What are sure bets and how do they work?

As you may have discovered, there are few guarantees when it comes to sports betting in its most ordinary form. However, there is a type of bet which takes away the risk element and ensures you of the win, in theory, each and every time.

Sure Bets

About Sure Bets

A Sure Bet allows you to benefit from the differences found between odds set between bookmakers. A profit is, more or less, guaranteed regardless of the outcome of the event – if there is isn’t, well you need not worry because you’ll win your money back.

It used to be the case that the minority of people able to fully apply the theory, i.e the professionals of the betting world, did so by almost instantly recognising the opportunity of a Sure Bet from hugely differing odds.

However, the landscape has changed somewhat. The technological boom that accompanied the new millennium has brought the method within range of bettors of various levels while betting sites in Europe offering similar odds to those based across the Asian markets, automatically limits the chance of a Sure Bet from initially presenting itself.

Nowadays, on top of investing a lot of your time and effort in executing this technique, you need a very good level of Mathematics to succeed. Fortunately, there are several websites and software packages available online, capable of making Sure Bets easier to apply and more recognisable.

What is a Sure bet?

If you’re planning to wager a ‘Sure Bet’, then you’ll be using what is known as the Arbitrage system. Originating from the financial market, the technique makes it possible to exploit markets not always accurately reflecting its true value.

In terms of sports betting, this will see you spreading your money on all possible outcomes of a certain event with the guarantee of a profit being made, regardless of the final outcome.

In simple terms, by placing one bet per outcome of a sporting event, one of your bets will win. The winning bet will cover all losing bets and see the bettor make a profit, or at least not lose anything.

As easy as we’ve made it sound above, there’s a fair amount of time and research required on your part to pull off the technique effectively.

How do sure bets work?

‘The bookies always win’. This saying is bandied around on a frequent basis and for good reason too.

It’s common knowledge in the industry that bookmakers always set the odds in their favour and earn money by taking a margin of the odds offered. To illustrate this, imagine a betting site views the chance of an outcome at 50%. They should display odds of 1/1 (2.00) but in order to guarantee money is made, 9/10 (1.90) will instead be put forward.

The betting site will then proceed to balance the investments on each side of a given bet by adjusting odds so they are always in the black.

Exactly the same principle applies to a Sure Bet, the only difference being it’s you in control of the margin and not the bookies.

By going between different bookmakers and coming across differing odds, you are able to set the margin in your favour.

Take a look at this example of how a Sure Bet works in principle.

The match has two outcomes - either Player A or Player B - with two different betting companies offering contrasting odds.


Tennis Player A

Tennis Player B

Betting Site 1

9/10 (1.90)

1/1 (2.00)

Betting Site 2

6/5 (2.20)

7/10 (1.70)

Now, this a Sure Bet written all over it. The standout indicator you’re looking for is the discrepancies in odds from two betting companies, for the same outcome which is clearly evident here.

By applying the arbitrage system and placing a bet of a £100 on Player B at 1/1 and £90 on Player A at 6/5, you will have a guaranteed profit of £8. 

1, You bet £100 on Tennis Player B with betting site 1

2, You bet £90 on Tennis player A with betting site 2

The two possible outcomes to this scenario: 

Outcome 1:

Tennis player A wins

  • You lose your £100 with betting site 1
  • You win with your £90 with betting site 2. Seen as the odds with betting site 2 were 6/5, a win of £198 is yielded.
  • So, you lost £100 with betting site 1. However, you get your £90 betting stake back with betting site 2 and you win £108, giving you a total profit of £108.
  • You lose your £90 with betting site 2
  • You win your £100 bet at odds of 1/1 with betting site 1. So, you get your £100 stake back and win £100.
  • So after having spent a total of £190, you receive your £100 stake back, as well as your £100 winnings. Your total profit is £8.

Outcome 2:

Tennis Player B wins

  • You lose your £90 with betting site 2
  • You win your £100 bet at odds of 1/1 with betting site 1. So, you get your £100 stake back and win £100.
  • So after having spent a total of £190, you receive your £100 stake back, as well as your £100 winnings. Your total profit is £8.

