Arbitrage betting: Arbing explained
6 Feb 2017
Updated: 11 Nov 2023
Arbing - or, to give it its full name, arbitrage betting – is a betting system that allows a customer to place multiple bets to guarantee a profit regardless of the outcome.
Bettors who take advantage of this are sometimes referred to as “arbers”.
An arb is also sometimes called a “surebet” or a “miraclebet”.
Arb betting is possible when there is a discrepancy between odds that allow a profit to be made by covering all outcomes.
Usually, this is a binary bet – with just two outcomes. An example would be a tennis match, where only two results are possible.
Arbing opportunities most commonly arise when bookmakers disagree on odds, or make a mistake when pricing a market.
Arbing is pretty far removed from traditional gambling. It is more a mathematical process to ensure profit.
Most arbers will confess to have little or no interest in a sport they are betting on.
Many football betting systems and horse racing strategies are underpinned by the theories associated with arbing.
Arbing and matched betting
Matched betting is a form of arbing.
Profit Accumulator members use arbing to cancel out or minimise losses by placing opposing bets on two separate outcomes.
The profit is then made from bookmaker bonuses, usually in the form of free bets.
New users can try an example of matched betting using Profit Accumulator’s free trial.
Arbitrage betting example
When pricing a market, bookmakers will almost always factor in an edge, where the total odds of all outcomes are more than 100%.
Arbitrage systems rely on the combined odds from the different firms producing a negative margin - less than 100% - so that the edge is in the favour of the customer
An example of how arbitrage could be applied to a tennis match:
|Andy Murray||Novak Djokovic||Market %|
|Odds with Betfair||1.300||3.930||102.4%|
|Odds with Ladbrokes||1.420||2.900||104.9%|
|Arbitrage, betting on Murray with Ladbrokes and Djokovic with Betfair||1.420||3.930||95.9% (a 4.3% profit margin)|
In this example, if we bet £100 on Murray at 1.42, it would return us £142 if he wins the match. By then placing £36.13 on Djokovic at 3.93, we would match the expected return of our Murray 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).
Do bookies allow arbing?
Arbing is perfectly legal but, it might not surprise you that, not many bookmakers welcome regular arbers.
The main reason is fairly obvious – because it costs them money.
The problem bookies face is identifying customers who are using arbing as a strategy – it can be quite difficult for them to track.
Make no mistake, though: If you are consistently winning, the bookie will closely monitor your activity and, if betting patterns lead them to suspect you are arbing, your account could be restricted or closed, sometimes without warning.
Matched bettors refer to this as “gubbing”.
Some bookies claim they will never restrict or close accounts, but they are few and far between.
Arbitrage betting software
The value of an arbitrage bet can be worked out using a mathematical formula.
But for convenience and accuracy, most regular arbers use arbitrage betting software.
Profit Accumulator’s matched betting calculator is an example of one such tool.
It allows the user to input both sets of odds, the stake and any commission, to work out how much should be laid (bet against) and the potential profit.
Profit Accumulator’s oddsmatching software finds thousands of markets every day to find and rate arbitrage opportunities to save users the time of trying to find their own.
Exchanges will not penalise customers for arbing, as they make their money from commission, irrespective of whether a bet wins or loses.
How much can be made from arbing?
Arbitrage betting opportunities occur many times, every day.
However, the typical return on each investment is usually pretty low – if you find an arb that will generate you more than 5 per cent profit, it is very rare.
Therefore, arbing is by no means a “get-rich-quick” system. Even if you have large amounts of cash available.
Arbing requires patience, diligence and composure.
Bear in mind that winning money from bookmakers is tax-free.
Professional arber Simon Renström is quoted as saying “If gambling is a high-risk lottery, in comparison sports arbitrage is more of a low-risk high-yield investment method.
“While not completely risk-free, most users reach a very high ROI (return on investment) compared with other investment methods; an average of 10 per cent to 15 per cent per month is common.”
Arbitrage betting tips
Just like with matched betting, keeping track of your transactions is advisable.
It is likely arbers will have many accounts with a variety of bookmakers and that different amounts of money will be spread across these at any one time.
Creating a spreadsheet to monitor your transactions is a good idea.
Many members of the Profit Accumulator community use such tools and share them using the matched betting forum.
Another piece of advice is to double check the odds before placing both sides of the bet.
It is very common for odds to fluctuate, particularly in a popular event or if an event is about to start.
The margins can be very tight when arbing and potential profit can soon be wiped out by failing to spot a shift in price.