A Guide to Sportsbook Bonus Offers
There are many websites that offer sports betting. As it is a highly competitive, most offer special incentives in hopes of attracting and retaining players. For those good at working promotions and bonuses a lot of extra money is available. While this might seem like an intuitive topic, it is not exactly so. There are several points and intricacies that range from important to helpful to understand. These are covered in this article.
Better the Site, Lower the Bonus
Understand there are a high number of rogue sites targeting players located in the United States. This is so much of a concern that if you live elsewhere you might want to avoid American friendly sites period. This is because, while in most CA states it is legal to use sports betting sites as a player, it is highly illegal to operate a sports betting site. In short, the gambling sites, but not the players using those sites, are breaking the law. The penalties are harsh and can involve many years of jail time and even multi-million dollar fines. As a result, most reputable online bookies left CA market years ago.
There are still however a handful of reputable CA betting sites (View our sportsbook ratings system). These sites operate mostly from Costa Rica, Antigua and Panama which are all countries where both gambling is legal and there is no extradition treaty with the United States. CA friendly sites Bookmaker and 5Dimes have great reputations, and Bovada and BetOnline are well regarded too. These are sites CA players may feel comfortable using.
There are other site that take advantage of the fact that CA online betting industry operates from places that the bookmakers are legally inaccessible. If you Google search: Oddsmaker.ag scam, or search to learn about how BetIslands closed while owing 458 players referred to them by SportsBookReview (SBR) affiliate tracking links $1,539,391 (USD) you’ll see some examples. You can also search about Alliance Sportsbook and BetRevolution for others.
The less than reputable and outright scam sites often offer large 100% up to $500 or $1,000 cash bonuses. This is because they either stiff winners, or pay in the beginning to gain early trust, then build up the post up balance and close up shop. They then rinse and repeat. Meanwhile the safest sites offer lower bonuses. For example, Bookmaker.eu is widely considered the most trusted bookmaker. Their bonus is generally only a 15% deposit match (though sometimes 20 or 25%) and is a free play credit as opposed to a cash bonus. Note: the best bonus you’ll find with reputable CA sites is at www.bovada.lv. They have a 50% up to $250 free play offer.
Do however understand there are some exceptions. www.bet365.com (no CA players) offers a 100% cash bonus. This is up to a considerable amount in some currencies including bonuses such as 100% up to $200 CAD (Canadian Dollar) or 100% up to £100/€100. They are also one of the largest betting sites in the world, are based and licensed in the UK, and own the English Premier League (UK Football EPL) franchise the Stoke City Potters. This is a site that doesn’t stiff winners.
Exceptions like Bet365 aside, just be careful. Generally speaking the lower the bonus, the more reputable the site. The higher the bonus, the more likely the site is rogue. If you know which sites are reputable, and how to manage the risk there is money to be made.
Type of Sportsbook Bonuses
Those new to seeking bonus offers should first realize that not all bonuses are equal. There are several different types of bonuses. The most known are deposit bonuses (which can be free play or cash), risk free bets and reduced juice. In this section I explain bonus types and touch on optimal strategy for each.
Deposit Match Bonuses (Free Player vs. Cash)
With CA betting sites the most common bonus offer is a percentage of deposit match given as free play credits. A live example: www.Betonline.ag offers various 25% bonuses. Taking advantage of this with a $500 deposit will earn you a $125 bonus. This is however not a cash bonus but rather is free play credits. The difference is quite significant.
When you bet $125 cash at -110 this is risk $125 to win $113.64. If that bet wins you get back $238.64 ($125 stake + $113.64 winnings). When betting with a free play you only get back $113.64. This is because win or lose that $125 is gone. It was a free play and is not returned on a win. So understand on the same bet a $125 cash bonus would have given you $238.64 on a win. As you’re dealing with a free play only – you have $125 less than that. Of course, all things being equal, cash bonuses are best.
Free Play Strategy Tip: At some sites such as Bookmaker and DSI free plays are returned when a bet pushes. For example: betting +6 or -6 and the game ends with the favorite winning by 6. This is however not the case at all sportsbooks. At BetOnline.ag free play credits are lost on a push. When betting +7 you are really only getting +6.5. Thus always use your free play on lines with a half point already in them. Betting +4.5, -5.5, +10.5 etc. are all fine. Betting -4, +6 or -11 is not. There are many lines on the board with half point spreads in use, so don’t make the foolish mistake of shorting yourself on the spread, by betting free play credits on a line without.
