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Can You Make A Living Betting On Sports?

You’ve probably heard several clichés about sports betting, such as “you can’t beat the bookies”, or “it’s a mug’s game”. It’s fair to say that sports betting, and indeed any other form of gambling, can be highly damaging to your bankroll if you approach it without any kind of advantage or ‘edge’ in your favour.

But make no mistake: there are methods for consistently earning from sports betting. You just have to be willing to learn and apply proven techniques, adjust your mindset — and invest your time and effort.

Here’s four methods professionals use to earn a living from sports betting.

1. Sports Trading

Sports TradingProfessional traders develop their own strategies, and earn a living from them using the betting exchange (e.g. Betfair). Becoming a successful sports trader is tough — because the betting markets are highly competitive and efficient.

The betting exchanges function like financial markets, and many of the same principles apply to both. The main difference is that the majority of sports traders seek short-term price movements. Most active markets are for upcoming fixtures.

How does a sports trade work?

There’s infinite strategies that can be applied to sports trading, but one very basic principle must prevail: “Back High, Lay Low” (or “Lay Low, Back High”). This process enables traders to secure a guaranteed profit.

Some examples:

  • Back (BUY) at 9.0, then later Lay (SELL) at 6.0
  • Lay (SELL) at 4.0, then later Back (BUY) at 6.5
  • Back (BUY) at 4.5 then later Lay (SELL) at 2.0

Using a hedging calculator (Betfair now have this function built into their betslip) you can work out what Back/Lay stake is required to guarantee a profit from a shift in the odds.

There are many reasons that odds fluctuate on the exchange. Pre-game football odds often move due to rumoured injuries and team line-up changes. The most significant in-play price swings occur after (or just before) major events — such as goals, red cards and penalties.

The art of sports trading is being able to detect when the odds are about to change, as well as knowing how long to hold your position for. Your prediction method dictates your next move.

Betfair trading is very difficult to master, and technology plays a huge role in assisting traders in building automated strategies. Punters are recommended to start out slowly – maybe think about how to make £10 per day on the exchanges before diving in for big stakes.

Potential Earnings: £0 – £500,000 p/y

2. Value Betting

Value BettingValue betting is about selecting outcomes with a greater chance of winning than their odds suggest. It carries risk. However, with a proven selection method, over a lot of stakes, the punter is expected to earn a profit.

How much you can make really depends on your bankroll and if you can find someone to take your bets.

What the average gambler fails to acknowledge is that every outcome in sport — no matter how far-fetched — has a real probability of occurring. Discovering those probabilities, and finding inflated odds in the market is the key to tilting the edge in your favour.

How does a value bet work?

We’ll assume the accurate probabilities for a Man United vs Man City fixture are as follows:

  • Home win: 30%
  • Draw: 20%
  • Away win: 50%

Note that all probabilities add up to 100%. This is vitally important.

Keep in mind that any of the three above outcomes can have value. It doesn’t matter what’s most likely to occur. It’s all about the odds on offer.

So for argument’s sake, let’s suppose a bookmaker offers a price of 2.20 for Man City to win.

Given that we know that the real chance of Man City winning is 50% (2.0 decimal odds), we determine that 2.20 for Man City is a value bet. This is what is known as a bet with a positive “expected value” or “EV”.

The challenge in value betting is accuracy. Only those willing to invest time & effort into developing a detailed statistical betting ‘model’ or ‘system’ — or those able to invest in value bet finders — will be rewarded with long-term profits.

Potential Earnings: £0 – £200,000 p/y

3. Matched Betting

Matched BettingMatched Betting is a relatively simple technique used to earn a profit from free bets & promotions offered by online bookmakers. It’s risk-free and based on the application of a simple equation rather than chance.

Anyone can become a Matched Bettor, no matter how little they understand about betting. It’s quite possibly the easiest way for anyone over the age of 18, living in the UK, to earn an extra income from home.

How does a Matched bet work?

With any Matched Bet you place opposing stakes, as follows:

  1. Back (FOR a sports outcome) at a Bookmaker
  2. Lay (AGAINST the same sports outcome) at a Betting Exchange (e.g. Betfair) to offset the risk.

For newbies: a “Lay” bet means betting against an outcome by accepting bets on it. Just like a Bookmaker does.

The net result of the two bets is break even — there’s no profit. However, this process enables punters to qualify for a free bet promotion. The same process is repeated with the free bet being placed at the bookmaker (instead of funds), and the exchange bet once again offsetting the risk.

Your free bet ensures that you have an advantage. Think of it as betting with someone else’s money, where you get to keep any winnings! Provided you calculate the correct Lay stake to place on the betting exchange, then you’ll end up in a net profit whatever betting account wins or loses.

Matched Betting might seem complex at first. However, it’s pretty straightforward with a bit of practice. Some minor stake calculations ensure you’ll make a profit every time.

Potential Earnings: £10,000 – £30,000

4. Arbitrage Betting (“Arbing”)

Arbitrage BettingThe last legitimate way to make a living betting on sports I’ve got for you is arbitrage betting. An arbitrage bet is when a punter places a combination of stakes, covering each outcome of a sports event, in order to secure a profit regardless of the result. Arbitrage bets can be placed using two or more bookmakers, and/or betting exchanges.

The process of arbing is very similar to Matched Betting. However, the big difference is that arbitrage relies on misaligned odds to get an advantage — whereas Matched Betting relies solely on promotions.

How does an Arbitrage bet work?

The simplest form of sports arbitrage opportunity is where the betting exchange Lay odds are less than those offered by the bookmaker.

Imagine the bookmaker offers 7.0 for West Ham to beat Tottenham away in the Premier League, whilst the exchange Lay odds are 6.0 for the same selection. This misalignment creates an ‘arb’, — because bettor has the opportunity to secure a risk-free profit.

Here’s the outcome of this theoretical scenario with a flat £10 stake:

Spurs win:

Bookie: (£10 x 7.0) – £10 = +£60 profit
Exchange: -(£10 x 6.0) +£10 = -£50 loss

Net result = +£10

Spurs lose:

Bookie: -£10 loss
Exchange: £10 win

Net Result = £0

This process essentially employs the “Back high, Lay low” trading philosophy (see ‘Sports Trading’ above to learn more).

What this bet combination achieves is a scenario where you’ll either make £10 or break even, no matter what outcome. The edge is in the punter’s favour.

This can be improved further by adjusting the Lay stake on the betting exchange to spread the winnings across any outcome — just as you would in Matched Betting. That way there’s a profit every time.

Potential Earnings: £10,000 – £30,000

Author: Toby Aldous

Toby Aldous
Toby Aldous is most well known for his professional sports betting blog Punters2Pro. Having graduated from university with a Computer Science degree he's been at the forefront of developing Betfair's trading algorithms and value finder tools. His experience in sports data analysis is second to none and his realistic approach to sports betting stands out in a space which is over hyped and sensationalised. Follow on Twitter @punter2pro

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