You have probably already read my introductory article to the concept of Arbitrage Betting. So you already know there is a risk of an arbitrage going wrong and also that bookmakers eventually close arbing accounts. The practice of restricting your accounts (also referred as ‘gubbing’) is a common practice for retail bookmakers. In this article I want to look into more detail on the strategies to avoid account restriction and stay under the bookie’s radar.
Avoid Account Restriction
Prolonging the life of your accounts is one of the most critical skills you must learn as an arber. You must remember that regardless of how well you are executing your arbing strategy and regardless of how strictly you stick to the rules your account will eventually get limited by the soft bookmaker. This is not the case with sharp bookmakers (e.g. Pinnacle, a must have for every arber) and betting exchanges which mostly don’t care whether you are arbing or not.
If you could just arb between sharp books you would never worry about how to avoid account restriction. Unfortunately arbitrages not involving a soft book are a very rare thing. In fact I have placed only one so far in my entire arbing career (if you want to know, it was an eSports arb between Pinnacle and SBOBet). This mostly comes from the fact that soft books are not that good in setting odds so sometimes they will get it wrong, which in turn opens an arbitrage opportunity. On the other part of such arbitrage you will most often find a sharp book or an exchange, since they usually offer better odds compared to the soft ones. Sometimes you will find arbs involving two (or more) soft books, but I do not recommend taking those, since this increases the chances of being limited in more than one book, which is obviously not a good thing.
Round Up Stakes
So your main issue is how to avoid account restriction at the soft book. Let us start from stakes. Determining the right amount to bet in order to get the same return regardless of the outcome of an event is fairly easy. Most websites offering Arbitrage Betting services offer online calculators but I personally do it by hand calculator and believe this is the better and faster way, especially for two-way arbitrage.
However, you must make sure you always bet a round amount in the soft book. Don’t go for a bet of 31,57 just because the calculator tells you so, that’s too obvious. Better start with the amount you would be willing to bet in the soft one, which should be a round one. For example, the soft one offers 2 for under and the sharp one offers 2.03 for the over. You want to bet 50 bucks in the soft one. Then in the sharp you would need 50 * 2 / 2.03 = 49.26. You bet a total of 99.26 for a sure return of 100. You can bet any stake in the sharp book as long as it is allowed – they don’t care.
Regarding stakes, there is another thing one must be careful about – don’t bet too big. Especially on a day when you cannot find as much arbs as you would like to, you might feel tempted to place as much as possible on the first good arb you see. After all even though the stake is high, it is relatively risk free so you feel comfortable with that. The thing is, even if from your point of view it makes sense, from the point of the bookie it does not. After all, long-term you will make profit in the soft book and lose in the sharp one. So even though your overall profit is not so big, it will look huge in the soft book alone. They will profile you according to your age, country and maybe some other factors and will have certain expectations regarding the size of your bets. If you go way above that a trader will flag your account. Then he will have a closer look at your betting activity and you are busted.
Bet Like a Square
Another thing you might do in order to avoid account restriction, is to throw in a few random bets in between your arbitrage ones in order to make it harder to spot a trend in your betting activities. You want to look as ‘recreational’ (losing) as possible. If you are into Value Betting you might make one of your bets on a game you like somewhere among your arbitrage bets. Or play a few rolls on the online casino’s roulette – just don’t overdo it, you don’t want to blow all your arbing profits in the casino.
Mainly you should have some randomness in your betting pattern in order for it to look more like what the bookie wants to see.
A practical example
In one of the episodes of the Deep Dive podcast, proffessional ice hockey and baseball punter Rob Pizolla reports of executing an EV+ strategy in a soft books. He managed to keep his account open for a long time, even though he was making good money with it. What did he do? He calculated the expected home runs in a game, but only placed a bet when he saw value in the Overs. When the value was on the Unders he just skipped the bet. Since the square punters tend to prefer the Overs, even though he was winning he actually managed to successfully disguise himself as a ‘recreational’ player! You can listen to what happened thereafter on the podcast below, it is actually a pretty cool story:
So as we already said, your betting activity needs to make sense not only from your perspective, but also from the perspective of the bookie, at least if you are in the business of arbing. You have to do your best to look like a genuine looser (or as bookies like to call it, “recreational bettor”), while still making some money. For example, you can throw a few cents on the casino page, bet a small amount on a combo bet or something similar.
Another way to do that apart from some occasional dump bets or roulette rolls, would be to focus on your native markets while arbing. Betting on lower league games in a country different than yours looks a bit strange. A European betting on American sports and vice versa is also a bit unusual. And so on – use your own judgment. There have been quite a few reports about arbing accounts focused on a particular league and sport lasting way longer than usual. This is certainly a tactic you can use to your advantage.
And then you have social media. Especially to the novice arber it would seem weird that the bookies would stalk you on Facebook to decide whether to limit you or not, but it is the current year, your personal information is out there and bookies won’t shy away from using it to boost their profits and you should do what you can in that aspect to avoid account restriction. Clear your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and the like from everything betting related or adjust your privacy settings so that the information is not publicly accessible.
Does that mean you cannot engage in the betting online communities? Definitely not, you just need to be smart about it. Protect your privacy by the tools those websites offer to you and if needed go under a pseudonym when engaging. Do a quick google search of your name, check your facebook from a friend’s profile, etc. If you are responsible enough about it, that should not lead to any problems.
Deposits and Withdrawals
Another way you can attract unwanted attention is with deposits and withdrawals. Sports Betting Arbitrage is very capital-intensive, which means you will need to put in a big amount of money for a relatively small (although sure) profit per bet. It is possible that the amounts you will want to deposit to your bookmaker accounts are above what is typical for your demographics. Therefore you should be extremely careful with deposits. Think about whether the amount you deposit makes sense for a person of your age, country of origin or profession (if you were asked to provide one upon registration). If not, consider depositing less and maybe topping up a bit later. Avoid depositing 4-figure amounts. And preferably start funding your account only after you are finished with account verification.
The rules for withdrawals are similar. Don’t go too high. If you have too much money in that account already consider withdrawing only a part of it and leave the rest for later. Don’t withdrawal too often – in fact it’s best to restrict yourself from withdrawing unless absolutely necessary. For bookies always look much more closely at your account upon withdrawal than upon deposit. It only makes sense – bookies are eager to take your money, but they certainly don’t like giving it back to you.
Ultimately, one cannot avoid account restriction
Even when following all these rules most soft books will still be quite fast to spot what you are doing. They have certain tools available that allow them to see, at least retrospectively, which of their odds have offered an arbitrage opportunity. What you should be striving to do is not to avoid account restriction altogether (which is, sadly, not possible), but to postpone it as long as you can in the future.
How to Avoid Account Restriction: Summary
So there you have the basics. In summary, bet rounded up and moderately big stakes, try to imitate the betting pattern of a mug punter and clean up your social media. If you want to get deeper into the topic of avoiding account limitations you can also check my article on Device Fingerprinting. With respect to arbing, there are still a few topics I would like to cover like the typical risks involved, the tools to get you started and some personal experiences.
But before that I would like to dig in a bit deeper in the topics of value betting and sports trading as well as do some stats articles. So stay tuned for more relevant content and if you have preference for certain topics, please let me know in the comments. And follow me on Facebook and Twitter to get updated on new content, of course not forgetting the necessary precautions outlined above. Thanks for reading and till the next time!