The house always wins. We’ve heard this so many times that it must be true, right? Well, not exactly. A more correct saying would be, the house usually wins.
That’s right, the house (in our case a sports bookmaker) doesn’t always win. In fact, they routinely make mistakes and if you’re smart, you can learn how to identify when they’ve made a mistake, and exploit it for profit!
You don’t need to be an expert in sports, or even have any interest in it whatsoever, you just need to be capable of using some simple mathematics. When I got started with these methods, I had never placed a bet in my life.
This guide is designed for those who are brand new to the concept of advantage gambling, which is the practice of using entirely legal methods to gain an edge over the house when gambling.
Below, I will outline the only real ways to make money from sports betting. Let’s get started!
Note: Don't have time to read the full article but want to see an infographic comparison of my recommended, profitable sports betting strategies? Click here!
But the bookmakers make huge profits every year?
Yes, they certainly do. Before we can understand how to make money from a bookmaker, we need to understand how their business works and how they make money.
A bookmaker is a company that accepts bets from customers at fixed odds. Odds are prices that give you an indication of how much money you can expect to win if an event occurs, based on how much money you are willing to risk (known as your stake).
For example, odds of 2.50, indicate that you will receive winnings of $2.50 for every $1 you stake. This is your $1 stake plus $1.50 in profit. Higher odds indicate that a bookmaker thinks that there is a lower probability of that event occurring (therefore they will pay you more if it actually does occur).
In fact, the odds are just the inverse of the probability (low probability = high odds and high probability = low odds). Heads coming up in a coin toss has a probability of 50%, so the fair odds for that outcome should be 2.00.
However, the bookmaker is a business trying to turn a profit, so they never give you the true odds. They factor a small profit margin into every single one of the odds that they offer. This is known as vigorish.
If they think that there is a 50/50 even chance of two different outcomes occurring (like the coin toss) they will almost never offer odds of 2.00. Instead, they offer odds of 1.90 or similar.
Say that two separate customers each place $100 bets on the different outcomes. Customer A bets $100 on heads at odds of 1.90, and Customer B bets $100 on tails at odds 1.90.
If heads come up, Customer A wins $190, and Customer B wins nothing. If tails come up, the reverse occurs. In both instances, the bookmaker accepts $200 of bets, but only pays out $190 in winnings. They have made $10 by simply factoring a slight profit margin (5%) into their odds.
Considering this, the main ways to make money from bookmakers are:
- Using bookmaker promotions such as free bets to gain an edge. By using free bets, we can access potential winnings while staking very little of our own money.
- Identify when the bookmaker odds are far too generous/high (high enough to even overcome the vigorish) and place bets accordingly.
Is Profitable Sports Betting Legal?
Before we get stuck into the actual ways to make money, I’ll quickly answer a common question - are these methods legal?
Absolutely. As long as you are of legal age and online sports betting is permitted in your country (more detail here), everything I mention in this article is a legal way to profit from sports betting.
As profitable sports bettors, we are simply taking advantage of the publicly available promotions offered by the bookmakers and using the best value odds (which are also publicly available) to place legal bets.
As an example, match fixing (where bettors pay players to influence the outcome of a match) is an illegal form of profitable sports betting. We do not condone this or any illegal forms of gambling.
What do the bookmakers think of it?
While there is nothing illegal about it, the bookmakers are running a business and they unsurprisingly do not like losing money.
As part of their terms and conditions, they reserve the right to restrict or terminate the accounts of any customers at any time for any reason.
If they suspect that you are likely to consistently win money from them over the long run, they will typically lower your maximum betting stakes down to the point where it is no longer worthwhile to continue betting (this is known as gubbing).
This is inevitable, so our goal is to carefully make as much money as possible while appearing like regular punters for as long as possible before we inevitably get limited. However, most countries have scores of bookmakers, so you can simply move onto another one and restart the process!
With that cleared up, let’s take a look at some profitable sports betting strategies.
How to Make Money from Sports Betting? 5 Unique Methods
There are a number of different ways to make money from sports betting, each with varying degrees of profitability and difficulty.
