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.
This Matched Betting Guide has three Parts:
- Matched Betting Basics Explained
- Meeting Rollover Requirements / Placing Qualifying Bets
- Placing Free Bets to Secure a Profit
Already Know About Matched Betting?
- Maximise what you earn by subscribing to one of the Best Matched Betting Services.
- Use your Matched Betting skills to earn from Arbitrage Betting.
- Learn more proven ways of profiting from sports betting.
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 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.
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.
Think Matched Betting Sounds too Good to be True?
Don’t be put off because this process involves online betting. 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.
What Do You Need to Get Started With Matched Betting?
To earn anything from Matched Betting you’ll need the following:
- A Betfair (or other comparable betting exchange) account.
- A new, never-before-used Bookmaker account where a Free Bet is offered for signing up.
- Money to deposit to the Bookmaker and Betfair.
Before using their Betting Exchange, You can CLAIM UP TO £100
IN FREE BETS FROM THE BETFAIR SPORTSBOOK.
New Customers Only. 18+. T&Cs Apply.
Read more about the minimum requirements from my post on Matched Betting Necessities.
Exactly How Do You Turn Free Bets Into Profit?
To claim a promotion and extract value from it, 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”.
If you want to learn more about how Free bets work then take a glace at my post ‘The Different Types Of Free Bets‘. This will make the jargon a little clearer.
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.
But before we get there, let’s delve a bit deeper into the structure of a typical free bet. You need to know how to unravel it before you can attempt turning it into money.
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.
So essentially customers can claim a free bet, where their stake is not returned in any winnings. If that free bet wins, you keep the profit. If it doesn’t win you haven’t lost anything. The only catch is that you won’t receive your £25 free bet to begin with unless you risk £25 of your own money. Therefore you stand to lose £25 — which you don’t want, right?
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.
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.
Don’t worry, I’m going to explain the entire process in this simple 2019 Matched Betting tutorial. Keep following my step-by-step instructions.
2. Meeting Rollover Requirements / Placing Qualifying Bets
In this section we’re going to place risk free bets at the Bookmaker — without losing or gaining any money — in order to meet rollover requirements or place a qualifying bet. See this entire step as a hoop jumping phase. You won’t generate a profit until the next, final step (where you extract value from the free bet).
You just need to apply the Matched Betting technique. It is however highly important to select the appropriate sports event.
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. In this case, you’d want your Lay odds to be more around 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 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 @ 3.0 = £10 x 3.0 = £75 return
The return includes the stake. So that’s £50 profit (£75 – £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.
So what does a “weak match” mean to your profit? Why does it matter?
Suppose that 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 happens (Betfair commission aside).
Basically, the lesson here is that it’s 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”.
Use Tools To Find a “Strong Match” for Your Qualiying/Rollover Bets
You don’t need to manually hunt around for matching 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 perfect sports events to bet on.
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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:
- Stick to popular sports/markets. For example, top flight football matches. These have the most liquidity (people betting) 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 other side of 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. Open up the Oddsmatcher from your OddsMonkey account and browse some 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.
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 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. This is an ideal event to place the qualifying bet on at the Bookmaker, and Lay against on the Exchange.
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 % 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. Can this part of the process ever make money?
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. 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 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…
Placing the Two Parts of Your Matched Bet
Here’s some advice for when you’re placing your Back and Lay bets:
- 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. Placing Your Free Bets to Earn a Profit
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 very 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 two 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. No difference here.
Why are high odds better for 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. I find that a good compromise is to use odds of around of 5.0-7.0.
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 an example SNR bet.
An Example of Matching & Placing an SNR Free Bet
Let’s cut to the chase and assume you’ve found a suitable high odds sports event using the Oddsmatcher. Let us assume that the 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 to know the Lay stake provided by the OddsMonkey calculator — 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 Matched Bet will make a guaranteed PROFIT of £18.41 from the SNR free bet. So go ahead and place those two bets, wait for them to settle, then you’re finally done.
You’ve earned a risk-free profit from Matched Betting. Withdraw those earnings!
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.
How come it’s in profit this time? What’s changed from the previous step?
The Matched Betting process is indeed the same for qualifying/rollover 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.
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.
Key Points To Take Away 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 and Conditions Attached to Them. 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 Available Money (Liquidity) on the Exchange to Place your Lay Bets.
I have suggested seeking popular sports events in order to avoid 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 this 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. Avoid Rookie Errors: 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 a detailed Q&A: Everything You Need To Know About Matched Betting.
Want to Learn Other Ways of Making Money Online Without Sports Betting?
Check out out my post: How To Make Money Online — Earn At Home
Originally posted 6th July 2016, and updated for 2019.