April 21, 2020

How to Profit from Middles in Sports Arbitrage | Positive, Negative and Polish Middles

As you are probably aware, traditional sports arbitrage involves betting on all possible outcomes of a sporting event to ensure profit regardless of the outcome that eventuates.

But what if there was a way to ensure a modest profit no matter the outcome, while also allowing for the potential to double your money if a specific outcome occurred?

Interested? Welcome to the world of arbitrage middles!

What are Middles in Sports Arbitrage Betting?

Middles take advantage of line betting or asian handicap betting to work.

Line Betting

Line betting involves giving one team an imaginary head start and placing all bets on the basis of this head start.

For example, if Liverpool are playing Chelsea and the bookmaker thinks that Liverpool is likely to win by 2 goals, they will set the line at +/- 2. For example, you can bet on Liverpool (-2) at odds of 1.91, or Chelsea (+2) at odds of 1.91.

A bet of $100 on Liverpool (-2) in this situation:

  • Returns $191 if Liverpool in by 3 goals or more.
  • Returns stake of $100 if Liverpool win by 2 goals (bet voided).
  • Returns nothing if Liverpool win by 1 goal, draw or lose.

Asian Handicap Betting

Asian Handicap betting is line betting where the bet void option is eliminated by setting the line to include half points (it is impossible to score a half point in soccer). As an example, $100 staked on Liverpool (-1.5) at odds of 1.91:

  • Returns $191 if Liverpool win by 2 goals or more.
  • Returns nothing if Liverpool win by 1 goal, draw or lose.
Arbitrage Middles Negative

So how does this apply to middles?

Middles arise when bookmakers set different lines on the same match. In our earlier example, Bet365 may set the line at 1.5, whereas Pinnacle may set it at 0.5. This can result in the following situation.

  • Bet365: Liverpool (-1.5) @ 1.91, Chelsea (+1.5) @ 1.91
  • Pinnacle: Liverpool (-0.5) @ 1.80, Chelsea (+0.5) @ 2.15


Stake

Odds

Liverpool (-1.5)

$200

1.91 (Bet365)

Chelsea (+0.5)

$177.67

2.15 (Pinnacle)

Total

$377.67


Here are the potential outcomes:

  • Liverpool wins by 2 goals or more. Payout is $382 from Bet365. Net profit is $4.33.
  • Draw or Chelsea wins: Payout is $381.99 from Pinnacle. Net profit is $4.32.
  • Liverpool win by exactly 1 goal. Both bets pay out for $763.99. Net profit is $386.32!

This is an exaggerated example to demonstrate middles arbitrage. Low scoring games like soccer are unlikely to have such different lines between bookmakers.

However, hopefully it is clear to you that while middles often pay out quite modestly like regular arbs, they can occasionally produce fantastic payouts for patient arbers.

Want to know how to calculate the stakes in the table above?

Read my article on arbitrage betting calculations!

Arbers should bet on any middle with a positive percentage. Even if it is a 0% breakeven arb, it is still worthwhile going for it as the payout in the event of a successful middle will make up for many no profit arbs.

These kinds of middles are known as positive middles, as you will profit or break even regardless of the outcome of the match.

Negative Middles

Negative middles occur when there is an overlap in the lines set by different bookmakers (same as in positive middles) but the odds do not allow for a true arbitrage situation (total percentage greater than 100%).

For example:

  • Bwin: Dallas Cowboys (-8.5) @ 1.91, NY Giants (+8.5) @ 1.91
  • William Hill: Dallas Cowboys (-9.5) @ 1.87, NY Giants (+9.5) @ 1.99


Stake

Odds

Dallas Cowboys (-8.5)

$200

1.91 (Bwin)

NY Giants (+9.5)

$191.96

1.99 (William Hill)

Total

$391.96


  • Dallas Cowboys win by 10 points or more. Payout is $382 from Bwin. Net loss is $9.96.
  • Dallas Cowboys win by 8 points or less, draw or lose: Payout is $382 from William Hill. Net loss is $9.96.
  • Dallas Cowboys win by exactly 9 points. Both bets payout for $764. Net profit is $372.04.

In this situation, you can see that most of the time, you will be losing $10 per hit, but every now and then, you will win $372.

The percentage on this arb is -2.6% ((1/1.91) + (1/1.99) = 2.6%), so you need to hit the spread (Dallas Cowboys to win by exactly 9 points in this case) at least 1 in every 37 games for it to be profitable.

As the line is set by what the bookmakers feel is the most likely score at the end of the match, the middle is achieved more often than you might initially think.

Negative middles are less popular as you often need to take many small hits before you get a good payout.

The advantage of negative middles is that because they are less popular, they last longer and are easier to bet on before they disappear.

Another advantage is that they are less likely to be detected by the bookies as arbitrage activity. A few negative middles can actually enhance your standing with the bookies as you will probably have a few losses with them before getting a good payout.

A similar setup can occur in overs/unders market. In this market, you bet on whether the total number of points scored (by both teams) will be under or over a certain amount.

Polish Middles

High scoring games like AFL and basketball often have this market. If you can find an overlap between the lines (eg. 75 points at Bookmaker A, 78 points at Bookmaker B) you can go for a negative middle.

You need decent working capital to go for negative middles so that you can ride out a string of small losses and still have enough cash to capitalise on the middle when it finally does pay off.

Inverted/Polish middles

An advanced strategy is to take the negative middles strategy but use it in reverse. Rather than slightly losing money each time until eventually getting a big payday, win a high percentage return on your stake almost every game unless a very specific situation occurs.

You might win 12% every game, and then suddenly take a 100% loss.

Let's illustrate with an example:

  • Ladbrokes: Adelaide Crows (-22.5) @ 2.25
  • Sportsbet: Sydney Swans (+18.5) @ 2.25


Stake

Odds

Adelaide Crows (-22.5)

$200

2.25 (Ladbrokes)

Sydney Swans (+18.5)

$200

2.25 (Sportsbet)

Total

$400


Here are the potential outcomes:

  • Adelaide Crows win by 23 points or more. Payout is $450 from Ladbrokes. Net profit is $50.
  • Adelaide Crows win by 18 points or less, draw or lose: Payout is $450 from Sportsbet. Net profit is $50.
  • Adelaide Crows win by 19, 20, 21 or 22 points. Both bets lose. Net loss is $400!

As you can see, you will make very good profits almost every game (12.5% in this case), until you eventually lose big.

This is more akin to gambling than arbitrage betting and it can be very difficult to estimate the long term expected profit unless you are very familiar with the sport.

It is only recommended for very advanced sports traders who have high enough working capital to withstand a 100% loss on a bet.

If you are just starting out your capital can be wiped out by an unlucky Polish middle, so I strongly advise against it.

In any case, bookmakers are very unlikely to detect polish middling or take action against it.

In summary

Middles are a great way to increase the number of arbitrage opportunities available to you and can pay off very handsomely under certain situations.

For beginners it is recommended that you stick with positive middles until your working capital is at the point where you can handle the ongoing losses associated with negative middles.

Negative middles are less popular and last longer. They often go undetected by the bookmakers, making it less likely that your account will be limited.

Polish middles are similar to gambling and are only recommended for advanced traders.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. I will earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product or service after clicking on my link. This helps pay for the cost of running the website. You will not be disadvantaged in any way by using my links.

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Louis


I'm an Australian guy who has used sports arbitrage betting to provide a decent side income (thousands of dollars per month!) for myself while working full-time. I've set up the The Arb Academy to teach others how to do the same and achieve financial security through a second income stream!

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