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Arbitrage Betting: Is Risk-Free Sports Betting For Real?

Aaron Gray

by Aaron Gray

Updated Mar 10, 2020 · 3:25 PM PDT

  • Arbitrage betting allows you to guarantee profit by strategically placing sports bets
  • The strategy relies on identifying arbitrage opportunities by line shopping
  • Learn to spot these opportunities and take the chance out of sports betting

If you’ve ever heard of someone refer to “risk-free betting” or “sure betting,” they’re referring to one of the sharpest strategies around: arbitrage betting.

Arbitrage betting takes time, dedication, and practice to execute effectively, but it’s one of the most rewarding practices in sports betting. If done correctly, you’re assured to have a bigger bankroll!

In this article, we’ll stick to talking about two-way markets, like betting on the moneyline, totals, or against the spread. In each of these bets, there are only two possible outcomes. Read on to find out how arbitrage betting is possible, how to spot opportunities, and the best ways to calculate your stake size to maximize profits.

What Is Arbitrage Betting?

Arbitrage betting is all about spotting inefficiencies in the betting marketplace in order to guarantee profits. When bookmakers assign odds and probabilities to specific events, it’s not an exact science. There is a natural variance between sportsbooks because the human element always present and never perfect when odds are created.

Successful arbitrage betting is capitalizing on different odds on the same event at two or more different sportsbooks. Once you successfully recognize discrepancies in odds across different sportsbooks, you can wager on every possible outcome of a game in such a way that guarantees you a profit, no matter what!

Arbitrage betting takes time, dedication, and practice to execute effectively, but it’s one of the most rewarding practices in sports betting. If done correctly, you’re assured to have a bigger bankroll.

Arbitrage betting is, technically, a form of hedging. While hedging requires taking an offsetting position later on (to either guarantee a profit or reduce risk), an arbitrage bet involves bet on all prospective outcomes at the same time.

You’re not just protecting yourself from financial risk: You’re setting yourself up to make a profit no matter what.

How Arbitrage Betting Is Possible

Arbitrage opportunities arise when different sportsbooks assign different odds to the same event. This means that arbitrage betting is impossible without line shopping.

Arbitrage betting opportunities arise in three different situations:

Remember, if sportsbooks make a particularly egregious error (think assigning an outcome +250 odds instead of -250), they reserve the right to void bets on that line. This doesn’t happen that often, but it will occur sporadically. After all, the bookmakers who input the lines are human, too. In the cases where bookmakers rescind their posted odds, arbitrage is no longer possible.

Recognizing Arbitrage Opportunities

Arbitrage opportunities are easy to recognize if you use American odds.

Here are two quick ways to spot one:

  1. When the positive odds are higher than the negative odds
  2. When the implied probability of two outcomes is less than 100%

If the positive American odds (any odds with a “+”) are higher than the negative American odds (any odds with a “-“), there’s an arbitrage opportunity. This could mean one outcome at one sportsbook is listed at +102, and the opposite result is -101. Of course, if one outcome is +102 and the other is +101, an arbitrage opportunity still exists.

Another way to think about it is to convert American odds into implied probability. If you translate odds into implied probability, add the implied probability of both outcomes together, and come out a number less than 100%, there’s an arbitrage opportunity.

For example, if both outcomes were listed at +110, they’d both convert to an implied probability of 47.6%. Added together, the implied probability would add to 95.2%. Because 95.2% is less than 100%, you’d know for certain that there is an arbitrage opportunity.

This might still sound confusing, so let’s use a practical example.

Arbitrage Betting in Action

In this situation, you could place $100 on both teams. If Pittsburgh wins at Sportsbook A, you’re set to make $110, and lose the $100 you bet on the Capitals. If the Capitals win at Sportsbook B, you’ll net $110, while losing the $100 you bet on the Penguins. This will leave you with a guaranteed profit of $10.

Our example is a rare one, as it’s difficult to find a guaranteed 10% profit via arbitrage betting. Usually, profit margins are between 1-5%, meaning that bettors have to wager a lot of their bankroll to secure a sizeable profit.

For a seasoned sharp with a larger bankroll, profits will be much higher if they lay a bigger wager. Betting $5,000 on both sides of the event in our example would lock in a guaranteed $500 profit. That’s nothing to sneeze at!

Calculating Arbitrage Bets: Resources

Identifying arbitrage opportunities and calculating the size of your stakes can be difficult to comprehend. After all, it involves some fairly complex mathematical equations. Thankfully, there are some odds aggregators and arbitrage calculators that we can recommend to determine profit and recognize your best opportunity.

Quickly Compare the Odds

The ability to quickly view and compare the odds at multiple sportsbooks is the key to successfully identifying arbitrage opportunities. There’s simply no substitute for doing your own line shopping.

Sports Betting Dime allows you to quickly view the odds for your favorite sports at a number of sportsbooks on a single page, making it easy to compare the options at a single glance. Just make sure you’re ready to act quickly, as arbitrage opportunities don’t often last.

NFL odds and line movement

MLB odds and line movement

NBA odds and line movement

Arbitrage Calculators

You might have recognized an arbitrage opportunity here and there, but how should you determine wager amounts on each outcome? The math can be tricky, which is why we recommend arbitrage calculators.

Arbworld.net offers a useful and straightforward calculator for bettors who prefer to calculate odds in either decimal or fractional formats.

Get Started Today!

Arbitrage betting can be tricky to execute successfully, so make sure you read our guide on avoiding infringement from your sportsbook before you get started. It’s essential to avoid detection and fly under the radar.

Because your profit margins on arbitrage betting are often so slim, make sure you’re well-versed on how to maintain and manage a healthy bankroll before diving into the world of arbitrage betting.

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