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How to build an arbitrage betting system
What do you need to know about sports arbs and what do you need to create your very own arbitrage betting system?
Published on 30 November 2018
Updated on 30 November 2018
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Welcome to a comprehensive, DIY guide to building your very own arbitrage betting system.
Arbitrage betting or “arbs betting” is comfortably one of the most popular betting plans out there. This is mainly thanks to how safe it is. It does, however, require some time and effort on your part. If you’re willing to commit those things, then you stand to make a significant profit over a medium-to-long period of time.
In this article, I’ll give a quick introduction to arbing, explain the reasoning behind it, and detail how you can learn to spot arb opportunities for yourself.
A general introduction to arbing
Arbitrage betting (commonly known as “arbing” or “arbs betting”), when practiced properly, is literally guaranteed to make you money.
This is because you bet on all outcomes of a particular market. Whatever actually happens in the event, one of your bets is certain to win, and you’ll subsequently profit. To do this, arbitrage betting relies on price differences between different betting platforms.
Obviously, it’s not hard to see the appeal of this approach. That’s why arbing has proved popular not only in sports arb betting, but in other walks of life too.
In fact, it’s been used by financial traders for far longer than it has by sports bettors. In this sphere, traders will identify an asset – a stock, for example – that’s cheaper on Exchange A and more expensive on Exchange B. They will then buy the stock on A, sell it on B, and immediately make a profit.
Arbing in sports obviously works slightly differently in its mechanics, but the principles are the same. You’re still exploiting a price difference between platforms, and guaranteeing yourself a profit. As with financial arbing, you will also need to have active accounts with multiple platforms – in this case, with different bookies and betting exchanges.
Examples of arbitrage betting
The easiest way to learn is through examples, so let me take you through a few fake arbitrage bets to clarify how everything works. The first will be extremely basic, and I’ll ramp up the complexity from there.
Let’s say that Chelsea are playing against Manchester United at home. There are three outcomes here: a Chelsea win, a draw, and a Manchester United win. In this case, theoretically all you would need to do is go to three different bookies, and place one bet with each bookie, covering all three outcomes. Whatever happens in the match itself, one of your bets will win.
In this example, however, you wouldn’t necessarily make any money. Whilst you will win one of your bets, you won’t have guaranteed yourself a profit. In order to do that, you need to carry out some calculations.
To give themselves what’s called an “edge”, bookies don’t actually balance their odds. If you use decimal odds (which I would recommend, when arbing), you’ll find that they rarely – if ever – add up to 100%.
For example, in the aforementioned Chelsea vs Man U game, Chelsea might be 2.5 (1/2.5 = 0.4 = 40%), the draw 3.4 (29%), and Man U 2.7 (37%). 40+29+37 = 106%. That extra 6% is the bookie’s edge, in this case.
To regain the advantage, you need to… take the edge off, so to speak. So, to profit off this particular game, you’d need to find odds in three different places which do get closer to 100%. In this case, if you could get Chelsea at 2.5 at Bookie A, the draw at 5.0 at Exchange B, and Man U at 2.5 at Bookie C, then you’d have balanced the odds.
To guarantee yourself a profit, you need to actually get your combined odds to under 100%. In this match, for example, you’d want to find combined odds of around 95% to ensure you make some money.
Betting on two-outcome markets is naturally an easier way to do things.
Let’s say you want to bet the Over/Under 2.5 Goals on a match that’s likely to be high-scoring. One bookie has the Over at 1.25, and the Under at 4.00. As a percentage, those combined odds equal 105%. If you can get the Over elsewhere at odds of more than 1.40, or the Under at more than 5.00, you’ll get under a combined 100%, and guarantee yourself a profit.
Why does this occur?
So, now you know the mechanics of arbing. You know that making a profit with this betting system is all about exploiting price differences between different platforms.
The interesting question then becomes… why do these price differences occur? There are a few different explanations for this, but they can broadly be divided into two categories: deliberate and accidental.
On the “deliberate” side of things, different bookies can simply have different opinions about the same market. Both will have arrived at a logical conclusion to reach their odds… they’ll just have arrived at different conclusions!
This might be a result of the respective algorithms they use, which will weigh certain factors differently. Perhaps they’re working from different data sets.
A human element is in play here too – different bookies might simply have diverging opinions about certain teams or matchups. Let’s say Mourinho’s struggling Man U are playing at home to a solid Watford team.
Man U have been going through a bad spell. One bookie might value both Mourinho’s and Man U’s historical prestige, whereas another might prioritise their recent poor form more highly. The first bookie would offer lower odds on a Man U win, and vice versa with the second.
The human element is also the most common reason for more “accidental” causes of differing odds.
Odds in football betting are extremely fluid. That’s particularly the case with high profile matchups; games in the Premier League, the Champions League, and so on. This is because bookies must respond to the action they’re getting, and constantly adjust their odds to both invite further action, and limit their exposure.
