What Is Arbitrage in Sports Betting?

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James.
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Looking to bet on a game but trying to guarantee yourself a profit?

You could always hedge your original bet during the game, but if you place different bets heading into a game to guarantee a win, that’s a form of arbitrage. 

Let’s break down everything you need to know about arbitrage in sports betting.

Arbitrage Definition 

In sports betting, arbitrage is when a sports bettor makes multiple bets on the same game in an attempt to guarantee a profit no matter what the result of the game is. 

This usually occurs when different sportsbooks are offering different odds on a game, which can allow a bettor to take advantage of favorable odds on different sides of a contest. 

As mentioned above, arbitrage is a form of hedging, however this occurs prior to the start of the event. When you hedge, you are usually making a bet after the original bet has started to look good in a game, or it was a futures bet from earlier on in the season. 

So what does arbitrage look like? Let’s get into some examples: 

Examples of Arbitrage in Sports Betting

Two Sportsbooks Are Offering Different Prices On a Game

Let’s say you are looking to bet on the Los Angeles Lakers-Philadelphia 76ers matchup on WynnBET Sportsbook

Here are the odds for the matchup:

While WynnBET has the Lakers listed as underdogs at +105 odds, let’s say another sportsbook has Los Angeles favored in the game and the Sixers are offered at even money (+100) to win the game. 

In this case, you could place a $100 bet on the Lakers at WynnBET, which would allow you to profit $105 if the Lakers win, and you could bet another $100 on the Sixers at the other sportsbook to guarantee that you’d break even or net a $5 profit. 

Let’s break it down further: 

Without Arbitrage (Betting $100 on Lakers +105)

  • Lakers Win: Profit $105
  • Sixers Win: Lose $100

Without Arbitrage (Betting $100 on Lakers +105 and Sixers +100)

  • Lakers Win: Profit $5 ($105-$100)
  • Sixers Win: Break even ($100-$100)

Opportunities for arbitrage are most likely going to be available when lines first open at a sportsbook. While using arbitrage won’t net you a huge profit, it does help prevent major losses. 

Two Books Have Different Prices on the Same Prop Bet

While it’s harder to find different prices on NFL, NBA, MLB, etc. games since books usually release similar lines, the prop market doesn’t have a centralized place to compare odds, leaving it a potential spot for bettors to take advantage. 

Let’s create a hypothetical example between two books with a player prop for LeBron James. 

LeBron James Points Prop

  • WynnBET: 30.5 (Over +110/Under -140)
  • FanDuel: 30.5 (Over -130/Under +105)

In this case, you can bet $100 on James to go over his prop at WynnBET to profit $110 as well as $100 at FanDuel for James to go under and profit $105. 

If James goes over 30.5 points, you stand to profit $10, if he goes under, you profit $5. 

A Line Moves in Your Favor

Going back to our Sixers-Lakers example, say you took the Lakers at +105 to win the game early in the day. 

Then, let’s say the line moves, due to an injury to a Sixers player like Tobias Harris, which leads to the Lakers being favored and the Sixers coming in at +115 odds. 

In this scenario, you could bet on the Sixers at +115 to guarantee either a $5 or $15 profit depending on the outcome of the game.

Is Arbitrage a Worthwhile Strategy? 

While the idea of guaranteeing a profit is intriguing, it is extremely hard to win significant amounts of money when arbitrage betting. As seen in the examples above, you are risking $200 to come away with a profit that is likely going to be in the range of $5 to $20. 

Unless you have the capital to bet large sums on each side of a game with favorable odds, it will be hard to make money arbitrage betting. 

Not only that, but arbitrage is hard to find, and with sportsbooks moving odds based on what other books are doing, it’s much harder to find discrepancies with spreads or moneylines in major sports. 

The prop market may be the easiest way to find arbitrage opportunities, but there will likely be limits on the amount you can bet on a given prop. 

There is also the risk that a book can catch on and see that you are arbitrage betting, which could lead to getting banned. 

While arbitrage betting sounds great in theory, there are risks associated with a very small reward for the common bettor. It is hard to rely on it as your soul strategy when betting.

Learn more about sports betting in the US in our Sports Betting Education guide.