Arbitrage is an advanced sports betting strategy that comes from the financial world. This strategy involves multiple wagers on the same game in order to guarantee a profit. An opportunity to arbitrage for a game is more about making money than betting and rooting on a particular team.
To be clear, arbitrage is a sports betting strategy that guarantees a profit. This isn’t a get rich quick scheme and isn’t illegal. It takes effort to find an arbitrage opportunity. This kind of gambling isn’t for everyone, but all sports bettors could use this tool as part of their wagering plans.
This might sound too good to be true but it isn’t. The most difficult part about arbitrage is actually finding the opportunity.
What is arbitrage?
In the financial world, arbitrage is considered “the simultaneous purchase and sale of an asset to profit from an imbalance in the price. It is a trade that profits by exploiting the price differences of identical or similar financial instruments on different markets or in different forms.”
Arbitrage is similar for sports bettors. This betting strategy involves placing a wager on all possible outcomes of an individual game or event so that that there’s a guaranteed profit regardless of the winner. The name might sound complicated but the idea of arbitrage is actually quite simple.
How to arbitrage in sports betting
The goal of arbitrage betting is to find inefficiencies in the sports betting market in order to guarantee a profit. Sportsbooks often set odds so that they have even (or close to even) money wagered on both sides. There are times when sportsbooks have different odds from one another and this results in an opportunity to arbitrage a game.
Arbitrage betting is done by placing multiple wagers on different outcomes of a single sports event. One of the wagers will win while the other wager will lose. If done correctly, the result will be a small win for the bettor regardless of which side wins.
Arbitrage math and results
An example should help explain how to arbitrage a game.
New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros
- Sportsbook 1 odds: Yankees +110
- Sportsbook 2 odds: Astros +110
In this example, a bettor will wager $100 on each team. The total amount of wagers for this game will be $200. Regardless of which team wins the game, the bettor will be paid $110 for a winning wager plus the original $100 for a total of $210.
Altogether there was $200 wagered on this baseball game. There is a guaranteed return of $210 no matter who wins the game. The total profit of this investment was $10. This is a guaranteed 5% return; that’s solid for a short-term investment.
The return will remain the same if a bettor can risk more than $200. Grinding out small wins over time can help a bettor grow their bankroll. In the example above, the rate of return will be 5% no matter how much money is wagered.
If the bettor can find a larger moneyline spread, they will profit greater. For example, if there is a moneyline available for +120 on both sides of the game above, the profit for the bettor will be $20 for the same $200 wager. That’s a 10% return on the investment. Again, not too shabby for having money in play for three to five hours of a baseball game.
An arbitrage opportunity can be useful for any sized bankroll. A larger bettor might be able to risk $2,000 on the same game. The 5% return, in this case, would give the bettor a profit of $100 while the 10% return would return $200.
Having a large bankroll helps grow profits quicker but isn’t necessary. Anyone can use arbitrage to supplement their sports betting bankroll.
Lastly, the odds don’t have to be the same for both wagers. The example above is just keeping the math simple.
Line shopping is important for all sports bettors but especially when looking for an arbitrage opportunity. Finding the best odds for a game will take place at multiple sportsbooks. Unfortunately arbitraging a game isn’t a get rich quick scheme. Finding the right odds takes time and effort. Having said that, this extra work also helps a bettor become profitable.
Even if this isn’t a particularly fun strategy, the underlying approach can be helpful for all sports bettors. Line shopping is one way to be a more profitable sports bettor – and it isn’t difficult in most states that have multiple legal sportsbooks.
The process of line shopping isn’t difficult but it does take a time switching between apps and websites to compare the information. Visiting different sportsbooks to find the best lines and odds will help a bettor in multiple ways.
An arbitrage opportunity will always be profitable. Finding the best moneyline for an event will obviously pay more money. Finding the best point spread for a game increases the chance that a team will cover and the bettor will win the wager.
There’s always an upside to placing bets with the best odds available.
Arbitrage isn’t for everyone
Sports betting arbitrage is an advanced strategy and it’s not for everyone. All sports bettors want to win but they have different motivations. Recreational sports bettors often seek to have some action on the game they’re watching or the team they’re rooting for.
Sure all bettors want to win but sometimes the goal is to have fun watching the game and to win money based on predicting the outcome correctly.
Professional sports bettors are strictly gambling to make a profit. These bettors appreciate being able to find arbitrage opportunities. Pro sports bettors are always looking for ways to make money when wagering on sports and are typically the type of bettor most open to arbitrage.
There’s a large number of sports bettors that fall in between these two extremes. These bettors will put in the work to find the best information and odds for games they’d like to wager. Many will do the extra work to find an arbitrage situation because generating a profit is the most fun part of gambling. However, arbitrage betting takes time and even an advanced recreational bettor may not have time to always seek out opportunities.
There are pros and cons to all kinds of sports wagers. Arbitrage is a great opportunity to generate small guaranteed profits on a game. This is another great tool available to sports bettors.