It makes sense to start with the lowest risk and highest profit methods before moving onto more advanced techniques.
The methods I will introduce below are those with the lowest risk, least amount of skill required and highest profitability.
The 4 main ways to make money from sports betting are:
- Matched Betting
- Arbitrage Betting
- Value Betting
- Investing in a Sports Betting Fund
- Sharp Value Betting
These terms will mean very little to you at the moment, but let’s quickly compare them to give you a feel for how they differ:
$300 - $1,000 /mth
Betting Fund Investing
Med - High
Sharp Value Betting
Low - Med
*Note: Please be aware that the expected profit figures are quite rubbery and depend on a number of factors.
Which betting strategy should I use?
Matched betting is the best for beginners. It requires the lowest bankroll and has the highest profits. Your profits are largely dependent on how much time you are willing to spend on it.
It is reasonably complex, but by using some matched betting software, you can make it very simple and quite profitable.
Eventually, the bookmakers will realise what you are doing and no longer provide you with any promotions. At this point, you should move onto either arbitrage or value betting (depending on your risk profile).
Of course, you will eventually be restricted from using those methods too, which is why you should ultimately move onto a sustainable form of profitable sports betting, that doesn’t involve soft bookmakers (which are likely to ban you).
If you are new to this, don’t worry about this, just be aware that the techniques you will start off using don’t work forever and you will need to grow your bankroll and move onto more advanced strategies if you want to do profitable sports betting in the long term.
Alternatively, you can make some easy money from matched betting, cash out your profits and then stop there if you like, and never place another bet in your life. The choice is yours.
Let’s get started on a brief explanation of each of the profitable betting strategies outlined above.
Do you remember earlier when we discussed how bookmakers made money by building a profit margin into their odds (vigorish)?
Well, this works very well for the bookmakers when you are betting your own money. But what if you weren’t betting your money, but were betting with their money instead? Well, this is the essence of matched betting.
Like any other business, bookmakers often run promotions to encourage new customers to sign up with them. To attract new customers they often run promotions whereby they will provide you with free bets when you make a new account and deposit some money.
They often match your first deposit with free bets (say deposit $100 and get $100 in free bets) up to a certain limit.
So we deposit $100 of our own money, then get access to the $100 free bet. We use this $100 to back an outcome, then we use some of our money to lay the same outcome at a betting exchange.
Wait, what? Backing, laying? You’ve lost me!
Right, sorry about that! Backing a bet refers to what we normally do at a bookmaker, that is, place a bet on a particular outcome to occur.
Laying a bet is what the bookmaker is doing, it is betting on an outcome to NOT occur. So if I am backing Chelsea to win an EPL match, I am betting that they WILL win. If I lay Chelsea however, I am betting they WILL NOT win (lose or draw).
By both backing and laying a bet, we can cover all outcomes. This ensures that no matter what happens, at least one of our bets will pay off.
Aren’t we going to lose money by backing all outcomes because of the vigorish? Well yes, normally, but remember we are using a free bet, which is enough to overcome the vigorish.
So how do we lay a bet if bookmakers only accept back bets? Well, we go to a betting exchange, the most famous and largest being Betfair.
Betfair is a marketplace that connects people who want to place bets. If someone on Betfair wants to back a bet at certain odds, you can then lay a bet at the same odds. This means that you are acting as the bookmaker to that person.
Betfair doesn’t have any skin in the game, they make money by collecting a 5% commission of the winnings for being the facilitator of the bet.
Right, so back to the example then?
Right, so we have got a $100 bonus bet from the bookmaker. A typical condition of these bonus bets is that we don’t receive our stake back if the bet wins, just the winnings. This is known as a Stake Not Returned (SNR) bet.
Say Chelsea are playing Manchester United in the EPL. Chelsea have had a bad run recently, and our bookmaker has set them at odds of 4.50.
We use our $100 bet to back Chelsea at the bookmaker. If Chelsea were to win, we would receive $350 ($100 x 4.50 minus our original $100 stake). If they lose, we lose nothing, as we are using a free bet, not our own money.
