A sure bet? There’s no such thing!
Well, believe it or not – despite what you’ll have been told time and time again – there is such a thing. For those who don’t know, sure betting (also known as arbitrage betting or arbing) is a particular betting method which exploits discrepancies in the odds of a specific market at two separate bookmakers. The aim is to back the different outcomes on a particular market at such prices that regardless of the result, a risk-free profit will be secured.
It might sound a little too easy at first, and of course this isn’t a new concept; hence why no bookmaker will ever offer two odds on a market that would allow a guaranteed profit. Fortunately though, the phenomenon of internet betting has provided us which such an enormity of choice when it comes to online bookmakers, which means the opportunity to place a ‘sure bet’ is greater than ever before.
Example Sure Bet
Before we move on to look at the different methods of conducting a sure betting practice, first we take a look at an example of what a sure bet looks like. Starting with a two-way market.
For example, let’s say Lokomotiv Moscow are playing against Kuban Krasnador in the Russian premier league. The market for over 2.5 goals between two particular bookmakers is offering a risk free profit if the punter stakes the correct amount on each side.
Lokomotiv vs Kuban – over/under 2.5 goals
Back over 2.5 (Coral) @ 81/50 – staking £39.91 for a potential return of £104.56
Back under 2.5 (1-x-bet) @ 37/50 – staking £60.09 for a potential return of £104.56
Here we can see that by splitting the stake correctly across the two bets – regardless of the outcome – the punter will have secured a guaranteed profit of 4.56%.
Likewise, it is not only two-way markets which offer such possibilities, punters can also lock in that guaranteed profit on three-way markets (in fact the number of selections doesn’t matter, it just becomes more labour intensive the higher the number of bets that need placing).
For example, let’s say Manchester United are playing Tottenham. The full time result market (home/draw/away) between different bookmakers has presented the opportunity for a sure bet to be placed.
Man united vs Tottenham – Full time result
Back Man united to win (888) @ 57/100 – staking £66 for a potential return of £103.62
Back the draw (unibet) @ 9/2 – staking £18.84 for a potential return of £104.00
Back Tottenham to win (unibet) @ 6/1 – staking £14.80 for a potential return of £104.02
Once again, having split the stake correctly, the punter will arrive at a profit without having to worry about how the match ends.
This method of staking (shown above), where splitting the stake amount across different bookmakers in a way which guarantees a small profit regardless of the outcome, is a staking method that is commonly known as Dutching.
Identifying a sure bet (calculators)
Considering that there are now such a large number of online bookmakers, it is easy to envisage that differences in the odds offered on a particular market will occur reasonably frequently. However, in order to take advantage and to begin securing that sought after risk-free profit, we need know how to go about spotting a sure bet.
Previously, punters were able to determine whether or not a sure bet existed by carrying out a relatively straightforward calculation: divide 1 by each of the odds before adding them together. If the resulting number equals less than 1 the sure bet is on. However, with the invention of betting calculators (such as the one below) punters can now identify whether a guaranteed profit can be achieved at the click of a button. While some punters might prefer to calculate themselves, in the fast paced world of odds movement, spending time doing the calculations yourself could result in loss of profit through missed opportunities.
Even with a calculator to decipher whether or not the sure bet exists, comparing the odds at different bookmakers can be a reasonably tedious exercise. Fortunately, nowadays there are a number of services/websites that have already done the hard bit. There are plenty of resources online that update a list of daily sure bets, providing punters with the knowledge of where to place each part of the bet, along with advised stake amounts.
One such site that comes highly recommended is oddsportal.com. Running a free and easy to use service, oddsportal update a daily list detailing the top ten most profitable sure bets on any given day.
Sure bet by replacing one bookmaker with an exchange
Here we take a look at how sure/arbitrage betting can be slightly altered, but ultimately still utilised to the same effect when one bookmaker is replaced with an exchange. Instead of using two bookmakers, here the punter will aim to exploit differentials in odds between the bookmaker and the exchange. Instead of backing at two bookmakers the principle here is to back a selection at one price with the bookmaker and then lay the same selection using an exchange at another price which will ensure a profit is made either way.
