Matched Betting (or “Match Betting”) is a proven technique used to earn tax-free profits from the free bets & promotions offered by online Bookmakers. It’s based on a simple risk-free strategy rather than chance — so it’s not gambling at all. Anyone can learn it, no matter how little they know about sports betting.
Don’t be put off because Matched Betting involves “online gambling”.
Make no mistake: thousands of people in the UK, from all kinds of backgrounds, are making a second income from Matched Betting. You won’t regret learning it.
This Matched Betting Guide Has 3 Parts:
- Matched Betting Basics Explained
- Meet Rollover Requirements / Place Qualifying Bets
- Place Free Bets to Secure a Profit
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?
A “matched bet” is where you place two opposing stakes on a sports event to eliminate your risk. It’s pretty simple:
- BACK (bet FOR) a sports outcome at a Bookmaker.
- LAY (bet AGAINST) the same sports outcome at a Betting Exchange such as Betfair, Smarkets or Matchbook.
For newbies, a “Lay” bet is basically betting against an outcome by “accepting” bets on it — just like a Bookie does. So for example you might Lay £10 on Spurs to win a match; which is effectively betting on them to either draw or lose. If you’re right, you win £10. If you’re wrong (i.e. Spurs win), you have to pay someone out their winnings. More on this later.
Learn more: Lay Bets Fully Explained
Importantly, the two bets you place at the Bookmaker and Betting Exchange 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 involve a Free Bet in your two-part matched bet. Then it suddenly becomes profitable. This isn’t gambling as you know it — this is Matched Betting.
What Do You Need to Start Matched Betting?
To earn anything from Matched Betting you’ll need the following:
- Betting Exchange Account. Open an account with Betfair or a comparable betting exchange.
- Free Bet. Find a signup promotion offered by a Bookmaker that you do not already have an account with.
- Money. You’ll need some cash to deposit to both the Bookmaker and Betting exchange (e.g. Betfair).
Learn more: Minimum Requirements for Matched Betting.
Recommended Betting Exchanges
Where Do You Find Free Bets?
You can search for free bets yourself. But I highly recommend signing up for a Premium Matched Betting Service instead. These services provide:
- An up-to-date list of free bets for you to claim. This includes a daily calendar of promotions.
- Instructions of how to approach each individual free bet (with tricky terms & conditions all accounted for).
- Tools to manage/track your progress with a promotion.
- Matched Betting help and advice to hand, should you experience any difficulties.
My favourite Matched Betting Service is OddsMonkey — but there are several others.
Learn more: Best Matched Betting Subscription Services.
How Exactly Can You Turn Free Bets Into Profit?
In order to extract value from a free bet promotion, you’ll need to 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.
- “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 (1 or 2), the objective is exactly the same:
- Minimise losses on the rollover requirement or qualifying bet(s).
- Earn a profit using the free money you’re granted by the Bookmaker.
You need to know how to approach the free bet before you can attempt turning it into money. Let’s delve a bit deeper into the structure of a typical free bet promotion.
Further reading: Types Of Free Bets.
An Example Free Bet Promotion
Let’s pretend a free bet promotion for signing up to 10bet is advertised as:
This is case (2) above — you have to qualify for a free bet. A standard scenario.
So customers must take an initial risk of £25 to be granted the £25 free bet, where their stake is not returned in any winnings:
- If the free bet wins, you keep the profit.
- If it doesn’t win you haven’t lost anything.
Therefore you stand to lose £25 from the initial bet — which you don’t want, right?
Right. So for the remainder of this tutorial we’ll tackle to this typical “Stake Not Returned” promotion using the Back & Lay Matched Betting technique. We’ll turn this promotion into a profitable, risk free money-maker.
Note: Bookies 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 Bookmaker staff on live chat to clarify your uncertainties about their promotions.
Ready To Start Earning Risk Free Profits?
If you’re confused — don’t worry. I’m going to explain the entire process in this simple 2021 Matched Betting tutorial.
Keep following my step-by-step instructions.
2. Meet Rollover Requirements / Place Qualifying Bets
In this section we’re going to place a risk free bet at the Bookmaker — without losing or gaining any money — in order to either:
- Meet rollover requirements attached to a promotion, or
- Place a qualifying bet to obtain a free bet.
(Our example £25 promotion requires that we place a qualifying bet).
See this entire step as a hoop jumping phase. You won’t generate a profit until the next, final step.
Firstly, it’s highly important to select the appropriate sports event…
Select the Right Sports Event
What’s the best sports event to use for Matched Betting?
Well, it doesn’t matter what sport you choose. Matching your bet only requires that the Bookmaker & exchange (Betfair) odds are of a similar value. This is absolutely crucial for Matched Betting.
European decimal odds Explained
Before we go any further, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of sports betting odds. Decimal odds, specifically.
