Matched Betting (often written “Match Betting”) is a technique used for generating a profit from the free bets & promotions offered by online Bookmakers. It’s risk-free, tax-free and based on a simple strategy rather than chance — so it’s not gambling at all. What’s great is that anyone can learn it, no matter how little they know about sports betting.
This Guide to Matched Betting has 3 Parts:
- Matched Betting Basics Explained
- Meeting Rollover Requirements or Placing Qualifying Bets
- Placing Free Bets
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1. Matched Betting Basics Explained
To help get you started, here’s a basic outline of what’s involved in Matched Betting
What Is Matched Betting? What Is a Matched Bet?
A Matched Bet is where you place 2 opposing stakes without taking risk. It’s actually pretty simple:
- Back (bet FOR a sports outcome) at the Bookmaker
- Lay (bet AGAINST a sports outcome) at a betting exchange, like Betfair
For newbies, a “Lay” bet is basically betting against an outcome by accepting bets on it (like a Bookie).
The two bets you place cancel one another out, meaning that you break even. No win, no loss. But breaking even doesn’t help you to earn money, right?…
That’s why you have to combine the ‘Matched Bet’ with a Free Bet offered by the Bookmaker. Then it suddenly becomes profitable. This isn’t gambling as you know it — this is Matched Betting.
Matched Betting Might Sound too Good to be True. But It Works.
Don’t be put off because the process involves online betting. Thousands of people in the UK are making a second income from this. There’s countless success stories, so it’s well worth a read.
What Do You Need to Get Started With Matched Betting?
To earn anything from Matched Betting you’ll need the following:
- A Betfair account (or other betting exchange)
- A new, never-before-used Bookmaker account where a Free Bet is offered for signing up. Google “free bets” to find one.
- Money to deposit to the Bookmaker and Betfair.
Before You Start, Identify the Type of Promotion You’re Dealing With
If you know little (or nothing) about Free bets then take a look at my post ‘The Different Types Of Free Bets‘ from the Matched Betting section of this blog. This will make the jargon a little clearer.
Two cases apply to Bookmaker Free Bet/Promotions. You must either:
- Meet a “Rollover Requirement”. This is where you’ve deposited funds and ‘Free Money’ was credited before any bets were placed. You must place a total sum of eligible stakes before a withdrawal is allowed (e.g. Bet365).
- “Qualify” for a Free Bet. This is where the Bookmaker stipulates that players must place a “qualifying bet” using their own money before being credited a Free Bet. Usually the bet is called “Stake Not Returned”.
Whatever case you’re dealing with, the first objective is exactly the same: to minimise losses. The second objective is to profit from the free money you’re given by the Bookmaker.
You’ll start doing this by “matching” your bets in the next step. But before we get there, let’s delve a bit deeper into a typical free bet…
Let’s pretend a free bet promotion for signing up to 10bet is advertised as:
“Bet £25 of your own money to receive a £25 Stake Not Returned free bet”.
This is case (2) — you have to qualify for a free bet.
So customers can claim a free bet, where their stake is not returned in any winnings. So if that free bet wins, you keep the profit. If it doesn’t win you haven’t lost anything. What’s the catch?
The catch is simply that you don’t get your £25 free bet unless you risk £25 of your own money to begin with. Therefore you stand to lose £25 — which you don’t want.
Note that Bookies also have a knack of attaching tricky terms and conditions to their free bets. Usually they insist that your bets are placed at minimum odds of a given amount (e.g. 2.0). This is something you have to look out for. If in doubt, ask the Bookamker staff on live chat to clarify your uncertainties.
In this tutorial we’ll refer to this typical “Stake Not Returned” promotion using the Back & Lay Matched Betting technique. We’ll turn this promotion into a profitable, risk free opportunity.
Don’t worry, i’m going to explain the entire process in this simple tutorial (2018 edition). Just follow my step-by-step instructions and start learning how to place Matched Bets!
2. Meeting Rollover Requirements Or Placing Qualifying Bets (Step 1/2)
See this entire step as a hoop jumping phase. You won’t generate a profit until the next step.