All deposit match bonuses come with a rollover requirement. This is how many times you must wager your starting balance (bonus + deposit) amount prior to cashing out. If you do not want your money tied to a rollover requirement, do not accept the bonus. Once you accept, your money is most often held hostage until the terms are met.
At many sites the rollover is reasonable. At Bovada it is 3-times, at BetOnline 6-times. So, at Bovada you deposit $500 and get $250 Free Play. Here your starting balance is $750. You then need to wager $750*3=$2,250 prior to withdrawal. At BetOnline deposit $500 and get $125 free play you’ll need to wager $625*6=$3,750.
The rollover must be considered in evaluating how good a bonus is. It is wise to avoid sites with large rollover. It is not uncommon to find sites offering 50% or 100% bonuses (sometimes cash) with a 15-50 time rollover. Such bonuses are near impossible to clear before busting the account balance.
#1 Arbing Bonuses – Some players prefer to attempt to lose their bonus while making sure bets, also known as arbs. This means to bet both sides of the same match. One at the site you have a bonus with, the second at a site you do not. If the second wins you lose the bonus but win the same amount at another site where you have no rollover. Also once accounts are bust the rollover most often resets.
A very important comment about the above. This can be a great strategy, but you also need to be careful when using it. If dealing with reputable sites such as Bookmaker, 5Dimes, Bovada, etc. then arb away. With other sites you run a major risk of moving a large amount of your bankroll to a less than reputable site. There are some sportsbooks that while mostly honest find excuses to stall paying or outright stiff large winners. BTG Gaming sites VIPSports.eu, Dimeline etc, and Futurebet sites like Oddsmaker.eu are examples. You really want to avoid using such sites in the first place, and especially don’t want to be arbing into them. If you discover these sites reputations midway through, suck it up and hope to get paid, but whatever you don’t arb. Arbing into a book that might stiff is the biggest mistake a bettor can make.
All this said when arbing with straight bets it is all straight forward using the math explained in my article on hedging bets. Where it is different is with free plays. For reason you don’t get the stake back on a win… the free play is worth less. Ideally, if allowed, you want to bet the free play on an underdog, and then arb the favorite at a book you don’t have a bonus with. To see why I suggest playing with SBR’s Free Bet Calculator and reading the text on that page.
One quick warning is some sites have rules against arbing. WagerWeb has a rule regarding what they call bonus pyramiding. This means betting in such a way it appears you are attempting to bust your account. Under this rule they reserve the right to effectively rob players. The reason I say rob is it is a subjective rule and is buried in the fine print. They however do not enforce it often. A site with a similar rule that does enforce is Betway (not a good site). They, via an odd fine-print-rule that prohibits betting more than 30% of ones balance while having a bonus, have robbed many players. This is more to the point earlier of only using reputable bookies. Sites put these rules in the fine print simply so they have a way to steal from those who run up large balance by playing arbs.
#2 Using Parlays – when dealing with free bet credits it is wise, when allowed, to bet parlays rather than straight bets. The reason why should be intuitive. Remember as covered earlier when you bet with cash and win you get back stake plus win. When you bet with free play credits you only get back the win amount. Now if you understand how parlays work you know that parlays keep rolling forward stake plus win automatically. By betting in 3-team parlays you’ll be able to use the same stake three time, so long as the bet is successful. In short, with free plays the EV is much higher when parlays are used.
Risk Free Bets
Another type of bonus offered by sites are risk free bets. An example might be stake $50 on any market in today’s soccer match and if your bet loses we’ll refund it. Just like with free play credits that $50 isn’t worth $50.00. If you bet on odds or even (a bet with coin-flip odds or in other words 50/50) then the bonus is worth $25 at most. This is because half the time you win and the other half the time you lose. However, further reducing the value is that some sites offer the refunded bet also as a free play credit. In that case the value is only $12.50 tops and could be lower if rollover is required on top of that.
The best strategy dealing with risk free bets is to take the biggest odds allowed. It is a freeroll so if given the chance to bet 10/1, $50 to win $500. This is much better than betting it on 1/1 $50 to win $50. Even more so true if is the case when the refund is a free bet credit as opposed to cash. If you’re skittish over taking that large of a risk then you can also hedge the bet too.
