ARB307: Palpable errors
All bookmakers have clauses in their betting terms and conditions basically stating that if they make an ‘obvious error’ in their odds (called a palpable error, or palp), they can cancel the bet and return the punters money.
While Sports Arbitrage Australia has never had a bet voided from a palpable error, there are numerous stories on internet forums regarding offshore sports bookmakers doing this. Presumably palpable errors are more frequent in sports arbitrage than in other forms of sports betting because arbers target odds which are higher than the norm.
The risks associated with palpable error are:
- if one of the bets placed is declared a palpable error and subsequently voided, your arb now has an open position that needs to be closed (possibly for a small loss), or worse if you cannot close the position you are forced to leave the open bet to chance; and
- arbers that bet on high-value odds are just asking to be limited quickly – you are essentially declaring that you are going to exploit the bookmaker’s over-valued odds.
Notification of palpable error
The good news for Australian arbers that bet with Australian bookmakers is that you must be notified (by phone or email) before the sporting event begins that your bet has been voided due to a palpable error. Australian bookmakers are not allowed to declare palpable error after the beginning of a match – this is per the Australian gaming licence requirements. If you are notified of a voided bet due to a palpable error before a match, you will have time to close the open position, as appropriate, to avoid or minimise any loss.
Unfortunately, offshore bookmakers are not subject to the same stringent licencing conditions and can write their own rules around palpable errors. Reliable offshore bookmakers will declare a palpable error before an event begins, less reputable offshore bookmakers will declare a palpable error while the match is in-play, and some unscrupulous offshore bookmakers have been known to declare a palpable error after the event has finished.
Identifying and avoiding palpable errors
There is no way to ensure that a bookmaker won’t declare a palpable error on one of your bets. However, if you follow the following three strategies then you may, like us, avoid palpable errors for the duration of your arbitrage experience:
- Avoid arbs over 5%
Not all 5%+ arbs are palpable errors, but an arb this good should be ringing alarms bells. Bookmakers don’t vary opinions that much, so an arb this profitable is likely to be a palpable error. Don’t be greedy.
- Take extra care on arbs over 3%
If an arb is greater than 3% then you should be wary of a palpable error and be careful before jumping in feet first. 3%+ arbs do exist, but it’s on the high end of the arbitrage scale. Perform the following reviews:
- check that the odds are not wildly different to other bookmakers – compare the odds of the arb with the rest of the bookmakers in the marketplace. If the odds you will be betting on are wildly different (20%+ higher) to the general consensus then it’s likely a palpable error. A good quality alert service like BetOnValue shows all bookmaker odds on the one screen for easy comparison;
- check for typos, transpositional errors, and that odds have not been mistakenly swapped on handicaps or over/under – the odds you are betting on could be too high due to human error and this is not easy to identify. When triple-checking your arb always have in the back of your mind whether or not the odds would be more sensible if the teams were swapped, if the handicap signs were swapped, or if the over/under was swapped;
- check that all bookmakers agree on the favourite – rarely does one bookmaker stray from the consensus as to which team is the favourite and which team is the underdog. Even when one bookmaker changes odds due to injuries or inside information, the other bookmakers will follow suit.
- What are your instincts telling you?
More often than not, your gut instinct is right so listen to what it’s telling you. If you have suspicions about the arbs or something doesn’t feel right, then walk away from it – be safe, not sorry.
What to do if one of your bets is voided due to palpable error
As noted earlier, there is no way to ensure that a bookmaker won’t declare a palpable error on one of your bets. You could even have a bet void due to palpable error on a 1% arb.
So if you find yourself in this position and have an open position then Sports Arbitrage Australia recommend you close the position with the next best odds available with another bookmaker. If you stay calm and methodically think through the bets then at worst you will walk away with a small loss which is far better than having an open bet and risking the whole amount to chance.
If a palpable error is declared on one of your bets with an Australian bookmaker, and because they are required to notify you before the event begins, then you should have ample time to close the open position by re-wagering with another bookmaker in the pre-match market.
If a palpable error is declared on one of your bets with an offshore bookmaker and you are notified while the match is in progress then you can still close the open position by re-wagering in the in-play market (Pinnacle Sports offer in-play betting online to Australians).
If you are using an unscrupulous offshore bookmaker and are unlucky enough to have one of your bets declared a palpable error after the match has finished then you have no option but to take the loss – it’s a hard but valuable lesson to learn.
With experience, identifying and avoiding possible palpable errors becomes instinctive. While there is no way to guarantee that a bookmaker won’t declare a palpable error on one of your bets, if you follow the above guidelines and listen to your instincts then you may, like us, avoid palpable errors for the duration of your arbitrage experience.