Arbitrage Betting Explained

If you haven't been betting on sport for too long - or even if you have - you might not have heard the term arbitrage betting before.

You might even be clever enough to have been arb betting without knowing it had a specific term.

Regardless, this page is dedicated to the subject of Arbitrage betting, also known as a surebet.

A surebet? So one that can't lose? Well - more or less.

Arbitrage betting in short means taking advantage of minor differences in odds provided by different bookmakers, and turning a guaranteed profit by betting on both outcomes.

Here you'll read all about the art of arbitrage betting, including how it works, how arb bets are made, and how you can make money with arb betting.

You can also see our arbitrage betting tips and examples of arb betting across a number of different sports.

Arb betting is just another way that you can bet on sport, and we detail all the tips and tricks right here on CSB. Check out our betting guide for more.

How Does Arbing Work

Firstly, it's useful to note that arbing is simply the short and less technical term for placing an arbitrage bet.

It's good to use the simpler term, because arbitrage betting is really simple once you get the hang of it and understand the concept.

So, let's start by recognising that not all sports betting companies are the same.

Similarly, all sportsbooks will create their own list of odds for all sports and markets, and sometimes their view on a particular event will be slightly different to their rivals.

arb betting odds

Arb betting opportunities are relatively rare, although most common in head to head markets, where there are only two outcomes.

They are also only likely to occur in an event where both sides or both players are quite even.

For example, you may have two teams with similar records going head to head in a match where there are only two outcomes - win and lose, and the odds provided by one sportsbook are as follows:

Sportsbook 1

  • Team A: 2.05
  • Team B: 1.75

However another site may feel that Team A should be the favourite and offer these odds:

Sportsbook 2

  • Team A: 1.75
  • Team B: 2.05

Can you see how this could lead to an advantage?

By betting on Team A @ 2.05 with Sportsbook 1, and by betting on Team B @ 2.05 in an event where there has to be a winner, you can't lose. You will be guaranteed a small win regardless of who actually wins.

NFL arb betting

So, how do smart gamblers find arbitrage bets? Well, like all smart betting opportunities, time, patience and research is the key. As mentioned previously, arbing opportunities are fairly rare as odds across the leading sportsbooks are relatively similar.

You may see big fluctuations in markets where there are several possible outcomes - let's say you're looking at a list of players and their odds to win MVP for the upcoming season - although it won't be possible to arb in this instance.

At any one time there may be dozens of sportsbooks with odds on a particular event, and only by searching through all of these sites will one find an opportunity to place an arb bet.

So, smart gamblers will search high and low though hundreds of different sports and markets to seek out opportunities. Once found, it's simply a matter of placing the bet.

It all comes down to odds and the ability to seek out different odds on the same outcome for a particular event. If you want to learn more about the ins and outs of sports betting odds, read how odds work here.

How Are Arb Bets Made

Arb betting isn't some totally unique way to place money on sport, nor is it an illegal activity.

You simply place your money on the market you desire like you would with any other bet. The only real difference is that you're placing two bets (or more if you're able to seek out a really complex form of arb betting).

arbitrage betting tips

So, let's start at the very beginning. To be able to bet you first need to pick a sportsbook (again, in this case you'll need more than one).

Even if you're not into arb betting, it's always useful to have multiple accounts if sports betting is your passion, as all sportsbooks will have slightly different odds, specials and bonuses.

If you could buy your groceries cheaper at the place across the street, you'd do it right? Sports betting is no different.

Once you pick your sportsbooks, you simply need to sign up. Requirements for signing up to sports betting websites are minimal, and most will have apps so you can do it on the go.

You will normally need to provide your date of birth, phone number and email address for verification purposes, and of course you will need a credit card (you'll need to make a deposit to bet, even if your plan is solely to use the initial bonus bet to place your arb bets).

Speaking of bonuses, all sportsbooks have different bonuses, so it's good to compare these when you're looking into signing up. Most bonuses are similar and work by matching whatever you deposit with a bonus bet of equal value.

The more sites you sign up to, the more bonus bets you get, and although you may need to turnover these bets a few times before you can deposit the cash, it's a great low-risk way to bet.

arb odds

Finally, check the odds. This really should be the catalyst for your arb betting anyway, as the key is to get odds from a variety of sources. For more information on arbing, check out our matched betting page.

Is Arbitrage Betting Riskier Than Normal Betting?

Arb betting isn't riskier than normal betting. It involves betting using the exact techniques you would use when placing any other bet, with the exact same bookmakers and markets that are available.

If anything, placing an arb bet is actually less risky than a normal bet.

When done correctly, an Arbitrage bet results in zero financial risk. The whole concept of arb betting is centred around the idea of a surebet, a bet that cannot lose. 

Of course, to gain any significant profits when betting on odds that may produce a final outcome of approximately 1.05 returns, you would need a much higher investment.

Is this riskier than placing a lower amount at better odds? Not really. Because you could place one million dollars on an Arbitrage bet and know that you will get the million back, plus a little extra in your pocket.

arbitrage betting

Perhaps one element worth pointing out is that sportsbooks don't like arbitrage bets.

