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.
Don’t be put off by the fact that 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. Here’s my free Matched Betting Guide.
Already know about Matched Betting? Maximise what you earn by subscribing to one of the Best Matched Betting Services.
Matched Betting Basics Explained
► 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…
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.
► 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.
Don’t worry, i’m going to explain all the basics in this simple 2-step tutorial (2017 edition).
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.
Apart from that, just follow my step-by-step instructions and start learning how to place Matched Bets!
Step 1 — Meeting Rollover Requirements or Placing Qualifying Bets
See this entire step as a hoop jumping phase. You won’t generate a profit until step 2.
There are one of two cases that apply to your Bookmaker Free Bet/Promotion:
- You need to meet a “Rollover Requirement”. This is where you’ve deposited funds and Free Money was credited before any bets were placed, and you must place a total sum of eligible stakes before a withdrawal is allowed (e.g. Bet365).
- You need to “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 “Stake Not Returned”).
Whatever your case, the objective for step 1 is exactly the same: to minimise losses incurred by completing your rollover requirement, or placing your qualifying bet. You’ll do this by matching your bets.
Let’s pretend my 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”.
In this example customers can claim a free bet where their stake is not returned in any winnings. So if it wins, you keep the profit. If it doesn’t win you haven’t lost anything!
The catch is that you don’t receive 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.
In this tutorial we’ll tackle this typical promotion using the Back & Lay Matched Betting technique. We’ll turn this promotion into a profitable, risk free opportunity.
Firstly, it’s important to choose the right sports event to bet on…
► Matching Your Bet Requires The Bookmaker & Exchange Odds to Be Close
This is absolutely crucial. Always look for sports events with similar value odds.
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 with an equal stake 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.
That’s fine. But in this example, 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.
In the next section I’ll show you how to select the best event. It’s easy.
Help, I don’t understand the European decimal odds!
Don’t worry. You don’t need to fully understand odds for Matched Betting. 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.
Decimal odds are actually very simple anyway: the higher the value, the bigger the odds are!
So what does a “weak match” mean to your profit? Why does it matter?
Imagine that the Bookmaker bet wins. Due to the fact your liability (what you pay out) on the exchange is comparatively high, it means 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 it would 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”.
► How To Find A “Strong Match” for your qualiying/rollover bets
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 — including an automatcher.
We’ll use the free OddsMonkey Oddsmatcher to choose a sports event. I have a few tips:
- Look for odds on popular sports/markets like top flight football matches — these have the most liquidity on the exchange.
- Avoid using high odds for qualifying/rollover bets as this 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 to cover the liability of £200 if a Backer wins the bet. So try to keep 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 we’re looking for an event to place a £25 qualifying bet at 10bet in order to receive a free bet. 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 high, at 97.03%.
We’ve found a close match.
So this is the event you’d place this 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 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 Lay stake on Betfair, which is £25.13.
- The loss you’ll make — labelled “overall position” — which is the same regardless of the outcome of the sports event (Ok, 1p aside…)
NOTE: The net result of £-1.13 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.
Can this process ever make money?
We’re not aiming to make money at this stage. We’ll get there in step 2.
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 you’re 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.
You’re now finally ready to place that £25 Back bet, instantly followed by the £25.13 Lay bet. Step 1 is almost complete! Just a few final tips…
► Placing 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. And 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.
► What’s next?
- If you’ve just placed your qualifier for an SNR free bet bet then continue to Step 2.
- If you’re still still meeting a Rollover Requirement then you need to repeat Step 1 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!
Step 2 — Placing Free Bets
What follows are the simple steps for placing any Stake Not Returned (SNR) free bet. 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.
You need to “match” your free bet using the same method shown in step 1. Simply select your event from the Oddsmatcher. I do have one different suggestion this time: use high odds.
Why are high odds better for matching up SNR Free Bets?
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 the example SNR bet…
► matching & Placing the SNR Bet
Whilst the process is similar to step 1, there are some subtle differences to take note of:
- Find a suitable high odds “strong match” using the OddsMonkey Oddsmatcher (see subheading “How to find a strong match…”). Follow the same process as with the qualifier. 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. Don’t forget!
- 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.
Let’s assume that you’ve found a suitable football fixture, with 6.0 Back odds at the Bookie and 6.5 Lay odds at Betfair. That’s a 92.3% match, which is great. Enter those details into the calculator…
you’re aiming to place your £25 Free Bet at bookie odds of 6.0 and betfair Lay of 6.5.
As before, you bet with 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 Back and Lay bets. That’s great as you’ll retain 73.64% of the £25 promotion. Aim for around the 70-75% mark.
Place those 2 bets, wait for them to settle, then you’re finally done. You’ve earned a risk-free profit from Matched Betting!
► But Hang on, How Come It’s In Profit This Time? What’s Changed from step 1?
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.
I’ll explain this with the maths, if you’re interested (if not skip 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 at odds of “2.00 or over” 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 backed. For example, if you backed 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.
Matched Betting FAQ
If you’re new to Matched Betting then i’m sure you have some questions. You might be confused, or sceptical. Read on to learn more.
► Is this for real? Does Matched betting really work?
It absolutely works. This isn’t some kind of betting scam.
When done right, Matched Betting is completely risk free. You just have to take care to place the right bets/stakes.
► What type of people get involved in matched betting?
All walks of life participate in Matched Betting. Students, bankers, entrepreneurs and single Mums — to name a few. Notice how I didn’t list gamblers.
► Do Bookmakers mind Matched Betting?
Bookmakers probably won’t know that you’re Matched Betting. They know that it goes on and they don’t try to stamp it out. There’s been several public statements that imply that they don’t particularly care about it. After all, free bets attract new customers and not everyone goes on to become a Matched Betting expert. Some percentage of Matched Bettors will continue to bet recreationally.
► Is Matched Betting Legal?
Yes, of course. There’s nothing illegal about placing promotional free bets, or Lay bets on Betfair. Combining the two doesn’t make Matched Betting illegal.
From a Bookie’s perspective, it’s always the same loss they incur on free bets — regardless whether some customers create a no-lose bet from it.
Furthermore, specialist Matched Betting companies wouldn’t exist if it was illegal.
► Is there such thing as matched betting without free bets?
Yes and no. You can’t profit from Matched Betting without free bets. However, the same process can be applied in situations where the Bookie offers better odds than Betfair, to earn a risk free profit. This is known as arbitrage betting.
► Is Matched Betting Only for the UK? What countries can do Matched Betting?
Matched Betting is primarily aimed at the UK because sports betting is legal here. But strictly speaking Matched Betting can be done at any Bookmaker offering +EV promotions, provided you also have an account at a betting exchange.
If you’re unable to sign up to Bookmakers or claim offers because of your country of residence (e.g. the USA) or any other circumstances, then needless to say you won’t be earning from Matched Betting. No offers means no profit.
► Is Matched Betting sustainable? How Can I Maximise What I Earn From Matched Betting?
Matched betting has been around for many years, and it might not last forever. I wouldn’t recommend doing it as a full time job. It’s certainly a great way to make some extra cash from home.
I highly recommend that you subscribe to one of the top Matched Betting Websites. They provide the tools, daily offers (free bets, promotions, etc), dummies guides, and ongoing support to help you sustain a regular income from Matched Betting.
If you require some more step-by-step help, then check out this in-depth guide on Matched Betting here.