Does matched betting really work? And how much money can you make doing it? Find out in our ultimate matched betting strategy guide.

Matched betting is a betting strategy that allows you to make money from the promotions offered by bookies. These are usually free bets or deposit bonuses. Instead of betting on who you think will win, you cover all potential outcomes of an event, so that you make profit no matter what. 

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While matched betting is related to hedge betting and arbing, since all three involve betting on opposite outcomes, there are key differences.

  • Matched betting uses free bets and other promos to guarantee a profit. It takes advantage of bookies’ promos and freebies.
  • Arbitrage betting uses differences in odds to guarantee a profit. It takes advantage of bookies’ discrepancies to find opposite odds, allowing you to bet on both outcomes.
  • Hedge betting or hedging uses movement in odds to guarantee a profit. It takes advantage of changes in odds in outright, in-play or other markets, allowing you to bet safely against yourself.

Matched betting involves placing two wagers: one with your bonus money, one with real money. Additionally, you often have to place a small wager in order to qualify for a free bet. Usually, you would place the second bet on a different site than the first, to ensure the bookie does not see you betting against yourself. Betting exchanges are ideal for this as they allow you to place lay bets.

The Two Parts of a Matched Bet

A matched bet consists of two parts: a back bet and a lay bet. Your matched bet means that winnings from your back bet will cover any loss from your lay bet.

Back Bet

Your back bet is a bet predicting that an event will happen; for example, a win by team A. Place this bet with your free bet. Make sure to place it at qualifying odds for your free bet to be valid, otherwise you will not be able to collect your free bet winnings and you may have to wager it again.

(Qualifying odds are usually 3/2 (1.50) or 2/1 (2.00), depending on which promotion or bookie you use.)

Lay Bet

Your lay bet is the opposite bet. Since your back bet was for A to win, your lay bet is for team A not to win. Place this bet with real money at a different bookie. Exchange betting sites like Smarkets or Betfair Exchange are ideal for this, since they allow you to “sell” bets. Pay attention to how lay bets work, since you will have to pay out if the bet loses. Head to a betting exchange and place a lay bet on team A to win (this means you think team A will lose).

Alternatively, you could head to a regular bookie and place a double chance bet on Team B to win or Draw.

Bet on Two Possible Outcomes

Lay bets are ideal for sports like football, which have three possible outcomes. You could also choose a sport with only two possible outcomes, such as MMA or Tennis, in order to simplify things. In that case, you can simply choose any bookie or exchange as long as the odds are high enough.

Of course, you are now asking yourself which odds you should choose and just how big your stake should be. You can use the formulas below to calculate your stakes.

If You Are Using Lay Odds at a Betting Exchange, Use These Formulas:

  • If your back bet wins:

Profit = back stake × (back bet odds – 1) – [lay stake × (lay bet odds – 1)]

  • If your lay bet wins:

Profit = [lay stake × (1 – commission)] – back stake

  • Your ideal stake is:

Lay stake = back odds × back stake ÷ (lay odds)

If You Are Using Regular Odds Instead of Lay Odds, the Calculation is Even Simpler

If your back bet wins:

Profit = Winnings from your back bet – lay stake

If your lay bet wins:

Profit = Winnings from your lay bet – lay stake

Our matched betting calculator is coming soon!

Let us look at an example of this. A bookie is offering a £30 free bet if you stake £10. In order to turn this into profit, you will need to place at least two matched bets.

First Matched Bet

In order to qualify for the £30 bet, you need to deposit and wager £10 first. This is the qualifying bet. To make sure that these £10 are not at risk, you will need to place a lay bet as well. You decide to place your wager on Liverpool to win at odds 2/1 (2.0).

You also head to a betting exchange and place a lay bet on Liverpool to win. The exchange (for example, Betfair) is offering lay odds of 2.1 on England to win and charges 5% commission.

Using our matched betting calculator, you see that your need to wager £9.76 in order to match your first bet. This leaves your liability at £10.74.

In this step, you will make a small loss, regardless of the outcome.

If Liverpool wins, you can claim your back bet, winning £20. However, you will lose your lay bet, losing the £10.47 liability. This means you are down 47p.

If does not win, you lose your back bet stake of £10, but win an extra £9.76 on your lay wager minus 5%. This means you are down 73p.

Second Matched Bet

Even though you have lost 47p or 73p, you now have a free bet worth £30.

You now choose to wager it on horses. You wager it at the bookie at odds of 6.0 on horse A.

