible that you could get ‘gubbed’ if you’re found to be arbing. The term ‘gubbing’ refers to situations where a bookmaker has placed a series of restrictions on a betting account. Each ‘gub’ is different, so you might get your access to free bets revoked if you’re matched betting, whereas a frequent arber could have their stakes limited. I recently wrote a guide on how to avoid being gubbed in 2021, if you’re interested in finding out more.
How much profit can you make via arbing?
Here’s the part where I break the bad news: arbing won’t get you rich overnight. Typically, I look to make around 3-5 percent profit on every arbitrage bet, which with an average spend of £100, makes me a few pounds. But, that’s just from one bet. If you’re arbing multiple times a day, you can soon build up a healthy bankroll.
To get going, you’ll need two things: an Oddsmonkey account and a plethora of sportsbooks. There are hundreds of arbing opportunities provided by Oddsmonkey’s software every day, so you won’t want to use the same bookmaker when placing bets. You’ll also need an account with the right bookmaker to get the odds shown.
Arbs come and go very quickly, as bookies change the odds when they realise odds move. If you’re reactive and ready to place bets straight away, you’ll make at least a few hundred quid a month.
Can you arbitrage bet without exchanges?
Having quick access to exchanges is always going to be the easiest way to offset any back bet, but it’s also possible to arb without one. The term used to describe simultaneously backing two outcomes on the same event with different bookmakers is “dutching.” When we “dutch”, we’re not laying an outcome (because bookmakers don’t offer this luxury), but merely backing the opposition with another bookmaker.
How does dutching work?
Imagine we’re watching a snooker match. One of the players has decimals odds of 2.10 to win with Betfred, while his opponent is priced at 1.98 on another sportsbook. To extract profit from the event, we use the same process as we did with the arbing calculator discussed above, but this time, with the “dutching” option.
Here’s what we see when inputting the odds into Oddsmonkey’s Dutching Calculator with an overall investment of £100:
As you can see, if we place £48.53 on the outsider to win at 2.10, while simultaneously placing £51.47 on the favourite, we’ll make a profit of £1.91 whatever the outcome. This might not sound like much, but when we’re dealing with multiple events a day, the profit soon racks up.
Just a quick point on “rounding stakes to” in the dutching calculator. If you set that a penny (as in the example), it could arouse suspicion from the bookmaker — so I recommend rounding bets to either 50p or the nearest pound. I’ve seen plenty of accounts get gubbed because the bets are too precise. Ask yourself: would an everyday punter repeatedly stake these exact units? The answer is always “no.”
This guide to arbing is written by Mr Matched Bettor, who has 12+ years’ professional experience in the art of arbitrage betting. He now spends his time teaching other people matched betting techniques.