What is arbing in betting/online gaming?
For centuries many bettors have sought to exploit potential loopholes within betting markets. Arbing is one way bettors can exploit online bookmakers for guaranteed profit. Players go about doing this with varying degrees of sophistication.
Sports betting accounted for $83.65 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 10.3% between 2023 and 2030. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the gambling sector has to deal with players on a daily basis who are keen on finding those small edges that will add up considerably over time.
Arbitrage sports betting involves bettors simultaneously placing bets on all likely outcomes of a sporting event at odds that ensure a guaranteed profit, regardless of the event’s outcome. Bettors who use this technique are called “arbers.”
In other words, arbing involves a bettor exploiting any discrepancies between the odds available at a sports event. The margin between such odds is called an “arb.” Bookmakers consider arbitrage betting a considerable risk to their businesses; hence, they actively try to detect and restrict it.
Arbitrage betting significantly differs from traditional betting, involving a mathematical process to guarantee profit. A bettor can either place bets on multiple bookmakers or, these days, the most common option would be to place one bet on a bookmaker and an opposing bet on an exchange site. This is because when using an exchange site, bettors can act as the bookmaker and bet against an outcome to occur. Especially useful in arbing when more than two outcomes are possible.
How to define arbitrage in betting
In sportsbetting, arbitrage refers to the practice of placing multiple bets on different outcomes of a single game in order to guarantee a profit regardless of which way the game goes. Essentially, it’s a way to capitalize on discrepancies in odds offered by different bookmakers. For example, if one bookmaker is offering odds of -110 on one team winning the game, while another bookmaker is offering odds of +105 on the opposing team, an arbitrageur could place bets on both teams and be guaranteed a profit regardless of which side wins. However, arbitrage opportunities are rare and require a significant amount of research and quick action to take advantage of.
Examples for arbitrage betting
Horse racing is particularly notorious for arbing due to continuous price movements. Since these movements can be fairly vast, the value in such arbing opportunities is above average. By placing a bet on a horse to win at a bookmaker and a bet against the horse to win on an exchange account, the bettor can quickly lock in a profit.
Football, Tennis and Basketball are also a popular market to arb in. Based on the abundance of events available for arbing, it makes it hard for sportsbooks to stay updated on all of the prices. That said, the profit opportunities are minimal in this case, as the odds in I.e. a football match are normally shorter.
Is matched betting the same as arbing?
Strictly speaking, matched betting involves arbing. That said, the main difference is that match bettors seek to take advantage of free bets.
While both use mathematical formulas to ensure their selections are risk-free, matched bettors mainly depend on free bets from sportsbooks for their gains, effectively defrauding the bookmaker.
How arbing in betting works
Take, for instance, an imaginary sports event. Based on some error, two sportsbooks have offered the below odds for the event:
- W1 (the odds of Team 1 winning): 4.5
- W2 (the odds of Team 2 winning): 4
- Y (the odds of a draw): 2
Suppose the arber bets €195:
- €45 on W1
- €50 on W2
- €100 on Y
In this case:
Profit if W1 wins: 4.5 x 45 – 195 = 7.5
Profit if W2 wins: 4 x 50 – 195 = 5
Profit in case of a Y outcome: 2 x 100 – 195 = 5
Ultimately, the arber will receive a sure profit for any possible outcome of the match based on the discrepancy in the sportsbook’s odds.
Arbers constantly check the odds of one or multiple sportsbooks and determine the likely outcome via automated and manual solutions. They can easily keep on top of this by using software that scans all major bookmakers for arbing opportunities.
When do arbitrage betting opportunities occur?
Arbitrage betting opportunities usually occur under the following circumstances:
- When sportsbooks fail to update their odds during live events in real-time
- When they differ in opinion
- When they run a promotion or take a specific position
- When an error has occurred
Common arbing strategies
Besides simple arbing, other strategies for arbitrage betting include:
- Cross-market arbing: Such bets are a mix of two or more varying markets
- Bonus hunting arbing: This involves profiting from different bonus offers across various betting platforms
Legal and ethical considerations of arbing betting
While arbitrage betting is not illegal, operators do their best to mitigate it because it harms their businesses. Although bookmakers cannot take back the profits arbers make, they try to cancel bets or limit/ban accounts to discourage such activity.
This means that even proficient, low-lying arbers are at risk. Arbing can result in accounts getting closed if detected.
While it may benefit arbers, arbitrage betting also has its risks. Sportsbooks can cancel bets once they notice discrepancies in their odds, exposing the arber. Moreover, price changes can also leave them exposed. If bettors act quickly enough, the betting process will lock up a guaranteed profit, but if they make a mistake or the odds change before they can place a bet, they could endure a loss.
How to detect arbers as a betting operator
The security departments of betting operators handle arbing detection. They use special algorithms to detect arbers according to the below parameters:
- Frequent withdrawals
- Event choice, usually unlikely or obscure events
- Repeated bets
- Unusual stake amounts (for example, €32.18)
- High stake amounts, usually close to the maximum threshold
Operators can use AML/KYC solutions such as liveness checks to detect arbers effectively. Liveness is a biometry-based solution that authorizes account ownership and helps prevent users from making multiple accounts (see Gnoming/Multi-accounting).
More questions about arbing in betting?
How do bookies detect arbing?
Bookies are experts at detecting arbing, a technique where bettors place bets on all possible outcomes of a game with different bookmakers to guarantee a profit. While arbing can be a lucrative strategy for bettors, bookies have certain measures in place to detect such activity. One way is by closely monitoring bet patterns and any irregularities that may arise. Bookies also compare their odds with other bookmakers to ensure they are not offering substantially better odds for the same bet. In addition, they may blacklist customers who exhibit arbing behavior or limit their bet size. The art of arbing requires caution and skill, as bookies continue to up their game and detect these practices.