Matched Betting is a simple method for earning tax-free profits from the free bets, bonuses & promotions given by online bookmakers. It’s a great way to raise some extra money to put towards your online business.
I’ve written a more detailed Matched Betting guide on my sports blog. But if you’re completely new to sports betting, then here’s the best place to begin.
Matched Betting Basics
What Is Matched Betting?
A “Matched Bet” is when you place two opposing stakes, using different betting accounts, to eliminate your risk.
Imagine placing a bet with someone, and then immediately cancelling out your stake by accepting another bet on the very same selection, from a different person. In this scenario you’ll lose one bet, and win the other — no matter what. So a real life example might be:
- Back FOR Spurs to win a game
- Accept a bet AGAINST Spurs to win a game (i.e. they lose or draw)
When you “accept a bet against” something, you commit to pay someone winnings if they’re right. For example you might double or triple their stake. The payout depends on the odds you agree with the person — which I’ll get onto shortly.
Now, some of you will already be thinking that cancelling out your bets isn’t going to help you make money, unless the winning payout outweighs the losing payout. And you’re dead right.
But how about if that ‘back’ bet was totally, 100% free? If it wins you keep the winnings. If it loses, you don’t lose any of your own money. Your risk is therefore limited to the second bet.
Well, that’s a different proposition. And that’s the trick behind Matched Betting. You eliminate risk by cancelling our your stakes — whilst also using free money on one of the two ‘legs’. When done right, it’s a risk-free, winning combination.
Where Do You Place Both Bets?
The ‘back’ bets always take place at the bookmaker that’s offering you the free bet. Most bookmakers (and their promotions) are advertised on the TV, the radio, and in the newspapers.
Betting against an outcome is known as a ‘Lay’ bet. For this you’ll need to use a betting exchange, like Betfair, where you trade odds with other members. When you place a Lay bet on Betfair, you essentially “become” a bookmaker yourself; you accept the risk of paying someone if the outcome they backed wins. If it doesn’t win, however, you get to keep their stake.
For instance, in a football match between Man United and Chelsea you can Lay:
- Man United: you only pay someone if Man United wins.
- Chelsea: you only pay someone if Chelsea wins.
- The Draw: you only pay someone if the game ends a draw.
So Lay bets are pessimistic. They only make you a profit when something doesn’t happen.
So What Do I Need to Get Started With Matched Betting?
Strictly speaking you only require a few essentials:
- Free bets
- A Betfair account.
However, you’ll need more than this if you truly want to maximise your profits. A Matched Betting Service (like OddsMonkey) is highly recommended. I’ll be using their software for the remainder of this Matched Betting guide.
Bookmaker Free Bets & bonuses
Without the free bets from the bookmakers, you can’t earn from Matched Betting. All you’ll do is cancel out your bets, and break even (or lose a bit). So free bets are the key.
But the main problem with free bets is that they carry very strict terms and conditions. These state what you need to do to qualify for a free bet to begin with, the odds you can bet on, and what minimum requirements have to be met for you to withdraw any money. Importantly, the terms dictate how you’ll need to approach the bonus to make it profitable.
Most free bets come in a certain format — which makes life slightly easier.
The Two Main Types Of Free Bets
For the majority of free bets, you’ll need to:
- Meet a “Rollover Requirement”.You deposit funds and free money is credited to your betting account before any bets are placed. You must place a total sum of eligible stakes before a withdrawal is allowed.
- “Qualify” for a Free Bet. The bookmaker stipulates that players must place a bet using their own money before they’re credited a free bet. Usually the free bet is “Stake Not Returned” — meaning that if it wins, the payout doesn’t include the value staked (just the profit).
For a Matched Bettor, the objective is to minimise losses during rollover/qualifying bets, and retain a profit after meeting all terms and conditions.
An Example Free Bet
A free bet promotion for signing up to a bookmaker might be advertised as:
So you have to qualify for a free bet first. That’s case (2) above.
The only real catch is that you’re not granted your £25 free bet (which enables you to profit from Matched Betting) unless you risk £25 of your own money to begin with. Therefore you stand to lose £25.
This is precisely where your little Matched Betting trick comes in handy. I’ll show you how in the next section.
Placing Risk Free Qualifying Bets
To get started with Matched Betting, it’s important to select the right sports event to match your qualifying bet on. First there’s a few things you need to learn.
How Betting Odds Work
I haven’t spoken much about betting odds yet, because i didn’t want to confuse you. But during this section we need to make calculations for a two-part Matched bet, otherwise it’s not going to work.
Now, betting odds aren’t so difficult once you distance yourself from the fractional odds format the UK bookmakers use. Decimal/European odds are the way forward, and are supported (in the settings) by every online bookmaker. It’s simple to understand:
- The higher the decimal odds, the bigger the payout.
So odds of 5.5 give a bigger payout than odds of 2.0, and odds of 1.8 give a lower payout than odds of 4.5.
Another way of looking at it is:
- The higher the odds, the less likely the outcome is to happen.
This means that odds of 500.0 imply the outcome is extremely unlikely to occur. But if it does, then anyone who placed a bet on those odds would get a nice payout.
To work out the total payout on a winning bet, use the below formula:
- [Stake] x [Decimal Odds]
If the odds are 500.0 and you bet £25, then you stand to lose £25 or win £5,000 (£25 x 500.0). That’s £4,990 profit for a very lucky gambler.
