Let me go back to the question I raised earlier: is it all worth it (betting 1714$ to earn a guaranteed 14$-15$ profit)? First of all, some arbitrage opportunities will be more rewarding than others: it depends how much the odds differ from one sportsbook to the other. Let me give you some advice to maximize your sports investment money.
Tip #1: Opening an account with non-sharp sportsbooks
The amount you can earn on a daily basis depends on how many opportunities you can find. In this regard, it is fundamental that you find bookies that are not “sharp”, which means they are slow to move their lines or they tend to favor some teams too much. In other words, you need to find sportsbooks whose lines differ from the general consensus. If you are wondering which bookies are less sharp, I’ve got good news for you: the sportsbook reviews on my website discuss this specific aspect. As of today, I would argue that the two most easily beatable sportsbooks are Sports Interaction (for Canadian players only) and Bovada (for American players only). You can definitely take advantage of their non-sharp odds on many sports.
Tip #2: Focus on Less Popular Leagues/Sports
I started getting involved in the sports gambling world back in 1999-2000, specifically with the intention of doing arbitrage betting. Back then, the opportunities were plentiful. I spent lots of days and evenings tracking lines on all sports and leagues (some I absolutely knew nothing about, which wasn’t important for my purpose). As years went on, it became more and more difficult to find good opportunities because bookmakers made the appropriate adjustments. Nowadays, the lines are more similar from one bookie to the other.
Unlike the early 2000s, online gambling is now very popular. With so many bettors around the world, whenever a bookmaker has odds that are dissimilar to others it will almost immediately receive heavy action, especially on major sporting events where arbitrage occasions are seldom seen.
That’s why I will provide the following recommendation if you have the intention of getting into arbitrage betting: don’t waste your time tracking money lines, spreads or totals on major sports like the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, MLB or the most important soccer leagues. You can expect to earn less money doing this than if you get a job at McDonald’s. You will need to get off the beaten paths and investigate more obscure sports/leagues.
Tip #3: Looking at "Proposition" Bets
That is actually a great source of arbitrage opportunities. In case you do not know what “prop” bets are, here is Wikipedia’s definition: “Proposition bets in sports are differentiated from the general bets for or against a particular team or regarding the total number of points scored.”
It could be anything. Here are a few examples: which team is going to score first, will there be a run in the first inning of a baseball game, how many sacks will be recorded by both teams during a football game, will the largest lead of the game be over/under 15.5 points, etc.
Many people also enjoy betting “player props”, which are bets regarding the performance of a specific player. A few quick examples: will player X score at least a goal, will player X score over/under 26.5 points, will quarterback X throw at least one interception (American football), will player X make or miss his first 3-point attempt (basketball), etc.
The number of possible proposition bets is only limited by the oddsmakers’ imagination. A very large number of prop bets are offered on the Super Bowl which, by the way, is by far the best money-making event when it comes down to arbitrage. Historically there have been several weird bets on that game:
- What color Gatorade will the winning coach get doused with?
- How long will the national anthem singing last (over/under 2 minutes, for instance)?
- Will the power go out during the game?
Tip #4: Having Multiple Sportsbook Accounts
One more tip related to successful arbitrage betting: the more accounts you have, the more opportunities you will find. I personally started off by having an account with 2-3 sportsbooks. At the peak of my arbitrage career, I had 10. Obviously, you have a better chance of finding profitable situations when comparing odds from 10 different bookies. However, you need more capital.
Again, if you want more information about the best online sportsbooks, please visit my "Sportsbook Reviews" section, where each bookie gets awarded a grade out of 100%. I list many pros and cons about each bookmaker, I tell you about my own experience with them, and I also report player experiences found on several online forums (including some horror stories, like a cheating scandal, a player getting robbed of 11,000 British pounds, a head linesman physically threatening a player, and so much more).
An interesting side effect of doing arbitrage is receiving bonuses from casinos. Almost all of them offer signup and reload bonuses. So not only are you betting risk-free, but you are also receiving an additional benefit.
