How to Place Arbitrage Bets
When you have an arb available, and all of the sportsbooks involved (usually 2, sometimes 3) 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, while internet explorer has a few third party options available; one free option is availble here. Being pre-logged in to all of your bookmakers saves valuable time when an arb does come up.
So, with your bookmakers ready, and your alert service running, you receive an alertâ€¦
First thought: 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 donâ€™t lose money by missing arbs, you lose money by taking stupid risks. Donâ€™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 donâ€™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 â€˜fourthâ€™ 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 can 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.
If both bookmakers have plenty of money in them, and the bet limits are quite high for both sides of the arb, then you may still want to limit your bet to a manageable figure. If the arb is a low percentage, you may not want to dump all of your cash into one low percentage arb when better arbs may come, or more importantly, if the arb is high, you donâ€™t want to risk several thousand dollars on something that might be an error, or something that you might make a simple mistake on. So it is advisable to never risk too much of your balance on any one arb.
Place the bets.