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Sports Arbitrage

It surprised me at first that there are enough arbs to make serious money from, but it happens due to competition amongst books to attract business, by trying to offer the best price.  The difficult bit is finding them. I suppose you could attempt to do it manually, by comparing price lists at different books, but my strong advice is that this will prove to be futile.  The best way is to subscribe to one of the arbitrage services on the Internet.  I use Betbubbles - there is a lot of free advice which you can access on this web-site, by clicking on the banner below, for example an arbitrage tutorial, a spreadsheet, a list of rules employed on tennis retirements by different books. 


I have always found Arbhunters to be reliable, and helpful.  You can specify which books, you have accounts with, and change this list as many times as you like.  You can book holidays with them so your monthly subscription is not wasted if you are away from a computer for a few days.

Another arb delivery service is at Betbrain, this site is quite good for its free information - odds comparison at different books, and a forum which has deteriorated recently, they do have a free arb service, but it's 20 minutes delayed from real time, so is of limited use.  They have a paid service, which I haven't tried, and can't comment on.


Probably well over half of all the arbs are generated in tennis matches.  It's the ideal sport for an arbitrager; massive liquidity, all the books bet on all the ATP and WTA matches, only two possible outcomes, plenty of tournaments, matches at all times of the day and night.  Some weeks there are three or four tournaments, and arbs are delivered at such a rapid rate that at first it can become confusing and difficult to keep up.  Just stick to the match you're working on, and do not be distracted by trying to chase 2 matches simultaneously.  Another one will come along quickly enough.

The ATP and WTA website are the starting point for information on Mens and Ladies tennis respectively.


Most tournaments have their own web-sites which you can access via these links.  Another good site for live scores is Livescore



Football gives the second highest number of arbs with Arbhunters.  Mostly these are Asian handicap bets.  This is slightly complicated, and I would study it carefully before getting involved. 

Asian Handicap is a form of betting which is very popular in Asia (thus the name). "Handicap" means that a team receives a virtual head start, effectively leading the game by differing amount or amounts before it actually kicks off.

If you back a team with the handicap and they manage to win the match (with head start included), then you'll win the bet.

In some cases, a team is given two virtual head starts. If they manage to overcome both of these, then you get a maximum return on your stake. If they overcome only one of these, your profit is either halved or half your stake is returned, depending on the market.

Rather than the three options available on standard match betting:







The Draw

when you bet on an Asian Handicap market, you have two options from which to choose:



Arsenal -1.5


Chelsea +1.5

The above example is the simplest case of Asian Handicap betting on Betfair, ie when a team is given a half number of goals (+0.5, +1.5, +2.5 etc). The team who scores the most with the handicap applied is deemed the winner. For example, if I back Arsenal to beat Chelsea with a handicap of -1.5, the bet is a loser if the following happens:



Chelsea win




Arsenal win by a 1 goal margin

but it's a winner if



Arsenal win the match by 2 or more goals

As mentioned, some Asian handicap markets give teams two virtual head starts (or handicaps in the case of the favourite!). Here, we have a combination of a half goal and a whole goal handicap (-0.5 & -1, +0.5 & +1). These bets are sometimes referred to as quarter goal handicaps:



Real Madrid -0.5 & -1.0


Barcelona +0.5 & +1.0

In this case, the stake is divided between a bet on the half goal and a bet on the whole goal handicap. For example, if I back Real Madrid to beat Barcelona with a handicap of -0.5 & -1.0, then


  • If Real win by 2 goals or more, both parts of my bet win and I collect all winnings

  • If they win by exactly 1 goal, then only half my bet wins and the other half is void

  • If they draw or lose, then naturally both parts of the bet lose

    A similar market to this is when the handicap starts with a full goal amount (-1, 0, 1) rather than a half goal amount. For example:



Liverpool 0 & -0.5


Everton 0 & +0.5

In this case, the stake is divided between a bet on the whole goal handicap and a saver on the half goal handicap. For example, if I back Liverpool to beat Everton with a handicap of 0 & -0.5 (or -1/4 goal), then if:



