Finding and Executing Arbitrage Bets

7 min

As we’ve seen in our introduction to arbitrage, it can be a hugely useful betting strategy, but spotting an arbitrage opportunity can be extremely difficult. Don’t worry, however, as if you want to identify and exploit opportunities then this short article will give you all the information you need.

An arbitrage opportunity arises only when there is a difference in odds between separate bookmakers or between the bookmakers and the exchange. But here’s the thing. Bookmakers change their odds regularly and without any notice. They don’t want to offer their customers profitable betting opportunities, because customers profiting hurts their bottom line.

Make the most of odds-aggregators like Oddschecker. Prices are displayed clearly, enabling you to easily identify the bookmakers offering the best value. Once you have established the best prices, do your quick calculation to turn the decimals into percentages. If the numbers add up to less than 100%, you have an opportunity.

Executing an arb

An arb might not be possible between Site A and Site B. Perhaps it is Site F and Site Y where the opportunity lies. And then, a few minutes later, maybe another arb is available between Site M and Site Q. There are no guarantees as to where the arb will be offered – and no pattern behind it for you to figure out.

Say for example there is injury news around Roger Federer in the run-up to Wimbledon and his price becomes very volatile. One bookmaker offers him at 1.5 and his opponent at 2.3 while another has him at 1.25 and his opponent at 3.2 for the same match. If you act quickly and back both sides at different books you can guarantee to make money.

Back Federer at €100 at 1.5 then work out how much you need to bet on his opponent, by multiplying your initial stake by smaller odds/bigger odds. In other words, 100 x 1.5/3.2 = £46.88, which gives you a guaranteed profit of £3.13. It doesn’t sound much, but this is how arbing works. Small risk-free profits that add up to a lot over time.

If that all sounds like too much hard work then there are arbitrage calculators that will work it out for you online. You can also find overround calculators so you can quickly calculate the total percentage value of an opportunity – remember you want all percentages to add up to less than 100%.

Not welcome here

You will find bookmakers don’t welcome “arbers”, so it’s wise to conduct a lot of your action at a betting exchange like Matchbook. Traditional bookmakers offer a single price per outcome, whereas the same outcome could be available at many different prices at an exchange in a short space of time. You can also offer your own prices, although this can be a risky move in volatile markets.

An exchange also lets you create arbs that wouldn’t exist otherwise by laying bets. You can lock in a guaranteed profit by, for example, backing Roger Federer at 1.5 on a bookmaker site, and successfully laying him at 1.45. Win or lose, Fed makes you money. These tennis betting opportunities are rare, but they do exist and here your only goal is to back at a better price than you lay.

Whatever your strategy, a successful arb is all in the timing. When an arbitrage opportunity crops up, a pro moves faster than Usain Bolt. The bets have to be made in a heartbeat – because the odds might shift any moment – so you need to be ready to act. Execution is everything.

Timing is everything

In order to get your bets on in the quickest possible time, it is vital that you keep your betting accounts well-funded. You need your accounts to be locked and loaded so that you can pull the trigger at a moment’s notice. Easy in theory, not so simple in practice.

In fact, this might be the single biggest drawback of arbing at multiple bookmakers. If you have a bankroll of £5000 and you disperse it evenly across fifty sites, then you are only able to put a maximum of £100 on any outcome. Bear in mind that a typical arbitrage might yield 1-5%: that’s a whole lot of effort for a few bucks of profit.

There are a number of ways that you can mitigate this problem. Firstly, you could arbitrage with a bigger bankroll. It takes money to make money, and arbing is investing rather than gambling. A successful arb is a sure thing – mathematically, it cannot lose. Therefore, you do not have to exercise the same level of bankroll caution as when sports betting. The risk element is eliminated.