Sports betting strategies and systems

Sports betting strategies and systems

How do the best sports bettors consistently find success at the sportsbooks? In-depth knowledge of their chosen sports is a must, but there are other tools available to help bettors in their quest to gain the upper hand over the oddsmakers. These include an array of different betting strategies that, when used correctly, can help improve your chances of success.

BET.CA is here to introduce you to some of the most popular sports betting strategies, and how they can help you win at the sportsbooks.


Arbitrage betting

Sports arbitrage betting – sometimes called “arbing” – is a rare occurrence in sports betting when a bettor is guaranteed to win a profit regardless of the outcome in an event. This happens when discrepancies in odds between two different sportsbooks open up the chance to back both sides of a market and secure a guaranteed profit, whatever the result. When that occurs, it’s called an “arb.”

Arbing used to be big business for bettors with large bankrolls in the early days of online sports betting, but today finding arbitrage opportunities is much harder. Even though arbing is completely legal, sportsbooks also clamp down on customers suspected of engaging in arbitrage practices.

When opportunities for arbitrage do arise, they are usually short-lived, and offer only a very small profit margin, meaning it requires a colossal bankroll and huge bet stakes to make any real money from it. It means that arbitrage is now a niche strategy that only those with massive bankrolls and paid-for arbitrage-finding services engage in.

Find out more about this betting strategy in our dedicated guide to arbitrage betting.

Hedge betting

Hedge betting involves placing a bet against a bet you have already placed to either minimize a potential loss or lock in a guaranteed profit, regardless of the result. Hedging happens when bettors either lose confidence in their original bet, or see an opportunity to secure a guaranteed return from a game or event by backing against their original bet. This can take place either mid-season for futures markets, or mid-game during live in-game betting.

While hedging and arbitrage both involve betting both sides of a matchup, hedging uses odds fluctuations to add a second bet to an already-placed bet, whereas arbitrage utilizes discrepancies in the odds between different sportsbooks to enable opposing bets to be placed at the same time.

While arbitrage opportunities can be extremely hard to find, hedging opportunities are commonplace thanks to the constant fluctuation of odds in live in-game betting markets. You can learn more in our guide to hedge betting.

Matched betting

Matched betting is a sports betting strategy in which you place two bets, at least one of which is a free bet, with different bookmakers on the same market for an event in order to guarantee yourself a profit, regardless of the outcome. This can involve betting on opposing results in a moneyline, point spread, or total or over/under market, or betting on a back or lay option on a sportsbook exchange.

Matched betting is arguably one of the most popular and straightforward methods for making guaranteed money from sports betting, and there are many websites specifically dedicated to teaching bettors how to use it.

As the strategy involves taking advantage of free bets, matched betting is most commonly used by bettors who have signed up with no more than a few sportsbooks, and are therefore in a position to get welcome offers for new customers at other betting sites.

You can find out more about how to use matched betting.


Sports odds can move up and down depending on a range of factors, but the odds you get when you place your bet stay the same. Sometimes, after you have placed a bet on the point spread for a game, the odds move and give you the opportunity to bet again to win at least one of the two wagers. Put simply, middling is a strategy where a bettor backs both sides of the same bet, but at different point spreads, to open up the chance of hitting the "middle" and winning both while risking relatively little in return.

For example, if you have backed the Kansas City Chiefs at -3.5 points, and the line moves to -4.5, you then have the opportunity to back the opposing Denver Broncos at +4.5. In that situation, you know that one of your bets will win, regardless of the scoreline.

If you placed $10 bets on both at odds of -110, you would be in line to potentially win both bets if you hit the "middle" and the game finishes with a 4-point Chiefs win. For any other points differential, you would take only a minor loss:


Amount staked



Chiefs win by 3 or fewer (or lose)




Chiefs win by 5 or more




Chiefs win by 4




In this example you're staking $20, but only risking $0.91 of it for the chance to potentially win $18.18.

The key to success in middling depends on your ability to identify the games that will see the point spreads move, as favored teams gain steam with sportsbooks in the lead-up to games. Most sportsbooks set their odds at -110 for point spread markets, meaning that if you can hit one "middle" per 21 middling attempts, you will break even. If you hit two or more per 21 attempts, you're in profit.

Round robin betting

A round robin in sports betting is a bet comprised of parlays featuring at least two teams made up from a larger list of selections. For example, a three-selection round robin bet on Teams A, B, and C could feature three two-team parlays on Teams A and B, A and C, and B and C, as well as one three-team parlay on all three teams.

The obvious advantage to round robin betting is that it allows you to place bets with numerous selections without having to rely on a traditional multiple or parlay bet, which loses if one selection on the bet does not win. Therefore, if you are confident of predicting the outcome of several different events, this can be a viable betting strategy that does not require an “all or nothing” approach.