Reduced Juice is Often the Best Bonus
The importance of line shopping is not possible to overstate. Outside proper bet staking, there is no concept more important to winning sports betting than seeking the best price. What you should know is there are some sites that offer reduced juice instead of bonuses. One example is Pinnacle Sports (no CA Players) which has the highest betting limits, lowest margins and fastest payouts. Over the long run, recreational players betting main markets (while not seeking off market prices) will do better at Pinnacle than they will at any site offering them a bonus. To see how much better, I suggest reading my article Reduced Juice vs. Bonuses. This is a must read, and if you’re in the US, note that it introduces a reduced juice option friendly to Americans.
The sad part is that while players will do best with reduced juice, many players do not join the sites offering it because a bonus is not available. So, read that article and see that while yes bonuses are great, they are also not the only thing to look for. Reduced juice is a bonus (higher payout) on each and every bet and requires no rollover.
Buying Half Points in Sports Betting
The majority of online sportsbooks offer the ability to purchase half points off point spreads and totals. This is generally at 10 cents each. If a point spread is 5.5 you can bet the favorite -5.5 -110, -5 -120, or -4.5 -130 or the underdog +5.5 -110, +6 -120, +6.5 -130. The same can be done for over/under betting (NFL based). In this article I explain when it is and isn’t mathematically correct to purchase half points.
Half-Point Betting Math
The math to evaluate value a half point purchase is simple. For starters use an odds converter. On that page you can enter -110 and see under implied probability it shows 52.38%. This is how often a bet at -110 needs to win to average break even. If you now enter -120 you’ll see the required win percentage to break even becomes 54.55%. That’s a difference of 2.17%.
To put this into perspective let’s say we’re looking at an NBA point spread +6.5 -110. Based on the math above we would only instead bet +7 -120 if having +7 instead of +6.5 increases our expected win rate by the required 2.17%. Well, I happen to have a push chart that shows NBA teams that are favored by about 6.5 points win by exactly 7 about 4.1% of the time. In this case we are going to pass on buying the half point because we are only increasing our cover rate by 2.05% (half of the 4.1% probability of the favorite winning by exactly 7) and needed 2.17%+.
Are you confused about why we only took half the 4.1%? To explain: When we had +6.5 if the game ended with the favorite winning 7 we lost and the bookie who had -6.5 won. Moving to 7 both of us push. Therefore that extra 4.1% of value for teams winning by exactly 7, half is on our line of +7 and half is in the bookies line of -7. We gained his share of the 7 on that move. When going from a push to a win the same is true. For example: when going -7 to -6.5 or going +6.5 to +7 our push probability increases by half the probability of that game ending with the favorite winning by 7 points.
Creating Push Charts
It is important to understand each half-point has unique value. In NFL football nearly 16% of all games are decided by EXACTLY 3 points and nearly 10% by EXACTLY 7 points. Those are the two most common margins of victory. In basketball end game strategy with intentional fouls, killing clock, playing for final shots, etc. leads to certain numbers being more likely to occur than others. In low scoring sports like hockey and soccer the chances a total will be an odd (instead of even) number is significant. So the calculations will need to be ran separately for each half point.
It is a good idea to do these well in advanced. How to go about it for most sports would be using point spreads of +/- 1.5. What this means is to calculate the push rate on favorite by 6, look for all similar games where the point spread was between 4.5 and 7.5 and see how often those games finished with the favorite winning by EXACTLY 6. If you calculate this in advanced and list it in a spreadsheet or even just draw some sort of table or list it in a note pad you’ll have it handy anytime it is needed.
As far as getting the data two of my recommended books about sports betting contain value for this. Sharp Sports Betting by Stanford Wong, while outdated, has push charts inside it. These can be used as a rough guide. Or you can use SBR’s half point calculator to capture their push rates on sides and totals for NBA, College Hoops, NFL, College Football, MLB and NHL. Their data is also outdated. It is the other book Conquering Risk that has more value to serious punter. This covers how to scrape content from the web.
If you decide to scrape data there are many potential sources. One is Covers.com which has historical spreads and results going back many years. A better source for recent years is SBROdds.com. Here the calendar at the top (to the right of where it says today / yesterday) can be used to navigate through historical odds and results at multiple sportsbooks. The best one to scrape and use is Pinnacle Sports. Once you have the database – you can create your push chart.