It wouldn’t be fair to end this article without mentioning the drawbacks from this form of gambling (if we can call it gambling!):
Pitfall #1: Line Moves
Once you have identified an arbitrage opportunity, the process is not totally risk-free. The most common source of losses comes from line moves. Suppose you are about to bet Team A at -140 and Team B at +145. You then make some quick calculations to determine the amount you are going to bet on each side, you place your bet on Team A, and as you are preparing yourself to bet Team B you realize the line has moved to +135. Unless another bookie has a line of at least +140, you are doomed to lose some money in the process.
Here is a tip: place your first of two bets on the line that seems the most out of whack. Imagine you have five accounts and the line is set at -140 on Team A with all bookies, except one that has Team A at -153 and Team B at +143. You absolutely need to rush and first bet on Team B at +143. Once that is done, even though you try betting Team A at -140 with a certain bookie and the line changes, you still have three more bookies with the -140 line. It’s pretty unlikely that their lines will all change.
Pitfall #2: Betting the Same Team Twice (that’s embarrassing!)
This may sound ridiculous, but trust me it is likely to happen to you if you pursue a long arbitrage career: betting the same team twice. I’ve done it before. And I know several people who have also done it. Once you have found a good occasion, the adrenaline rush kicks in and since you are aware of the potential line moves you try to act as fast as possible. What generally happens when we try to do things too quickly? That’s right, we make mistakes. Instead of placing one bet on Team A and one bet on Team B, you end up wagering on Team A twice.
You might realize right away that you committed a big mistake, in which case you will have two options: hedging or taking a gamble. By hedging, I mean betting a sufficient amount on Team B to prevent huge losses if Team A loses the game. If you go the hedging route, you will likely have guaranteed losses, but it won’t be a devastating blow to your bankroll. The second option, taking a gamble, is simple: you cross your fingers, hoping Team A wins the match. It’s up to you.
It is also possible that you bet the same team twice but don’t realize it until you check your account balances the next day. It could be a thrilling experience or a crushing one, depending on the outcome. Trust me; it really hurts when you realize you have just lost your entire winnings from the past 2-3 months of hard work.
The best way to avoid such huge losses is to log your bets in an Excel file after you are done placing them. When you check your betting history in your bookie’s accounts, you will notice the error.
Pitfall #3: Too Late! The Game has Started!
There are more line moves close to game time. The public is excited about the game which is set to begin and more betting action occurs. That creates more line movements, and therefore more chances of finding arbitrage opportunities. The big danger here is to bet Team A, only to realize it’s too late to bet Team B because the line is now off the board. Be aware of this risk; you could elect to bet smaller amounts in such circumstances.
Pitfall #4: Not Being Able to Bet the Desired Amount
Always be aware of each casino’s betting limits. Assume you were planning to bet 500$ on Team A and 800$ on Team B. You start by wagering on Team A, but as you execute the bet on Team B you realize you are not allowed to bet more than 300$. If you are lucky enough, you might find another bookie that offers similar odds, otherwise you might have to bet on weak odds while guaranteeing yourself a loss instead of a gain.
Pitfall #5: Getting Limited or Banned by the Sportsbook
Some bookmakers don’t mind dealing with “sharps”, but others hate it. Once they realize you only make smart bets, they might react by lowering significantly your betting limits (this phenomenon is most common when you only focus on proposition bets, which is something they don’t like to see) or by politely asking you to cash out and leave. If you are playing with reputable casinos, they are pretty unlikely to steal your money.
My sportsbook reviews tell you whether a particular bookie welcomes action from professional gamblers or not, but let me summarize quickly here. Pinnacle has a "Winners Welcome Policy", so you won’t run into trouble with them. The following sportsbooks are also good options in this regard: Bookmaker.eu, SBOBET and Matchbook. On the other hand, many sportsbooks are known to despise smart players: Sportsbet.com.au, Sports Interaction, 888sport, Bovada, 5Dimes, WagerWeb, MyBookie and 10Bet.