However, as the bet is essentially comprised of many smaller bets, the money required to stake them can very quickly increase depending on the number of selections involved. You can learn learn more about round robin betting with BET.CA.

Removing the vig/juice

The vig in sports betting refers to the vigorish, which is how a sportsbook guarantees profit from offering sports betting odds. It is often known as the “juice” or “margin” in sports betting circles.

Put simply, the vig is the cut that the sportsbook takes from every losing bet. The cut is reflected in the odds offered as bettors place their wagers, and includes a percentage that automatically goes to the house in the event of a losing bet. Different sportsbooks set the vig at different levels based on a variety of factors, including the bet type, the popularity of the market, and the sportsbook’s experience in dealing with a particular market.

If you want to know the real odds on an event, first you have to remove the vig. For a coin toss, the odds should be -100 each for heads and tails, but a sportsbook would likely offer odds between -110 and -120, depending on how large a vig they wanted to include. Point spreads turn games into coin-flips, so the difference between +100 and the odds offered represents the vig. It also applies to other markets where the sportsbook sets a stats mark, such as total or over/under bets.

It’s also worth remembering that the vig doesn’t have to be the same for both teams in the same game. If one team is receiving significant betting interest, a sportsbook may increase the vig to reduce its liabilities. Alternatively, a sportsbook may reduce the vig in order to attract betting interest on a specific market or outcome.

For more information on how the juice/vig works, read our guide.

Sports betting systems

In addition to betting strategies, there are also numerous betting systems that bettors use when looking to earn money, especially when betting at even odds (around -100). Many originated on the gaming tables of casinos, using games such as roulette, where near 50-50 bets can be made on the likes of red or black, or odd or even.

Those systems have also been used in a sports betting context for similar coin-flip markets where the odds are consistent. Here are some of the more popular betting systems that are used by bettors, both at the sportsbook and on the casino floor:


The Martingale system (sometimes referred to as doubling up) originated in France in the 18th century.

It is a straightforward betting system that involves the bettor doubling their bet stake after each losing bet, and reverting back to their regular stake level after a winning bet.

The Martingale system is flawed, as it relies on “The Gambler’s Fallacy” that suggests that the chances of a losing streak ending increase with each loss that stacks up (they don’t).

However, the simplicity of the system has made it a popular one with recreational gamblers worldwide.


The Fibonacci system (named after Italian mathematician Leandro "Fibonacci" Pisano) is a negative progression betting system that sees bettors increase their stake following a losing bet. The theory behind the system is that winning bets will be struck at higher stake levels than losing bets and therefore bettors will ultimately be in profit.

The system involves bettors increasing their stake every time they place a losing bet. The stake level is determined by a sequence of numbers, with each number in the sequence being the sum of the previous two numbers.

If you lose a bet, you move up one place in the sequence. If you win a bet, you move down two spots in the sequence.

Oscar's Grind

The Oscar's Grind betting system works differently to the negative progression systems above in that a bettor raises the stakes after a winning bet, rather than a loser.

Rather than the doubling method used by the Martingale system, Oscar's Grind raises stakes by one unit each time. Unlike other systems, that stake is never reduced – a losing bet simply requires the next bet to be at the same stake level.

It means that a large bankroll is necessary to stand a chance of any sustained success using this system. The small increases in stake also mean that it can take a while to reach a solid profit, hence the "Grind" in the system's name.


A negative progression betting system in a similar vein to the Martingale system, the D'Alembert system also involves raising stakes after a losing bet, but the stake increases aren't as severe.

It means the exposure for the bettor increases at a slower rate, but it also means recouping losses is a slower process. The system has been criticized for the same flaws as the Martingale system, but is nonetheless one of the more popular betting systems out there.

Kelly Criterion

Invented by Texas computer scientist John L. Kelly, the Kelly Criterion is a money-management formula that helps bettors decide the optimum stake for a given bet, based on the difference between a sportsbook's odds and the event's true odds.

The system requires some number crunching to work out an event's true odds, but utilizing the Kelly Criterion is thought to offer a smart betting system that optimizes bet stakes, rather than other systems that involve raising stakes after losing bets.

Sports betting strategies FAQs

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All betting guides on BET.CA are written by in-our house team, who have over 40 years’ experience in the sports betting and gaming industries, and have worked and written for several of the world’s leading sportsbooks. They possess in-depth knowledge of betting markets and strategies, as well as an understanding of what is important to bettors, meaning you can read on with the confidence that they will help improve your betting.

BET.CA staff
BET.CA staff