Arbitrage betting is a relatively complex betting system that can help put bettors into a position to earn a profit in the long run. While it’s not illegal, sportsbooks are highly opposed to it, and bettors could potentially see some sort of punishment for using the system.
When bettors use arbitrage betting, they place multiple bets through multiple sportsbooks on different outcomes for the same bet in an effort to guarantee some sort of profit no matter what the result is. One way to think of this is as a more in-depth version of hedging. Bettors try to exploit the mathematical differences between the odds at different live and online sportsbooks.
Can you make money with arbitrage betting?
Just like any form of betting, of course, you can make money using arbitrage betting. However, it takes a great deal of precision and patience to operate this system effectively.
Arbitrage betting is all about searching for differences in sportsbooks, which could take some time, and identifying when the time is right to bet.
Any profits are going to be small compared to the money you’re risking because you’re betting on both sides, so it could take a while for you to build your bankroll.
Arbitrage betting examples
There are a few versions of arbitrage sports betting, and we’ll take a look at a couple of the most popular examples here.
Let’s say you find the following MLB betting odds for a game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants: On the DraftKings app, you see the Dodgers are -170 moneyline favorites, while the FanDuel app shows the Giants to be +180 underdogs.
The positive number is higher than the negative number in absolute value, and that’s the basic way of looking at it for this example.
- Los Angeles Dodgers -170
- San Francisco Giants +180
For this scenario, you would bet $100 on the Dodgers and bet $56.72 on the Giants. Here are the two potential outcomes:
- Dodgers win: You get a profit of $58.82 for betting on the Dodgers moneyline, and you lose the $56.72 you bet on the Giants. Total profit: $2.10.
- Giants win: You get a profit of $102.10 for your bet on the Giants moneyline, and you lose the $100 you bet on the Dodgers. Total profit: $2.10.
It’s not a ton of money, but you’re getting an opportunity where a loss is not possible.
In our next example, we’ll take a look at how you can do some arbitrage betting by using line movement. As you likely already know, the opening odds for a game may change as it gets closer to game time, and that’s where you can potentially use arbitrage betting.
Let’s go to the NFL, where you picked a great number earlier in the week and for whatever reason, the line has moved in your favor, giving your wager a ton of value. Let’s say you’ve already taken the Los Angeles Rams with +105 moneyline odds in an upcoming matchup against the Arizona Cardinals.
In our made-up scenario, let’s say news breaks during the week that Arizona’s Kyler Murray will be out with an injury, which causes a major swing in the odds. Now, the Rams become the favorites, and the Cardinals are +125 underdogs.
- Los Angeles Rams +105
- Arizona Cardinals +125
If you placed $100 bets on both options, you would receive a $5 profit if the Rams win and a $25 profit if the Cardinals win. Either way, you’re going to be making money regardless of the outcome without any risk of losing.
Which are the best sports for arbitrage betting?
Finding quality arbitrage bets can be difficult, especially with major sports like the examples above with the NFL and MLB. Sportsbooks are aware of arbitrage, which is one of the reasons odds will tend to look so similar from sportsbook to sportsbook.
Horse race betting can be a great avenue for arbitrage betting, particularly if California sports betting exchanges pick up steam. Betting exchanges allow you to take the role of a bookmaker, where they can lay and back wagers.
Tennis is another sport that can be good for arbitrage betting. It is a popular but often underrated betting option, with outcomes that are sometimes difficult to predict. There could be plenty of variations in the tennis betting market across the different betting apps.
What do “back” and “lay” mean in arbitrage betting?
Two popular terms you may see when researching arbitrage betting are back and lay.
- With lay betting, you are betting on a particular team to not win.
- A back bet, meanwhile, is a bet in which you are wagering on a team to win.
In other words, with a back bet, you are betting on something to happen, and you’re betting on something not to happen with a lay bet.
How to look for arbitrage opportunities
The best way is through online sportsbook apps that you can use if you’re in a state where sports betting is legal. They make it easy for bettors to quickly scroll around and find any discrepancies between the odds at various sportsbooks.
Once you find a bet where the sportsbooks are offering you a guaranteed profit, that’s when you can jump on it. You’ll need to place both bets at roughly the same time so you can get them in before the odds change.
What are the risks of arbitrage betting?
When you’re guaranteed to make some money no matter what happens in a particular game, that means there shouldn’t be much risk, right? The risk, however, consists of the sportsbooks somehow finding out you’ve been participating in arbitrage betting. Obviously, the bookmakers are not going to like you betting in a system where you don’t have a chance at losing, so if they notice some unusual activity, this could be a scenario where books work with one another to sniff out those who are participating in this.
While this is a potential scenario that could occur, there are plenty of bettors who have gotten away with arbitrage betting online without issues because it’s difficult to detect. If you get caught, however, sportsbooks could put a lower limit on your maximum wager, or, in the most extreme of examples, a sportsbook could ban your account from betting.
Paying to find arbitrage opportunities
The use of arbitrage betting has created a market for software that does all the research for you and singles out chances for you to make an arbitrage bet. Identifying where sports betting arbitrage opportunities lie can take a lot of time, and these services do the work for you.
With how popular sports betting has become in such a short time, there are plenty of tools at bettors’ disposal, and it’s up to you whether you are willing to pay for a service like this.
Before even considering paying for any sort of betting tips, you must determine what type of bettor you are and what you want out of your sports betting experience because you may need to pay a decent amount for an annual subscription. With the margins from arbitrage betting being so low, paying for a service could completely negate any profits you make.
The other downside is that sportsbooks also have access to these sites. That would make it fairly easy to identify players using an arbitrage betting strategy.
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