What is ‘arbing’ in matched betting?

Arbing is a word used in the betting community which causes some trepidation. Once used as a guaranteed money spinner, these days, arbing is a bit of a grey area. But in the right situation, it can still be a profitable pursuit.

We’re going to clear some of the mystery around matched betting arbing, and tell you how you can use it profitably.

What is arbing?

Arbing is short for arbitrage. Arbitrage bets are also known as miraclebets, surebets or sports arbitraging. It’s an event on which the back odds are significantly higher than the odds available at the exchange.

Arbing isn’t a term solely used for betting and you can find arbitrage opportunities in many areas of life. But it’s the process of taking advantage of incorrect pricing to guarantee a profit by trading elsewhere.

You can create an arbitrage during a retail store sale. Let’s say there’s a shiny new TV for sale at £300, but you look on eBay, and it’s selling for £500.

If you buy that TV from the retail store and then sell it on eBay, you’ve created an arb and made a £200 profit.

So how does that apply to betting?

As you’re probably aware, there are hundreds of bookmakers and tens of thousands of markets. Ensuring that these prices are correct is a monumental task for sports betting operators. There are different types of arbing, including bookie-to-bookie arbing and back/lay arbing. Matched betting and arbitrage betting are similar. In fact, because of its similarity with matched betting, we’re going to look most closely at back/lay arbing.

As you know, matched betting means taking advantage of promotions offered by bookmakers. In order to extract the maximum possible value from this offer, bettors attempt to incur the lowest possible loss on their qualifying bet.

Arbs look tempting because instead of incurring a small qualifying loss, they will actually make the bettor money.

Let’s say there’s some breaking news before a big match: Tottenham are playing in the FA Cup final and their star man, Harry Kane, eats some dodgy lasagne. News breaks that is he going to miss the match. Tottenham’s chances of winning the match decrease significantly, so the odds on their opposition winning shorten.

Except…William Hill’s traders were out at lunch when the news broke. So, while every betting company has changed the price of the opposition (Manchester United) from 3.0 to 2.2, William Hill are still offering 3.0.

By placing a bet at William Hill at 3.0, you can then lay that bet on a betting exchange for a guaranteed profit.

How does an arb work?

Following on with the same situation as above, we’ll show you an example of when an arb opportunity may present itself. We’ll also show you how to take advantage.

Again, the William Hill trader’s (we’ve got nothing against William Hill traders, promise) were out to lunch when news breaks that Sadio Mane is unavailable for Liverpool. Sadio Mane is their star player and Liverpool win less frequently without him. So naturally, the odds of the match change.

But William Hill are still offering the original odds that they set under the assumption that Mane would play.

Meanwhile, the price has changed on the Betfair betting exchange. The Liverpool price has increased, while the Manchester United price has got shorter.

This creates an arbing opportunity. You can back Manchester United at 3.8 on William Hill and lay them at 2.88 on Betfair. You just need to calculate the correct amounts to ensure you end up in profit.

The first bet is to back Manchester United for £100 at William Hill to give a profit of £280 if United win.

Then, you would lay Manchester United on Betfair for £134.28 to give a loss of £252.45 if United win.

Additionally, if United lose, you’d make £127.57 on Betfair, but lose the £100 stake on William Hill.

So either way:

  • If Manchester United win, you make £27.55. This is the £280 William Hill profit minus £252.45 Betfair loss.
  • If Manchester United lose, you make £27.57. This is the £127.57 Betfair profit (commission of 5% deducted) minus £100 William Hill stake.

The formula for calculating how much you must lay your arb selection for is as follows:

Stake x Odds / (Lay Odds - Commission) = Lay stake

So in this example that is 100 x 3.8 / (2.88 – 0.05) = 134.28

Is arbing legal?

Yes, arbing is legal. But do bookies like you doing it? No. It loses them money, and just like if you were a consistent winner, it could see your account banned.

But the right question to ask is: is arbing wrong? Well, let’s take a look…

The online bookmaker industry is stacked in the bookmakers favour. So it’s only right that when we can, we turn the odds in our favour. Matched betting and arbitrage betting are ways of doing this.

But you must be warned, arbing can result in your accounts being closed. It’s for this reason, that you should only look to arb on accounts that you don’t mind losing. This is because bookmakers eventually find out which of their markets there was an arb opportunity with thanks to sophisticated software. Bet on too many of these markets, and you may as well walk into their offices with a big flag that states “HELLO, I’M AN ARBER!”

We’ll share some handy tips about how you can avoid detection at the end of this article.

What events can I arb in?

Theoretically, you can back/lay or matched bet arb on any event in which there is a price difference. But, doing it on obscure markets is going to make you stand out like a sore thumb.

Horse Racing is notorious for arbing opportunities because of the constant price movements. And because these movements can be quite vast, the value in these arbing opportunities is especially good.

Football is another of the most popular markets to arb in. Due to the sheer volume of events available, it makes it difficult for bookmakers to keep on top of all of the prices. However, the opportunities for profit are usually minimal, as odds in a Football match are typically shorter.

What arbing software exists?

OddsMonkey is primarily a matched betting site. But there are lots of parallels between matched betting and arbitrage betting.

Our key tool, OddsMatcher, scans bookmaker and exchange websites looking for odds which are close in value between a bookmaker and betting exchange. Matched betting arbs can be found all the time.

The nature of this tool means that it also picks out arbing opportunities. As you can see in the above graphic, the horse ‘Vegas Boy’ is available to back at 7.0 with numerous bookmakers, but also available to lay on the Smarkets exchange for 6.0.

3 tips for successful arbing

As we mentioned earlier, bookmakers aren’t fans of people that arb. Your account could be closed if you’re detected.

So you need to stay under the radar as well as you possibly can. Here we share our top 3 tips on how to avoid detection:

1 Try to appear as an everyday customer

Every bookmaker keeps a profile on their customers. It differs from bookie to bookie, but they have complex algorithms that grade their customers based on the type of bets the place, how much money they win/lose, etc.

Bookies want customers that place certain types of bets and are unprofitable. If you open an account and start taking prices which aren’t in line with the industry prices, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.

So ideally, you want to do lots of mug betting. Bet on accumulators, bet on your favourite team, bet on short priced favourites and the big matches. Give the impression you’re the type of customer that the bookmaker wants.

You can lay these bets off on a betting exchange for a small loss. But when an arb arrives, you’ll make your money back, and more.

2 Sharbing – shop arbing

One way to avoid detection is to place arbs over the counter with your local retail bookmaker.

You can find great prices online and bookmakers may have the same prices in their retail shops. Place the bet over the counter and then place the lay via your mobile once you’ve walked out of the shop.

Stay away from using loyalty cards or cash cards that are linked to online accounts and the bookmakers will have no way of identifying you.

3 Be conservative with the size of your bets

We totally get it. A juicy opportunity comes around for a great arb and the temptation is to place a huge bet and make lots of money.

But the problem with this is once again is that you’re just making yourself stand out. Arbing is a long term game and about making long term profits. That’s why making small losses via your mug bets is acceptable.

Consider the size of your bets in relation to the event you’re betting on, too. For example, arbing a Champions League game and putting on a large bet is fine because it will be a popular market.

But if you place a large bet on the Mongolian National Premier, and yours is one of 3 bets they’ve taken, the others being less than £5… well, it doesn’t take Inspector Morse to figure out that you’re up to something!