This is great, but with Chelsea being such an outsider, they probably aren’t going to win. We can make the outcomes more symmetrical by laying Chelsea at the betting exchange. Let’s see how.
At the betting exchange (say Betfair), Chelsea have lay odds of 4.60 (this means that someone out there wants to back Chelsea at 4.60, so we can match their back bet with our own lay bet).
We can use a back/lay calculator to work out that we need to lay Chelsea with a stake of $76.92.
This means that we are accepting a stake of $76.92 from the counterparty on the exchange, which leaves us with a potential liability of $276.92 (odds of 4.6 x $76.92 minus the stake of $76.92 that the counterparty is putting up for the wager).
Potential Payout (excl. commission)
Potential Winnings (incl. commission)
Total Money Spent
We have essentially turned the free $100 bonus bet into at least $73 of cash, ready to be withdrawn. The example above may seem very complicated, but with a little practice, a bet like that will take you less than 5 minutes!
The more bookmaker accounts you have, the more promotions you will receive and the more you can profit!
What do I do once I’ve used all of the sign up promotions?
The bookmakers also run ongoing promotions to existing customers. An example of this is a boosted odds promotion. For example, the odds for a team to win may normally be 3.50. A bookmaker may run a promotion whereby these odds are boosted to 5.00.
This is much higher than their built-in profit margin (vigorish), which allows you to back a bet with them, then lay the same bet at the exchange and profit regardless of the outcome!
Is there any way to speed up the process?
An assisted matched betting service can help speed up the process greatly. They will scan all of the bookmakers daily and keep an updated list of current promotions.
They also have odds matching software, which scans the odds for thousands of sports matches across tens of bookmakers to find the optimal bets and odds for you to use your promotions on.
They alert you to the latest promotions, you select the ones you like, and they find the optimal bet and calculate the perfect stakes for you.
This allows you to place many, many bets in a short space of time. In exchange, they charge a modest, monthly fee.
You can read more about assisted matched betting (including which software packages I recommend) via the button below. Almost all services offer a free trial, so I recommend that you take advantage of this.
Interested in Matched Betting?
Access my matched betting resource page that has everything you need to get started!
What do I need to get started with Matched Betting?
Getting started with matched betting is quite easy. You need the following 4 items:
The recommended minimum bankroll depends on what country you are in, but $200-300 is usually enough to get started.
You will need soft bookmaker accounts to be able to place bets. You can start with 2-3 and then open more once you are feeling confident.
Bookmaker accounts can be opened online, there is no need to visit a store.
Critical to profiting from matched betting is your Betfair account. You will need this to lay the bets that you are backing at the bookmakers.
Your Betfair account will never be limited and they welcome matched bettors, so a free Betfair account is a very valuable asset.
You can open a Betfair account online.
Matched Betting Service Account
Did you look at the matched betting example earlier and find it confusing? Or perhaps you’re not sure how you are supposed to know which matches to bet on to extract as much value as possible from the promotions?
The bookmaker promotions often come with lengthy terms and conditions that can be difficult to interpret, even for experienced bettors.
That’s where matched betting services come in handy. They offer you the following:
- A ton of tutorials to help you get started with matched betting
- A running list of bookmaker promotions which is updated daily
- Calculators to help you determine the profit when backing and laying an outcome
- Software that scans the odds for hundreds of matches and tens of bookmakers to find you the perfect bet
- A community of matched bettors who will help out if you are confused or need advice.
Many matched betting services offer free trials. Find out which ones I recommend in my article on assisted matched betting.
Want to read more about how to get started with matched betting? Check out these detailed articles:
Life After Matched Betting - What’s Next?
Once the bookmakers stop offering you promotions (they will usually send you an email when this happens), it is time to move onto either arbitrage or value betting.
Arbitrage is a lower risk, lower reward strategy, whereas value betting is a higher risk, higher reward strategy.
In saying that, both of them are low risk strategies as long as you follow some important rules.
I will explain both of these strategies in detail now, so that you can figure out which one is right for you.
Arbitrage betting, much like value betting is a strategy that involves taking advantage of opportunities that arise when the bookmakers make mistakes with their odds. It doesn’t require any promotions like matched betting does.
