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What is Sports Arbitrage or Scalping?

Arbitrage or Scalping put simply is the action of betting on both sides of a game at different sports books to guarantee a profit no matter the outcome of the game.

Arbitrage is not a new concept by any means. It has been done in the stock and other financial markets for years. It’s also been done in sports betting for some time however it wasn’t as easy or as profitable before internet sports books came on the scene.

Before the internet, bettors in Las Vegas would need to make mad dashes from sports book to sports book in hopes of catching a scalp before lines moved. Now bettors can shop multiple prices within a short period of time and capitalize on line variances that in the past would of took hours to collect.

So How Does it Work?

I like to explain scalping to people with the following example using Major League Baseball money lines.

Sports book A has the Detroit Tigers listed at +120

Sports book B has the Texas Rangers listed at -110

As you can see from this example the difference in these lines is $10.

So, if Nancy was to bet Detroit at sports book A for $100 she would win $220 if the Tigers won (her $100 stake + $120 in profit).

To complete the scalp Nancy would also need to bet Texas at sports book B for $-110 and if the Rangers won she would win $210 (her $110 stake and $100 in profit).

Now, as you can see from the above example that no matter which team wins the game Nancy will make $10.

How Much Can You Make Scalping?

There a number of factors to consider when calculating potential profit from scalping. First of which is your bankroll and betting limits. The more money you can devote to scalping and the higher limits your sports book will take play a key role in how much return you can expect.

Next is the availability of the variances. Sometimes you can sit at your computer all day and watch the scalps just roll in. Other times, you may only see a couple of scalps per day. Because you are at the mercy of the oddsmakers line movements you really can never predict how many scalps will be available to you.

Lastly, the amount of the variances will play a big role in your bottom line. On average, most scalps range from a few cents up to around twenty cents. Occasionally you will be able to find one higher but they are the exception, not the rule and generally are only available for a matter of minutes. The key to managing these variances is to be able to have the patience to pass on the variances of only a couple cents and wait for the ones that are around ten cents or more.

What Do You Need to Get Started in Arbitrage?

You can start scalping with just a computer, some money and a handful of funded sports book accounts. However to make it worth doing you will need a couple of essentials.

Arbitrage Calculator

Because you are dealing in real money you want to do everything possible to minimize mistakes that could cost you dearly. That’s where the Arbitrage Calculator comes in. Essentially an Arbitrage Calculator is either a spreadsheet or web based program that calculates your scalp for you to eliminate the guess work and the mistakes.

You input the amount you wish to bet, the odds at sports book A and the odds and sports book B and the calculator will tell you how much to bet at each sports book. There are many sites online that offer these calculators for free and some will even calculate your expected return for you and keep track of your winnings. Click here to get TheSpread.com's Free Sports Arbitrage/Scalp Calculator.

Line Service

This is not completely essential to scalping however it will make your life a whole lot easier. Without a lines program, you will be resigned to manually visiting each sports book constantly to check the most current lines. This is incredibly time consuming and often times you will miss a scalp because of it.

With a line services you will be able to view the latest odds from dozens of sports books at once and in real-time. Many have scalp alerts built into the program which will give you an audible alert or a pop-up when a scalp is available.

Some of the more popular ones available today are Sports Insights and Line Tracker. Prices range from $300-$600/month.

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