If you’re interested in betting and, in particular, sports betting you might have heard of arbitrage bets.
Arbing, as it’s often known, has grown in prominence over the last couple of years and, even if you don’t know what it is, chances are, you’ll have been invited by someone to get involved – you just might not have realised it.
There are hundreds of websites and Twitter accounts out there offering to make you a guaranteed profit through betting, with no risk. And it is possible thanks to arbitrage – but it is not easy.
Arbitrage betting explained
It is a system that takes advantage of the different odds in a given market offered by two or more bookmakers.
It’s not straightforward but you don’t have to be a mathematical genius to understand it.
When pricing an event, bookmakers will almost always factor in an edge, where the total odds of all outcomes are more than 100%.
The arbitrage system relies on the combined odds from the different firms producing a negative margin – that is less than 100% – so that the edge is in the favour of the customer, or “arber”.
Here’s an example of how arbitrage could be applied to a tennis match:
|Roger Federer||Novak Djokovic||Market %|
|Odds with Betfair||1.300||3.930||102.4%|
|Odds with Will Hill||1.420||2.900||104.9%|
|Arbitrage, betting on Federer with Will Hill and Djokovic with Betfair||1.42||3.930||95.9% (a 4.3% profit margin)|
Using the above example, if we bet £100 on Federer at 1.42, it would return us £142 if Roger wins the match. By then placing £36.13 on Djokovic at 3.93, we would match the expected return of our Federer bet (or just shy at £141.99). In total, we’d be staking £136.13 for a guaranteed return of £5.86 (141.99 minus our 136.13 stake).
As mentioned, arbitrage chance crop up when bookmakers offer different odds.
This could because of a difference of opinion, being too slow to move odds, or simply making a mistake.
Bigger arbitrage opportunities tend to crop up in more obscure events, which aren’t as closely watched by the firms.
Dangers and risks of arbitrage betting
No matter what you might read on Twitter, there’s no such thing as a risk-free bet.
While the maths might check out, there are a number of reasons arbitrage could fail.
Bookmakers will sometimes cancel bets if they have made a mistake, which could leave you exposed with the other side of the arb, This could easily wipe out your hard-earned arbing work.
The process is also pretty complicated. To take full advantage, an arber will need a wide number of funded accounts as well as the time and organisational skills to see it through.
Bookies are constantly updating their odds to minimise risk, so arbing opportunities tend to be very short windows – often lasting just a few seconds.
Bookmakers that allow arbitrage betting
Are there any bookies that allow arbitrage betting? The answer is not many.
Bookies are wise to the practise and the last thing they want is a customer eating into their profit margins. Just like with regular profitable betting, your account is likely to be limited or closed if you are suspected of arbitrage betting with most firms.
One betting firm that allows arbitrage betting is Pinnacle – though UK users are not currently allowed to register.
Pinnacle says it welcomes arbitrage betting because it focuses on “maximising betting volume, not a bettor’s motivation” and it has confidence in its traders to “get things right”.
Arbitrage system secrets shared
If you accept a “guaranteed win, no risk” offer you get on Twitter or Facebook, you will probably be introduced to the world of arbitrage betting.
By why would someone share their secrets? There could be several reasons.
The player may have had all or most of his or her accounts closed down and offer to bet on your behalf in exchange for a cut of the profits.
The player might also want to make the most of free bets that bookmakers offer to new customers – hence the “risk-free” promise.
Another advantage is that multiple accounts makes it harder for the bookmaker to spot when players are arbing, reducing the risk of the account being shut down.
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