Sure Betting: Is there such a thing?

Bradley Gibbs


A sure bet? Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? However, believe it or not, 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 where the punter exploits discrepancies in the odds of two separate bookmakers. The aim is to back the opposing outcomes on a particular market at such prices that guarantee a profit regardless of the result of the event.

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In theory this is something that can easily sound too good to be true, but, nevertheless, guaranteeing a win can be done. Obviously this isn’t a new concept and therefore it’s certainly something bookmakers are aware of. With this is mind, it’s important to note that no single bookmaker will ever offer odds on a market that would allow a guaranteed profit. Fortunately, thanks to the growth of online betting, punters are afforded such a large selection of bookmakers nowadays which means that the opportunity to place a sure bet is still very much alive.

Example sure bet

Let’s take a look at what a sure bet looks by using this simple two-way market example.

For example, let’s say Coventry City are playing against Bradford City in League One. The ‘Over 2.5 Goals’ market offers the potential for risk-free profit to be made if punters back each side of the market at different bookmakers. This is done by staking the correct amount on two prices that lock-in a profit irrespective of the end result

Coventry City vs Bradford – 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 (Unibet) @ 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 profit of 4.56%.

It is not only two-entrant markets which offer such possibilities, punters can also secure a profit, whilst removing all risk of losing, on three entrant markets.

For example, imagine Bayern Munich are playing Wolfsburg. The full time result market (home/draw/away) presents a potential opportunity for a sure bet to be placed.

Bayern Munich vs Wolfsburg – Full Time Result

Back Bayern to Win (888) @ 57/100 – staking £66 for a potential return of £103.62

Back Draw (Unibet) @ 9/2 – staking £18.91 for a potential return of £104.00

Back Wolfsburg to Win (Unibet) @ 6/1 – staking £14.86 for a potential return of £104.02

Once again, having split the stake correctly, the punter arrives at a profit without having to worry about how the match ends. The only slight difference here is that, unlike the two-way market example above, the percentage of profit will vary slightly (3.62% – 4.02%) depending on the actual result.

Identifying a sure bet (calculators)

The above examples make sure betting look particularly easy, but, if this was the case, everybody would be doing it, and let’s face it, they’re not. While sure bets are indeed a way to guarantee a profit, they won’t make you rich overnight. Being able to carry out sure betting effectively is something that requires both time and hard work.

Considering that there are so many online bookmakers, it is easy to envisage that differences in the odds offered on a particular market will occur quite often. However, in order to take advantage and to begin securing that sought after risk-free profit, punters need know how to go about spotting a sure bet. One way of doing this is to divide 1 by each of the odds before adding them together. If the resulting number equals less than 1, then a sure bet is viable. Additionally, there are also a number of automated betting calculators out there that can identify the potential sure betting opportunity at the click of a button. Whether the punter sifts through and works out sure bets manually or uses calculators just depends on the individual.

One of the main pitfalls to sure betting is the time it takes. Lots of people find comparing prices a tedious task and, in truth, it can be. With this in mind, there are services out there who’ve already done the hard bit. Unsurprisingly, these type of services often don’t come for free, but there are plenty of resources online that update lists of sure bets, providing punters with the knowledge of where to place each part of the bet, along with advised staking amounts.

Replacing one bookmaker with an exchange 

Although sure betting is traditionally carried out by exploiting the discrepancies at two different bookmakers, this is not to say that the exchange doesn’t have a role to play too.

Here we take a look at how sure betting can be slightly altered, but ultimately still utilised to the same effect, by replacing one bookmaker with an exchange. Instead of using two bookmakers, the aim becomes to exploit differentials in odds between the bookmaker and the exchange. It is important to note that when using an exchange in this way, the principle changes slightly. Instead of backing each side of the market at two separate bookmakers, the punter will now try to back one side with a bookmaker and then lay the same side on the exchange.

Because of the person-to-person nature of betting exchanges, 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 the opportunity to back a selection at likely bigger odds with the bookmaker and then lay off at a lower price presents itself.

Here’s an example:

For this example we’ll use horse racing. Let’s say that one bookmaker offers 10/1 about a particular horse. If the punter places a bet of £100 on this horse to win the potential return is £1100. Having backed at 10/1 with the bookmaker, the same runner is available on the exchange at 9/1. Now the punter lays the horse, this time for a stake of £110. In doing so, a small, but risk-free profit has been locked-in. If the horse wins the punter loses £990 from the lay bet, but will return a profit of £1000 from the bet with the bookmaker. Likewise, if the horse loses the punter receives £110 from the lay bet and loses £100 with the bookmaker. Either way, regardless of the result, the punter has safely secured a profit of £10. While this may be a small gain, there was zero risk involved so it’s hard to knock. It is easy to envisage that, if successfully placing just a small number of these bets on a regular basis, the punter can do pretty well.

Back and lay sure betting 

Just as punters can conduct their sure betting using one bookmaker and one exchange, they can completely remove the bookmaker and look for sure bets using just a betting exchange. This particular strategy is also, or perhaps more commonly, known as trading because of its likeness to trading 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 2.3, 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. There are a number of these floating about online and a simple google search should provide adequate results.

Proceed with caution and be aware of the pitfalls 

Although sure betting is a way of guaranteeing 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, does carry 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.

There are a couple of important pointers to note.

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 1% – 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 then placing the bet will be nothing other than 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 – now that is a sure bet! 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 grinding out 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. This is because exchanges make a profit from the commission on winning bets as opposed to profiting from losing ones.

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 sizable bank roll and significant wagers in order to secure a worthwhile profit. On average, it is reasonable to expect net returns of around 2-3%. Having said this, on occasion it may be possible to achieve a slightly higher percentage.

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