What is arbitrage betting?


4 min read

For many people, the main reason to participate in online sports betting is to make money. It is however, smart to game responsibly and that means doing the proper research to determine what’s the safest or best bet to make. One tactic is called arbitrage betting, which is a way to guarantee winnings no matter what happens. It may sound too good to be true, but it is! However, opportunities are rare and often short-lived. But first, let us explain what arbitrage betting is, so you get a better idea of how it works.

Arbitrage betting is also known as “arbing” or “sure betting.” It’s a betting strategy that takes advantage of different odds from different sportsbooks to guarantee a win no matter what. The goal is to place bets on all possible outcomes and regardless of the result, you walk away with a profit. Although very rare, arbitrage betting opportunities could also arise when mistakes are made by sportsbooks. The best way to understand arbitrage betting is to demonstrate it with an example.

The Dallas Cowboys are playing the New York Giants and as far as the bookmakers are concerned, the Cowboys are the underdogs and the Giants are favored. But you find that the moneyline odds are different between two sportsbooks and it has created an arbitrage betting opportunity.

Online betting site #1:

  • Dallas Cowboys: +150 (2.50 in decimal odds)
  • New York Giants: -130 (1.77 in decimal odds)

Online betting site #2:

  • Dallas Cowboys: +140 (2.40 in decimal odds)
  • New York Giants: -110 (1.91 in decimal odds)

With this example, you have an arbitrage betting opportunity by placing a bet on the Cowboys with online betting site #1, and then placing a bet on the New York Giants with online betting site #2. But you need to figure out the amount to bet on each team, in order to turn a profit no matter who wins. In order to do this, there’s a mathematical formula, but first, we need to explain decimal odds.

Calculating decimal odds

To convert moneyline odds to decimal odds, there are two different formulas based on whether the odds are positive or negative. For positive odds (the underdog), decimal odds are calculated: (moneyline odds / 100) + 1. For negative moneyline odds, or the favorite team, decimal odds are: (100 / absolute value of moneyline odds) + 1.

Calculating the bet amount

Now that you understand decimal odds and how to calculate them, we can go back to our above example of the Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants. To calculate the amount to bet on the Cowboys, you do the following formula:

(total stake * decimal odds for New York Giants) / (decimal odds for both outcomes combined)

Let’s assume you want to stake $100 total. The mathematical calculation would then be:

($100 * $1.91) / (2.50 + 1.91) ≈ $43.31

Naturally, the remainder of your $100 stake would then go to the New York Giants, which in this case would be $56.69.

If the Cowboys win the game, you’ll get $108.28 from online betting site #1, which is a profit of $8.28. If the New York Giants win however, you’d get $108.28 from online betting site #2, which is also a profit of $8.28. So no matter which team wins, you’ll walk away earning $8.28 in this arbitrage betting opportunity.

You can also use an online arbitrage calculator to determine whether or not you have an opportunity, and if so, how much to bet on each team.

How common are arbitrage betting opportunities in the NFL?

As you can imagine, arbitrage betting opportunities in the NFL are pretty rare, and if they do come up, they’ll be short-lived. That means you have to constantly monitor different sportsbooks and their odds. If you are wanting to keep an eye out for arbitrage opportunities, they happen more frequently early on in the season, or when there are major changes to a team — such as an injury or a suspension. You’ll also find more arbitrage opportunities when betting on less popular markets like quarter or half-time bets.

Is arbitrage betting illegal?

Arbitrage betting is legal since you’re just taking advantage of the differences in odds from different sportsbooks on the same game. You are not breaking any laws by placing arbitrage bets — you’re simply using the information that’s available to your advantage. That being said, sportsbooks do not like arbitrage betting for obvious reasons. Since it leads to guaranteed profits for bettors and losses for the sportsbooks, some bookmakers will have terms and conditions that prohibit or discourage arbitrage betting.

In other words, while arbitrage betting is completely legal, it may be against the policies of certain online betting sites. Those sites have the rights to enforce the policy however they want, including cutting off your access entirely.

Can you do arbitrage betting online?

Yes, you can definitely do arbitrage betting online and in reality, it’s the best method because of its convenience and speed. We always recommend having accounts with multiple online sportsbooks, so you can always shop around for the best odds. Once you have that established, you’ll be able to monitor odds across various bookmakers and identify any arbitrage opportunities. If you can quickly place your bets to lock in that opportunity, consider yourself a winner.

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