What Is Matched Betting?

Matched betting is a great way of making £100s (as we're based in the UK I'll use £'s in this article for example's sake, however this method applies whichever currency you are using) by using bookmaker's free bets to your guaranteed advantage. Matched betting is not a form of gambling, it is a calculated and risk-free way of making a profit.

Important! Matched betting can be difficult to get your head around at first, particularly for those who are unfamiliar with the way in which betting odds work. Though this guide is here to provide you with an overview of the concept to get you started, you should not jump into this until you are sure you understand the way it works. The process is only risk-free if you know what you're doing.

Once you have read this guide, please feel free to get in touch if you need any further advice via the comments section at the bottom. Also, please feel free to download our spreadsheet to help with your calculations - you will find a link to this towards the bottom of the article.

Check out some of the best current free bet offers on our free bets page.

An Introduction To Matched Betting

Matched betting is all about taking advantage of bookmakers' free bets to create a profit. Most betting sites offer an incentive for signing up with them in the form of a free bet; basically, when you place your first bet with them, they will give you the same amount again as a bonus to use for your next bet (up to a certain limit, which depends on the website). You cannot withdraw this bonus, but if you place a bet with it and you win, generally you can withdraw those winnings.

Traditionally, when people wanted to turn this into a profit, they would bet on 'dead certs' (bets where the odds are massively in your favour, such as Manchester United to beat Bognor Regis FC), so that they would almost certainly win. While this seems like the obvious way to go, it is not a recommended approach for two main reasons:

While the odds may seem well in your favour, there is always still the chance you might lose - in reality there is no such thing as a dead cert. As you have to place two bets to make a profit (your initial bet to unlock the free bet and then the free bet itself), chances of losing are increased.

Bookmakers are not stupid and always like to make sure the odds are in their favour. For this reason many of them have clauses in their terms and conditions to state that you must bet on events with minimum odds in order to qualify for the free bet (eg. 2/1 or higher).

So how do we guarantee a profit? The answer lies with betting exchanges. A betting exchange, such as Betfair, acts as a broker between people who effectively wish to bet against each other. This involved one person 'laying' a bet (this person is in essence playing the role of a bookmaker) and another person places that bet.

For example, if I was to lay a bet of 2/1 for Arsenal to beat Man Utd and someone accepted these odds, I would be saying that if Arsenal won I would give that person 2 times their bet amount (plus their initial stake back). If Arsenal, on the other hand, lost or drew the match, I would keep their stake (minus the site's fee, usually around 5% of your winnings). Therefore I am, effectively, betting against Arsenal.

So, because betting exchanges give us the ability to bet against a team we can use this to offset whichever bet we place on the site whose free bet we are planning to profit from. We can bet for a team on that site, and then against the same team on a betting exchange.

Obviously we're not going to make a profit from this bet. In fact, due to the differences in odds and Betfair's fees chances are we'll make a slight loss. But the loss will only be small and once we've done this process twice, we should have unlocked and used the free bet, and can now withdraw our winnings.

Note that some sites require you to bet your free bet 2 or 3 times before you can withdraw it (you should check the terms & conditions on the site for this before starting). For these sites you should look for bets where you are much likelier to win on the betting exchange. The logic behind matched betting is that you will always win either on the free bet site or the betting exchange; if you can manoeuvre it so that you win on the betting exchange rather than the free bet site you will then not have to worry about any wagering requirements.

Let's have a look at an ideal world example of matched betting. Say the odds are 2/1 for West Ham to beat Norwich. If we were to bet £10 on West Ham we would stand to make a £20 profit if they won, or we would lose £10 if they didn't.

Now let's look at what happens if we play as the bookmaker on a betting exchange site, effectively betting against West Ham, offering the same odds of 2/1 at £10. If they won, we would have to pay out £20, and if they didn't we would win £10.

So in this example if we were to be both the punter and the bookmaker at the same time, our total profit and loss over both sites would be £0, whether they won or lost, i.e. we wouldn't have won or lost any money, but we would now have unlocked our free bet. We can now repeat the process with the free bet so that we can then withdraw our winnings.

In actual fact, if we had won on the betting exchange in the above example we would have 5% deducted as part of their fees. It's also very difficult to find the exact same odds on a betting exchange as on a bookmaker's site, so you will probably lose a small portion because of these differences as well. But as long as you find odds that are as close as possible you should be able to make enough profit from the free bet to make the whole exercise worthwhile.

Another important point to watch out for is that some bookmakers do not return the stake when placing the free bet. For these sites you need to look for events with high odds, 6/1 or above, and then find as closely matched odds to lay on the betting exchange in order to guarantee a good portion of the free bet as profit.

I know this can all be really difficult at first to wrap your brain around but apart from a bit of tricky maths it's actually fairly straightforward once you understand it. To help you with that maths we've created a matched betting calculator spreadsheet, which you can download for free here. By entering amounts and odds into the yellow cells you can see exactly how much you would stand to get back and also how much you need to stake on the betting exchange in order to get an optimal return. This spreadsheet will also help you convert your fractional odds (eg. 3/1) into decimal odds (eg. 4.00).

There are loads of sites out there which offer free bets, ranging from £5 to £200. Although these generally only offer a free bet as a one off when you register, by taking advantage of several of these sites you can easily rack up a few hundred pounds in a fairly short space of time. The key is to always keep good track of all of your bets so that things don't get too confusing.

Please note that the information in this article is intended as an overview of matched betting techniques, not as a comprehensive guide. As previously stated if you are not 100% comfortable with the concepts involved I would strongly recommend doing further research until you are confident with how it all works, particularly if you are completely new to the betting scene.

One further note - always read the terms and conditions of a site before registering with them. In particular look at all terms surrounding the free bets so you are familiar with any wagering requirements or minimum withdrawal limits the site may have.

To find some good free bet offers to get you started click here.

If you need any advice please feel free to get in touch.

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