Decimal odds are very simple: the higher the number, the bigger the odds are, and the more payout you get on a win.
To calculate winnings placed at European (decimal) odds, simply multiply your stake by the odds. For example:
- £25 @ 10.0 = £10 x 10.0 = £250 return
The return includes the stake. So that’s £225 profit (£250 – £25).
You don’t need to fully understand odds for Matched Betting anyway. You do however need to make sure that your Bookmaker account is set to decimal (European) odds, like ‘2.5’, so that it’s consistent with Betfair’s format.
Learn more: Convert Your Betting Odds To Different Formats
Sports events to avoid In Matched Betting
Let’s suppose that I placed a qualifying bet at the Bookmaker by backing Spurs to beat Chelsea at decimal odds of 2.5, while Laying Spurs at odds of 3.0 on the Betfair exchange. What this effectively does is cancels out the Back bet by betting against Spurs on the exchange.
Football matches are fine. But the problem here is that the difference between 2.5 and 3.0 is big. 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 around a 90% match. The closer to 100% the better.
Why does a “weak match” matter In Matched Betting?
It matters when the Bookmaker ‘Back’ bet wins and Betfair ‘Lay’ bet loses. Here’s the win and lose outcomes:
Bookmaker BACK Wins @ £25 Stake:
- (£25 x 2.5) – £25 = £37.5 profit
Betfair LAY Loses @ £25 Stake:
- (£25 x 3.0) – £25 = £50 loss
Due to the fact your loss at Betfair is much higher than the winnings at the Bookmaker, you make a hefty loss of -£50 + £37.5 = -£12.50. That’s not good.
If the odds were identical — i.e. they matched exactly — then you’d break even whatever outcome happens (Betfair commission aside).
The lesson here is that it’s vitally 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”.
If you’re keen to get to grips with how the odds impact profitability, I can recommend using Betting.com’s free Matched Betting Calculator.
Use OddsMonkey To Find a “Strong Match”
You don’t need to manually hunt around for closely matching odds for your qualifying/rollover bets. It’s time consuming and increases your chance of making a mistake. 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 OddsMonkey. They’re the #1 Matched Betting specialists, with an abundance of resources. This includes an automatcher, for finding the perfect 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.
Tips For Using the OddsMonkey Oddsmatcher:
- Stick to popular sports/markets. For example, top flight football matches. These have the most liquidity (people actively betting) on the exchange. Busy fixtures are good.
- Avoid using high odds. For qualifying/rollover bets, high odds will increase the balance you need to have in your exchange account to cover your Lay 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.
*if you were to Lay at odds of 9.0 with a £20 stake, you'd need £200 in your betting exchange just to cover the 'liability'. Learn how to calculate Lay Bet liability.
So let’s get to it.
Open up the Oddsmatcher from your OddsMonkey account and browse the upcoming sports events. What you can see in the following screenshot are the best rated matched betting opportunities in descending % order.
OddsMonkey Oddsmatcher, with the bookmaker selected from the top dropdown.
I’m instantly 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 conditions 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.
You now need to calculate how much to Lay on the Betfair exchange against your £25 back stake, to complete the Matched Bet. 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.
Calculate Your Lay Stake to Spread the Risk Equally
This is a very important step, so take a little care.
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 % Betfair charges on profits. For new accounts it’s 5% (as entered above).
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 (1p aside…).
It’s calculating a loss. Why?
The net result of £-1.14 is a perfectly reasonable loss to incur on a £25 qualifying stake. It will be dwarfed by the profit made from the Free Bet in Step 3. We’re not aiming to make money at this stage, remember.
When you’re Matched Betting you’ll (almost always) Lay at odds slightly above the Bookmaker, meaning you’ll incur a very minor loss. You can verify this by playing around with the calculator.
Hopefully I haven’t lost you yet — because you’re now finally ready to place that £25 Back bet, followed by the £25.13 Lay bet. This stage is almost complete!
Just a few more tips…
Place the Two Parts of Your Matched Bet
Here’s some advice for when you’re placing your Back and Lay bet:
- Ensure you have sufficient balance in your Betfair account before you begin. You need to be able to cover potential losses.
- Manually check both betting websites to verify the odds shown on the Oddsmatcher e.g. 2.0 (Bookmaker BACK) and 2.04 (Exchange LAY) are still valid. Odds change all the time.
- Place your bet at the Bookmaker FIRST, then Lay on the Exchange instantly AFTER. Be sure to hit the Pink Lay price and not the Blue Back price on Betfair! That’s a common (and costly) mistake.
Then you’re done with placing your first risk free matched bet.
Well done! You’ve now learnt how to “match” your qualifying or rollover bets without losing (much) 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. Place Your Free Bets to Earn a Profit
In this section you will secure a risk-free profit from Matched Betting. The process is almost the same as the previous step.
