In sports betting, a Middle is an arb or ‘sure bet’ involving 2x Back bets on the same event. If the event ends with a specific result, you’ll profit by winning one bet and having the other bet refunded, or you’ll win both bets.
What Markets Are Middles Found In?
Middles occur in Asian Handicap and Over/Under betting markets.
- Asian Handicap Middles occur when the “+” value is bigger than the “-” value (e.g. -3 and +4)
- Over/Under Middles occur when the “over” is smaller than the “under” (e.g. Over 2.5 and Under 3.5).
Middles In Betting
The simplest way of illustrating a Middle is with Asian Handicap bets.
Asian Handicap markets work on goal supremacy. This means you deduct or give goals to a team, and decide the result based on that advantage/disadvantage. For example, if you Back TeamA in a market for “-3 goals” then they start the match with a -3 goal deficit. So a real match score of 3-1 would be a loss in this market — because the scoreline becomes 0-1. Or a 4-1 real score becomes a 1-1 draw, and so on.
Middles occur when specific results from 2 different markets/Bookies intersect. In the following Asian Handicap example, the stakes have been calculated to ensure that the outcome is approximately flat.
TeamA (-3 goals) 1.90 @ Bookie1 (Back £51.5 for £46.35 profit)
TeamB (+4 goals) 2.25 @ Bookie2 (Back £43.5 for £54.37 profit)
TeamA wins by less than 3 goals, draws or loses (e.g. 2-1, 4-4, 1-3)
- You lose the (-3) bet at Bookie1
- You win the (+4) bet at Bookie2.
Total Profit = £54.37 – £46.35 = £2.87
TeamA wins by more than 4 goals (e.g. 5-0, 6-1)
- You win the (-3) bet at Bookie1
- You lose the (-4) bet at Bookie2.
Total Profit = £46.35 – £43.5 = £2.85
TeamA wins by exactly 4 goals (e.g. 5-1, 6-2)
- You win the (-3) bet at Bookie1
- Your (+4) bet for TeamB will be refunded at Bookie2.
Total Profit = £46.35 + £0 = £46.35
TeamA win by exactly 3 goals (e.g. 3-0, 4-1)
- Your (-3) bet for TeamA will be refunded at Bookie1
- You win your (+4) bet for TeamB at Bookie2.
Total Profit = £0 + £54.37
As you can see, the Middle means that 2 specific outcomes yield very profitable results whilst the other (most common) outcomes result in a relatively ‘flat’ profit.
What’s A Negative Middle?
A Negative Middle has a negative arb percentage but it’s profitable due to the upside of the Middle hitting.
The previous example of a standard Middle showed a small +EV arb, where every outcome yielded a positive net result. But let’s suppose that there wasn’t guaranteed profit for the Non-Middle outcomes.
Patriots (-6) @ 1.91 (implied chance = 1/1.91 = 52.35%)
Giants (7.5) @ 2.04 (implied chance = 1/2.04 = 49.02%)
This middle of 1.5 points has a negative arb percentage of (-52.35 – 49.02 = -1.37%). However, if the Patriots win by 6 points, you make a profit of around 50%. If they win with 7 points, you win both your bets (a profit of almost 100%).
So the Negative Middle is a type of long-term investment. Most of the time you lose a small % on every bet (-1.37%). But when the Middle hits you’ll (ideally) win back all of the investment + more. If this is the case, then the Negative Middle has (+EV) value.
The big advantage to Negative Middles over regular (positive arb) Middles is that Bookmakers only see you placing non-value bets. Therefore there’s less evidence that you’re actually arbing.
What’s A Polish Middle?
A Polish Middle, often called an Inverted Middle, is a riskier approach to the previous 2 examples. Polish Middles have the opposite scenario: if the Middle hits, you lose money.
As before, Polish Middles occur in the Asian Handicap and Over/Under betting markets. By simply switching the “+” and “-” signs of the original Middles example, you get an inverted “Polish” Middle example.
- Asian handicap Polish Middles occur when the “-” value is bigger than the “+” value (e.g. -3 and +4)
- Over/Under Polish Middles occur when the “over” is bigger than the “under” (e.g. Over 3.5 and Under 2.5).
You can liken Polish Middles to Laying on Betfair. You’re effectively betting against the Middle happening. So it’s important that you have a method of determining that the Non-Middle bets you’ve got your money riding on have an ‘edge’ that isn’t offset by occurrence of the Middle hitting.
Using Polish Middles requires care. There’s a helpful article here which visually presents the possible PnL scenarios using several examples. However, much of the online literature about this topic suggests that it’s “close to gambling”.
I’d personally avoid Polish Middles, as they appear to have less (obvious) exploitable value than the other 2 types of Middles.
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