To understand how this works, you need to be aware that there are two types of bookmakers: soft bookmakers and sharp bookmakers.
Most of the bookmakers that you can think of off the top of your head are soft bookmakers. Their business model consists of attracting casual punters, offering them poor odds with large profit margins factored in and making money from the relatively low volume of bets but high profit margins.
Sharp bookmakers, on the other hand, have very accurate odds with low profit margins. They accept very high stakes from customers. They change their odds very quickly when news breaks that could impact the outcome of a match.
You can learn more in my article about the difference between soft and sharp bookmakers.
Help: I can't access sharp bookmakers!
Unfortunately, not all sharp bookmakers operate in all countries. Pinnacle, being the best and most well known sharp bookmaker, no longer operates in the UK, Australia and a number of other countries.
However, you can still access these sharp bookmakers through the use of an intermediary service, known as a betting broker. They can open a number of sharp bookmaker accounts on your behalf, even if those companies don't operate in your country.
Find out which are the best betting brokers!
Arbitrage betting involves taking advantage of opportunities that arise when the soft bookmaker and sharp bookmaker odds are so different that you can bet on both outcomes of a match and profit regardless.
Say that two separate bookmakers are offering the following odds on a tennis match:
The reason that these two bookmakers have such different odds may be for a variety of reasons such as difference of opinion, or perhaps news just broke that Nick Kyrgios has a minor injury and the sharp bookmaker has updated their odds but the soft bookmaker hasn’t.
In any case, the odds are far enough apart that we can bet on both outcomes and profit regardless of which one occurs!
If we back Dan Evans at the soft bookmaker with a stake of $180 and Nick Kyrgios at the sharp bookmaker with a stake of $140, the following will occur:
Essentially, we will profit a total of $9.40 if Dan Evans wins, and $9.00 if Nick Kyrgios wins! We have guaranteed ourselves at least a $9 profit without any risk!
You can use an arbitrage betting calculator to help you work out the stakes.
$9 isn’t a lot of money when you are staking $300+ each time, but if you are betting on matches that are occurring the same day, you can turn your money over many, many times. An arbitrage bet like this typically takes less than 5 minutes to complete.
There are thousands of these opportunities every day.
An alternative strategy is to lay the bet at a betting exchange rather than use a sharp bookmaker. This is a little more complicated but has the same end result: locked in profits!
What if there is a draw?
Great question. Well, there aren’t draws in tennis, but in other sports like football, draws are quite common. In this situation, you would need to place a third bet with another bookmaker to cover the draw as well.
How do I find arbitrage bets?
Please check out my detailed article on how to find arbitrage bets.
Essentially, it is possible to find these opportunities manually, but by using a software package that scans tens of sports and over 100 bookmakers, you can speed up the process dramatically, resulting in greater profits!
Check out my article below for some recommendations of free arbitrage betting software!
Want to know which is the #1 free arb hunting software?
Check out my detailed comparison!
What do I need to get started with arbitrage betting?
Decent initial bankroll
Unlike matched betting, your profits with arbitrage betting depend on the size of your bankroll (as you saw earlier we profited $9 by staking over $300).
I recommend that you have at least $2,000 to get started. Use your winnings from matched betting to kick start your arbitrage betting.
Soft bookmaker accounts
The best soft bookmakers for you depends on which country you live in. Have a look online for which bookmakers are offering the best bonuses in your country.
The more accounts you have the better.
Sharp bookmaker and/or Betfair accounts
Check out my list of recommended sharp bookmakers. Having a Betfair account is also useful.
Arbitrage betting software
There are a lot of options out there for arbitrage betting software. You can check out my recommended arbitrage software.
Essentially, I think RebelBetting is the best arbitrage software out there. You can read my full RebelBetting review, or check out the 50% off coupon they are offering readers of The Arb Academy.
Value betting is quite similar to arbitrage betting in a number of ways.
It also involves exploiting opportunities that arise when a soft bookmaker makes a mistake with their odds. The difference is that in value betting, we don’t back all possible outcomes of a match.
