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Arbitrage Betting in South Africa | How To Bet Without Losing

If you're brand-new to online betting and don't know how odds work, you might've considered backing both teams in a sports match to guarantee that your bet wins. 

It sounds good in theory, but if you try this strategy, you'll soon realise that betting on more than one outcome from the same market is not a good strategy unless the odds are in your favour. 

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For example, if you bet on Over 2.5 goals and Under 2.5 goals in the same soccer match, one of your bets will win and the other bet will lose. The reason you won't make any money is that they will cancel each other out.

In fact, worse than that, you'll actually end up losing somewhere between 10% and 20% of your initial stake depending on the odds you bet on.

Arbitrage betting relies on finding favourable odds across multiple bookmakers and is the only profitable way to use this strategy of betting on all possible outcomes. 

Below we tell you what Arbitrage betting is, how it works and where to look for possible opportunities. We also explain why it's so hard to make money from arbitrage betting in South Africa.

What is arbitrage betting?

Arbitrage betting involves covering all the possible outcomes within one particular market so that your bet can't lose.

Sounds easy, right? 

However, the main drawback is that in 99.99% of circumstances the odds are set in such a way that you'll lose money by blinding betting on both teams to win or on both sides of a two-way market such as Total Goals or Both Teams to Score.

Let me help explain why.

If you bet on both sides, one bet will always win and the other will always lose. For arbitrage to work, the payout that you get from either bet winning must more than cover the cost of the two bets combined.

Unless the odds are in your favour, placing bets on opposite outcomes will cause you to lose money slowly until you have nothing left. 

So, the question you probably want to ask is how you can actually win money betting this way? Well, the answer is only with a lot of patience, determination and a big bankroll to get you started! 

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What is a bookmaker's margin and why does it matter?

To understand how arbitrage betting works, it's important first to understand how bookmakers make their money. Every time you place a bet, you pay a fee, which is also known as the bookmaker's margin. In South Africa, this fee ranges from 5% to 25% depending on the site and betting market you choose. However, 10% is about the average margin you can expect to pay on any bet.

Learn more about bookmaker's margin and how to see which operators are giving you the best odds.

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How does arbitrage betting work?

Okay, so now that you understand how the odds bookmakers set on certain outcomes can ensure they make money, let me explain arbitrage betting works. 

Arbitrage betting takes advantage of the small differences in odds you can sometimes find from one bookmaker to the next. The aim of arbitrage betting is to find odds favourable enough to eliminate the bookie's margin so a small profit is guaranteed no matter what happens in the match.

Sound complicated? Maybe this example will help...

Let's say you find the following odds for an upcoming tennis match between Medvedev and Nadal: 

BETWAY

Medvedev - 17/20 (1.85)

Nadal - EVS (2.0)

HOLLYWOODBETS 

Medvedev - 7/10 (1.70)

Nadal - 5/4 (2.25)

As you can see, the best odds for Medvedev are 1.85 with Betway and the best odds for Nadal are 2.25 with Hollywoodbets. Because these odds are favourable for arbitrage (we explain later), by taking a bet on Nadal with Hollywoodbets and another bet on Medvedev with Betway, you're guaranteed to make a profit no matter who wins the match.

The reason you'll always make money this way is the combined cost of the two bets on both possible outcomes is slightly less than your payout from either bet winning. Remember that you've bet on both players, so one bet will win and one bet will lose. 

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How to place an arbitrage bet

First, use this arbitrage betting calculator to work out how much profit you stand to make from each bet and calculate the amount you need to stake on each outcome to guarantee a profit. 

You must divide your total stake between the two bets based on the odds for each outcome. When placing an arbitrage bet, make 100% sure you stake the right amount on each selection otherwise you could easily end up losing money instead of making a profit!

Using the same example as before, let's say you decide to bet R200 in total on the tennis match between Medvedev and Nadal.

Here's how it works:

Bet 1: Stake R110 on Medvedev with Betway @ odds of 1.85 

Bet 2: Stake R90 on Nadal with Hollywoodbets @ odds of 2.25

To calculate your profit, minus the total cost of your two bets (R200) from the potential returns from either bet winning.

If Medvedev wins the match, your payout will be R203.50 and your profit is R3.50 (1.75% profit).

If Nadal wins the match, your return is R202.50 and your profit is R2.50 (1.25% profit).

As you can see, no matter who wins the match, you'll still make money as long as the odds are right and you stake correctly!

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How to spot an arbitrage betting opportunity

You'll always need to use two different bookmakers to place an arbitrage bet. The easiest way to spot an arbitrage opportunity is if you see odds of EVS (2.0) or better for Team 1/Player 1 on one site and odds of EVS (2.0) or better for Team 2/Player 2 on the other site.

But in most cases, these favourable odds are not that easy to spot and you'll have to use an arbitrage betting calculator to confirm whether your bets can be profitable.

If you like betting on soccer, remember that Match Winner (1x2) is a 3-way market (because of the Draw) so you'll need to compare the odds for Team A to win and Team B Double Chance or vice versa to see if there's a good opportunity for an arbitrage bet. Two-way markets are much easier!

Can I make money with arbitrage betting in South Africa?

Spotting arbitrage opportunities is difficult, especially now that bookmakers can easily compare their odds online with other operators. It gets a bit easier with some practice, but the truth is these pricing errors mostly get fixed very quickly and jumping on them can also land you in trouble.

In some cases, the bookie might even refuse to pay out your bet!

Another big obstacle for arbitrage bettors is that because the profit you make is very small (only 1 or 2%), you'll need to bet big amounts to make decent money. This puts arbitrage betting out of reach for most punters in South Africa.

Only sports bettors with lots of free time to look at odds and lots of money can really make arbitrage betting worthwhile.

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Is arbitrage betting legal in South Africa? 

Yes, arbitrage betting is technically legal in South Africa, but some bookmakers will still shut down your account if they catch you placing these bets.

Some good ways on avoiding getting caught are to always round up or down your bet size to the nearest rand, don’t bet the maximum stake and never withdraw funds straight after winning.

So, is arbitrage betting even worth it?

The honest answer is not really and there any many reasons why it's so hard to make money from arbitrage betting. Firstly, trying to find arbitrage opportunities on betting sites in South Africa is very time-consuming and modern technology means there just aren't that many around. 

Secondly, you need a big bankroll to make arbitrage betting worth the effort. Most arbitrage bets earn you no more than 2% profit, so you need to bet really big amounts to make any real money.

For example, if you work hard enough to find an arbitrage bet that guarantees you a 2% return, you'll need to stake R5000 just to make a R100 in profit. Not many people have that kind of money just lying around!

One last thing worth thinking about is that arbitrage can take all the fun out of sports betting. The reason many of us like betting in the first place is because we like being right about our predictions and making some money while we're at it. 

But arbitrage bets can't lose and that takes away all the mystery and fun of cheering on your team. Of course, success is never guaranteed when placing a normal bet but at least you won't know the result and you'll also get a decent amount of money back when you win!

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For more about online sports betting, casino games and lotteries in South Africa, visit the Betting Guide homepage to find bookmaker reviews, promotions, betting tips and more.

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