To get started with Matched Betting, it’s important to select the right sports event to match your qualifying/rollover bet(s) on…
How to Select the Right Sports Event to Bet On
Matching your bet requires that the Bookmaker & exchange (Betfair) odds are of a similar value. This is absolutely crucial.
Let’s suppose I placed a qualifying bet at the Bookmaker by backing Spurs to beat Chelsea at decimal odds of 2.5, whilst Laying Spurs at odds of 3.0 on the Betfair exchange. What I’m effectively doing is cancelling out the Back bet by betting against Spurs on the exchange.
The problem is, the difference between 2.5 and 3.0 is big in terms of value. The Bookmaker’s price is only 83.3% of the Lay odds on Betfair. It’s a weak match. You want your Lay odds to be more like 2.7 — a 90% match. The closer the better.
Help, I don’t understand the European decimal odds!
Don’t worry. Decimal odds are actually very simple: the higher the value, the bigger the odds are!
You don’t need to fully understand odds for Matched Betting anyway. You just need to make sure that your Bookmaker accounts are set to decimal (European) odds, like ‘2.5’, so that it’s consistent with Betfair’s format.
So what does a “weak match” mean to your profit? Why does it matter?
Imagine that the Bookmaker bet wins and Betfair loses. Due to the fact your liability (what you pay out on losing bets) at the exchange is comparatively high, you’ll lose more from your Lay bet on Betfair than you’ll win from the back bet at the Bookie. This means you’d lose a fair bit of money overall.
If the price was identical — i.e. perfectly matched — then you’d break even whatever happens (Betfair commission aside). Basically, it’s just important that you match your bet properly by finding odds that are tight between the Bookmaker and the Exchange. I call this a “strong match”.
There are Tools to Help You Find a “Strong Match” for Your Qualiying/Rollover Bets. Use Them.
You don’t need to manually hunt around for suitable odds. There are some great tools to help you.
I recommend that you save yourself a lot of effort by signing up for a free account with Odds Monkey. They’re the #1 Matched Betting specialists, with an abundance of resources. This includes an automatcher, for finding the right sports events to bet on.
I’ll use the free OddsMonkey Oddsmatcher to show you how to choose a sports event for our example £25 qualifying bet.
I have a few tips when using the Oddsmatcher:
- Look for odds on popular sports/markets. For example, top flight football matches. These have the most liquidity on the exchange.
- Avoid using high odds. For qualifying/rollover bets, high odds will increase the balance you need to have in your exchange account. Imagine Laying at 9.0 on a £20 stake — you’ll need to make a hefty deposit just to cover the liability of £200 if a Backer wins the bet. So aim to keep your bets just above the minimum odds allowed at the Bookmaker for the promotion.
- Always seek a high “Rating %” from the OddsMonkey Oddsmatcher. This means that the odds are tight between the Bookmaker and Betfair.
So let’s get to it.
What you can see in the following screenshot is the best rated matched betting opportunities in descending % order.
OddsMonkey Matched Betting Oddsmatcher, with 10Bet selected from the dropdown.
Instantly i’m drawn to one particular fixture: the Stoke v Newcastle football game (shown in red) from the Oddsmatcher.
The reason I like this event is because it precisely meets the three tips I gave above:
- It’s a very popular market (two Premier League teams, at the time of writing)
- The odds are low (and hopefully within the Bookmakers’ minimum odds terms)
- The Rating % on the Oddsmatcher is very high, at 97.03%.
I’ve found a close match.
This is an ideal event to place the qualifying bet on. To do that you just need to calculate how much to Lay on the Betfair exchange against your £25 back stake, to complete the Matched Bet. We’ll work this out using another OddsMonkey tool…
Calculating Your Lay Stake to Spread the Risk Equally
This is a very important step, so take a little care.
Provided you calculate the correct Lay stake, you will ensure an identical (or very close) profit/loss whatever outcome of the Stoke vs Newcastle fixture — win, lose or draw. Failure to do so can result in a costly mistake.
To make this process as easy as possible, open up the Matched Betting Calculator from your OddsMonkey account. Enter the details of the bet like this:
OddsMonkey Matched Betting calculator with the bet type, Stake, Back odds, Lay odds and Commission entered.