In arbitrage betting we place a bet with the soft bookmaker that has made a mistake with their odds. Their odds are typically off by about 6%.
We then place an opposing bet with a sharp bookmaker that has a profit margin of about 4%. This leaves us with a guaranteed net 2% profit across the whole arbitrage bet.
Value betting involves placing the 6% bet with the soft bookmaker, but not covering it with the opposing bet at the sharp bookmaker.
This 6% is your edge over the soft bookmaker and it represents what is known as your expected value (EV). In the long run, you expect to make a 6% return of all the money you stake at this bookmaker. This is much higher than the 2% you would expect with arbitrage betting.
However, because you aren’t covering all outcomes with value betting, your profits will vary wildly from week to week. You will have winning streaks and losing streaks, but the more bets you place, the closer your long term profits get to your expected value of 6%.
Hence, the key to value betting is volume. The more bets the better.
Value betting is simpler to execute than arbitrage betting (only 1 bet vs. 2-3 bets each time) and has higher long term profits, but also has reasonable volatility and you will not win every time.
Check out the article below to learn more value betting.
Interested in value betting?
Check out my detailed guide on value betting below!
How do you find value bets?
Much like with arbitrage betting, it is entirely possible to find value bets with manual searching and by comparing odds on my value betting calculator.
However, this is very tedious and time consuming. I highly recommend that you get some value betting software to speed up the process enormously.
Value betting software will compare the odds across thousands of matches and hundreds of bookmakers and alert you when it finds value bets.
Once you place your bets, it will log them and automatically categorise the bet as a win or a loss at the conclusion of the match. This allows you to see the performance of your bets over time.
Wondering how to find value bets?
All of your questions are answered in my step-by-step guide below!
What do I need to get started with value betting?
This list is pretty similar to arbitrage betting, but you don't need any sharp bookmaker or betting exchange websites of course.
Decent initial bankroll
Your profits with value betting depend on the size of your bankroll (you can expect to earn 4-8% per bet).
I recommend that you have at least $2,000 to get started. Use your winnings from matched betting to kick start your value betting.
Soft bookmaker accounts
The best soft bookmakers for you depends on which country you live in. Have a look online for which bookmakers are offering the best bonuses in your country. The more accounts you have the better.
Value betting software
There are a lot of options out there for arbitrage betting software. You can check out my recommended arbitrage betting software here. Essentially, I think that again RebelBetting is the best value software out there.
You can read my full RebelBetting value betting review, or check out the 50% off RebelBetting coupon they are offering readers of The Arb Academy.
All of my soft bookmaker accounts have been gubbed - what’s next?
The problem with matched, arbitrage and value betting is that they involve taking value from soft bookmakers, which means that sooner or later, your accounts are going to be restricted.
There are basically three options from here on. The first option is to give up on profitable sports betting and enjoy the profits you managed to make.
The second option is to go down the path of multi-accounting (aka gnoming), which involves opening new accounts in your partner’s or friends’ names and placing bets on their behalf. With a fresh set of accounts, you can start the process over again from scratch.
Unfortunately, this is considered illegal in many countries, so I don’t recommend it. However, there is nothing illegal about introducing your friends and relatives to the concepts of profitable sports betting and letting them place bets on their own.
The third option is to continue profitable sports betting by taking value from either other punters on a betting exchange, or by taking value from the sharp bookmakers.
Betting exchanges and sharp bookmakers won’t limit you no matter how much you win, so this is a more sustainable form of profitable sports betting.
This third option is what I recommend.
Earning money on a betting exchange is very difficult, as it is an ‘efficient’ market, which means that any time the odds on a match with decent liquidity drift from the ‘true odds’, other bettors will quickly place bets to take value and bring the odds back to where they should be.
This is known as sports trading. I do not recommend sports trading as I think that is very difficult for most people to profit consistently this way.
Instead, I recommend that you invest in a sports betting fund that has a proven ability to find edges/value in the market. Let me introduce you to such a product.
Investing in a Sports Betting Fund
Mercurius Trader is a unique product with an ambitious goal - to turn sports betting into an asset class that anyone can invest in.