There's technically nothing they can do about them, and they're not illegal, although any sportsbook can refuse to continue a sports betting membership for any reason, and engaging in arb betting continually may cause your account to be flagged.

This would only occur if you're pretty unlucky, but it's worth a mention.

How To Make Money With Arb Betting

In the most basic sense, arb betting is only profitable when you find two different sportsbooks offering over 2.00 odds for the same head to head bet.

You can also look into bets where there are three outcomes (say in a soccer match where a draw is one of the outcomes). In this case, you would need to find odds on all three outcomes over 3.00.

Why is this the case? Let's do some simple maths.

Let's say the Toronto Blue Jays are playing against the New York Yankees.

One sportsbook has an offer for the Jays to win at 2.10, and you have searched through the other sites to find another sportsbook offering odds of 2.10 on the Yankees. To place an arb bet, you would place your desired amount on both of these bets, and to gain any decent return you would need to invest a large amount.

jays arb odds

So let's say you put $1,000.00 on each bet. That's a total of $2,000.00 that you must have available across two sportsbooks. In this hypothetical match, the Blue Jays win.

At odds of 2.10, you will end up with a profit of $1,100.00 from your bet on the Blue Jays, although you will also lose your 1,000.00 from your bet on the Yankees. So the end result is a $100 profit for a guaranteed bet. Not bad.

So when is the best time to place these bets? Honestly? It's always a good time to place an arb bet, because there is no potential to lose money! The hardest bit is obvious - arb betting isn't something that is always available, otherwise everyone would do it all the time.

You need to be patient and sometimes spend hours, or even days finding a situation where an Arb bet is available. They are very rare, and only someone dedicated to the craft of sports betting will be able to achieve a successful arb bet.

arb betting

Arbitrage Betting in NBA Matches

You can place an arb bet on the NBA, and the same rules apply. If you're looking at a Toronto Raptors game, you need to find a matchup where they are on offer for odds over 2.00.

Don't forget that you can sometimes find offers from sportsbooks that may inflate or boost the sides actual odds, so a favourite may suddenly appear at odds over 2.00. This is what you're looking for.

Once you've found a situation where both teams have odds over 2.00, you're ready to place your bet, and by using the same principles as above, you're ready to gain guaranteed profit from your NBA match bet.

Arbitrage Betting in NFL Matches

Arb betting in the NFL is slightly different, as there is an important factor to consider. For regular season games, a draw is a result that is uncommon, but not impossible.

Two teams may go all the way to overtime, and then the match may still end up with both sides level. This acts like the double-zero on a roulette board, and any match-winning bets would be void.

So, it's important to make sure you find markets that are two-outcome markets. The phrase 'draw no bet' is a common way to phrase this, and guarantees a refund of money in the event of a drawn game.

arb betting nfl

Arbitrage Betting in NHL Matches

NHL arb betting is the same as NBA arb betting, in that all matches only have two outcomes. If you're looking for an opportunity to place an arb bet on the Edmonton Oilers, for example, once again you will need to wait for your moment. Identify a situation where both sides are over 2.00 and place your bets.

Arbitrage Betting and Parlays

Here's where Arb betting gets complicated, and in fact some don't even consider this arb betting because there is not a guarantee of profit - at least not from the outset.

Essentially, you can use the theory or arb betting to make sure that a parlay bet that you have can't lose, but it only works at certain times. So, let's use an example.

Let's say you have placed a simple two-leg parlay bet on two teams in the NHL - Edmonton to beat Montreal, and Vancouver to beat Winnipeg.

Let's also assume that the games do not overlap - the Edmonton game against Montreal will be on the east coast, and the Vancouver game will be a few hours later on the west coast.

In this scenario, you have picked Edmonton to win at 2.00, and Vancouver to win at 1.60. The combined odds are 3.20. You've placed $100 on the bet, so the combined potential winnings for the parlay would be $320 ($220 profit).

arb betting tips

Ok, so in a parlay bet you need both scenarios to win. If the first leg loses, then it's game over. In this case, we're going to say that Edmonton win, so the first leg of your bet is assured. This is when we can use arb betting in a parlay to assure ourselves a win.

As Edmonton have won, essentially we now have a bet on Vancouver to win at odds of 3.20. So, if we were to place a bet on Winnipeg (who are at odds of 2.40 in this scenario) we could cover both results and be assured of profit.

So, let's say we now put a $100 bet on Winnipeg to win @ 2.40. We now have two bets going. The potential outcomes are as follows:

Vancouver win - $220 profit from parlay minus $100 bet on Winnipeg = $120 profit.

Winnipeg win - $140 profit from bet minus $100 initial parlay bet = $40 profit.

So, we have a situation where we can't lose. Of course, you could change the amount of money you place on Winnipeg to alter this scenario.

I'm sure some will say that you might as well just let the parlay ride - that's true, a Vancouver win without placing an arb bet would result in more profit, although a Winnipeg win would mean a $100 loss. So, it's all about risk management here.

If all these figures are too much, don't worry - our odds calculator is a handy tool that you can use to calculate your odds and potential payouts.