What is arbitrage betting and how is it used in gambling?

October 21, 2018

You may have heard it said before that there are no sure-fire bets in gambling. Indeed, responsible gambling is encouraged by all reputable bookmakers and online casino sites precisely because you’re playing with money that you’ll likely lose if your luck’s not in. But there is a tactic utilised by some that can (almost) guarantee a profit. This is commonly known as arbitrage betting.

What is arbitrage betting?

Arbitrage betting is a specific system of betting, also referred to as a trading technique, that theoretically allows a customer to guarantee a profit regardless of what outcome they get. This is achieved by placing multiple bets across all possible outcomes of an event simultaneously. These types of bets may be known by various terms in the industry such as surebets, surewins, miraclebets, or most commonly arbs. Those who use arbs regularly are known as arbers. Usually you will find they are not gambling for fun, as most players do, but for the mathematical process of ensuring profit. Therefore, this is not necessarily a process that will suit everyone nor is it easily adopted.

Common uses of arbitrage betting

Typically arbitrage tactics are used for sports betting in which one of a very limited number of outcomes – win, lose, draw – is assured. Football/soccer and horse racing tend to be the two most popular choices, but it is also used in tennis, basketball and hockey, among others. You don’t actually need to have an interest in the sport; in fact, many arbers would argue a certain bias may interfere with potential profit, and in this case it may be better that you don’t have any prior knowledge going in. Remember, after all, that you aren’t betting primarily for fun when using arbs. This is business.

How arbing works and how to find arbitrage bets

Arb betting becomes possible when different bookmakers disagree on what the outcome of an event may be. This is why arbing is not a simple process, as you cannot typically achieve it by betting with only one bookmaker, whose odds will ensure that betting on all outcomes of a single event would result in a guaranteed loss on your part. Often, the odds will be similar across multiple bookmakers, but sometimes you may find a discrepancy. This tends to be the case especially if two sports teams are quite evenly matched, for example, and there are variations in odds between different bookmakers. Or there may be a slightly bigger discrepancy if bookmakers particularly disagree with each other on their analysis of who the favourite should be.

Furthermore, bookmakers also need to balance their books to ensure they make a profit and protect themselves against net loss, which leads to them raising or lowering their odds accordingly. They may do this at a time when there’s no reason for the rest of the market to change, thus creating a new, previously unforeseen arbitrage betting opportunity. This is a main reason why it pays to constantly monitor movements in the odds when approaching an event – and to be ready to act quickly when it presents itself.

Bear in mind: as the difference in odds is usually small, with the resulting profit equally small, arbers typically need to place larger betting amounts if they want to receive decent profits back. If you’re in it for the long game, you could build your profits over time, though this will require an extraordinary amount of work and patience.

How arbitrage bets apply to betting online

Arbing is in fact so popular today due to the Internet. It isn’t difficult to create multiple online betting accounts with different bookmakers. Unlike physical coupons in betting shops, which typically lock in odds a few days in advance and take at least the same amount of time to incur any changes, online odds are subject to change right up until the start of a sporting event. For bookmakers that offer cash out services, an increasingly common practice, it is even possible to place a bet a couple of days in advance, then take the cash out offer for a small profit if the odds shorten in that time (a slightly risky strategy, as the odds may rise instead). This constantly changing environment makes betting online a potentially lucrative area for attentive arbers who have the patience to check regularly for any subtle changes in odds.


Arbitrage betting is still considered by some to be one of the Internet’s best kept secrets. For some it can become full-time work. However, it’s important to note that it usually isn’t as fun as it sounds. At some point it may start to feel closer to your old school Maths homework than gambling for fun. Bear this in mind if you decide to pursue arbing as your new hobby.