You now choose the betting exchange again and find lay odds of 6.1 for horse A to win, with 5% commission. Our calculations state that you need to stake £24.79, which will leave you with a liability of £126.43.

No Matter Who Wins the Race, You Will Make a Profit!

If horse A wins:

You will be returned £150 (£180 winnings – £30 stake; free bet stake is not returned for free bets). Your lay bet will lose, meaning you lose the £126.43 liability.

This leaves you with a net profit of £23.57.

If horse A does not win:

You win your lay bet. Your profit minus commission is £23.55. While you lose your back bet of £30, you do not lose any real money, since the free bet was not with your real money to begin with.

This means your net profit is £23.55.

Your overall profit is:

Your overall profit is thus (£23.55 or £23.57) – (47p or 73p), meaning you win between £22.92 and £23.10 for two simple bets.

If you are looking for matched betting opportunities, you will need to look for bookies with the best and biggest welcome offers. The best for this type of wagering are of course no deposit offers, though these are quite rare in sportsbooks these days.

Types of promos you can use for this include:

  • Free bets stake returned
  • Free bets stake not returned
  • Risk free bets
  • Deposit bonuses

If you want to ensure maximum profit, you can even use two different free bet offers from two different bookies and wager them on opposite outcomes.

Bookies are not stupid. While they offer free bets and other promos to get more players, they would of course rather not have to deal with losses matched betting. Because of this, some bookie’s free bet terms are quite complex, involving accas, placing wagering requirements on free bet winnings and more. These can make guaranteed profits impossible, or at least, more difficult. Still, it would be stupid not to take advantage of matched betting opportunities. Whenever a bookie offers you a free bet, head over to an exchange and place a suitable lay bet. You never know – it could just turn out to be your lucky day. 

Matched betting is NOT a scam. As long as you understand the bonus terms correctly, and place the correct amounts on your back and lay bets, you can make a guaranteed profit.

Matched betting is 100% legal. In fact, Graham Sharpe, a spokesperson for William Hill, has indicated that the betting industry has no problem with this use of free bets stating: “There’s no illegal element. It’s a free bet and you can do what you like.”

Matched betting takes as long as it takes for two bets to settle. The first is your qualifying bet to get your free bet. The second will be the one guaranteeing profit. You could do this in a single day – if you plan it right, that is.

There are plenty of stories of people making £500 to £700 in a single month by matched betting. However, keep in mind that this is not a long term betting strategy. Within a month, you will probably exhaust all the welcome offers UK bookies have to offer. On top of that, most welcome bonuses are still quite small, meaning you may spend plenty of time on them, compared to the payout.

In order to place a matched bet, you will need at least £100. You will have to place a wager on one bookie, usually around £10 or £20 to qualify for a free bet. Additionally, you will need to place two bets at another bookie – usually an exchange.

The biggest risk is getting gubbed. This is when a bookie limits bets on an account. It can also mean they will no longer offer promos such as free bets. They usually do this for professional punters who win too often, or for arbers and any other punters who take advantage of the system. To avoid this, make sure you bet on two different sites which are not owned by the same company.

There are no specific matched betting sites. You can use any set of bookies to do matched betting. As long as at least one of them offers a free bet, you are good to go!

We recommend exchange betting sites like Betfair Exchange or Smarkets for your lay bets, and regular bookies like bet365 with large bonuses for your back bets.

Any winnings gained from gambling in the UK are tax-free. Therefore, you do not need to declare any income you have earned through matched betting.

We would strongly suggest not opening multiple accounts. Nowadays, bookmakers have high-tech systems in place that will detect things such as duplicate accounts by cross-checking your name, home address, payment details and even your IP. Should they suspect you doing this, it is highly likely they will ban your account.

Finding matched betting opportunities is not that hard. Almost any free bet with simple wagering terms can be leveraged into a guaranteed profit. Of course, you will eventually run out of welcome offers from which to choose. At the same time, all-too-obvious matched betting or doing it too often at the same bookie can get you ‘gubbed', meaning you will be excluded from any further promos. Still, you could make a few hundred quid in a month’s time if you're smart, making it a valid betting strategy.

WRITTEN BY Matteo Ebejer
View all posts by Matteo Ebejer

Hi, I'm Matteo, a writer who's passionate about all things sports. The typical weekend for me revolves around being glued to all things football on TV, ruining my Fantasy Premier League team, and getting off my lazy butt for a run.

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