Arbitrage Definition in Sports Betting

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Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images. Pictured: Dylan Carlson and Wilson Contreras

Table of Contents

  1. Arbitrage Definition
  2. Arb Examples
  3. Is Arbitrage a Viable Strategy for Me?

Arbitrage Definition

An arbitrage in sports betting is when a bettor makes multiple bets on the same event to guarantee a profit no matter the result. It’s usually a result of different sportsbooks offering different odds on the same event.

Arbitrage is a form of hedging, but the true definition requires bettors to place their arbitrage bets at the same time.

Here are three common examples of arbitrage.

Arbitrage Examples

1. Two books are offering different prices on a game at the same time, so you bet both to guarantee a profit or at least break-even.

Let’s say you bet $100 on the Cubs moneyline at +110 against the Cardinals at FanDuel. You’d profit $110 with a Chicago win.

At the same time, BetMGM lists the Cubs at -105 and the Cardinals -105.

You can bet $105 on the Cardinals to win $100, and guarantee either a break-even or $5 profit.

These arbitrage opportunities are more often available to bettors wagering on opening lines, and they disappear quickly.

You can use our Markets Terminal at Labs Insiders to automatically find games at legal books with arbitrage opportunities.

In this example from August 2020, you can guarantee 8 cents of profit for every dollar risked since you’re getting +128 on the Rays and -120 on the Orioles.

 

2. You shop around and find two books that have different prices on the same prop.

The example above doesn’t happen in big markets like NFL or MLB games often anymore since books largely copy each other’s lines. But it still does on props, because there’s no free, centralized place for books to compare prop odds.

FanDuel listed Jeffrey Okudah’s draft position at over/under 4.5 a few weeks before the NFL Draft, with the over priced at +115.

Another book also hung 4.5, but with the under at +110.

Bet $100 on both, and you were a guaranteed either $10 or $15 in profit.

3. A line moves in your favor, so you decide to take the guaranteed profit.

This isn’t a by-the-book arbitrage approach, because a line isn’t guaranteed to move in your favor.  But if it does, you can execute an arbitrage bet.

Let’s say the Cubs open +110 and you bet $100 on them, then heavy action moves Chicago to -115 and the Cardinals to +105. You can now bet on the Cardinals at +105 and guarantee either a $5 or $10 profit no matter who wins.

Is Arbitrage a Viable Strategy?

Yes and no. For the average bettor, it’s going to be hard to win significant amounts of money through arbitrage for a few reasons.

  • Profit margins are small, so you need capital (and high betting limits)
  • Arbs are getting harder to find
  • You risk being banned or limited by books

Sportsbooks now move lines on air — meaning they change odds based on what other books are doing, not the action they’re taking — so you won’t find major price discrepancies on point spreads or moneylines for most major American sports.

Again, you can use our Markets Terminal at Labs Insiders to automatically find games at legal books with arbitrage opportunities.

You can also bet a game when it opens and hope it moves in your favor, but most arbitrage players aren’t in the business of hoping, even if they have a good feeling it will move their way.

You can find arb opportunities on props like the draft where the markets aren’t as liquid, but the limits will likely be low, so it’s hard to generate consistent winnings.

And lastly, books hate arbitrage players. While arb players will be betting at dozens of different books, if one catches on, you risk getting banned or limited.

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