What is Arbing?
An arb, or an arbitrage, is taking advantage of a difference in odds between bookmakers to secure a profit whatever the result of a given event. Stakes often have to be very high to make worthwhile returns from arbing as the standard return on investment from one event will often be around the 2% mark although on certain events it is often possible to gain around a 5% profit.
Odds comparison tools, such as ValueChecker, have made arbing easier over the years although they have never encouraged arbing. The primary use of odds comparison is simply to choose which bookie is the best for a given bet.
What Events Are Best For Arbing?
The easiest events in which to arb are usually those with just two outcomes. The calculations about how much to stake on each outcome are often easier to make whilst placing the bets at the required odds is usually easier as fewer bookies are involved and fewer bets are placed.
Tennis matches are a key opportunity for arbers whilst other betting events with two outcomes include darts matches and snooker matches.
A Typical Arb
In a particular event with only two outcomes Bookmaker 1 may offer odds of 1.25 on Outcome A and odds of 3.9 on Outcome B. Bookmaker 2 then may price Outcome A up at 1.43 and Outcome B up at 2.85.
The arb here is in backing Outcome A at Bookmaker 2 and backing Outcome B at Bookmaker 1. In order to decide what stake to place on the bigger priced selection you just have to multiply your stake on the shorter priced selection by the sum of the shorter odds divided by the bigger odds, so in this case if you wanted to place £200 on the Outcome A:
£200 x (1.43/3.9) = Stake for Outcome B which would be £73.33
If Outcome A wins at 1.43 your return for a £200 stake would be £286, if Outcome B wins your return for a £73.33 stake would be £285.99. Your total stake for this arb would have been £273.33 meaning you'll make a profit of £12.67 whatever happens. That might not seem a great profit for such a big outlay but it represents a 4.6% rate of interest for what should be a short term bet that can't lose.
Other Types Of Arbing
Arbs can often be difficult to find so sometimes an event that doesn’t have odds big enough to arb can be turned into an arb by taking advantage of a bookmaker offer, bonus or free bet. You can find out about some of the offers bookmakers offer on major events here and sometimes they can be included in returns to make an arb. The opportunities for this would be when the best odds at different bookies would return a couple of percent loss if trying to arb, but by adding on a bonus that would be included in returns it pushes the return into a couple of percent profit. Before attempting this kind of arb it should be made clear if the bonus would be added to your account as winnings or as a free bet. If it is the latter then the arb is certainly less appealing.
Can I Get In Trouble For Arbing?
There is nothing wrong with arbing but the bookmakers do frown upon it and as a result you may find your betting accounts are closed or heavily restricted without warning.
Other Risks Of Arbing
Chances are you are not the only person that has spotted an arb so you have to move quick. If several other punters have already backed one of the outcomes with the preferred bookmaker then you might find the odds have changed before you can place your bet. If you haven’t started your arb that just means a lost opportunity, if you have already backed one side of the arb then you are left in limbo.
Perhaps the reason that an arb was available was because of a palpable error by the bookmaker. A palpable error basically means odds were offered by mistake and under bookmaker terms and conditions they can then void that bet. That’s fine if you have only backed one side of the bet but if you have backed both sides of the bet you are left with a bet on the other outcome and odds not big enough on the voided selection to make an arb.
We all make mistakes and it is possible that you could make errors when working out the odds or your stake in an arb. Always double check your numbers and if possible get someone else to check them but of course that eats into the time that the odds are going to be available and you run the risk of the odds changing.