Mug and Arb Betting – what is the difference?

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Recently we have had a few members ask what the difference is between a mug bet and an Arb (Arbitrage) bet. Well, in the most basic sense, you make more money from arb’ing. However, it puts your gambling account at risk, whereas mug betting may only earn you little to no money but keeps your accounts with the bookmaker safe.

Let’s start with definitions for both Arb and Mug betting.


Arb stands for “Arbitrage Bet” and is a term you may see used on the forum. It is a bet that makes a profit even if it is not linked to a bonus offer. When using the H&H oddsmatching software, any match that has a rating of 100+ could be classed as a potential Arb bet. Matches will get a rating of 100 or higher if the odds in the Exchange are lower than the odds that the bookmaker is offering. Such matches rarely last and are often corrected quickly by the Exchanges, so take advantage quickly.


*A so called “Mug Bet” is one designed to look like a complete gamble is being taken on the outcome of an event, match, race etc. For us Matched Bettors, someone who gambles would be considered a 'mug' because the deck is stacked against them winning. Hence placing a bet to look like an ordinary gambler is called 'mug betting'. If you are Matched Betting, sometimes it pays to look like the 'mug' occasionally, in order to convince the bookmaker that you are just an ordinary punter placing a bet. Your reason for doing this is to avoid bookmakers flagging your account and restricting you on their website. *

Strategies such as; placing frequent back and lay bets on the same team, wagering on high popularity events, playing the casinos and placing accumulator bets are all commonly used manoeuvres in an attempt to stay one step ahead of bookmakers.

It is worth noting that for both Mug betting and Arb’ing, you will be laying your bets in an exchange. So, with our definitions out of the way, let’s get in to discussing why these terms are very different and must be used at the right time!

First, let’s address the main question we receive: Why, if Arb’ing can make you a lot of money, would you not do it all the time?

A perfectly reasonable question. However, the reason why you should only do these very rarely is because bookmakers absolutely hate them. Bookies can put up (for the most part) with people making money off of their free bet offers. However, individuals making profits from single bets is simply not acceptable in the eyes of the bookmakers, and if they suspect you of doing so, the ban will be swift.

How can bookmakers tell you are Arb’ing? There is no way of them knowing for sure. However, if you have selected a horse (just before the start of a race) that is not the favourite and placed a back bet on that horse a few minutes before the odds drop sharply, you will be flagged. Bookmakers may not be able to see that you are laying off a selection in the exchange, but what they can see is the lay price of your selection at the time of your back bet.

The key element to getting restricted through Arb’ing is the distance in time from placing your back bet to the event starting; the closer to the event the more suspicious the bookmaker will be. Because of this you shouldn’t worry too much about taking accidental arbs as it’s common to get a slightly better price than the SP (starting price), especially if you’re backing hours in advance of a race.

If you’re placing these back bets minutes before the race and intentionally arb’ing on a regular, or even semi-regular basis, you’re going to see your account quickly limited.

To illustrate the difference between what we have described above and a Mug bet, we are going to use a horse race as an example to showcase the two types of bets.

On the weekend horse race at Ascot, you decide to back the favourite ‘Light Touch’ for £10 at odds of 3.0 a few hours before the race. You then lay this off in Betfair at odds of 3.0, meaning you’d make a loss of just £0.14. This would be a mug bet.

But let’s say you kept an eye on this race and in the build, up to the race, you notice on the Oddsmatching software that the horse ‘Bad Blood’ is seeing its odds plummet in the exchange (due to its quicker updates) because Bad Blood is looking good to challenge for the win. The back odds are currently 16 but the lay odds are now 10! So, you quickly place a back bet of £20 and the lay stake of £32.06, leaving you with an £11.46 profit. This is an intentional Arb. Whilst very profitable, it will at best, result in you being on extremely thin ice with the bookmaker and in the worst case you could be instantly banned.

So, if you are looking to either Arb or place Mug bets, just remember this simple rule; Arb = Risky but significant profit and Mug = Keeping your bookmaker accounts open. Goes without saying but you need to be doing more of the latter!