How Arbitrage Betting Works (With Free Bets & How to Find)

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Arbitrage betting, also known as arb betting or arbing, is the most foolproof way of making a profit in sports betting. It’s when bettors simultaneously “back” and “lay” their wagers through two or more sportsbooks.

The idea is to bet on both sides of games or markets when there are pricing inconsistencies between different sportsbooks. If applied correctly, this concept guarantees a profit, regardless of the result.

You’ll know you found an arbitrage opportunity if the odds on the two sides of a market add up to a positive number (assuming you’re using American odds). You can also use arbitrage when taking advantage of free bets from sportsbooks.

While this sounds great, arbitrage opportunities rarely occur and the guaranteed profit is often low compared to how much you have to wager. You have to put in a lot of work and research, but finding a true arbitrage opportunity is one of the only ways to guarantee yourself profit when sports betting.

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Examples of Arbitrage Betting

If you can’t wrap your head around arbitrage betting, these examples might help:

Let’s say two sportsbooks offer different moneyline odds on the NFL matchup between the Buccaneers and Chiefs. At BetMGM Sportsbook, the following lines are presented:

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers +110
  • Kansas City Chiefs -105

Meanwhile, the prices have moved in the opposite direction at FanDuel Sportsbook, which opens up the opportunity for arbitrage:

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers -105
  • Kansas City Chiefs +110

This is a slam dunk. By betting on both the Buccaneers and the Chiefs at opposite books, you can lock in a profit. If you bet $100 on each side, no matter which team wins the game, you’re guaranteed a $210 return. This amounts to a $10 profit or 5% on the initial bet.

Now this isn’t going to make you rich overnight, but it’s guaranteed profit. Also, the more you bet when true arbitrage opportunities come up, the more you’ll make.

Now let’s check an arbitrage betting example where you have to use different wagering amounts.

In a hypothetical MLB contest between the Dodgers and the Red Sox, BetRivers has the Dodgers as the favorite:

  • Los Angeles Dodgers -165
  • Boston Red Sox +155

After shopping around, you discover that Caesars Sportsbook has more favorable MLB odds on the Red Sox.

  • Los Angeles Dodgers -195
  • Boston Red Sox +175

Like in the first example, you have to bet on both teams to cover all possible outcomes. Only this time, you won’t wager the same amount on both sides.

  • A successful $100 bet on the Dodgers at BetRivers returns $161: $100 stake plus $61 profit
  • A successful $60 bet on the Red Sox at Caesars returns $165: $60 stake plus $105 profit

The total amount of wagers for this game will be $160. If the Dodgers win, you’re up $1. In the case of a Red Sox win, you’ll net a $11 profit. Admittedly, these aren’t life-changing returns, but grinding out numerous smaller wins can add up over time. Best of all—it’s completely risk-free.

Note: Assuming you place $100 on the Dodgers, the ideal bet on the Red Sox in the above scenario would be $58.40. This would return a $2.20 profit regardless of the outcome.

For this method to work, you need to figure out how much cash you need to bet on each side to guarantee yourself a profit. You can use our arbitrage betting calculator to determine the ideal wagering amounts.

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How to Find Arbitrage Betting Opportunities

The success of your arbitrage bets is contingent on identifying favorable pricing discrepancies, which takes time and effort.

You have to monitor the market continuously and scan the odds and game lines of multiple sportsbooks.

Furthermore, you need to act fast and strike the bet as soon as the opportunity presents itself; otherwise, it may be gone for good.

Here are some ways that may help you with this often-difficult process.

Arbitrage Betting by Comparing Sportsbooks

The most straightforward arbing approach is shopping lines and odds—comparing the lines and odds of multiple sportsbooks for the same markets. Every now and then, you’ll spot pricing inequality that you can take advantage of.

If the odds on the opposing sides of a 2-way market are positive when added together, then you’ve found yourself an arb betting opportunity. Note that you also have to factor in the optimal wagering amounts for each bet to secure profits.

Let’s consider this NFL game between the Eagles and Cowboys:

  • DraftKings has the Cowboys listed at -140 odds
  • FanDuel has the Eagles at +150.

The sum of these prices is +10, which indicates an arbing opportunity. If we bet $100 on the Eagles, we’d get a $250 return ($150 profit + $100 wagered) on their win.

Simultaneously, we need to put $145.83 on the Cowboys to guarantee a profit of $4.17, regardless of how the game breaks.

Arbitrage Betting With Line Movement

This refers to betting a side early and then waiting for the line to move in your favor. The fluctuations in lines can happen due to various factors, including injury and weather reports, last-minute roster changes, or additional betting action coming in on one side.

Let’s say you bet the Bucks to beat the Lakers at +300 as soon as the odds get released. Lebron James gets ruled out a few hours later due to an injury and the line moves to Bucks -110. This opens up a chance for arbitrage as you could bet the Lakers to guarantee yourself a profit.

Arbitrage Betting With Odds Boosts

You can also make arbitrage plays by using odds boosts offered by most online sportsbooks. This is when a betting site offers special promotional odds for a specific market.

As with line shopping, it’s recommended that you sign up with multiple sportsbooks to make sure that you don’t miss out on a potentially lucrative opportunity.

Arbitrage Betting With Free Bets

If a sportsbook gives you a free bet or risk-free bet, you can place that on one side of a two-way market and place a real money bet on the other side to guarantee yourself profit.

You can learn more about how this works and how to maximize your profit with our Free Bet Calculator & Guide.

A Word of Caution on Arbitrage Betting

It is against most sportsbooks’ house rules to engage in arbitrage betting. Most have automated systems to flag likely arbitrage bettors and they may investigate your betting history and ban you from playing if they think you’re likely arbing.

To avoid getting caught with arbitrage betting, it’s a good idea to round wagers to the nearest dollar—such as betting $146 in the example above instead of $145.83.

In addition, you should avoid making the maximum bet every time, bet occasional parlays, and try out other strategies aside from arbing.

>> Learn More: How to Hedge Your Bets

Dave Rathmanner

Dave Rathmanner is the Founder & CEO of Odds Assist. After struggling to find helpful sports betting resources and honest reviews when he first started betting, he decided to create the site he always wished he had. Dave has been betting on sports since NJ legalized it in 2018 and regularly analyzes sportsbooks to find the best options for bettors. Aside from creating new content for OA readers, Dave is also passionate about researching betting markets, creating models, and developing profitable betting strategies.