Released in January 2019 but in development for 4 years prior to this, Mercurius Trader uses a quantitative model that is designed to spot value in the Betfair football market, and execute bets accordingly.
It is based upon scientific literature on the topic of football match prediction and is supplemented with their own research and development.
It uses millions of pieces of data from historical football matches as an input. It takes this data and uses it to simulate a potential match a hundred thousand times, before deciding what the ‘fair odds’ for the match should be, and whether the Betfair odds deviate from these.
As the model places bets with Betfair alone, there is no chance of being gubbed whatsoever.
Add funds to your Betfair wallet, use the Betfair App Directory to allow Mercurius to use your wallet to place bets on your behalf and you’re done! It’s an entirely passive investment.
Returns will depend on the size of your bankroll, so this product is perfect for someone who has already done matched betting and arbitrage/value betting and is looking for a way to put their accumulated profits to good use!
Please note that unlike arbitrage and matched betting, your profits are not guaranteed and your capital is at risk. Profitability depends on the veracity of the Trader model.
The minimum investment is £1,000, and the model needs about 200 bets to reach a statistically significant result (ie. for your profit to be likely to converge on the long term expected value), so this is a product for those with a long investment horizon.
Read my full Mercurius Trader review here!
Sharp Value Betting
An alternative (or perhaps a complementary strategy) to investing in Mercurius Trader is to do value betting on the sharp bookmakers and betting exchanges, rather than on the soft bookmakers.
This is much more difficult, as the sharp bookmakers and exchanges rarely make mistakes. However, when they do, you can capitalise on these mistakes in a big way, as they have huge maximum stake limits. Pinnacle (the most reputable sharp bookmaker out there), for example, often allows stakes in excess of $10k on popular matches.
As this strategy requires huge bets on relatively small deviations in odds, you need a large bankroll to get started. Trademate Sports, my recommended software provider, suggests a starting bankroll of at least €20,000 is necessary to see decent profits.
A huge benefit of this strategy is that you won’t be limited by these sharp bookmakers or betting exchanges, no matter how much you win from them, making this another form of sustainable, profitable, long term sports betting.
How do I find these sharp value bets?
I highly recommend that you use Trademate Sports’ Pro package. It is a unique product that targets the sharp bookmakers and betting exchanges, identifying when they make mistakes.
It is quite expensive at €400 per month (yes, you read that right), so it is only for those who are professional or semi-professional sports bettors. They recommend that you spend at least 20 hours per week placing bets.
Find out more about Trademate Sports below.
If you don’t have this kind of time and bankroll, I recommend Mercurius Trader as an alternate option that is more beginner friendly.
What about tipsters?
Generally speaking, I don't recommend tipsters, as they often don't have a sound basis for making their tips. There are also a number of bad players in the industry that give out bad tips on purpose to make money from punters via bookmaker affiliate links.
If you do want to try out some tipsters however, make sure that you use an independent site which verifies tipsters' tipping histories. Check out my full list of the best tipster sites for more information.
However, Bill over billgkrtips.com does have an excellent article on the best betting tipsters. Feel free to check it out if you are interested in learning more about tipsters and what you should consider when choosing a tipster.
Profitable Sports Betting - Conclusion
Despite what most people think, profitable sports betting is entirely possible and not actually that difficult at all!
Matched betting is perfect for beginners as it allows you to build your bankroll relatively easily with a modest investment of time.
Arbitrage or value betting is an excellent stepping stone from matched betting as they require a reasonable bankroll to get started (which you will have accumulated from matched betting), and allow you to continue earning decent profits.
Once your soft bookmaker accounts have been gubbed from all of these methods, you can either try to make money using sharp value betting (needs a large bankroll and significant time investment), or invest some of your money in a sports betting fund (lower bankroll and entirely passive, but lower returns).
I’m here to help you every step of the way. I have a 100% free video course on profitable sports betting, which you can sign up to by entering your email address below.
I hope you have enjoyed this guide on how to make money from sports betting! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below!
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Please ask if arbitrage betting is suitable for any bookmaker