Finding Value Buying Half Points
The key to finding value in purchasing half points is to understand the more half-points you purchase the more each is worth in value. Let me show you why. Let’s say a bookie offers up to 8 half points at 10 cents each. So this is -110 (52.38% implied probability) vs. +8 -190 (65.52% implied probability).The difference is 13.14% or in other words 1.64% per half point. That’s much better than the 2.17% paid when going from -110 to -120. How is this the case?
The reason is because moneylines are based on percentages. 10 cents means nothing in and of itself. To show this further again -110 to -120 increases the required win rate to break even by 2.17%. Again, using our odds converter I can see -120 has an implied probability of 54.55% and -130 of 56.52%. Here the move is again 10 cents but the difference is 2.03% not 2.17%. In that NBA example earlier, the 7 was worth 2.05%. Had the question been +6.5 -120 or +7 -130 we would take +7 -130 because the push on 7 increases our win rate by more than the 2.03% difference in implied probability.
To give an extreme example, going from -180 (64.28%) to -190 (65.52%) has a difference of just 1.24%!. The bigger the moneyline odds the more likely it is that purchasing a half point at 10 cents is a good deal! So how can we can we make money from this?
As a general rule of thumb in basketball it takes 6 half points at 10 cents each to have a tiny edge over the bookmaker. If you can do more than that, with good bankroll management, you practically have a money printing machine. For example 4 points for -190 instead of -110 gives an expected ROI of about 3.6%. While sites like BetUs.com (not very reputable) used to offer 8 points for 80 cents, today most bookies are wise and such deals are uncommon. The smartest bookies limit the number of half points that can be purchased to 2 or 3 before they start to charge a premium.
The most logical place to find value should be in NFL point spreads on the most common margins of victory 3 and 7. Unfortunately, here once again the bookies charge a premium. Going from +2.5 to +3, +3 to +3.5, -3.5 to -3, and -3 to -2.5 costs 25 or 30 cents at most bookies. Going from +6.5 to +7, +7 to +7.5, -7.5 to -7, and -7 to -6.5 costs 15 or 20 cents. This can still sometimes be worth it when the ML is large. What is however more common is to find value on the half points they don’t charge a premium for. Worth noting is that the third most common margin of victory in NFL football is 10. Should I continue?
Let me just tell you buying half points is one of the many ways I personally make money betting sports. If I however told you which sites allow 4 half points at 10 cents each (yes these exist) or what the most common margins of victory are for every league, this article will become outdated quickly. Why? Because everyone will be beating the sportsbook that offers +EV point buy opportunities. That book will eventually notice and adjust their odds. This has happened many times in the past. Years ago basic strategy NFL teasers were profitable at most sites, today they are not. Years ago there was much more value in buying half points, but today bookies grown wiser.
If you do the work to make push charts, find the most common margins of victory, and learn which bookies offers what, you will soon be able to create a system. Every time a specific point spread pops up you know “at book XYZ I need to do X”. If you have that system you are making money. At that point you will be glad I concluded this article the way I did. It is important only a limited number of people take advantage of the +EV angles, because eventually they dry up.
Complete Guide to Arbitrage Betting
In this article I explain Arbitrage betting, also known as arbs and sure bets. I begin with the definition and then progress to how to calculate stakes. Let me warn, the bottom of this article is very important. If you are novice and read only the first sections and get started, chances are great you will lose a lot of money. In other words: if you are new to the topic, read this comprehensive article in full before making arb bets.
What is an Arbitrage Bet?
For sports, arbitrage betting can be defined as process of taking advantage of the differences in bookmaker prices by wagering every potential outcome of an event in such a way the return is the same regardless of which outcome is successful.
To show an example, let’s say an online betting site is offering a tennis player +105 (risk 1.05 to win 1.00) in a match. Another betting site is offering their opponent +105 too. If we stake $100 to win $105 on each we are guaranteed to make $5 no matter which player wins. This is because the winning bet pays $105 profit, and the losing one costs $100.
Arbitrage betting is only possible because there is a large number of bookmakers competing. You will only find arbs on select matches. I strongly suggest reading our site’s article Fade the Public. This explains the reason why and also has other information that is helpful for arbers to understand. It takes shopping many online betting sites to find arb opportunities. Thankfully this can now be done using odds feeds.
