In the betting world, and particularly in the matched betting world, you’ll often hear the term ‘arb’ banded around.
Some people criticise arbing, but for others it is all the rage.
But it all leads onto the question…what is arbing?
How do you do them?
Are there any risks?
We reveal everything you need to know in this killer arbitrage betting guide.
Table of Contents
What is Arbitrage Betting?
The term ‘Arb’ is short for ‘arbitrage bet’, and arbing occurs when a bookmaker’s odds are too high compared to the rest of the market.
Arbitrage betting opportunities are frequently caused by bookmaker software being too slow to update to the market, but can also be down to mistakes from the sports traders too.
By placing arbs, you can guarantee a profit regardless of the outcome of an event.
This might sound like matched betting, but there is a crucial difference:
You don’t need free bets or promotions to generate profits.
How to do Arbitrage Betting
Arbitrage betting is incredibly easy to do.
All you need is two tools:
Smarkets is a betting exchange that will allow you to bet against the outcome of a regular bet at the bookies.
So if you back Arsenal at odds of 2.0 on Paddy Power and then lay Arsenal at odds of 1.9 on Smarkets, you have all outcomes covered and you have a guaranteed profit of £0.27 for every £10 that you stake.
Now, here’s the important thing…
We know that doesn’t sound like very much.
But here’s the deal:
As you build your bankroll, you can bet on many different arbs at the same time, and you can increase your stakes far above £10.
You can also look at horses.
If you bet on a horse on William Hill at odds of 8 and lay at odds of 6.8 on Smarkets, you have a guaranteed profit of £1.56 for every £10 you stake.
However, you can also opt to ‘underlay’ your bet.
This means that if your horse does not win, you break even.
But if your horse wins…
You will make £10.84 for every £10 you staked.
Starting to sound a bit better now, right?
By underlaying, you get a shot at a nice profit for no loss.
And the amount of these shots you can get every day is quite insane.
Here’s a screenshot of the Oddsmonkey oddsmatcher‘s arbs that are live on bookies right now:
By using the oddsmatcher, you have arbitrage software that updates in real-time constantly throughout the day.
Smarkets is free, and with Oddsmonkey you can get a free trial via this link. There’s no obligation to ever pay and you do not need to cancel your membership.
On the above screenshot, you also have over £6.50 guaranteed in profit if you staked £10 on each.
If you were to underlay these selections and they were to all win, you’d be looking at over £100 profit per £10 staked on each. You’d only need one of the horse selections to win to get over £6 back.
Remember: you never lose anything on these bets…
If you choose to underlay, you either break even or you make profit if your bet wins.
If you choose the lower ‘lock-in’ amount, you generate a profit every single time regardless of the result.
Any rating above 100 on the Oddsmonkey oddsmatcher that you can use as arbitrage software means you can lock-in profit instantly.
What Do Bookmakers Think of Arbitrage Betting?
Bookmakers hate arbs.
People might be able to exploit free bets via matched betting, but making guaranteed profit from a single bet is completely different in the eyes of bookies.
Arbs can be placed accidentally too, and this commonly happens to many punters that bet on horse racing.
Need an example?
Well, you can have one:
You’ve decided to place a bet as a gamble on the Grand National, just as many people do every year.
On the morning of the race, you decide to back the horse ‘Hoof Hearted’ at 11/1, or 12.0 as we use the decimal format when arbing and matched betting.
In the build up to the race, Hoof Hearted is looking great in the paddock and behaving extremely well compared to some of the other horses.
Many punters decide to start backing the horse, and as a result his odds start to shorten.
Quickly, bookies start slashing his odds; 11.5, 11.0, 10.5…all the way down to 8.0 or less.
Now, if you wanted, you could now make this an arb – by laying money AGAINST Hoof Hearted on a betting exchange.
You log onto Smarkets, and see that the odds to back against Hoof Hearted are 7.2.
The difference in odds is crazy!
You can use a matched betting calculator to calculate how much you should lay off, and how much you’re guaranteed to make in profit:
Stake: £20 (this is how much you bet on the horse)
Back odds: 12.0
Lay odds: 7.2
Commission: 2% (Smarkets take 2% commission on winning bets, a lower average than other exchanges which is why we recommend them)
With these figures input, you’re given the following results from the calculator:
That’s right, you could lay off £33.43 to guarantee a profit of either £12.73 or 12.76 REGARDLESS of the outcome of the race!
This may not sound that impressive, but when you start to do it across tens or even hundreds of races, that profit level starts to seriously rack up.
If you were to underlay now, which is to lay the minimum amount needed to not lose any money, you would either break even if it fails to win or make £93.46 if it does emerge victorious – not bad at all.
‘Gambling is for mugs’ – that’s what many say; especially when you compare it to opportunities like this.
If you’re good at spotting horses that often drop in odds, you may also be interested in horse trading on Betfair.
Why We Believe Arbing is Bad
Because you’re making a profit from a standard bet (rather than a free bet like you do with matched betting), you’re seen as taking way too much value from a bookmaker.
Bookies might make it seem like they want you to win, but this isn’t the case at all.
Anyone who wins too much or too often with a bookmaker will quickly see their accounts limited.
This is the dark side of the online gambling world that you may not be aware of.
Bookmakers hate winners. It’s a fact.
The reason we can get away with winning long-term as a matched bettor is because we aren’t seen to be taking too much value.
This is because we regularly give back to the bookmaker in the form of mug betting; a practice carried out to make it look like we’re regular punters to bookies.
It’s extremely easy for a bookie to see when you’re arb betting – their systems can track exactly what prices you’ve backed at, what the price to ‘lay’ that horse was on Smarkets at the time, and also what the SP (Starting Price) of the horse was.
You shouldn’t worry too much about taking accidental arbs as it’s common to get a slightly better price than the SP, especially if you’re backing hours in advance of a race.
If you intentionally arb on a regular, or even semi-regular basis, you’re going to see your account quickly limited in stakes – and they’re unlikely to ever be recovered.
The practice of being limited, or stake restricted, has led to many professional arbitrage bettors even getting people to bet for them undercover!
This is, unsurprisingly, illegal and fraudulent.
The Difference Between Arbs & Price Boosts
Sometimes, locking in profit is possible when a bookie offers a price boost.
A real life example for you:
Currently, on SkyBet, a treble of Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Man Utd all to win is boosted to 12.0.
However, on Smarkets, you can lay this off under their ‘acca’ section at 10.5, allowing you to guarantee yourself a small profit of around £2.30.
You might laugh about the small £2.30 figure, but it only takes a minute to get the bet on and lay it off on Smarkets too.
SkyBet do a boost like this every week, meaning you could guarantee yourself an extra £130 a year just from doing these boosts.
By getting on many other offers and boosts, you can earn over £1,000 every single month from matched betting.
Because bookies know that they’re offering price boosts, you can do so without fear of any repercussions, unless of course you completely abuse them and only ever do the price boosts and nothing else.
With arbs, bookies don’t know that they’re offering them – they just know after that you’ve done them.
Because they can’t stop you (like they can with price boosts) they are a real issue.
Price boosts are relatively good.
Arbs are really good short-term, before your accounts get closed down or stake restricted to £0.
Matched betting is where the real money is long-term.