Cheating in Sports Betting: How it Happens and What to Avoid

What Tactics or Systems can be used to Cheat Bookmakers?

The first question you may have is: “Is cheating common in sports betting?” The answer to this is, “Of course. Wherever there’s money involved, someone will find a way to cheat the system.” However, not all of these tactics are either technically illegal or necessarily classed as a cheat. Why not?

Every sport relies on a bookmaker giving odds on a particular outcome, whether it’s football, basketball or boxing. For many bettors, making wagers that make the odds work for you in some way is considered part of the thrill of gambling.

Simply put, many popular tactics and systems involve gaming the odds, especially when it comes to sports.

Betting Strategies

It’s all in the Numbers

Ultimately, it’s all down to mathematics. Take counting cards, for example. Many casinos consider this to be cheating and ban players caught doing it. However, it’s not technically illegal. It’s only viewed as a way to cheat by casinos because it’s a system that lets the player win, and win often.

Of course, as soon as you introduce a winning formula to any game or sport, bookmakers and casinos take steps to stop it. They can’t encourage anything that involves them losing money, after all. The key here is to invest in reputable and professional brands only. This will guarantee you a fair play.

Common Sports Betting Systems

Or can they? Here’s where the ‘cheat grey area’ gets even murkier. If you spend enough time on gambling websites, then you’ll find that some allow match betting or arbitrage betting.

Matched Betting

Matched betting is a system that involves making the most out of free bet bonuses offered by many websites. For example, if you make a bet of £/€/$10, you’ll then get a free bet worth £/€/$10.

Matched betting works like this: you make a back bet (e.g. “This team will win their next match”) at a bookmaker, and then a lay bet (e.g. “The same team won’t win their next match”) at a betting exchange (for the same, or similar, odds as the back bet). Think of it as effectively wagering against yourself.

As to how this involves a bookmaker’s free bet: this is your profit. Оnce you’ve made a first or qualifying bet, then you’ll earn the free bet bonus. This bonus can then be used to make subsequent matched bets.

If you'd like to try this tactic, you can take a look at our overview of the bookies that offer free bets and choose your favourite ones.

Matched Betting

Arbitrage betting is a type of match betting that usually involves wagering on all possible outcomes of an event, but at odds that guarantee a profit. The most common type of arbitrage bet is the same as matched: a back bet and a lay bet.

The main difference between arbitrage and matched betting is that arbitrage bets often involve combining odds so that there’s a negative margin (less than 100%). This results in giving an edge to the gambler, not the bookmaker.

Back & Lay Bets - Betting Exchanges
Back bets and lay bets are offered by the so-called betting exchanges that become largely popular in the past few years. Spend even just five minutes searching online, and you’ll dig up plenty of strategies to make the most of bookmaker’s odds. Most of these systems actually involve some form of placing a back bet (wagering that something will happen) versus a lay bet (wagering that the same thing won’t happen), as noted above.

Hedging is one such tactic and is also where the term ‘hedging your bets’ comes from. It’s also often related to arbitrage betting, in that it’s a form of wagering that’s available at individual betting exchanges.


When someone fixes a sporting event, they take steps to ensure that they get the result they want. For example, a jockey may make sure that his horse never places in the top three until the odds for doing so are very favourable.

Bribery is another way to fix a sport. Illegal drug use is also a way to cheat that’s still rampant in certain areas of sports betting. Fixing is cheating; there are no two ways about it. Unfortunately, as a gambler, there’s very little you can do to stop it happening.

Are any of These Tactics and Systems Recommended?

In short, no. However, to get a better understanding of why certain gambling ‘cheat’ systems are so popular, it’s worth considering the bookmaker’s advantage. However, we'd like to once again point out that the strategies mentioned above are not illegal. You should carefully read the T&C's of the betting site to learn how the bookie treats these systems. We recommend you to go through our strategies page and learn all you need to know about the well-planned wagering.

The bookmaker’s advantage

It’s a known fact that bookies make their money from the difference between the odds and the actual probability. For example, if you had a horse race with five horses, the actual probability of each horse winning would be 20%. Therefore, the odds should be 4/1, or 5.0, for each horse, so the total probability is 100%.

However, in sports betting, these odds would likely be presented as 3/1, or 4.0, bringing the total probability up to 125%. In other words, the extra 25% added by the bookie becomes their profit. This is the over-round, or the ‘vig’ or ‘juice’ as it’s known in the States. You probably understand that a little investigation is a must here. Browse through our chart with bookmakers known for their best odds and choose the ones that suit you.

Betting exchanges vs Betting markets

This is where arbitrage/matched betting comes back into things, as both of these systems seek to even the odds, so to speak. Neither method is recommended unless you really know what you’re doing.

In other words, you have to have a good, if not in-depth, understanding of betting markets versus betting exchanges, given that you’d need to use both to make the most of these wagering systems.

Whereas a bookmaker offers generally unfavourable odds to make a profit (as mentioned above), betting exchanges allow back and lay bets, often as in-play wagering (during a live sports event). Betting exchanges then make their profit by charging a commission on any winning bets.

Do You Have to Avoid These Systems

Which Strategies to Avoid

It almost goes without saying, but if you enjoy gambling, then you shouldn’t cheat. Plus, you should always be careful if you find a tactic, guide, or system that claims to be ‘no risk’. If money’s involved, then there’s always a risk.

However, the choice is yours whether you’ll use a ‘legal cheat’ such as arbitrage betting, or something less savoury. There are two crucial factors to bear in mind, though, should you wish to try your hand at any of these systems.

The first is that in order to really ‘succeed’, you’ll need to wager a substantial amount of money to counter any losses. This, in itself, will set alarm bells ringing on any reputable sports betting site or establishment.

Many gambling sites, whether it’s a sportsbook or a casino, implement stringent anti-cheat policies. These usually involve asking for verification documents to prove that money is coming from a legal source, as well as investigating infrequent bets consisting of large sums of money.

Even if it’s considered legal, the chance to cheat may seem attractive in the short term. However, keep in mind that many sports betting sites (and brick-and-mortar locations) won’t think twice about either severely limiting your wagering limit, or outright banning you if they suspect that you’re using some kind of gambling cheat.

What’s the Difference between Honest and Dishonest Betting?

On the surface, the answer to this particular question appears straightforward. Honest betting is any wager that’s covered by a bookmaker. Dishonest betting is any kind of bet that works against the established rules.

However, there’s a lot more nuance to these ideas than is first apparent. For example, while honest wagering has pretty clear boundaries, what about if someone makes what they believe to be a legitimate bet when they’re (inadvertently) cheating?

Proving someone’s honesty can be tricky at the best of times, but when you consider how built-in to sports betting cheating is, honesty becomes even harder to confirm. This is especially true when you consider that there are legitimate websites that allow, even encourage, match and arbitrage betting.

Ultimately, how you choose to gamble is a matter of personal choice. Sports betting should always be about enjoyment, though, for yourself and others. If you want to try your hand at a ‘legal cheat’ tactic or system, then remember how difficult it can be to succeed. Keep that in mind the next time you place a bet.