Odds Feeds for Finding Arbs
While we at Online Betting do offer odds comparison service on our homepage and league pages, it is only one small feature of this site. There are other website that specialize in only this. These sites display odds for more sportsbooks and markets. Likewise, as an arber, you will want to use each. Here are some recommended sites that can be used to easily shop odds.
- com– covers the largest number of sportsbooks and the most leagues. They are truly international and thus have an odds feed for sports leagues none of the other sites do.
Take for example, Korean volleyball and Chinese basketball which Odds Portal covers. These leagues are not the main focus of any bookmaker. Likewise, the odds discrepancies between sites is often greater than it is for main markets. This means more arbs can be found. Odds Portal is also just as great for shopping major markets too on soccer, tennis, basketball, hockey, football and other sports.
- com– is of limited interest to players located in the United States as the bookies they support don’t accept CA players. For everyone else this is a great feed to use. They don’t cover as many books as OddsPortal but they have far more markets.
Here, you can find odds comparison on small props markets such as how many passing attempts an American football quarterback will have in a game, or the scorecast on a particular player and team in soccer. The list goes on and on. For some matches Odds Checker displays odds for over 200 different specials.
- comis very popular with American bettors as it uses a format they are most used to seeing with different point spreads listed on the same page. It is however extremely rare to find arbs between the books they cover. However, it is a great site to quickly see the odds at major betting outs. This is very helpful when shopping odds at other books by hand.
My own personal example: none of the sites mentioned on this list display odds for CA betting site www.sportsbook.ag. I often find arbs between Sportsbook and SBR listed sites and therefore need to manually compare Sportsbooks odds to those on the opened SBR feed. Aside from all this, one areas you can find arbs with SBR is second half lines, meaning those released and open for betting only during the half. For these you need to be quick to bet.
The odds comparison sites just mentioned are all free to use. As a result there are small delays where sometimes it takes a few minutes for the odds to update. This can be frustrating to arbers as it means a lot of wasted time in loading two sites. A lot of serious arbers go with paid odds feeds such as donbest.com. Others develop their own system that scrapes the lines from books using their own programing and servers.
How to Calculate an Arb
There are many calculators on the web where you can just plug in the odds and it tells you how much to bet on each side. A couple of the more known examples are scalpulator.com and arbcruncher.com. You can find others by Googling a term such as arb calculator.
For those wishing to know the math, this is covered in my article on Hedging Sports Bets. Understand hedging is the same as arbing, the only difference is it is not done in advanced. A hedge is moving off a position at a later time, where an arb is betting all potential outcomes upfront.
How to Spot an Arb Bet
The article I just linked to on hedging shares the math but does not cover how to spot an arbitrage bet. When dealing with two way markets this is very easy. If the positive American odds are greater than the negative American odds you know an arb exists. You can then do the math to quickly calculate the stakes. However, when dealing with multi-way markets this is not as easy to spot. To show how it is done let me use a sincere example.
At the time I am writing this article I found the best odds available for each of the 3 wagering options on an English League One football match were:
– Coventy -161 (Coral)
– Draw +350 (William Hill)
– Crewe +632 (Pinnacle Sports)
In order to see if there is an arb available we need to get the implied probability for each wagering option. For this we can use our odds converter where I see -161 is 61.69%, +350 is +22.22%, and +632 is 13.66%. If I add those three probabilities together I see this totals 97.57%. This here is the trick! For reason the total is less than 100% I know for sure an arb is possible.
In this case I staked $500 on -161, $180.12 on +350 and $110.73 on +632. No matter which wins I get back $810.56. If you add all three bets together you’ll see in total I staked $790.86. This means I’m guaranteed $19.70 (2.49%) profit no matter which of the three bets wins.
Understand this example works with 4-way, 5-way, 6-way or however many way markets. If the implied probability on each outcome added together totals less than 100% an arb is available. However do note: a guarantee is not an actual guarantee. There are risks involved and things that can go wrong. I conclude this article by covering those.
Risks Arbers Face
Arb betting is often referred to as “risk free betting” or by the term “sure bets”. This is however only true in theory. The reality is there are many risks arbitrage players face. First and foremost the biggest risk is being stiffed. The majority of online betting sites are not regulated. While pure scam sites are one thing, there are other sites that pay over 99% of their clients but sometimes stiff the big winners.
