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Sports Arbitrage - Top 8 Pitfalls of Sports Arbitrage

Sports betting arbitrage is a useful way of generating some additional income if you are interested in actively managing a portfolio that will beat the returns of something like the stock market. There are plenty of sites advertising their own arbitrage product and ‘testimonials’ of supreme returns, but in truth, it takes a lot of hard work to generate higher than 10% per year returns from Sports arbitrage, and there are a number of pitfalls to be aware before you start that can help ensure you maximise profits.

Elsewhere on the site, we cover an independent review of the different arbitrage services and products available, however if you are serious about arb trading, we strongly advise you read this section first.

Getting started in sports arbitrage is a steep learning curve (and by learning curve, we basically mean losing money). Obviously nothing can replace real life trading experience, however the top 7 things that will catch you out, and are therefore worth having an understanding before you start trading are:

Genuinely mispriced odds

Beware of arbs >5% - mispriced books due to things like a transposition error will generally NOT be honoured by the bookies. There is a term in the terms & conditions that enables them to withdraw offers due to things like a transposition error therefore (ie if a bookie prices at 7/2 instead of 2/7) could imply a huge arb opportunity, however if they don’t honour that side of the bet, you’re basically just betting on the other side to the arb coming in.

We’ll repeat this many times on this site, but be wary of arbing opportunities above 5%, something might not be right, and most of the arbs you place will be between 1.5% and 3%.


Different betting rules

Beware of different betting rules – Sports such as Tennis, Ice Hockey, and Baseball, all have certain situations that lead to the voiding of bets, however the stage at which bets are voided differs across bookies, therefore placing arbs on these sports with bookies using these rules can leave you exposed.

We cannot stress how important understanding this is in order to become a successful arber. Use our Arbers guide to Bookmakers, which includes the top 100 bookmakers per SBR, and summarises the bookmakers’ betting rules on these sports.


Stake Restrictions - Limited accounts

Beware of getting limited. You will get limited quickly if you open up a Will Hill account, stick £500 on a random tennis match during the day, whether it wins or not. Some sites do not like arbers, and are hot on limiting you. This should not deter you, it is just something you need to more actively and patiently manage. Take your time with arbs, don’t dive into putting all your bankroll on the first arb you see, as 1) you could muck it up, and lose your bankroll straight aways, and 2) as just mentioned, you could get limited by the bookmaker before you’ve even started your arbing career.

Arbing with Exchanges

Beware of Arbs involving exchanges, such as Betfair. Betfair odds are competitive, however, their commission needs to be removed when you’re working out whether an arb is available. It doesn’t mean there won’t be arbs involving Betfair, just make sure you’re deducting the commission.

Stake Restrictions – Knowing the maximum bet

Make sure you understand want the maximum bet is on both sides. There is no point putting £1k on one side of an arb, if you find out that you can only get £50 on the other side when you actually needed £500. Some sites tell you the max bet upfront, others, you need to place a bet first.

Use our Bookies table for Arbers as a resource. This table lists the top 100 bookmakers from SportsBookReview, and summarises whether they tell you the maximum stake before you place the bet, whether you have to search for the maximum stake, or whether they just don’t tell you until you’ve place the bet. As such, it’s a must have resource for Arbers to ensure that you can manage your way around stake restriction issues.

For example, if you know that one side of the arb doesn’t tell you the maximum stake until you have bet, you find out the max bet from the other site, and calculate your arb on that basis. Then you try and place the required stake for the other bookmaker. If it is successful, you already know how much you can place with the first bookmaker. If it is unsuccessful, you have now found out the maximum bet with the second bookmaker, so you can update your Arb calculator accordingly to work out how much you need to place with the first bookmaker.


Bad Arb sites/Bad arbs

There are various sites out there that offer arbs, however some of them are frankly rubbish, giving you arbs that aren’t even arbs, and mismatching rules etc. In our experience, the following arb sites/subscriptions are: Arbets, Aribrtragepro. Besides not getting the best arbs if you’re using a poor arb finder, if you’re paying per arb or a time sensitive fee, this will eat into your bankroll.

In general, be very wary of arbs greater than 5%. If someone is advertising an arb of 20%, it is very unlikely to be in date, or to be honoured by the betting companies. As we’ve already mentioned, bookmakers will void bets if they have made a transposition error, so think before you bet.

Also, I remember once being ‘offered’ an arb returning 13% relating to Jenson Button 1st position finishes. The 2 sides of the arb were:

  1. Bet on him finishing 1st above 6 times
  2. Bet on him finishing 1st less than 6 times.

That’s not an arb! Because if he finished the season with 6 first place finishes, they both lose!

Most of the arbs you get on will be around 1.5 to 3%. So we cannot reiterate enough, think about it first. And if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


Treasury management

This is probably the most misunderstood area of arbing, and can be broken into a few different areas:

  • Bankroll - You will need a bankroll to start with, but firstly, if you’re looking to arb full time, you need to understand that a lot of your money will be tied up. You need to have a bankroll is separate from your funds required for living. The minute you start mixing these 2 up, it becomes very likely that you’ll find yourself in a liquidity crisis, and start compromising your arb profits. You also need to think about the length of the arbs you’re putting on. If you’re offered a 5% arb but the market doesn’t close for a year, then arguably you may as well go and put your money in a high interest savings account! The whole attraction to arbing is not that you can make 2% return on an investment, clearly that doesn’t make anyone a millionaire. It’s the fact that you can make these sorts of returns quickly, and relatively risk free. Then, so long as you are patient, you can start compounding your returns.
  • Moving money between bookies – Some bookies do not let you withdraw money constantly throughout the year, they may for example charge a fee on withdrawals after the first one each month. However you need the capital in the relevant bookies to take advantage of arbs. There are ways to indirectly withdraw money in these situations, such as being on the losing side of an arb in that account (therefore your money effectively moves to another bookie).

Also, another giveaway to bookies that you’re an arber is constantly taking your winnings out of the account, and if you’re an arber, you do not want to get limited by too many bookies.


Odds changing/expiring

A very common problem faced by arbers. If one bookmaker is offering better odds than everyone else for a specific outcome of a specific market (for example Real Madrid to win), then punters will be more likely to bet on that specific outcome with that bookmaker. The bookmaker will eventually adjust their odds accordingly because that is how bookmaking works, they are essentially doing their own arbitrage, by making a market that means the win regardless of the outcome.

This means, that when you are arbing, after making sure that the odds being provided represent an arb, you need to act quickly. This doesn’t mean rush too much, as this is where mistakes can be made, but just don’t dilly dally. If the arb comes and goes in a flash, move on, there will always be more arbs!

The key things to do to try and limit the problems faced by odds changing/expiring are:

  • Put the volatile side of the bet on first. How will you know which side this is? If there is a Tennis match between Murray and Nadal, and pretty much all bookmakers are offering the same price on Muarry, but Nadal’s price has some differences across bookmakers – then Nadal’s price is the volatile one. Beware on this example though that you are arbing with Tennis bookmakers using the same betting rules, as otherwise you’ll be exposed to different retiring rules. Read more in our Arbers guide to Bookmakers.
  • If odds expire – some arb services provide details of the prices of other bookmakers, so you may be lucky enough to put the bet on with another bookmaker.
  • If all else fails, arb out at a loss. Pinnacle Sports offers runs such a tight book, that you could easily take a hit of <1%. If all else fails, use the exchanges such as Betfair and BEDAQ. Read more about our top rated Sports bookmakers in our Best of the Best Betting Company review.

You could leave the bet exposed, particularly if you think you are the side of the bet that has been mispriced in your favour. But that is gambling, which is not what arbing is about.


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