In case you’re wondering, the “Lay Commission” is just the commission % Betfair charges on profits. For new accounts it’s 5%.
Here’s what the OddsMonkey calculator shows:
- The perfect Lay stake on Betfair, which is labelled “you could lay £25.13″.
- The loss you’ll make — labelled “your overall position will be -£1.14” — which is the same regardless of the outcome of the sports event (Ok, 1p aside…).
NOTE: The net result of £-1.14 is a perfectly reasonable loss to incur on a £25 stake. It will be dwarfed by the profit made from the Free Bet in Step 2.
It’s lost money. Can this part of the process ever make money?
We’re not aiming to make money at this stage. We’ll get there in the next step, with the free bet.
But if you’re lucky and you’re able to Lay at lower odds than you backed at the Bookmaker then what you’ve found is an arbitrage opportunity and you’ll profit regardless of the outcome. However, this is a rare case.
When Matched Betting, in almost every case you’ll Lay slightly above the Bookmaker odds, meaning you’ll incur a very minor loss.
Hopefully I haven’t lost you yet. Because you’re now finally ready to place that £25 Back bet, instantly followed by the £25.13 Lay bet. This step is almost complete! Just a few final tips…
Placing The 2 Parts of the Matched Bet
Here’s some advice when placing your Back & Lay bets. This applies to any type of matched bet. Take note:
- Ensure you have sufficient balance in your Betfair account
- Check manually on the betting websites that the odds shown on the Oddsmatcher e.g. 2.0 (Bookmaker) and 2.04 (Exchange) are still valid. Odds change rapidly.
- Place your bet at the Bookmaker first, then Lay on the Exchange instantly after. Be sure to hit the Pink Lay and not the Blue Back price on Betfair!
You simply place the 2 bets. Then you’re done with placing your first risk free matched bet! You’ve now learnt how to “match” your qualifying & rollover bets without losing money.
This Step Is Complete. What’s Next?
- If you’ve just placed your qualifier for an SNR free bet bet then continue to the next step.
- If you’re still still meeting a Rollover Requirement then you need to repeat this step until you’re eligible to withdraw. Take care with finding a close match between the Bookmaker and Betfair otherwise it’ll drastically reduce your overall profit.
- If you’ve successfully placed enough matched bets to meet your rollover requirement then next section is redundant — just withdraw your money!
3. Placing Free Bets (Step 2/2)
In this section you will secure a risk-free profit from Matched Betting.
Once your SNR free bet (sometimes called a “bet token”) is activated in your Bookmaker account you’re ready to begin.
Match your Free Bet the Same as Before (With a Couple of Changes)
Whilst the process is similar to what i’ve shown in the previous step, there are some subtle differences to take note of. I’ve highlighted these in red:
- Find a suitable high odds “strong match”. Follow the same process as the qualifier (in the previous step). As always, take care to ensure the Bookmaker and Betfair odds are a close match.
- Use the OddsMonkey Matched Betting calculator to calculate your Lay stake. You must select “Free Bet (SNR)” as the Bet Type this time. The default is “Normal”. Don’t forget to change it!
- Place your 2 bets. Start with the Back (free bet) at the Bookmaker, then follow up with Lay bet on the Exchange, exactly as before. Always bet on the Pink Lay value.
Why are high odds better for matching SNR Free Bets? Why didn’t we do that before?
By matching an SNR bet at high odds you retain more of your free bet. It’s more profitable.
The downside is that you also require more money in your exchange account to place the Lay part, which is sometimes inconvenient. I find that a good compromise is to use odds of around of 5.0-7.0.
Without being too mathsy, the reason for this is that by betting at high odds you naturally win at Betfair more frequently than you do at low odds. The benefit to this is that you reduce the frequency of winning free bets at the Bookmaker where your stake is not returned.
Let’s work through an example SNR bet.
An Example of Matching & Placing an SNR Free Bet
Let’s cut to the chase. You’ve found a suitable sports event sing the advice i gave in the previous step. The Back odds are 6.0 at the Bookie and Lay odds are 6.5 at Betfair.