What can happen is most sportsbooks have a catch all rule that allows them to effectively steal winnings without actually violating their terms and conditions. One example comes from WagerWeb.ag. Included in their long list of rules, buried in the fine print you will find: “WagerWeb is for recreational players only. (Syndicates, Professional Players and bonus abusers are not allowed)”.
This was just randomly chosen example. Most all sportsbooks have a similar catch all rule that mentions their site is for recreational players only. There only a couple sites actually friendly to professionals. Namely www.bookmaker.eu (CA Players Allowed) and www.pinnaclesports.com (No CA Players). While these sites strictly follow “book a bet, pay a bet”, it is rare to find arbs with Bookmaker and when you find an arb with Pinnacle it is other site, not Pinnacle, that is offering the +EV side.
I discuss the above more in a minute, but first a point to understand. Arbers are the ones most likely to grow a large balance with a sportsbook. When it comes time to cash out, your account is then reviewed, they see all the bets you made at their site were likely steam chasing or arbs, and that you are not going to be a profitable client. If this is a less than reputable book that sometimes steals, you’re likely the one they will steal from. Some books will simply say you violated their rule as CLEARLY your action professional and NOT RECREATIONAL. They will then void all bets and refund your deposit.
The other more common thing to happen is arb protection in the form of voiding bets. This will happen at even super reputable books such as 5Dimes, TheGreek and others when it was in fact an error. If it is a gross error such as making a team -200 instead of +200 (transposing favorite and underdog) all sites will void the line and rightfully so. Obviously be careful not to arb these that are without a doubt an error. However, some otherwise reputable UK Bookies such as BWIN, ToteSport, Coral etc. have been known to do this when whether or not it was a bad line could easily be debated. The same is true with Asian Bookies like 188Bet and Dafabet. So, this is where you need to be careful. The biggest arbs (anything over a couple percent) often should be avoided.
As far as getting stiffed goes, there is a major learning curve. Those who are great at arbing are those who become great at learning the inter-working of various sportsbooks inside and out. They know which sites are slow paying, which pay fast, who is reputable, how a book should be rated, what they can get away with at each book and so much more. This is not something that can be learned overnight. It will only come with experience. Searching for and using online betting forums to communicate with other arbers or professional players about sportsbooks can help with this learning curve.
Other Risks to Note
There are other risks too, only some of which are covered below:
- Arbs Do Not Last Long– Betting odds are constantly moving and it often takes only a single large bet for a site to realize they are offering a +EV line. A considerable risk is that you’ll confirm one bet and then have the other give a message saying sorry the line has moved. For that reason, be sure to make both bets at the same time and to confirm the one that is considered the off-market-price first.
- Betting Limits Differ– Understand you can arb up to the maximum allowed bet. Between betting sites the limits are different. It is also not at all uncommon for books to give those they know are arbing personal limit collars. While everyone else can bet $5,000 on a game perhaps you can only bet $25.00. If you’re successful arbing you will for sure have limits cut to unusable levels at some of the online bookies you use. The first time you discover this you might be left with one bet already confirmed and the other giving you a message that your limits have been exceeded.
- There is no Recourse for Hacked Accounts– This is very often the case. If someone logs into your account and chip dumps in that sites poker room, or just bets your balance away in the casino or sportsbook, most often you are out of luck. The biggest mistake arbers make is using the same password at each site, and using poor internet security practices.
Likely, multiple $4.25 per hour Costa Rica based employees have access to your password at the sportsbook they work. They also have your name, address, phone number and email. Eventually one of them is going attempt to use that information to social engineer access to one of your other accounts. Be smart and keep your password unique at every site, and do not store that information online, or use porn tubes or torrent sites from the same internet device you use for betting. As a serious arber you are now a desirable target.
- Deposit and Withdrawal Fees– Every now and then you will come across deposit and withdrawal fees that are not expected. For examples: BetOnline charges 6% on credit card deposits. Bookmaker.eu charges $100 for most NETELLER withdrawal and $500 for wire transfer withdrawals. StanJames has a policy where if you deposit with Skrill you can’t use the sportbsook period. You can only user poker and casino and if you try to cash out without giving proper cover play they will add an admin fee of several percent.
