What Is Arbitrage Betting And How Do You Do It?

What Is Arbitrage Betting And How Do You Do It?

Jack Andrews
The Process
February 28, 2024


What if you could bet on sports without risking anything? Some people do just that. They make money betting both sides of a game. In this video we’ll explore how arbitrage betting works. I’ll show you where to look for these opportunities and how to avoid the common mistakes bettors make doing this. 

Hi, I’m Jack from Unabated. I’ve made a living betting for over 20 years. Sports betting is not all about picks, it’s also about process. Let’s explore one of the ways some bettors find an edge in sports betting markets. 


Arbitrage Betting Can Guarantee Small Wins

Let’s say you check your sportsbook app and see the line on Syracuse is -130. Then you check another sportsbook app and see the line on Purdue is +140. You could bet $130 to win $100 on Syracuse and $96 to win $134 on Purdue and lock in a guaranteed profit. Congratulations, that’s arbitrage.

And yes, that actually happens.

In fact it happens every day in sports betting. Sometimes not on major markets but there are bettors who make a living picking up the free money that’s out there using this technique. Some people call it arbitrage, others call it matched betting, but the concept is the same.

Find situations where playing both sides of a wager produces a positive expected result. In the truest form, you’d have no risk and a guaranteed profit. However, it can also involve taking a position on a wager, and then laying off some of the risk either pregame or in-game. It can also involve betting into a situation where you might win both bets. This is called a middle, and I’ll show you how that works shortly. 


Access to Multiple Sportsbooks Is Key

The key to arbitrage or matched betting is having a variety of sportsbooks to compare lines. Sports betting is a marketplace with each sportsbook offering their prices on the games. Most of the time there is little disagreement between sportsbooks on what a line should be. However, sometimes they do disagree, and that’s where you can possibly find opportunity.

So how do you find these situations? First, you’re going to need to see the lines at multiple sportsbooks at once. That’s not easy to do manually so you’ll need an odds screen to help. Even then there are a lot of lines on the screen and numbers move quickly. It helps to have a tool to spot these for you. At Unabated, we provide tools to spot situations like these. For instance, our Hold column lights up green when a market has a negative hold.

The hold is how much the sportsbooks theoretically profit on a game line. When it goes negative and lights up green, that’s how much a player betting both sides at the best available price would profit. This is available for free on Unabated.com. 


Finding the Middle

Finding two opposing bets that create a guaranteed profit is not the only way to practice arbitrage. You can also find opportunities like this college football matchup between Tennessee and Florida where you could bet over 56.5 on the game total at one sportsbook and under 58.5 at another sportsbook. You win both bets if the game total lands on 57 or 58 points scored. The extra money you pay in vig on those bets is offset by the probability of the game landing on those numbers. 

Another way to approach winning this way is to take a buy low, sell high approach. The sports betting market moves on information and sharp wagers being placed into it. In a recent game between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles, you could have bet on the Vikings at +7.5 early in the week and then a few days later as injury information came out about the Eagles, the line dropped all the way to 5.5. You could effectively sell your Vikings position by betting on the Eagles at -5.5. You would now have Eagles -5.5 and Vikings +7.5. If the Eagles win by 6 or 7, you’d win both bets. Otherwise you’d lose one of the two bets. In this case, the Eagles won that game by 6 points, which made both bets a winner.

Predicting which way the line will move is an advanced skill so I’m not saying this is easily done, but there are those who make a living betting this way. The key in any of these arbitrage approaches is to play the numbers not the teams. I’ve said it before, becoming a sharp sports bettor is less about fandom and more about being an unemotional savvy investor in sports betting markets.


How Do You Find Arb Opportunities?

Ok, so you decide you want to add arbitrage to your arsenal of sharp betting techniques. But you’re still going to need some pointers on where to find these gold nuggets of value. 

First, your ability to profit is directly tied to how many sportsbook accounts you have. Trying to find arbitrage opportunities across just a small handful of books is not worth the effort. Utilize as many sportsbooks as you have access to. Second, you’re less likely to find disagreements in pricing between sportsbooks in major leagues. They can exist, but you’ll do better shopping in more minor sports or in some of the derivative markets within a sport. Alternate lines and alternate totals can be fertile grounds for matched betting. Prop markets are also a viable option. 


The Downsides of Arbitrage

However, arbitrage or matched betting also comes with some risks that don’t get mentioned enough. The first I like to call the Arbitrage Mirage. Sometimes bettors get so lured in by the concept of winning money with very little risk that they fail to recognize they’re betting into one good situation and one bad situation.

In that very first example I gave with Syracuse and Purdue, the lines were -130 on Syracuse and +140 on Purdue. That +140 on Purdue was better than anything else out there on the market. However, -130 on Syracuse was available at a sharp, market-making book. There’s a very good chance the value on that bet is almost entirely on that good number on Purdue.

You have one good positive expectation bet on Purdue +140 and one poor negative expectation bet on Syracuse -130. Together they have a guaranteed profit of about 2 percent of whatever you wager. However, betting just Purdue alone would produce the better long term profit. If you’re going to use tools to help identify arbitrage situations, it is far better to use tools that list the profitability of both bets. At Unabated, you can see these individual edges with a premium subscription.

Another issue with this type of betting is you’ll find a pattern emerges. You tend to win at certain sportsbooks and lose at other sportsbooks. Moreover, the books you win at tend to be the softer sportsbooks. While the sportsbooks you lose at, tend to be the sharper books. 

Here’s the problem, you’re winning at sportsbooks that tend to have a low tolerance for winners. As I explained in an earlier video, softer sportsbooks don’t tolerate winners. You can find yourself limited on how much you can bet. With matched betting, your net profit isn’t nearly what the softer sportsbook thinks it is. You’ve given away a large portion of those winnings laying off risk to a sharper sportsbook. 

This is definitely a risk if you’re focusing a lot of your matched betting in markets that are less mainstream. Your wagers are going to stick out more at that softer sportsbook. If you’re going to get limited, you might as well get your pound of flesh in doing so. 

One other caveat to the concept of arbitrage betting, lines move fast. There’s no worse feeling than lining up a big matched bet, submitting one side, and then having the line move at the other sportsbook before the bet can be accepted. Be sure you are able to get bets down quickly and efficiently if you’re going to pursue this.

On the positive side, betting like this is great for building a bankroll. When you’re just starting out at sports betting nothing is more devastating than a losing streak. Betting into arbitrage situations allows for slow but steady growth of a bankroll. Combining the pursuit of promotions and bonuses with arbitrage betting can give you a leg up in trying to get your bankroll to a better place.

I’ve known many bettors who started out exactly this way. They take advantage of every promotion they can find where a sportsbook offers boosted odds. Then they lay off the risk elsewhere to guarantee a profit. Before long, those 2-3 percent guaranteed profits add up. They are able to graduate from this into other approaches to winning at sports betting.

Arbitrage or matched betting is just one of the approaches that sharp bettors use to get the edge over the sportsbooks. Check out another one in this video right here. I’ll see you next time.

As I’ve said before, there are many different ways to get the edge at sports betting. We talked about Originators, Top-Down Bettors, and now Arbitrage Bettors, or Matched Betting. Has one of these methods appealed to you the most? There’s still plenty more to explore in discovering how sports betting really works. Check out this video to continue your journey. I’ll see you next time. 

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