Liverpool win by 1 goal or more, I win my bet at the odds taken


Liverpool draw, I get half my stake returned


Everton win, I lose my entire stake

These three American sports throw up quite a few arbs.  I personally find it quite difficult to follow them, because I don't know anything about the sports or the teams.  Many of the teams have nick-names which appear in some bookmakers lists (eg Jets, Thunder etc), without the name of the city.  Baseball betting is rather strange in that most books list prices with a named pitcher attached, if he doesn't play the bet is void, so if you get involved in this sort of arb you must make sure that both books are betting with the same named pitcher for both sides, otherwise you will be exposed on one side of the arb.  I once got in a horrible situation when Houston were playing Denver, and the named pitchers all had Spanish names.  It was only after I had placed both my bets that I realised that the named pitchers were not the same, and worse still my bets were not even on the same match - unbeknownst to me the two sides were playing each other twice on the same day - apparently this is not uncommon in Baseball.

All I can advise is that if you know these sports there are some good opportunities, but be careful if you are like me, and don't understand them

A good site for following live scores in all the American sports is at Yahoo Sports




Each book offering tennis betting has rules regarding the situation when a player retires injured before the end of the game.   There are three basic categories:-

1     Bets void unless match played to a conclusion.  All stakes returned on both players

2     Bets void unless the first set is completed.  If first set is completed then the results stands.

3     Bets stand is the first point is played.

Obviously if you are arbing with two different books, this could leave you in a position where one bet is settled (win or lose), and the other bet is voided - which can leave you with a big win (or loss).  Some people advise only arbing if the two books have the same rules.  My own view is that this would unnecessarily restrict the number of arbs available.  There are not that many retirements, and if there is it's just as likely to work in your favour as against.

For what it's worth my current books rules are as follows:-

Group 1 (Full Match) Group 2 (One Set) Group 3 (One Point)
Bet 365 Betfair Bluesquare
Paddypower Sportingbet Expekt
TotalBet Pinnacle (2 sets) Ladbrokes

A full table of all bookmakers tennis rules can be found on the







Sports arbitraging is often described as risk-free.  THIS IS NOT TRUE. 

You can end up losing money on an arb in one of the following ways.


Placing an arb with one bookie, then finding the price has gone when you try to get the other part of the arb on with the second bookie.  The solution to this one is to do the calculations in the spreadsheet, open up one window for each of the bookies, and one for the spreadsheet and set all the bets up until you are one click away from placing it on each site, then almost simultaneously place the bet on each site.  This process won’t work all the time.  The problem is the speed you have to work at.  For the best arbs if you don’t get it placed within a minute or so of getting notified of the arb from your subscription, the price will go.  If you do fall into this trap one way to recover if the match is on Betfair is to re-calculate your stakes for a Betfair arb (using the spreadsheet of course) and if it is offered place the bet in-play on Betfair.  If you do this, and get matched, you effectively turned an arb into a trade.

This speed of operation is a contributor to the next losing mechanism.  You end up backing the wrong thing with one of your bookies.  One way of doing this is to back the same outcome with both books; the other is to bet in the wrong event completely.  Another contributor to this problem is the different layouts and bet placing mechanism on each site.  You need to get really familiar with your chosen bookmakers web site. 

It’s not happened to me, but most, if not all, bookies have a clause in their rules stating that if they make a mistake (they call it a palpable error) in putting up a price then they can cancel the bet.  You are then left exposed at the other end of the arb.  You can actually spot these mistakes most days, and if you do then avoid putting a bet on.  A dead giveaway is an arb % greater than 10%.  Genuine arbs at this level do not really exist.  One of the books will have a mistaken price listed. 

You may fall victim to the different rules that apply for tennis retirements.  You can avoid this by only backing in one match with two bookies/exchanges with the same retirement rules.  My own view is that doing this will deny you some good opportunities; the retirement rules are just as likely to work in your favour as against you.  I read somewhere that 1 in 24 matches features a retirement, my own experience is that there are substantially less retirements, more like 1 in a 100.  Some of them call it a match after one point, some after one set, some after two sets and some only if the whole match is played out to a finish.   Odds and Bets has a table in its free information area showing which bookies have which rules. 

In baseball its quite common for certain books to offer prices with a stipulation that if the named pitcher for both sides doesn’t start then the bet is voided; other books do not mention the pitchers.  Do not arb in Baseball unless the books either both list the same named pitchers, or both do not name pitchers at all.


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