Arbers often join betting websites in a hurry to take advantage of arbs that won’t last long. It is important to be aware of these fees and policies at each site, as otherwise you might end up paying more in fees than you are going to make on the arb you joined the website to pursue.
- Currency Exchange Fees– These can kill the value of an arb in a hurry. For low limit arbers lots of arbs can be found at PaddyPower.com (no CA players) but this site operates only in Euro and UK Pound. If your e-wallet account used to deposit are set up as USD accounts, or some other currency, the currency exchange fees might exceed the value of the arb. Similarly, when betting with volatile currencies, such as betting with bitcoin, the frequent change in buy/sell prices adds additional risks.
- Listed Pitchers– When betting baseball make sure to specify that the bet only has action when the listed pitchers start the match. Some sites give the option or default to action betting. With this, in the event of a pitching change the odds are changed to whatever the bookmaker deems a fair price is. Obviously this doesn’t work when arbing and can be very costly.
- Make Sure Terms are Identical– Punters do sometimes mistake bet terms. For example one site is offering home/away (Moneyline betting) while the other is offering home/draw/away (1X2). In soccer most know to look out for this. In hockey some are surprised to learn certain books exclude overtime. There is section at PinnacleSports.com where this is the case even when betting the Moneyline. Failure to realize this can be costly.
- Rules Discrepancies– A tennis player retires early in a match. Is the bet void, does it have action at the current score. This is a big one. At Ladbrokes it is action after each has served. At 5dimes it is after 1 set is complete, at TheGreek after 2 sets are complete. At Bet365 it would have had to have gone the full match! Wow that’s four different rules! You need to know which rule the site you are using uses otherwise you could have a loss + a push costing you a heck of a lot of your bankroll on a failed arb. And, that’s just for one sport. How about how suspended games in baseball are handled, or ties in cricket, etc. There’s a lot one needs to pay attention to here.
- Human Error Mistakes– I’ll conclude with one that is also common, that being simple mistakes. You bet the same side of the arb at both sites by mistake. Now you have maybe 20-40% of your bankroll at risk on a single play without realizing. If you win it is time to cash some out and celebrate. If you lose it sets you back months.
As you can hopefully now see arbitrage betting is far from being risk free or a sure bet. That said, there is money to be made in it, and some people become very good at it. The purpose of this article was to give you solid introduction while also properly warning about the risks.
The Importance of Line Shopping
The 2+2 Sports Betting Forum, which I moderate under the user name PropPlayer, has a Sports Betting FAQ. While I’ve made the bulk of the recent additions, some of the questions and responses were there well before I began moderating that forum. One of those in particular asks whether sports betting can be beaten consistently for a profit. The answer provided is:
“Yes. You simply have to find lines that are far enough away from the “true” line for the bet to be profitable. This requires good line shopping and/or good handicapping. Personally I know far more winning line shoppers than winning handicappers. Line shopping really cannot be stressed enough. Generally the difference between a losing sports bettor and winning sports bettor is line shopping.”
This is essentially what it comes down to. If you can find the best odds possible and then bet based on Kelly Criterion for sports betting you will be become wealthy. This is because the Kelly stake on a –EV bet is $0, and on +EV bets it is an amount that will help you maximize expected bankroll growth, thus limiting risk of ruin. If you are a professional bettor and this over your head, it shouldn’t be. Read the article I just linked. and everything else linked on our Sports Betting tab. For recreational players, please keep reading as this article is written with you in mind.
The Quick of: What is Line Shopping?
Line shopping is no different than price shopping for anything else. If you live in CA and are buying a new television, smart consumers don’t just head to Walmart and pick one up. They instead browse and compare prices at Amazon, eBay, NewEgg, TigerDirect and other websites. Upon discovering a potential choice, before committing, they enter the model number into Google Products to compare the price further. Professional sports bettors, and savvy recreation punters do the same thing when placing sports bets.
At Online Betting our homepage starts off with a comparison of odds at a select few sites making it easy to shop. For serious players, or really anyone dedicated to losing the least / winning the most, arbitrage betting is an article I wrote that contains listings and sort of mini personal reviews of various odds comparison sites. These can be used to compare odds at dozens of online bookmakers on the fly.
The Odds Vary Greatly
The important point to understand is that odds vary greatly between sportsbooks. If you’re about to bet the Milwaukee Bucks +6.5 -110 at Bovada, and never take a moment to notice +7 -105 is available at 5Dimes, you are leaving a lot of money on the table. If you are a $100 bettor you would have bet $110 to win $100 at Bovada. At 5Dimes the same $110 staked would return $104.76 as the odds are -105. Furthermore:
As 5Dimes is the sharper book chances are such that their line is most accurate. So, if the true odds are 50/50 on +7, using the info covered in my article on buying half points I can calculate +6.5 is going to win only about 48% of the time. So what is the damage here?
- If 100 times you bet $110 to win $100 at Bodog +6.5, 48 times you win $100 for +$4,800 and 52 times you lose $110 for -$5720. That’s an overall expected loss of $920.00. On a per bet basis that is $9.20 lost per $110 staked. As a percentage this is an expected loss of 8.36% the amount staked.
- If 100 times you bet $110 to win $104.76 at 5Dimes, 50 times you lose $110 = -$5500 and 50 times you win $104.76 = +$5238. That’s an overall expected loss of $262.00. $2.62 per $110 staked means this is a -2.38% expected loss on the amount staked.
Can you see how staggering the difference is? Really though so many bettors think along the lines of “eh 5Dimes has -107 but I already have money in Bookmaker who has -110. I’m only betting $110 instead of $107, that’s $3.00 which is hardly worth my time worrying about. I make up the difference spent in time not depositing”. This is SUCH A VERY HARD point to drill home!
The reality is sports betting cannot be beaten by just watching games and being a fan. There are lots of people that run hot over the short term, but winning sports betting does not work that way. The reason why is because betting markets are mostly efficient.
There is however a brain-dead anyone can follow strategy to beat sports betting ONLY by line shopping. The page with Online Betting’s Remove Vig Calculator explains just that. The point I need to attempt to stress is this: on main markets the best bettors in the world only have a couple percent advantage! So that idea of “I am going to bet $110 instead of $107 for same return because it is only $3.00”, means even if you are the best bettor there is at picking winners, you are likely giving up all of your edge.
From a Loser to Winner and Vice Versa
Failure to line shop can very easily turn talented winners into losers. The goal for a $100 bettor betting main markets is probably to average $2.00 profit per bet. 3 bets per day is 1095 per year for +$2190.00. However, if you really had an edge, with taking no more of your bankroll out of your pocket you could rather quickly become a multi-millionaire, by using Kelly Criterion. This will also be compounded much quicker if you take advantage of sports betting bonuses, and perhaps also make arb bets. You will be shocked at how quickly it compounds (but: warning most don’t have that $2.00 per $100 +EV!).
For recreational bettors who are simply just looking to get lucky, line shopping is as important as well. Earlier the example of betting +6.5 -110 when 5Dimes had +7 -105. With the first we expect to lose roughly 8.36% per bet, but only 2.38% per bet with 5Dimes. That’s a huge 6% of your stake in losses difference. But let’s look at the extra few dollars betting -110 instead of -107 on the same spread example. Saving the math, I will just tell you, in this case the difference is 1.28%.
How much do you bet per game? How many bets do you make per year? Multiple those two and then times it by 0.0128. That is the additional amount you are losing, or the amount of winnings you are potentially leaving on the table, per year by betting -110 when -107 is available!
To conclude I want to make two points. First to tell you that www.5dimes.eu is often the place to find the best odds. If you are a casual bettor who refuses to line shop then this is the site to use. But this only true if don’t make a mistake. They offer a choice of bonus or reduced juice. By default players get reduced juice -105 pricing, but will lose it if they change to a bonus package. All though it should be obvious, the link I just provided further explains how much better value the reduced juice option is.
The final point to make is the same way smart consumers buying a product do their bests to price shop, they also read reviews as well. By this I don’t mean reviews written by people paid to market websites, those are not trustworthy. I rather mean peer to peer reviews. Not all online sportsbooks are reputable, so it is important to do your research.
A serious bettor will line shop and use over a dozen betting sites (this is easy with the help of odds feeds). Getting the best price possible between all reputable betting sources is key. Passing up on -110 at a legit site to get -107 at one that probably won’t pay if you win is not a smart idea. If you have questions or are looking for feedback regarding a sportsbook perhaps ask in this 2+2 thread.