That’s a 92.3% match at high odds, which is great. So you’d enter those details into the calculator, just like before…
placing your £25 Free Bet at bookie odds of 6.0 and betfair Lay odds of 6.5:
And as before, you also bet using the Lay stake provided by the OddsMonkey calculator — which is £19.38 in this case. Failure to do so won’t guarantee an equal profit whatever the outcome of the event.
This Matched Bet makes a guaranteed PROFIT of £18.41 from the SNR free bet.
Place those 2 bets, wait for them to settle, then you’re finally done. You’ve earned a risk-free profit from Matched Betting. You can withdraw your earnings!
Disclaimer: This is all mathematically speaking. In rare cases where the Bookmaker does not pay out, or voids your bets, you are not guaranteed profits.
Is the profit in this example good? Can it be improved?
Yes, £18.41 is great as it retains 73.64% of the £25 promotion. Subtracting the £1.14 loss on the qualifier leaves it at +£17.27 overall. Not bad for nothing.
Always aim to retain around the 70-75% mark of your SNR bet. Don’t strive for perfection or you’ll waste your life chasing coppers.
But hang on, i’m confused. How come it’s in profit this time? What’s changed from the previous step with the qualifier?
We selected “Free Bet (SNR)” on the calculator this time, remember? That’s the difference.
The process is the same to matching qualifying/rollover bets — but it’s profitable this time due to the fact you’re using a free bet at the Bookmaker. Without the free bet you don’t make a profit, and Matched Betting ceases to exist.
I’ll explain this with the maths, if you’re interested (if not skip the rest of this section, and take my word for it).
The following calculations take place for the 2 possible outcomes.
Bookmaker Free Bet Wins:
Bookmaker: (£25 x 6.0) - £25 = +£125 Exchange: -(£19.38 x 6.5) + 19.38 = -£106.59 Overall profit = +£18.41
Bookmaker Free Bet Loses:
Bookmaker: £0 Exchange: £19.38 x (0.95) = +£18.41 Overall profit = +£18.41
The Bookmaker account loses £0 (nothing) when the free bet loses, because it was not placed with your own money. Think about it: to you the Bookie account has not lost anything. It’s like betting with someone else’s money and if you win then you get to keep the winnings for yourself.
You can create an Excel spreadsheet ‘Matched Betting Calculator’, but it’s a whole lot simpler to use the tools provided by services like OddsMonkey. But if you’re still keen, take a look at the formula for “calculating guaranteed profit” in my post on arbitrage. It’s the same principle here.
Key Points To Take Away From This Matched Betting Guide
Here’s a quick recap on the key points you need to remember about Matched Betting.
Free Bets have Terms and Conditions Attached to Them.
A Bookmaker typically stipulates that an initial qualifying bet must be placed for a player to be eligible for a free bet. In most cases you need to get it right on the very first bet you place.
Look out for tricky terms like this because it’ll prevent you from being awarded the promotion. Remember: no free bet means no profit.
Always Ensure that there’s Enough Available Money (Liquidity) on the Exchange to Place your Lay Bets.
If you find that there’s not enough money on Betfair, then you may consider queuing your bet at a higher price. This will increase your liability and thereby reduce your profit. Alternatively you can risk waiting for your bet to get matched — but there’s no guarantee it will be.
Issues like this can be overcome by utilising the educational resources and support provided by Matched Betting Services.
Avoid Rookie Errors: Take Care when you’re Placing Both Bets.
Whether its win, lose, draw or any other outcome it’s always the same process. You simply (1) Back at the Bookmaker, and (2) Lay that same outcome on Betfair with the appropriate stake from the calculator. Don’t Lay any other outcome apart from the one you’ve just backed. If you Back the Draw, then you Lay the Draw.
Remember to use low odds for qualifying/rollover bets and high odds for SNR free bets in order to reduce losses and maximise profits respectively.
Need more answers?
I’ve also written a detailed Q&A on Matched Betting here: Everything You Need To Know About Matched Betting.
Originally posted 6th July 2016, and updated for 2018.