What is matched betting?

what is matched betting

So you’ve heard about risk free matched betting and you want to learn more before diving in. Maybe you have a friend who does it or have read about it online and it all seems a bit too good to be true? Well, this article will explain what matched betting is and answer some of questions most commonly asked by people starting out.

In a nutshell, matched betting is a method of turning bonuses and free bets offered by online bookmakers into real cash. Overall, it’s pretty simple but if you haven’t bet online before there might be a few things to get your head around first.

Pretty much all online bookmakers offer people incentives for registering. These incentives usually consist of a free bet, either when you sign up or place your first bet. The average punter signs up to a bookmaker, places a bet and receives a free bet as a ‘thank you’. Of course the punter see’s this as an attractive offer. Instead of one bet they get two. Double the chance of winning! However, a profit isn’t guaranteed. The punter could lose both their initial bet and their free bet. Most people take that chance and enjoy the experience. However, with matched betting you can use these free bets to guarantee a profit every time. It’s 100% legal, risk-free and all it takes is a little maths, which thanks to some matched betting sites out there, is all taken care of.

How matched betting works

Matched betting guarantees a profit by covering all outcomes of an event you are betting on. To cover all outcomes you need to place two bets. A back bet and a lay bet.

Back bets – A back bet is betting on something to happen. For example you may place a back bet on Red Rum to win the Grand National.

Lay bets – A lay bet is betting on something not to happen. If you think Red Rum is too old and you don’t think he will win the Grand National then you would ‘lay Red Rum’.

Most people are familiar with back bets as they are the type of bets you place at a bookmaker. Lay bets however, are placed on a betting exchange. If you’ve never used a betting exchange before, you can read more about them in our betting exchanges article.

back bets and lay bets

The above image shows an example of back bets and lay bets on a betting exchange. Betfair exchange is used in this example.

How to make money matched betting

Matched betting methods vary depending on the type of bonus or free bet you are using but if you are just starting out matched betting then it will most likely be free bets that make you the most money. These are usually given to you when you sign up at a bookmaker and place your first bet on their site. With a standard free bet offer, the matched betting process is split into two steps :

1. Your qualifying bet
2. Your free bet

The aim of the first step is to qualify to receive your free bet. You will aim not to win or lose any money by covering all outcomes. In reality you will lose a very small amount with your qualifying bet due to betting exchange fees but this will be made up by the profit made in step 2.

After you have placed your qualifying bet at a bookmaker you will receive your free bet. The process of step one is repeated but this time your lay stake on the exchange is less, as you are using your free bet, and you will be guaranteed a profit.

Lets see an example so you can see how to make money with matched betting. To work out the lay stakes on each bet you should use a matched betting calculator.

Example :

Ladbrokes offer a free £50 bet when you sign up with them and place an initial bet of £50.

Step 1 – Your qualifying bet

  1. We place a £50 bet on Arsenal to beat West Ham on Ladbrokes at odds of 2.0
  2. We lay Arsenal on Betfair at odds of 2.0, which has a liability of £50. (Liability is the amount you stand to lose if your exchange bet doesn’t come in)
  • If Arsenal win, we receive £100 from the bookmaker and break even.
  • If Arsenal don’t win, we receive £100 on Betfair and break even.

As mentioned earlier, in reality you will make a small loss on your qualifying bet due to the commission charged by the exchange. This loss is very small and we chose to leave it out of this example to keep things simple for demonstration purposes.

You have now placed and settled your qualifying bet and you will have a nice £50 free bet sitting in your Ladbrokes account.

Step 2 – Using your free bet

  1. We place our £50 free bet on Liverpool to beat Southampton on Ladbrokes at odds of 6.0
  2. We then lay Liverpool on Betfair at odds of 6.0, which has a liability of £208.35
  • If Liverpool win, we receive £250 on Ladbrokes but lose £208.35 on Betfair so we profit £41.65
  • If Liverpool don’t win, we receive £41.67 on Betfair and lose nothing on Ladbrokes as it was a free bet and we have a profit of £41.67

Total Profit = £41.66

From this example we can see that in just 2 steps you can make a guaranteed profit from every free bet you receive from a bookmaker. You should aim to turn roughly 80% of the free bet value into real cash. So from a £100 free bet you would expect to extract around £80 guaranteed cash which you can withdraw.

Don’t worry too much if these instructions seem a bit complicated. If you use a matched betting service they will provide step-by-step guides for every offer that you can profit from. Some of the top matched betting sites are :

1. MatchedBets.com – These guys provide the best offer guides, support and excellent tools.
2. OddsMonkey – The current market leader with great tools & community.
3. Profit Accumulator – One of the most popular matched betting sites of the past few years.

Matched Betting with casino & bingo offers

Using free bets from bookmakers is a great way to make a guaranteed profit matched betting. However, bonuses aren’t just given out at bookmakers. Online casinos and bingo sites also offer sign up bonuses for new customers and regular reload bonuses for existing customers. Casinos often give free slot spins to customer either when signing up or randomly to existing customers. Free spins are risk free and usually don’t require any deposit to be made. However, casino and bingo offers often are not risk free. The majority will, on average, make you a profit over time, but there will be times where you can lose money with these offers. We won’t go too deeply into it in this article as there’s a lot to talk about, but they do provide an excellent opportunity to increase your profits from matched betting on a regular basis. You can read more on this subject in our matched betting with casino bonuses article.