Because there are so many sharp-eyed bettors out there, it’s vital that bookies make these adjustments quickly, and generally stay in line with the competition. If all the other major bookies drop the odds on a market down, but Bet365 – for example – keep their odds higher than those of their competitors, bettors are going to pile into that bet in their droves.
How to spot an arb
Now that you know both what arbing is, and what causes it… you probably want to know how to find arbs for yourself! Well, ask and ye shall receive!
Basically, you’ve got two ways of finding chances for arbitrage betting. You can either do it yourself, or you can use another person or tool to find them for you.
Spotting arbitrage opportunities for yourself will take more time, but it isn’t really that hard, particularly if you’re only looking for two-outcome markets.
To begin with, you roughly want to look for markets that are already close to balancing each other out. Simply run the same maths as I did in the “Examples” section, and look for opposing odds which are close to 100% combined. Once you’ve found a market, either use a comparison website like Oddschecker to find suitable odds from different bookies, or use a betting exchange like Betfair to get exactly the odds you want.
Alternatively, you can let a pre-made tool do the heavy lifting for you. I won’t promote any particular product here, but they’re certainly not hard to find!
These tools will automatically scan the odds across a huge range of markets and platforms, and identify arbing opportunities for you. The biggest benefit is obviously a significant amount of time saved for you. The drawback – as you might expect – is that you’ll have to pay for the pleasure.
I often say that there’s no such thing as a perfect betting system. Arbitrage betting is probably as close as it gets… but there are still some associated risks.
Firstly, believe it or not, bookies aren’t the biggest fans of arbing. Shocking, I know. To clarify, arbitrage is 100% not illegal. It is within a bookie’s rights to suspend your account when they see fit, however, and – if you’re consistently winning bet after bet – they probably will see fit to stop you.
It won’t happen straight away, but if you keep arbing with the same bookie over a long period of time, the chances are that your account will get shut down eventually.
Another problem with arbing is that, even if it does deliver guaranteed profits, those profits are limited. Even when you do find a great arbing opportunity, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll make more than a 5% profit. Often, it’ll be closer to 3% or below.
This wouldn’t be such a problem if you could whack down a load of money for each bet. Most bookies, however, have stake limits in place to stop you doing this. Large bets will usually need to be processed manually by an employee… and drawing attention to yourself in this way, when you’re trying to arb, is obviously not a smart idea.
Finally, arbitrage betting is extremely susceptible to human error. Whilst betting calculators and arbing software will help matters, it’s ultimately down to you to choose the right markets, put the correct stakes down, and so on. Fail to do so, and those “guaranteed” profits won’t look so guaranteed for long.
Tips for building your system
By now, you should have a pretty good idea about what arbitrage betting is, and how to get started yourself with arbing. Before you do so, though, there are a few more extremely important tips you need to take on board.
On top of what I’ve already said, these are my three biggest tips for building an arbitrage betting system:
1) Calculate your stakes
This is a crucial component of arbing. If you simply slap down the same stake on each outcome in your chosen market, you’re not guaranteeing yourself a profit. You need to calculate your stake precisely depending on the odds.
Fortunately, doing so isn’t too difficult. Let’s say you’ve already found your market, and found your bets. You’ve got Over 2.5 Goals at 50%, and Under 2.5 Goals at 45%, giving you combined odds of 95%.
Remember, those combined odds of 95% still equal 100% of the money you’re putting down. To calculate the size of your stake on each outcome, simply divide both outcomes’ probabilities by the overall probability.
In this case, for the Over 2.5 Goals, you do 50/95 = 0.53 = 53%. For the Under, you do 45/95 = 0.47 = 47%. So, you allocate 53% of your total stake to the Over, and 47% to the Under. Done!
By doing this, you’re balancing your stakes and ensuring a profit.
2) Be organised
Even if it is a “sure thing”, arbitrage betting still isn’t easy. In fact, when you’re carrying it out over a lengthy period of time, it can get downright confusing.
Being organised, and keeping track of your progress, is vital. Start a spreadsheet, and enter every single bet – including your calculations for that bet – into it. Record the results of those bets, and ensure that you’re making the profit that you should be.
If you’re not, you must be doing something wrong. Given that you’ve got all the data available to you in one convenient place, finding out where you’re going wrong shouldn’t be too difficult.
3) Be patient
I’ve mentioned this already, but it bears repeating. Arbitrage betting will deliver profits, but those profits will be limited. It’s a low-risk strategy, but it’s also a low-yield one.
To make a respectable overall profit, you must commit to arbing for the long haul. If you’re not willing to do that, you should find another, more immediate betting system to try out.
Final Thoughts on arbing systems
I’m a huge fan of arbing. There aren’t many betting systems out there which can guarantee you profits, after all.
This is certainly not the easiest system to get your head around. At least some mathematical skills are required. Organisational skills and patience are also “must-have” characteristics.
If you do indeed possess these characteristics, then I can’t recommend arbitrage betting enough. Open up a spreadsheet, run some fake-money test bets for a while using the tips I’ve given you here, and check that you’re making a profit. If you are, then go ahead and start arbing for real, and potentially watch the money start to roll in.
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