Sports Arbitrage Betting

Written by: Joseph Falchetti, Editor-in-Chief, Pro Sports Bettor and Casino Expert
Last updated:
6 minute read

Arbitrage betting has its roots in economics. Arbing is the practice of taking advantage of a price difference between different markets to lock in a profit. It is the only way bettors can assure themselves a profit, regardless of the outcome of the event. There’s no handicapping to be had here, just line shopping and math.

Borrowing from Wall Street traders that seek out ideal opportunities, arbitrage bettors look for model wagers, ones that have zero risk and a guaranteed profit. Instead of looking for differences in financial markets, the focus is on sports betting markets. Arbitrage betting is also sometimes called ‘surebets’, ‘scalps’ or for short, ‘arbs’.

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Sports Arbitrage Betting vs Traditional Sports Betting

Finding the best price in betting markets is the goal when we’re placing a typical bet. Line shopping is clearly a vital part to arbitrage betting, but instead of finding the best price, we’re looking for substantial differences in betting markets. That’s the key part of this whole strategy. The disparity in pricing is going to be the best possible way for us to find arbitrage opportunities. The more significant difference in pricing means a bigger arb, and the bigger the arb, the larger the guaranteed profit.

However, although arbing can be highly profitable, it’s vital that bettors are aware of all of the outcomes of an event before they begin placing their bets. Most American markets have only two possible outcomes due to overtime being a constant in every sport. NFL games can end in a tie, but this should only be a concern if you’re arbing a moneyline wager.

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, but comes with three possible outcomes, unless bettors are wagering betting an Asian handicap market. Any market that you’re not familiar with should be checked for all possible outcomes, as this can a mistake here can be deadly and cost you both sides of your bet.

Example Of Arbitrage Betting In Sports

Here’s an example of arbitrage, using MLB betting odds from two different sportsbooks. These odds are found from the overall betting market, where there are lots of different opinions on games and differences in MLB line movements. In this example, our overall stake on the wager will be $1,000. The two selections are playing against each other, the easiest way we can assure a guaranteed profit when it comes to MLB arbitrage.

MLB Baseball: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals
Wager 1Wager 2
Bet on Pittsburgh Pirates
Odds: +130
Bet On St. Louis Cardinals
Odds: -105

Using these odds, we can find room for profit. Our wager on the Pirates would be as follows:

  • A $460.00 stake +130 provides us with a potential profit of $598.00. A winning bet in total returns $1,058.

Our bet on the Cardinals:

  • A $540.00 stake at -105 provides us a potential profit of $515.29. A winning in total returns $1,055.29.

We can get down to the numbers and figure the exact amount down to the cents we need to bet to have an absolutely equal outcome on each side, but as you can see from the above calculations – we are profiting about 5.5% regardless of the outcome.

Sports Arbitrage Margins

The above example is likely in line with the percentage that most can expect on arbitrage opportunities. The sports betting market changes rather quickly and most bookmakers follow the industry leaders on moves, so there’s a limited window to act and usually not much of a difference in pricing in most areas.

Some professional sports bettors solely go after arbitrage opportunities and others that look for spots to arb as part of their wagering repertoire. Most arbs usually fall into the 2-5% range. There may be some opportunities for larger arbs (10-15%), but these are rarer. 2-5% may not seem like a lot to make on each wager, but keep in mind, if you’re a professional level bettor – you’re going to get a lot more money down on each side than an amateur. If our bankroll above were $10,000, we would be able to arb for an easy $550 or so, compared to $55 in profits.

An arbitrage bettor with a six figure bankroll can make quite a bit of money if he is scouring the internet for opportunities. If you have the bankroll and the access to online sportsbooks around the world, the potential for significant profits is very real.

Sports Arbitrage Betting Market

In today’s age, the worldwide betting market is always changing. Smaller sportsbooks will generally follow line moves from the largest bookmakers, but the big boys will disagree from time to time. There is also going to be delays when the market moves between sportsbooks.

Steam moves are an excellent opportunity for bettors to look for arbitrage windows. However, the window for betting these is commonly quite short. The betting market adjusts rapidly, and most sportsbooks will have their lines modified to be in line with major markets within a matter of minutes, perhaps seconds. Sportsbooks that are slow to move their odds are known to have “stale” lines. These sites are ideal for arbs because their markets will be slower to move than more efficient sportsbooks.

Do Sportsbooks Mind Arbitrage Players

Generally speaking, it’s not something that sportsbook managers like to see. The reason for this is that when you bet arbs, you’re looking for at least one off market price for one of the legs of your bet. The issue here is that bookmakers don’t like players “chasing steam”, which will often be the case whenever there’s a potential arbitrage. Arbing, along with steam betting, may get your account banned or limited eventually.

Profitability In Arb Sports Betting

There are many professional sports bettors that arb for the majority of their income. However, most of these bettors have access to international bookmakers, which gives them a much larger odds selection than those living in the US. Their ability to move money around is also another asset that those betting from the U.S. don’t typically have available. Without e-wallets, it’s considerably tougher to move money around to different sportsbooks quickly. Although, it’s becoming easier in US markets thanks to improvements in payments within the past few years and the introduction of Bitcoin.

There are a few arbitrage software programs available, most notably and As you will see, these are exclusively marketed towards European or UK markets. The number of reliable betting sites in US markets is considerably smaller than those in the liberalized sports betting markets of Europe. Sports betting sites in Europe are heavily regulated, and players have legal recourse to get their funds back if there is a dispute. This cannot be said for bettors wagering at offshore sites from the US.

Arb And Trustworthiness

Trustworthiness in sportsbooks is vital when arbing. Bettors need to be sure that both sides of an arbitrage will be honored, and they can collect their winnings. Using a rogue or untrustworthy sportsbook when arbing can be devastating to your bankroll if they go broke or simply won’t pay.

Another important note for those who are looking to arb regularly is not to jump on a line that is an obvious mistake. In the vast majority of cases, these will be caught by managers (particularly in major markets) and cancelled. If a leg of your arb is cancelled, that’s obviously not going to be a +EV scenario. In general, it’s vital to avoid sportsbooks that have a history of canceling wagers retroactively. This goes back to reputation.

Big Money In Sports Bet Arbitrage

High Amounts Of Money Is Bet Through Arbitrage

To make big money arbing, bettors will need a rather large bankroll. However, it can be done on a smaller scale and without a five or six figure bankroll. Heck, our above example could be done in a matter of minutes and with just a $1,000 bankroll, and we can lock in $50 in profit. Things get a bit more difficult, particularly in US online betting markets when we look to scale. Bettors may run into problems when arbing for larger amounts of money as their risk for getting banned or having limits reduced becomes higher.

Major markets will offer the most value for arbs, due to their high betting limits, but it’s certainly possible to find arbitrage opportunities in futures and proposition markets as well. The issue here is that the betting limits for these markets are much smaller than sides and totals. However, if you can get enough money down across a number of sites, it’s certainly possible. The variation in these smaller markets is excellent for arbitrage betting.

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About the Author

Joseph Falchetti

Joseph Falchetti

Editor-in-Chief, Pro Sports Bettor and Casino Expert

Joe is the author of the majority of sports betting pages on SBS and he serves as a gambling consultant to our content team. He's been mentioned on as a gaming analyst, and his articles have been linked by larger publications, such as the New York Times.

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