Arbing - or 'matched betting' - is one of the most talked about and controversial techniques in sports betting, and is designed to offer punters minimum risk and the potential to make long-term profits.
The word arbing is derived from 'arbitrage', which describes the process of simultaneously buying and selling securities or assets, and it has its origins as a practice in stocks and shares.
Arbitrage has existed in betting since bookmaking first began. But technological changes in the way people access bets, and particularly the rise of online bookmakers, have led to a growth in the popularity of arbing in recent years, with tens of thousands of gamblers successfully employing the technique around the world.
However, some bookmakers have not taken kindly to the trend, and have prohibited arbers from practicing the technique.
What is Arbing?
Arbing is the process whereby a gambler takes advantage of the variation in odds offered by different bookmakers, in order to make a profit regardless of the outcome of an event.
Also known as matched betting, miraclebets, or surewins, arbing involves simultaneously betting on every outcome of an event, whilst making a calculation that the combined bets will lead to a guaranteed profit.
The key to arbing is to find two different bookmakers offering significantly different odds on an event. This could be an event with two possible outcomes (win or lose), such as tennis or basketball, or an event with three possible outcomes (win, lose, or draw), such as football.
Arbing has been dubbed "the only way to make a constant profit" in sports betting, and it has certainly proved profitable for a lot of followers of the method. That said, it requires large stakes and a great deal of patience, given that the typical return on investment is between two and five per cent, depending on the event and a number of other factors.
What events can I arb in?
Opportunities for arbing occur every day in a wide range of different sports, but a considerable outlay of preparation and research is required for anyone new to the practice to gain a strong understanding of the best places to look for those opportunities.
As discussed above, the requisite conditions for arbing involve two bookmakers offering significantly different odds on an event. Fluctuations in odds mean that arbs only stay available for short periods of time, so a key to successful arbing is being able to monitor those fluctuations and, when they do occur, quickly take advantage of odds that offer guaranteed profits.
How does a typical arb work?
Take a tennis match, for example. Let's go back in time and say it's Boris Becker versus John McEnroe.
Bookmaker A is offering odds of 1.6 on Becker winning, and 3.9 on McEnroe winning. Bookmaker B is offering longer odds of 1.9 on Becker, but shorter odds of 2.9 on McEnroe.
You place a £200 bet on Becker at Bookmaker B. You then bet on McEnroe at Bookmaker A, and you calculate your stake by multiplying 200 by the result of 1.6/3.9 (your shorter odds divided by your longer odds).
So in this case, £200 x (1.6/3.9) = £82. Your total stake across both bets is £282.
If Becker wins, you stand to claim winnings of £380 from Bookmaker B - a £98 profit across all your bets.
If McEnroe comes out victorious, your £82 stake wins you £319.80 - a profit of £37.80 across both bets.
As this example illustrates, the profits to be made from arbing are rarely very large, and there is a considerable amount of time and effort required in sourcing favourable odds and acting quickly enough to take advantage of them.
With these profit margins, one of the keys to arbing success is patience and a cool head. It can take a long time, a large amount of funds to bet with, and a lot of small wins to accumulate significant profits.
The kind of odds shown in the example above don't often occur in pro tennis, but a keen arber will seek them out and capitalise when possible.
The legality of arbing
Arbing might seem too good to be true, but it is an entirely legal way to bet. All you are doing is taking advantage of the differences that occur in the market.
In fact, the scenarios in which arbing is possible are deliberately created by bookmakers, as they have to balance their books. Some betting companies, however, see arbing as a threat to their profit margins and frown upon the practice, and they are entitled to make their own call on whether to suspend customers from their books.
Because of this, diversity is key to any arber's approach, and being limited or suspended from one bookmaker doesn't mean the end of the road.
Betfair is the world's largest betting exchange, and it offers an array of features and benefits that are extremely useful for arbing.
Betting exchanges like Betfair can serve as both a bookmaker and an odds comparison service, and you can feel free to practice arbing without the fear of account limiting, suspension or closure.
What's more, you can enjoy the reassurance of knowing how much you are allowed to bet before you place your bet, which can prove very useful when making calculations for your next arb.
What does arbitrage software do?
Arbitrage betting software is designed to assist with the time-consuming process of seeking out the odds that provide arbing opportunities.
A variety of betting alert services offer features that can help identify arbing opportunities by providing real-time updates on available arbs, built-in calculators that give you an indication of the potential profit of your arb, and filters that allow you to choose the type of sports, level of profits, and the specific bookmakers you are interested in.
Tips for successful arbing
Keeping detailed records of your transactions is vital for success in arbing. The large funds required to generate small profits from arbing mean that it is important to maintain discipline and consistency in your approach.
As well as carrying out a good deal of research, and being well organised with access to a number of different sportsbooks, it is wise to take precautions such as only betting in the same currency, never betting to the maximum stake limit, and avoiding long-term arbs that will take more than a week to complete.