Because of the person to person nature of an exchanges operation it is common place for the odds of a particular selection to tumble quite suddenly. It is often when the odds shorten in such a manner, that an opportunity is created to back a selection at likely bigger odds with the bookmaker and then lay at the lower price available on the exchange.
This is better illustrated by the following example.
Let’s say that in a particular horse race, one bookmaker is enabling you to back one of the runners at odds of 10/1. For a £100 stake the potential return is £1100. Having backed at 10/1 with the bookmaker, the same runner is available on the exchange at 9/1. You lay the horse, this time for a stake of £110. If the horse wins you will lose £990 from the lay bet, but will return a profit of £1000 from the bet with the bookmaker. Likewise, if the horse loses you will receive £110 from the lay bet and lose £100 with the bookmaker. Either way, regardless of the result the punter has safely secured a profit of £10. It is easy to envisage that if successfully placing just a small number of these bets on a regular basis, you can do very well.
Note: This example was to demonstrate how a sure bet works. In reality you’ll need to take commission into account.
Back and lay sure betting
Just as one can conduct their sure betting using one bookmaker and one exchange, they can remove the use of the bookmaker completely and look for sure bets using only a betting exchange. This particular strategy is often known as trading, because of its likeness to the dealings on the stock exchange.
The idea here is to back a selection at one price, before laying the selection off at a price which will result in the arrival of a profit irrespective of the result. In principle, trading on a betting exchange is essentially no different from trading on the stock exchange. Instead of buying and selling, betting exchange traders are concerned with backing and laying. Backing becomes buying and laying replaces the sale.
The majority of trading in this manner is conducted before the event takes place, and the trader will be looking to make a number of minor profits by backing and laying at a small difference. E.g. back at 2.4 and lay at 2.35, thus securing a small but guaranteed profit.
When undergoing the back-lay strategy it is recommended for both efficiency and time saving purposes that a back-lay calculator is used.
Proceed with caution and be aware of sure betting pitfalls
Although executing these types of bet correctly does indeed guarantee the punter a risk free profit, it would be foolish to assume that this system is a quick and easy way to earn your fortune. Sure betting is still betting, and therefore carries some level of risk. It is only once the bet is placed in the correct manner that a risk free profit is secured. Unsurprisingly, attempting sure betting for the first time is something that should be approached with caution.
Firstly, when using a sure betting strategy that involves the use of an exchange it is important to always factor in the commission which will be deducted from any successful bets (usually 2% – 5%). For example, if the result of a sure bet leaves you with a profit of 4% on your investment but you are required to pay a 5% commission, the wager will have been counter-productive as the end result will be a loss of 1%.
One particular drawback to sure betting is that bookmakers are not stupid, not by a long chalk. The bookmaking industry is well aware of the sure betting process. If you are good enough to make a profit over a consistent period, bookmakers will catch onto it. Betting operators have specific people/systems in place in order to identify this type of activity and ultimately put a stop to it by setting stake limits and closing accounts.
The last thing any bookie wants is someone enjoying a risk-free profit. It is when this occurs that punters hoping to continually enjoy a profit from sure bets will need to be good enough to take advantage of the opportunity available on the exchanges. Due to the nature of exchanges, punters are encouraged to place these types of bet as exchanges make a profit from the commission on winning bets as opposed to profiting from punters losing.
Lastly, it is also important to note that large price differences do not occur all that frequently and thus sure betting generally requires both a sizeable bank roll and significant wagers in order to secure a worthwhile profit. On average it is reasonable to expect net returns of 2%-5%. Although, there may be rare occasions where it is not out of the question to achieve higher percentage. But these higher percentages also come with the risk that your bet will be deemed a palpable error.