Arbitrage Betting Guide

Most online betting strategies are geared toward beginner sports gamblers. On the off chance they’re not, they’re then usually reserved for the casual sports gamble. The exception? Arbitrage betting guides. They are not as inclusive. And rightfully so. Arbitrage betting is an approach that can be a little tricky to understand and even harder to execute. Its best left to those who have been wagering on sports for a while and have the resources to capitalize on it properly.

Does this mean arbitrage betting isn’t for you? Of course not. It might be. Even if you’re just starting out in the sports gambling world, you might find that after reading a more basic online betting guide that you’re ready for a more advanced approach. This could be that approach. And don’t worry about understanding it. We’re here to hold your hand every step of the way.  

How Does Arbitrage Betting Work?

Arbitrage betting is known as a few different things, including but not limited to sure bets, sports arbitrage, and miracle bets. Regardless of the name, it’s given, the concept doesn’t change. Arbitrage betting entails investing in both sides of a given game at different sportsbooks in order to ensure that your wager returns a profit.

This approach only works when you’re dealing with either-or outcomes. For example, if you peruse the latest NFL betting odds and see a sure bet opportunity on the moneyline between the Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos, you would invest in the Cardinals to win at one sportsbook and the Broncos to win at another. This wouldn’t work if you were betting futures or props in which there are more than two outcomes or teams from which to choose.

Even more importantly, arbitrage betting only makes sense when there’s a sizable discrepancy in odds between two sportsbooks. Most of the time, the linemakers at every site are fairly aligned with their projections. They may not jibe together perfectly, but the differences are minimal. Arbitrage betting demands you find situations in which there’s an actual chasm between how sportsbooks view two teams.

Before we get into how to spot and work these potential opportunities, make sure to check out our list of the top online sportsbooks to use in general:

Arbitrage Betting in Action

The idea of arbitrage betting can be a little complicated to understand. Visualizing the results help. We've come up with a hypothetical moneyline to make it happen:

Outcome 1 Outcome 2
Win By Team A Win By Team B
Sportsbook X Sportsbook Y
-275 +450
Stake: $80 Stake: $20
Total Payout: $109.09 Total Payout: $110
Profit Off This Bet: $39.09 Profit Off This Bet: $90
Total Arbitrage Profit: $9.09 Total Arbitrage Profit: $10

These are very specific numbers, but that's the point of arbitrage betting. You're ideally looking to turn a 10 percent(ish) profit by working both sides of a game line. 

In the above example, you should be looking at the combined investment, which is $100: $80 on the favorite and $20 on the underdog. No matter who wins, you would end up making money. Your total profit if the favorite emerges victorious is $9.09—a little over 9 percent. Meanwhile, you're total profit if the underdog wins is $10—exactly 10 percent of your initial investment.

Making 10 percent may seem like small potatoes, but it can add up if you do it enough times. It also makes a huge difference if you're a high roller who's willing to throw more money on each bet. 

When Does Arbitrage Betting Make Sense?

Believe it or not, we've already alluded to this. For the most part, arbitrage betting makes sense under the following circumstances: If there is a large discrepancy between two teams playing one another and between two sportsbooks, and if you're a high roller who wagers so much that a 10 percent or profit amounts to a huge chunk of change.

The first bit of criteria is the most important because those dual-situations can be hard to suss out. You're not just on the prowl for heavy favorites versus heavy underdogs; you find those all the time. What you really need a moderate favorite from one sportsbook that's considered a heavy favorite by another. It's this difference that allows you to then invest in the favorite at Sportsbook No. 1 and then play the underdog at Sportsbook No. 2.

Arbitery Betting Vector

For the sake of another hypothetical, let's say you've taken a look at the upcoming week's NFL betting odds and see the following moneyline: Philadelphia Eagles (+550) vs. Green Bay Packers (-600). In order to implement arbitrage betting, you need to find a sportsbook that views the Packers less favorably—like a -400 or something. That would allow you to then invest in them while throwing cash into the Eagles at the above moneyline. Arbitrage betting won't pan out if the odds are almost identical.

With this in mind, it bears mentioning that miracle bets are usually only for moneylines. You won't encounter the same differences when playing the point spread or over/under. Both lines tend to pay out between -115 and +115. That doesn't leave enough room for stark contrasts between sportsbooks. So if you want to start arbitrage, you must remember to stick with moneylines in either-or scenarios, which is to say, single games.

The Challenge of Arbitrage Betting

Sometimes, arbitrage betting can sound too good to be true. Who doesn't want to guarantee themselves a profit, however small? That's why this is often called riskless wagering as well.

And yet, arbitrage betting is easier thought about than done. Identifying the right opportunity is more than half the battle, and it's not a simple one to fight. Not only are major moneyline discrepancies a rarity, particularly when it comes to playoff and championship matchups, but there's no guarantee you'll find the correct situations when they do exist.

Just think of how many different online sportsbooks there are. Your brain hurts, right? Now imagine trying to poke around every single one in search of, let's say, a single-game favorite that's viewed noticeably differently at two online betting sites. It seems impossible.

This is why many arbitrage bettors will use special software that searches thousands upon thousands of game lines across different sportsbooks with the intention of finding matchups that fit the bill. These services can be costly; they'll charge one-time fees or be subscription-based, in which case you'll need to pay monthly or yearly. But they'll be something you have to consider if you want to get into arbitrage betting.

On top of that, you also need to figure out how much you must bet on either side so that you turn a profit. Again: The primary goal should be to the net as close to 10 percent as possible on each wager. That is not math you'll be able to do in your head. You'll need to make sure you use an online betting calculator to test out different investment combinations or, more effectively, subscribe to a software service that also tells you how much you'll have to stake on each side of the wager. 

Is Arbitrage Betting For You? 

There is no one answer to this question. It will vary depending on how much you're willing to bankroll each bet and your ability to spot the right opportunities.

Even then, that doesn't make this approach an actual sure thing. You have to be okay with turning only minor profits per bet rather than getting rich instantly. Complicated still, you're also rolling the dice on your membership to sportsbooks. Though arbitrage betting isn't illegal, if you're using sportsbooks related to one another or that do business with one another, you run the risk of your account getting flagged. There are no legal repercussions for this, but the concept of arbitrage betting is frowned upon, and you could have your accounts at multiple sites frozen.

Arbitery Betting Vector

That concern is secondary to initially stated ones. Having the resources to both find arbitrage-betting opportunities and to wager enough that a victory actually matters is more important. It might be that this strategy only suits you on occasion when truly tantalizing game lines prop up. It might be that this doesn't interest or isn't feasible for you at all. 

This is all fine. It's great, actually. Because now you know what you're up against. And that, in turn, allows you to determine whether arbitrage betting fits your style of sports gambling. If you do decide to try it, we'd be remiss if we didn't remind you, yet again, to temper your expectations. This isn't a get-rich-quick philosophy. It's one that entails a lot of work and substantial overhead, and it's predominantly for people who are okay hitting singles and doubles rather than triples and home runs on their potential payouts.