There’s a well-trodden gambling platitude that, in the end, the bookies always win. But what if I was to tell you that this isn’t true, and, in fact, there are thousands of people who regularly make a profit?
Now, I’m guessing that since you’re already here, you’ve probably heard of the term “matched betting”. But what you might not know is how it works in practice — or perhaps what it even is!
In this step-by-step guide, I’m going to shine a light on one of the gambling industry’s biggest secrets. Whether you’re a student, seasoned gambler, or just someone who simply wants to make a serious side hustle, this is the go-to guide for matched betting.
Why? Because I’ve been making a living from the below system for the best part of a decade.
What is matched betting?
Matched betting is a risk-free online gambling strategy. Yes, you did hear that right. It’s a betting technique that takes advantage of the free bets and incentives offered by bookmakers, resulting in profit no matter the outcome.
The process involves matching two opposing sports bets on the same outcome to obtain a bonus offer. You then repeat that process, using the bonus to lock in a tax-free profit.
When I say “bonus”, I’m referring to the sports promotions offered by bookmakers. These typically say things like “bet £30 get £30 free” or “place £5 before the match to receive a free in-play bet”.
The ultra-competitive business of online gambling means that bookmakers are increasingly reliant on sign-up offers to attract – and keep – new customers. Thankfully, this creates value for the wise to bank risk-free cash.
The key lies in using a simple calculation, along with your sign-up offers and bonuses, to generate profit from free bets. But don’t worry, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to make these calculations quickly — there are lots of companies that offer this service for just a few quid, one of which we’ll talk about later (Oddsmonkey).
Now, you’re probably asking yourself at this point: is matched betting legal? After all, surely the bookies are wise to such gambling wizardry.
Is matched betting legal?
The answer is yes. Matched betting is 100 percent legal. The truth is that, for every person who is smart enough to make a no-risk matched bet, there are another 50 who don’t have the knowledge or patience to take advantage of the offer. Instead, lay gamblers waste these golden chances on “mug” punts, as the bookies like to call them.
Throughout this guide, I’ll share the same system I’ve used to make several thousand pounds doing matched betting. Please take your time to read through the next steps without rushing — you’ll need to understand what you’re doing before depositing any money. These match betting need-to-knows will prevent you from riding your luck or relying on chance, resulting in a steady monthly income for years to come.
Does matched betting work?
One of the most common questions I get is whether matched betting is still profitable in 2020. The short answer is yes, despite what you might read about a reduction in the number of offers available.
Matched betting remains a viable side hustle, provided you approach it with patience and discipline. Much of the scepticism that surrounds matched betting comes from the simple fact that it sounds too good to be true. But it’s important to remember that the online bookmaking industry is highly competitive, and bookies need to offer incentives to encourage signups. Our job is simply to take advantage of these offers with a couple of simple, risk-free betting techniques explained below.
What are back and lay bets?
At first, the concept of “backing” and “laying” bets can sound complicated, but these are simple betting techniques that are integral to matched betting.
A “BACK” bet is likely something you’ve done countless times before with traditional bookmakers. It’s when you back a particular outcome to take place — for instance, picking a team to win, or selecting a player to score. A “LAY” bet is the opposite: you’re betting against a particular outcome to take place.
So the concept of backing and laying is straightforward. Backing an outcome means you think it will happen; laying means you believe it won’t happen. Having the option to do either gives us the ability to bet both sides of a game or event, effectively cancelling out any risk.
As we’ll see, if your back price is higher than the equivalent lay odds, you’ll always make a profit.
How to put on a lay bet
Placing a LAY bet is different from putting on a traditional BACK bet. When you’re backing a bet, you simply put down your stake, and the bookie pays out the profit if you win. And if you lose, the bookie keeps your stake. The most you can ever lose is your stake.
But with LAY betting, you’re the bookie. Since you’re betting against an outcome, you have to pay out if you’re wrong. The amount you have to pay is called your “liability.”
Remember, though, when laying a bet, it’s easy to manage your risk. The Betfair Exchange will only let you wager as much as is in your account, so there’s no chance of spending more than you have available.
I recommend setting your backed bet to decimal odds, so it’s consistent with how your exchange presents the lay odds. The key thing to remember is that when you enter your lay stake, this is the maximum you can win from that bet; however, you could lose more if the odds are over evens.
To get started with laying betting, you might want to check out this video from Betfair:
How to start matched betting
It probably comes as no surprise to learn that matched betting starts with the cash in your account. But not as much as you might expect.
Many investors start with between £30-£100. Or, in some instances, even less! Of course, the more upfront cash you have set aside, the more offers you can complete at any one time. You’ll also need enough money to LAY your bet in the Exchange — but more on this later. I recommend putting aside at least £100.00 to get going.
Okay. So, once you’ve got your investment set aside, it’s time for the prep work. Below I will outline a tried and tested step-by-step process for matched betting. So long as you follow this advice to the letter, you’ll make a profit — or at least cover your losses. Then, to make things as straightforward as possible, I’ll give you a no-risk matched betting example.
Step One: Open an Exchange account
The first thing to do is sign up to a betting exchange. That might sound scary, but it’s very similar to setting up an account with a typical bookmaker.
The big difference with a betting exchange is that it allows members to bet against each other, rather than the house. And that means having the option to place a lay bet, i.e., backing a selection to lose rather than win.
As we move down this step-by-step guide, you’ll soon see that exchanges are essential for cancelling out your risk with the bookmakers.
There are tons of betting exchanges across the web, but by far the most widely used is run by Betfair. Don’t confuse this with the Betfair Sportsbook. The Betfair Exchange is strictly punter against punter, where the bookie takes a small commission on deposits (usually between 2-5%), and the market decides the odds. The Betfair Exchange generally has more market liquidity than other platforms, which makes it easier to place a bet.