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 (Slightly Different To Before)
You need to use the very same Matched Betting technique shown in step 2 of this guide. There are however two subtle differences to take note of this time:
- You want a HIGH ODDS “strong match”. Follow the same process as the qualifier — except with higher odds. As always, take care to ensure the Bookmaker and Betfair odds are a close match.
- Set the OddsMonkey Matched Betting calculator’s bet type to “FREE BET (SNR)“ when calculating your Lay stake. The default is “Normal”. Don’t forget to change it!
Why are high odds better for SNR Free Bets?
By matching an SNR bet at high odds you retain more of your free bet. It’s more profitable.
Without being too mathsy, the reason for it being more profitable is that high odds win at Betfair more frequently than 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 the example £25 SNR free bet.
Place the SNR Free Bet
Let’s cut to the chase and assume you’ve found a suitable high odds sports event using the Oddsmatcher (by following step 2, with the adjustments I’ve suggested) . Let us also assume that the (high) odds you’ve identified are:
- Back: 6.0 at the Bookie
- Lay: 6.5 at Betfair.
That’s a 92.3% match at high odds, which is great. So you enter those details into the calculator again:
placing a £25 SNR Free Bet at bookie odds of 6.0, betfair Lay odds of 6.5:
As before, you want the OddsMonkey calculator to tell you the Lay stake — which is £19.38 in this case. Failure to obtain that number won’t guarantee an equal profit whatever the outcome of the event.
This particular Matched Bet will make a guaranteed PROFIT of £18.41 from the SNR free bet. So go ahead and place those two (Back & Lay) bets, wait for them to settle, then you’re finally done.
You’ve earned a risk-free profit from Matched Betting. Withdraw those earnings!
Why Is It in Profit this Time? What’s Changed?
The Matched Betting process is indeed the same for qualifying/rollover bets as it is for free bets. But it’s profitable this time because of the inclusion of a free bet at the Bookmaker. We selected “Free Bet (SNR)” on the calculator this time, remember? That’s the difference.
Without free bets 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 just take my word for it.
The following calculations take place for the two possible outcomes of a Matched Bet.
Case 1: 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
Case 2: Bookmaker Free Bet Loses
Bookmaker: £0 Exchange: £19.38 x (0.95) = +£18.41 Overall profit = +£18.41
In case 2, 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 profit for yourself.
You can create an Excel spreadsheet ‘Matched Betting Calculator’ using these calculations. But it’s a whole lot simpler to use the tools provided by services like OddsMonkey. However, 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.
Is the Profit Earned In this Example Good? Can it be Improved?
£18.41 is a great profit, as it retains 73.64% of the £25 promotion. After subtracting the £1.14 loss from the qualifier it leaves it at +£17.27 overall. Not bad for betting without risk.
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.
Key Points From This Matched Betting Guide
Here’s a quick recap on some of the key points you need to remember about Matched Betting.
1. Free Bets Have Strict Terms & Conditions. Look out.
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 only your very first bet counts.
Look out for tricky terms like this because it’ll prevent you from being awarded the promotion. Remember: no free bet means no profit.
2. Always Ensure that there’s Enough Liquidity (Available Money)
“Liquidity” refers to the amount of available money on the Exchange (e.g. Betfair) to place your Lay bet.
I have suggested seeking popular sports events in order to avoid running into low liquidity problems on the Betting Exchange. But if you find that there’s not enough money on Betfair, then you may need to wait to get matched. And there’re no guarantee you will be.
In the wort case scenario, consider queuing your Lay bet at a higher price. This will increase your liability and thereby reduce your profit (but it’s more likely to be matched).
3. Take Care When You’re Placing Both Bets.
Whether its win, lose, or draw it’s always the same process. You simply:
- BACK at the Bookmaker, and
- LAY that same outcome on Betfair with the appropriate stake provided from the calculator. If you Back the Draw, then you Lay the Draw. Simple.
Furthermore, remember to use:
- Low odds for qualifying/rollover bets.
- High odds for SNR free bets in order to reduce losses and maximise profits.
Matched Betting: Additional Reading
Do You Have More Questions About Matched Betting?
This tutorial doesn’t cover everything. So I’ve also written another post: Everything You’ve Ever Wondered About Matched Betting.
Want to Take Matched Betting Further?
- Maximise what you earn by subscribing to one of the Best Matched Betting Services.
- Use your Matched Betting skills to earn money from Arbitrage Betting.
- Learn more proven ways of profiting from sports betting.
Want to Learn More Ways of Making Money Online?
Check out out my NicheCarve post: How To Make Money Online — Earn At Home
Originally posted 6th July 2016, and updated for 2021.
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