The legalities of matched betting

Matched betting is 100% legal provided online betting is legal in your country of residence and you are over the age required to be to bet online. The actual process of matched betting is simply maths and so there is no wrongdoing whatsoever. That being said, bookmakers don’t approve of customers who only use their sites to claim free bets and bonuses for the purpose of matched betting and if don’t ‘stay under the radar’ you could find your bookmaker account restricted from receiving regular bet offers. This is commonly known as being ‘gubbed’. You can read more about this in our ‘What is gubbing‘ article.

Risk-Free matched betting?

Is matched betting really risk-free? If you follow the rules and place your bets right then matched betting is 100% risk-free. The only risk when matched betting is human error. This can be easily done if you are not careful and so it is very important to understand your bet before placing it. Read the articles here, follow the offer instructions on whichever matched betting site you choose to sign up to and double check your bets to minimise error from yourself.

Matched betting realistic profits

First month matched betting

Most people, when first starting out with matched betting, will not have accounts with the majority of online bookmakers. There are 50+ UK bookmakers to claim sign up bonuses from and so even if you have accounts at a handful of them, there will still be a lot of free bets to claim. Usually, the free bets you receive when initially signing up to a bookmaker will be the most profitable. If you complete all of the signup bonuses you should see a profit in the region of £1,000 which can be completed within your first month matched betting.

Matched betting long term

A lot of people believe that once you have completed all of the sign up offers, matched betting is not profitable anymore. This is incorrect and the opposite is actually true. There is a huge opportunity to make a profit in the long term with matched betting. This is done by completing reload offers and taking advantage of other bookmaker promotions. A lot of the top bookmakers run daily promotions that provide a opportunity to profit from using matched betting.

A commonly asked question in matched betting is :

I already have accounts at the bookmakers. Can I still make money matched betting?

The answer is a simple and definite, yes. Once you have completed all of the sign up offers there are daily reload offers to complete and profit from.

You can read more about how to make a profit every month with matched betting in our ‘matched betting long-term‘ article.

What are reload offers?

Reload offers are free bets and bonuses given by bookmakers to existing customers. Signup bonuses are given by bookmakers to attract customers and reload offers are given to retain customers. The online betting industry is very competitive and with so many betting sites online, each one hands out free bets and offers to keep customers betting on their site and not at a competitor bookmaker. This is great news for matched bettors as there are an abundance of bet offers being given out.

reload offers

An example of a reload offer for existing customers of SkyBet

The amount of profit you make from matched betting purely depends on how many betting offers you do and how much those betting offers are worth. It’s easily achievable to make £1,000 in your first month and £500 a month in subsequent months from matched betting in your spare time. The average matched bettor sees matched betting as a hobby and a way to earn a regular guaranteed side income each month. However, there are a lot of matched bettors who put more time into matched betting and are earning in excess of £2,000 a month on a regular basis. To reach this level of profit you need to put in more time and complete a lot of offers. You may be required to lay bets at certain times of day when you have accumulator bets on and so it requires you to be organised and dedicated. However, this amount of profit is achievable for anyone. The more time you dedicate to matched betting, the more profit you will make.

Once you get going with matched betting, it really doesn’t take much effort. If you spend just an hour or so a day you can earn in excess of £500 a month. It is important to remember that these earnings are tax-free! (provided you are in the UK or a country where bet winnings aren’t taxable). £500 a month is roughly equivalent to a pay rise of around £10,000! How would you feel if you were offered an extra £10k a year on your wage for working  an extra hour or two a day?

How much money do you need to start matched betting?

The amount of money you need to start matched betting depends on how quickly you want to make profits. If you don’t have a large starting capital then it is advisable to complete one betting offer at a time before moving on to the next one. This is the best way to start matched betting anyway as you will become more confident with the offers, your back and lay bets and you are less likely to make mistakes when you start completing some of the more advanced offers. To complete one of the smaller sign up offers you will need in the region of £100-£200 available to deposit into your bookmaker and exchange accounts. This should be enough to cover your back bets on the bookmaker site and your lay bets on the exchange. Most of your starting capital will be used on the exchange as it usually requires more funds to cover your lay bets than your back bets.

Once you have completed your first offer you can withdraw your winnings and move on to the next offer. Your profit will rise after each completed offer and so as you complete more offers you’ll be able to do more than one offer at a time as you will have more available funds.

After you have worked your way through the bookmaker sign up offers, you will have made a profit in the region of around £1,000 which is more than enough to continue matched betting on a regular basis.

How to get started with matched betting

If you’ve made it this far in the article then you probably have an interest in trying out matched betting for yourself. The main obstacles with matched betting are :

  1. Finding the offers
  2. Calculating the back and lay stakes
  3. Keeping track of your profits
  4. Who to ask if you get stuck

Thankfully there are a number of matched betting sites which assist you with all of these things and make matched betting a breeze. If you were to do matched betting without the use of a matched betting site then it would take much longer and you will be more at risk of making a mistake with your bet calculations. Matched betting sites such as MatchedBets.com list all of the sign up offers for you as well as daily reload offers. They find the best events to place your bets on and tell you how much to back and lay. Get stuck? No problem help is available via live chat, email or from other members on the forum.

Matched betting sites usually charge between £14-£20 per month for their services and use of their matched betting tools, which in comparison to how much profit you will make, is excellent value. You can read our independent reviews on the various matched betting sites out there in our review section or compare them side-by-side using our comparison tool.