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Middles (betting on slightly different handicaps or score ranges to create a situation where there is a potential large profit if the right score happens) are a useful addition to an arber’s repertoire. Like many things arbers do, these are a numbers game, and to get the best results from middles you need to do a lot of them. I should perhaps say that I have not done middles myself, being more interested in horse racing than the sports these bets apply to. However, the theory is good and I do know people who have done these successfully.

Middles fall into the category of advanced arbing techniques. They require an understanding of both arbing/dutching and of handicap type bets. You need to be confident that you can completely understand these before you attempt middles, because if you get it wrong you can lose a lot of money. There is a beginners guide to dutching here, a simple 2 way dutching spreadsheet here and an article on handicap and asian handicap bets here. You need to learn to recognize odds which will give a profit by betting on both sides, so that you can pick out middles on markets which are not quite the same. These will not appear on lists of “surebets” on oddsmatching sites, although some paid services such as Rebelbetting do provide middles.

All arbers and matched bettors should learn how to work out the possible outcomes of each scenario they are betting on, so that you can work out whether a strategy will work or not. This is useful if you find that things change (say if there is a non runner just after you have placed a bet and before you have laid) and is helpful for working out the strategies for the “if” offers. Some of these are not unlike middles, for example if you back and lay a correct score arb with a bookmaker offering a refund if the score is 0-0, you stand to win more if the 0-0 comes in than you do for any other score, and you can work out the exact returns for each of the 3 situations (back wins, lay wins, 0-0 wins). You may choose to remove this difference by laying a bit on 0-0, or you may leave it to chance and win more if the offer comes in. Middles take this a step further in providing a result or range of results where you are in a win-win (or win-push) situation. You would not normally try to even this out, but expect that a proportion of your middles would return results which gave you a big win.

The simplest middles are 2-way dutches, where you back both sides of the event, although it is possible to have a back/lay middle. The easiest place to find middles is handicap markets, where bookies vary with the exact handicap score. One might offer an asian handicap of +4.5 goals, another might offer +3.5 (it is important to understand that these are not the same as under/over markets). If the prices are right you can arb this if you get the handicaps the right way round (for simplicity I will assume the odds on both are 2.0, in reality you will need to check that the odds work as well as the handicaps and adjust the stakes accordingly):

Bookie 1 back £100 at 2.0 Team A + 4.5 goals (Team A is given 4.5 goals start – bet wins unless Team B score at least 5 goals more than Team A)

Bookie 2 back £100 at 2.0 Team B – 3.5 goals (Team B is given a 3.5 goal handicap – bet wins if Team B score at least 4 goals more than Team A)

Here there are 3 possible outcomes.

Team B score at least 5 goals more than Team A. Bet loses at bookie 1 and wins at bookie 2, for zero profit.

Team B score less than 4 goals more than Team A. Bet wins at bookie 1 and loses at bookie 2, for zero profit.

Team B score exactly 4 goals more than Team A. Bet wins at bookie 1 and wins at bookie 2 for total profit of £200.

In general the middle will work if the + handicap is bigger than the – handicap, or for over/under type bets, if the under is bigger than the over. If you get these the wrong way round there is a gap in the middle where both bets lose. These are called polish middles, and should be avoided. As always, if you find a very large arb, warning bells should ring. Check that the handicaps are the correct way round for a middle, and if they are, check that both bookies have the same rules (eg on overtime).

Other markets can also be used for middles. You may find a middle if one bookie is offering under/over 2.5 goals and another is offering 2 or more goals. Backing under 2.5 and 2 or more will give you a win at both bookies if the result is 2 goals. You could also create a middle by backing 2 or more and laying over 2.5 if the prices were right (somewhat unlikely). Another scenario might be where you have handicaps such as +4 and -3, where you will win one bet and the other will be a push if the score is 3 or 4 goals.

Middles are good value bets, and providing a large enough bank is available they are worth taking in all circumstances where the net return on the arb is at least zero when the middle doesn’t win.

Negative Middles

The discussion above refers to bets which are arbs, and return a profit, or at least no loss if the result does not hit the advantageous middle score. Negative middles work along the same lines as value betting, where you are prepared to take a loss on some bets because the overall result over a large number of bets is a substantial profit. Consider the following scenario:

You find a middle in a basketball match over/under market, backing over 196 and under 197, but the odds are 2.0 and 1.95. This is not an arb – unless the score is 196 or 197 you will lose 1.27% of your stakes. However, if the middle wins you will win one of the bets outright and the other will be a push (you will get your money back) so the ROI on this will be around 50%. If your original investment on the 2.0 was £100, the loss on this bet if the middle didn’t come in would be £2.56, but if the middle did come in your profit would be £100. this means that the middle would only have to win about 1 time in 39 for this to be a profitable strategy at these odds (and approximately double this number for middles where both bets could win).

As with most value betting strategies, this sounds very attractive, but you can end up with long losing sequences, so this is not recommended unless you understand and accept the risks. If you can somehow filter the middles so that they have a better chance of being correct, using knowledge of the sports concerned, this could turn out to be a lucrative strategy, but I have very little knowledge of these sports and cannot comment on what such factors might be. The above strategy would be similar to taking a small loss (say laying level odds without commission) on horses in order to play for money back specials on fallers and other if offers. If you do enough of them, sooner or later one will go your way.


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