But we’re not about gambling — because that implies risk. Read on to find out how to use the odds to select a sports event and place a risk free qualifying Matched bet.
Choose The Best Sports Event
We’ve already established that your Matched bet requires a bookmaker and a betting exchange (Betfair) right? Now we need to go one step further:
For example, Arsenal to beat Everton might have decimal odds of 2.5 at the bookmaker, with Lay odds of 3.0 on the Betfair exchange.
Is 2.5 and 3.0 a “similar value”?
Not particularly. The difference between 2.5 and 3.0 is pretty big in terms of value. The bookmaker’s price is only 83.3% of the Lay odds on Betfair. You can do better.
At this stage, look for a 90%+ match between the bookmaker price and the Lay odds. The closer to 100% the better. But finding those tightly matched odds is problematic. You need the right software to help you out.
The Oddsmatcher Tool
You don’t need to manually look around for odds that closely match. In fact, you don’t even need to look around for free bets, either. Everything you need is in one place — OddsMonkey.
I recommend firstly signing up for a free account with OddsMonkey. They’re the biggest Matched Betting specialists, and provide all of the resources you need. This includes the all-important Oddsmatcher, for finding the best sports events to bet on (the closely matched ones).
So let’s give the OddsMonkey Oddsmatcher a whirl.
You could simply select the event at the top, with a 99.74% match. However, I’m drawn to another event, shown in red: Stoke to win against Newcastle, at odds of 2.0 (a 97.03% match).
I like this event is because:
- It’s a very popular market (two Premier League teams, at the time of writing)
- The odds are low (and most likely within the bookmakers’ minimum odds terms. Always check, though.)
There’s no need to draw attention to yourself by betting on obscure events, or at odds that might suggest you’re Matched Betting. The aim is to fly under the radar.
So you can place your qualifying £25 bet at the bookie. But before you go ahead and do that, you need to calculate how much to Lay on the Betfair exchange against your back stake, to complete the risk-free Matched Bet.
We’ll work this out using another tool from OddsMonkey — the Matched Betting Calculator.
The Matched Betting Calculator
Take a little bit of care in this step. Mistakes can be costly.
Open up the Matched Betting Calculator from your OddsMonkey account. Enter the details of the bet like this:
In case you’re wondering, the “Lay Commission” is the commission % Betfair charges on your profits (if any). For new accounts it’s 5%.
Working out the correct Lay stake ensures an identical (or very close) profit/loss whatever outcome of the fixture — win, lose or draw. That’s what you want.
The OddsMonkey Matched Betting Calculator tells us:
- Lay stake on Betfair: £25.13
- The loss you’ll make: -£1.14
Remember that you might win at the bookie, and lose on Betfair. Or lose at the bookie and win on Betfair. Either way, the net result is a small, equal loss on the qualifier; which is a lot better than risking £25 for the chance of getting a free bet.
We’re not aiming to make money at this stage. We’ll get there in the next step, with the free bet. So a this point you can go ahead and place that £25 Back bet, instantly followed by the £25.13 Lay bet.
So you’re £1.14 down. Now onto the fun part: making a profit using the free bet.
Earning A Guaranteed Profit From Your Free Bet
To realise a profit from your free bet promotion, you need to (almost) repeat the exact same steps you did with the qualifying bet. This includes finding the right game from the Oddsmatcher and using the Matched Betting Calculator to work out the Lay stake.
Once your SNR free bet (sometimes called a “bet token”) is active in your bookmaker account you’re ready to begin.
So what’s different this time round?
- Higher odds are more profitable. Bigger prices help you retain more of your SNR free bet. It’s more profitable. Aim for around 5.0 to 7.0 this time. If you go too high, you’ll need more balance in Betfair.
- You need to specify that you’re dealing with a free bet. Use the ‘Bet Type’ drop down in the Matched Betting Calculator. The maths is different when you’re no longer using your own money on both legs of the Matched Bet.
- Don’t be as strict on matching the odds. Playing with the calculator reveals that in some cases you’re better off prioritising higher odds over a close match. Striking the right balance is best.
Here’s an example: an event with 6.0 at the bookmaker vs 6.5 at Betfair.
After punching the numbers in, the calculator works out that £18.41 is what will be bagged from the SNR free bet, regardless of the outcome, provided the Betfair Lay stake is £19.38.
Place those two bets, wait for them to settle, then you’re finally done. Subtract the small loss you made on the qualifying bet (£1.14), and it’s still a neat profit of £17.34. Not bad for placing four bets.
Now you’ve earned a risk-free profit from Matched Betting. You can withdraw your earnings from whatever account they’re in.
Is Matched Betting Too Good To Be True?
This isn’t some kind of scam. Matched Betting is genuine, and appeals to all walks of life — students, bankers, entrepreneurs and stay-at-home parents — to name a few.
When done right, Matched Betting is completely risk free. You just have to take care to place the right bets/stakes, and to adhere to the bookmaker’s restrictions. What we’ve covered in this post just one type of free bet — there’s more scenarios you’ll need to learn about in order to truly master Matched Betting.
You can learn more about Matched Betting by signing up to OddsMonkey and following their detailed tutorials. Their low subscription fee of £17.99 per month is insanely good value for what you’ll earn by following their daily calendar of sports betting bonuses.
Alternatively, if you want to read more around the subject, check out some of the other posts I’ve written: