Matched Betting: A Viable Alternative To Arbing

Arbitrage is a proven method of engineering a profit from betting on sports. Known colloquially as arbing, the technique uses disparity in bookmaker odds and exchange lay prices to lock-in a return. The beauty of arbing is that the actual result of the sporting event becomes irrelevant once the necessary bets are placed.

Here's an example of an arb: Let's assume a bookie has odds of 9/1 (10.00) on a horse to win the Grand National. The same horse has lay odds of 8/1 (9.00) on Betfair. A lay bet is to bet that something won't win. A quick look at the best betting calculator will tell you that by placing a 100 bet with the bookie and a 111.73 lay bet, the following two outcomes are possible;
  • Horse wins = 900 profit from bookie - 893.84 loss at Betfair = 6.16
  • Horse loses = 100 loss at bookie + 106.14 profit at Betfair (111.73 - 5% commission) = 6.14
In our example, a betting bank of almost 1,000 is needed. This is a considerable float for a profit of just over 6. This isn't a problem for those that have built up a bank over time but is a potential obstacle to people that are just starting out.

One of the other drawbacks of arbing is that bookmakers are likely to detect your activity. The traders know when they are promoting a big price and accounts that consistently 'abuse' this value are prone to being restricted.

Matched betting brings bookmaker free bets and bonuses into the equation. These are generally triggered by the placement of a qualifying bet. However, instead of looking for arbs, a close match between bookmaker odds and exchange lay prices is all that is needed.

Take a look at our example of how a typical Bet 10 get 10 Free bet could play out. Let's assume you spot a good match for Chelsea to win a football match with back odds of 1.50 and Betfair lay odds of 1.55. By entering these details into a matched betting calculator with the required 10 stake to trigger the offer, the advised lay bet would be 10, producing the following possible outcomes;
  • Chelsea win = 5 profit at bookie - 5.50 loss on Betfair = -50p
  • Chelsea lose = 10 loss at bookie + 9.50 profit on Betfair (10 - 5% commission) = -50p
So essentially, it has cost just 50p to qualify for a 10 free bet. That free bet can then be used to generate a real cash profit. Let's assume there's a Correct Score football bet for Newcastle United to win a match 1-0 and the bookie has it priced up at 9.50. With Betfair lay odds of 10.00 and a 10 free bet stake, the matched betting calculator would recommend a lay stake of 8.54. Here's how that could play out;
  • Bet wins = 85 profit at bookie - 76.86 loss at Betfair = 8.14
  • Bet loses = 0 profit/loss at bookie + 8.11 profit at Betfair (8.54 - 5% commission) = 8.11
After deducting our 50p qualifying loss, the end result is a profit of at least 7.61. There was an extra step to take to get the profit compared to arbing but the size of the betting bank required was reduced to less than 100. Another positive is that matched betting has a lower risk of detection, so can be done long-term.
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