Middles, Negative Middles & Polish Middles | Complex Arbs

In sports betting a Middle is a type of arbitrage bet or ‘sure bet’ involving two Back bets on the same event. If the event ends in a specific result, either one bet will win with the other one refunded, or both bets will win.

In the following sections I will delve deeper into the mechanics of Middles.


What Are Middles?

In arbitrage betting, a middle refers to a situation where a bettor places two wagers on the same event with different bookmakers, and there is a potential opportunity to win both bets if the outcome falls within a specific range of results.

Middles can be an attractive opportunity for arbitrage bettors as they provide a chance to win both bets with a reduced risk compared to other arbitrage betting strategies. However, finding middles requires careful analysis of odds and market movements, and they may not always be available.

Middles often 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).


An Example Of A Middle

The simplest way to illustrate a Middle is with an example using two Asian Handicap bets at separate bookmakers. Suppose the following odds were available:

  • TeamA (-3 goals): 1.90 @ Bookie1
  • TeamB (+4 goals): 2.25 @ Bookie2

Asian Handicap markets work on goal supremacy. This means that the markets deduct or “give” goals to one team, and decide the result of the match with that advantage/disadvantage factored in. For example, if you Back TeamA for “-3 goals” as shown above, then that team starts the match with theoretical -3 goal deficit. So a real match score of 3-1 would result in a loss because the scoreline becomes 0-1. Or a 4-1 real score becomes a 1-1 draw, and so on.

The above example represents a Middle because the specific results from the two different markets/Bookies intersect. I’ll demonstrate why this is the case by showing every possible outcome of the two bets placed. Kindly note that the stakes have been pre-calculated to ensure that the outcome is approximately flat as follows:

  1. Back £51.5 on TeamA (-3) for a potential profit of £46.35 profit
  2. Back £43.5 on TeamB (+4) for a potential profit of £54.37 profit

Case 1

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

Case 2

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

Case 3

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

Case 4

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 two specific outcomes (Case 3 and Case 4) generated very profitable results while the other (more common) outcomes resulted in a relatively ‘flat’ profit.

This example shows how the discrepancy between the pricing of two bookmakers, on two separate markets, on the same event, creates an opportunity for bettors to potentially make a substantial profit.


Negative Middles

A Negative Middle has a negative arb percentage but has a positive +EV edge due to the upside of the Middle winning.

The previous example shows a standard Middle, where every outcome yielded a positive net result. Now let’s suppose that there wasn’t a guaranteed profit for every outcome. For example:

  • 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%), meaning that the odds will not allow for a guaranteed profit by covering all outcomes; this is the normal situation. However, in one case, if the Patriots win by 6 points, the bettor will make a profit of around 50%. If they win with 7 points, the bettor will make a profit of almost 100%.

So in this example, the Negative Middle generates a substantial profit in highly specific situations. This makes it a type of value bet, where most of the time you lose a small % from the likely outcomes occurring. However, when a less likely outcome hits, you receive an enormous payout. Despite not winning in every situation, a Negative Middle has (+EV) value, which means it is expected to generate a profit over the long term.

The big advantage to Negative Middles over regular (positive arb) Middles is that bookmakers will only see you placing non-value “-EV” bets. They’re harder to detect than regular arbs or Middles.

I recommend using a Middle Bet Calculator to work out potential profit


Polish Middles

A Polish Middle, often called an Inverted Middle, is a riskier approach to the previous two examples. Polish Middles have the opposite scenario: if the Middle hits, you lose money, but make a profit in other situations.

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).

Betting on Polish Middles requires care. It’s important that you have a method of determining that the “Non-Middle” bets, which you effectively have all your money riding on, have an advantage that isn’t offset by occurrence of the Middle occurring.

There’s a helpful article here which visually presents the possible scenarios of a Polish Middle. However, much of the online literature about this topic suggests that it’s “close to gambling“. Personally, I’d avoid Polish Middles, as they have less obvious exploitable value than the other two types of Middles.

If you’re interested in identifying Middles, I recommend signing up to OddStorm or Rebelbetting. They specialise in detecting Middles, and all other kinds of arbs.

Toby @ Punter2Pro
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