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How to Place Arbitrage Bets

When you have an arb available, and all of the sportsbooks involved (usually two, sometimes three) are funded and the arb is ready to be placed, there are a few things you need to mentally check before going through the process of submitting the bets.

First of all, I strongly recommend having all of your funded bookmakers open in tabbed browsing, logged in, and on an auto refresh where necessary to keep them logged in. Firefox has a plugin called ReloadEvery that refreshes pages for you automatically after every set interval of time. If you don't use Firefox I would recommend you try and find a solution that does this in your browser.

So, with your bookmakers ready, and your alert service running, you receive an alert! Let's go through the steps and considerations you should go through in the process of placing your arb.

What percentage is it?

This is always your first consideration because this determines whether the arb is worth it and is also your first hint at whether there might be an error in the arb. I rarely place arbs below 0.5%, and will usually dismiss any arb over 20% immediately (actually, I filter these out, so I never have to deal with them, and most alert services will allow you to do this). 1%-3% grabs my interest quite strongly, while higher percentages make me increasingly wary of a palp.

What are the odds like?

If the percentage is in the sweet spot area, a quick check of the odds to make sure nothing is too strange about them is usually enough. If the arb is a little higher than usual, then it may be worth applying a few checks. Look for swapped odds, swapped handicap signs, typos, and if possible compare the odds with the general market odds and see if either one of the bookmakers is significantly out of line. If it looks like there might be a palp, then forget the arb ever presented itself. You don't lose money by missing arbs, you lose money by taking stupid risks. Don't take stupid risks.

For more on spotting palps, read Palps – How to Spot Obvious Errors.

What sport is it?

If it is a sport which commonly has rule mismatches (Tennis, NHL or MLB), then make sure the two bookmakers involved don't have a rule mismatch – SBB can help with this, however you should keep your own up to date list of mismatch rules in your spreadsheet next to all of your bookmakers.

Navigate to the appropriate bets in your bookmakers.

In most instances, the above first three points will all be considered and checked in under 5 seconds and you will be straight onto navigating your way to the appropriate bets almost immediately. Of course rule mismatch and possible palp situations slow that down, but most arbs are straight forward. So even though this is the fourth step in the process, an outside observer could be forgiven for thinking this is the first thing you do.

Navigate as fast as humanly possible to the correct section of the bookmaker. Double check the details from your alert service to make sure you have the right sports, the right teams, the right markets (moneyline, handicap, over/under etc), and to make sure you have the bets the right way around. Is the arb real?

Calculate your bets.

If the arb is indeed real, then you need to figure out how much you should place on either bet. This is often determined by how much money you have in each bookmaker, or by a maximum bet size imposed by one bookmaker. So you need to look at your account balances and the maximum bet sizes for each bookmaker (where possible) and you need to use those limitations to calculate how much can be, and how much needs to be placed on either side of the arb with some form of an arbitrage calculator.

Placing the Bets

Once you have calculated how much to place on either side of the arb, enter the amounts into both bookmakers, and start submitting both sides. The side you should ultimately ‘confirm’ first is the side you are least sure about being accepted. Either it will have not shown you a maximum bet amount (so your bet may still be rejected), or maybe you simply hadn't used this bookmaker before so don't know whether there will be a confirmation screen.

Explaining Bookmaker Confirmation Methods

In order to explain this I am going to have to define a few stages of bet placement. Different bookmakers may label these differently, so do not assume that these terms are absolute. Assuming a confirmation screen, the first thing you will do is 'Enter' your bet amount, then you will ‘Submit‘ that bet and a confirmation screen will appear. Unless the bet is ‘Rejected‘ at that stage you will be able to ‘Confirm‘ your bet, after which your bet will be ‘Placed‘ if it isn’t ‘Rejected‘ on account of the odds expiring.

Not all bookmakers follow this entire process of confirming your bet before placing it. I have found 3 general methods of placing bets across all of the bookmaker I have encountered:

Immediate Acceptance or Rejection - No Confirmation Screen

Firstly you have books which simply accept or deny a bet after you submit it once.

So you Enter your bet amount, and press a Submit or Confirm button, and your bet will be immediately Placed (if it isn't rejected for some reason). Lets call this method NC for ‘No Confirmation’.

Confirmation Screen - Ambiguous (A Useless Confirmation)

Secondly you have books who have a confirmation screen, but that confirmation screen does not indicate whether your bet will be Placed or Rejected. So you Enter your bet amount, Submit your bet and reach the confirmation page. The confirmation page will always simply display your bet amount and ask you whether you are sure – you still don’t know whether your bet is going to be accepted or not. You then have to Confirm your bet and find out whether the bookmaker has Placed your bet, or Rejected it. This method, like the first method, is problematic if you don’t know the maximum bet you are allowed to place and you have to Confirm your bet to find out if you are over it or not. Let's call this method UC for ‘Useless Confirmation’.

Confirmation Screen - Unambigious (A Good Confirmation

Finally there are books who use the first confirmation screen to indicate whether your bet is acceptable or not. So you Enter your bet amount and Submit it, and the confirmation screen will indicate that your bet will be Placed upon Confirmation, or it will indicate that the bet is Rejected for whatever reason. Once you are on the confirmation screen with an accepted bet, you Confirm the bet and it will usually be Placed – the only exception is if the odds actually change in the time between when you Submitted the bet and when you Confirm the bet, so you do need to be fast when placing bets. Lets call this method GC for ‘Good Confirmation’.

I think this is another good bookmaker variable to note in your spreadsheet next to all of your bookmakers as you get set up. You will remember them all soon enough, but in the early days having notes will help. Just mark NC, UC or GC next to bookmakers as you use them for the first time.

Order of Placing the Bets

First thing is to Enter our two bets into both books. You then want to do everything you can do except for the final Confirmation step, leaving you with 2 or 3 books which are 1 button click away from Placing your bets. You should always Confirm the book which you are least sure of being accepted first, so you find out straight away if any of your bets are going to be Rejected.

This is quite difficult to explain abstractly, so if you are still confused, read through a few examples of placing arbs (coming soon). Also, you can find another explanation of this in the Fifth and final video in the Sports Arbitrage Guide Fast Track Video Series. See the video series by subscribing to our Newsletter on the Sports Arbitrage Guide homepage.

Check and Record

Reread the confirmation slips. Do they both have the same sports and markets on them? Do the two (or three) bets cover ALL possible outcomes? Are the odds right? Obviously you checked all of this before you placed the bets, but now the stress has passed and your brain should be working again, so it is good to check them one last time.

If everything looks good, then enter the information into your spreadsheet (or program) which you are using to track all of your arbs, bookmaker balances, and profit. I have made a simple spreadsheet available here for anyone to use, available in the Downloads section but there is nothing to stop you from making your own. Once again, entering your arb into the spreadsheet should be the final check verifying that the maths adds up on the odds (clearly showing that your arb will turn you a profit).