In summary, if Tennis Player A wins you get £10 and if Tennis player B wins you get £8. As you can see, you win regardless of the outcome.

Points to consider:

Above is an example of a Sure Bet in every sense. But it’s important to point out that this serves purely as an example and that it can be tough for instances such as these to present themselves as clearly as this. Gone are the days when betting sites had such a spread in their odds that Sure Bets were an easy spot.

From the example you’ll see it’s difficult to make money in super quick time. A profit of between £8 and £10 was made yes but to earn a decent sized amount, you’re going to need a significant level of investment or to be making a large volume of Sure Bets. In either case, we recommend betting responsibly. 

Additionally, the prospect of finding a Sure Bet has become even more troublesome since many betting companies have formed merger companies and are now actually operating under one large umbrella company as a series of different brands. Finding odds for opposing outcomes then becomes an almost impossible task.

Finding sure bets

You can go about trying to find a Sure Bet one of two ways.

The first involves doing the hard graft yourself and searching each and every betting site (in different tabs) to compare the odds for the same event. This can eat away at a lot of your time and isn’t a guarantee of finding odds to warrant a Sure Bet.

Alternatively, there are websites and software available that will aid you in your quest of finding more Sure Bets at a quicker rate. Some you’ll pay for, others you won’t be charged anything, while the quality of service being offered also varies quite considerably.

While many of the free services can’t really be relied on due to a time lag on its odds providing inaccurate results, we’d recommend you to think twice when parting with any money for a service offering Sure Bets. Not only will you be charged a hell of a lot, you’re only ever likely to yield small amounts of profit. Often, you will earn just 5% of your original investment.

The risks and problems related to sure bets

We’ve mentioned the advantages, yet there are many risks to Sure Bets that you need to know about.

  • Betting restrictions and limitations
  • Voided Bet/Bookmaker ‘Error’
  • Changing Odds

The majority of betting sites have restrictions in place to control betting go above a certain amount. For instance, one betting site could have a limit of £500, another £100.

The issue with this is you’re only likely to be notified that you can’t bet the amount intended after you’ve commited.

Let’s say, you’ve already placed a £500 bet with one betting site and head over to another with the intention of doing the same. Only after placing your second bet at the second website are you made aware of the betting limit in place preventing such a bet from being made. Not only has your best laid plan of using the Sure Bet system gone awry, most significantly perhaps, there’s the chance of losing the stake placed with the first betting site since you haven’t covered all outcomes of the event.

It can also be the case that betting sites all of a sudden restrict individual limits to a limit not worthy of a staking on a Sure Bet. Without the possibility of betting large sums, the chance of making money from a Sure Bet is almost a non-starter.

Betting sites have the right to void a bet. So even if you’ve identified the opportunity for a Sure Bet and entered the process of putting money on the same event with different websites, a betting company can always turn around and withdraw your bet completely. They often claim to have issued incorrect odds and can take back winnings. Not only is this disappointing, you’ve potentially lost the money staked on the other website too.

There’s no exact science to the Sure Bet process and in essence you’re in the hands of the betting Gods. But there can’t be many more frustrating problems than finding a Sure Bet, placing money on one site and then discovering the odds have changed on the other.

Odds can alter within seconds so you need to be as quick as you can In putting the bets on, or run the risk of losing the opportunity to secure a certain profit.

Is it legal to make Sure Bets?

The process of Arbitrage betting in itself is 100% legal. For obvious reason such as bookies not wanting to lose money, Sure Bets are discouraged by bookmakers who will have punishments clearly stated in the terms and conditions for anyone they deem to be doing so

It can be hard for bookmaker to come across instances of Sure Bets being made but the worst-case scenario only extends to being banned from the site and having your winnings withdrawn. 

Betting Sites for Sure Bets

To not put yourself in danger of losing your account or having winnings withdrawn, you’re best sticking with the Asian betting sites who actually encourage punters to bet big and aren't against the idea of Sure Bets. SBOBet, Pinnacle and Betfair are three examples that won’t so much as batter an eyelid should a Sure Bet be placed.

While the process as a whole is welcome in the Asian market, by no means is it an easier task to come across an opening for a Sure Bet given the lack of disparity between the odds released by the bookmakers.