To get started matched betting, you’ll need to browse through the following betting exchanges and sign up to one. I’ve also highlighted the current bonus offers you’ll receive upon making your first deposit (these are at the time of writing and might have changed).
BET £20 GET YOUR STAKE BACK AS CASH IF YOU LOSE!
SIGN UP AND CLAIM OFFER
£10 WELCOME BONUS
SIGN UP AND CLAIM OFFER
GET A £10 IN FREE BETS WHEN YOU BET £10
SIGN UP AND CLAIM OFFER
Step Two: Open a Sportsbook Account
Okay, so you’ve got your exchange. Now it’s time to set up a sportsbook account with a bookmaker — you’ll need this to place your ‘back’ bets and get free offers.
If you’re an existing customer with the likes of Bet365 or Paddy Power, you can progress with this guide and rely on their weekly promotions. However, you’ll find it a lot more valuable to set up an account with as many new bookies as possible, so that you get access to the latest sign-up offers. These are by far the best bonuses offered to punters.
Here is a list of the top 5 sign-up bonuses offered by bookmakers in 2020/2021:
BET £10 GET £30 in FREE BETS + 60 FREE SPINS
SIGN UP AND CLAIM OFFER
GET UP TO £100 IN BET CREDITS
SIGN UP AND CLAIM OFFER
BET £10 GET £40 IN FREE BETS
SIGN UP AND CLAIM OFFER
BET £5 AND GET £20 IN FREE BETS
SIGN UP AND CLAIM OFFER
BET £5 GET £20
SIGN UP AND CLAIM OFFER
Step Three: Place a Qualifying Bet
Betting Exchange, check. Bookmaker account, check. Now I’m going to show you how to start making free money.
In step two, you set up an account with a bookmaker and received a sign-up bonus. For ease of reference, let’s say you chose Coral’s “Bet £5 and Get £20 in Free Bets” offer. To unlock the £20 in free bets, you first need to wager £5 of your own money — this is what’s known as a “qualifying bet.”
What is a qualifying bet?
If you place a £5 bet and it wins, you’ll unlock the free money as well as any profit from the initial stake. But if your bet loses, even though you’d still receive £20 in free bets, you’d lose £5 of your upfront cash.
If, however, you do what’s known as a “matched bet”, you’ll unlock your free £20 without risking your initial investment.
It’s imperative at this point that you review your bookmaker’s terms and conditions. There are often limitations to what constitutes a qualifying bet, and, as such, you could risk all your bankroll if you’re not aware of the rules.
In the Coral example, the terms and conditions for their ‘Bet £5 get £20 in Free Bets’ offer can be found here. This page states that to win 4 x £5 free bets, we need to place a £5 stake on a match that has odds equal to or greater than 1/2 (decimal odds 1.5). This is pretty good, as a lot of bookmakers set the qualifying bet to at least evens.
The way to unlock the free cash without risking your £5 stake is to place BACK and LAY bets on the same event. The key here is finding LAY odds that are as close as possible to the BACK odds. The best way to do this is by using Oddmonkey’s Oddsmatcher tool (Free Trial). This neat bit of tech takes the hassle out of finding games for qualifying bets.
If, however, you’d like to see this done manually, here’s one example I’ve put together for the Premier League.
Qualifying bet example:
- You sign up to Coral and access the “place £5 and get £20 in free bets” offer.
- You make a qualifying BACK bet of £5 on Aston Villa to beat Brighton in the Premier League on 21 November 2020. The odds are 13/10 or 2.3 as a decimal (note this is greater than the odds cited in Coral’s terms and conditions).
- Your qualifying bet is accepted, and you are given £20 (4 x £5) in free bets within 24 hours.
- Now head over to your chosen betting exchange; for instance, Betfair, and place a LAY bet on Aston Villa to win. At the time of writing, a LAY bet on Aston Villa is 1.4/1 or 2.4 as a decimal.
- To calculate how much we need to place on our LAY bet, we’ll need to head over to the Oddsmatcher calculator and input the above information.
- The calculator will show us that if we place a £4.79 LAY bet on Aston Villa at odds of 2.4, then we’ll only lose 0.21 pence in every outcome.
Before we move onto the next step, let’s summarise what will happen when this match concludes:
- If Aston Villa beat Brighton, we’ll win £11.50 (including our original £5 stake) minus our £6.71 Exchange liability — giving an overall loss of 21 pence.
- If Aston Villa lose or draw, our LAY bet will pay us £4.79, but we’ll lose our BACK bet of £5 — giving an overall loss of 21 pence.
- So, in every match outcome, we make a slight loss of £0.21.
This small qualifying loss of 21p is the key to unlocking the £20 free bet, which will allow us to make a profit eventually.
Step Four: Using the Free Bet
Okay, so this is the part where we start making money. You should receive your 4 x £5 freebies from Coral within 24 hours of placing the qualifying bet, no matter if it won or lost.
All we now need to do is take the free bets and place them on other matches. Of course, if you wanted to, you could take the free bets and go wild — knowing that you’ll only ever lose 21p overall. But I know you’re smarter than that. Instead, let’s repeat the same process as above, BACKING and LAYING to convert our free bets into risk-free profit.
As per Coral’s terms and conditions, you must wager your free bet in full. It can also be redeemed on any Single, Double, Treble, 4-Fold and Upwards Accumulator, Forecast and Combination. It’s important to know that the bookmaker will not include your free bet stake in any winnings.
How much can you make matched betting?
Most matched betters aim to turn around 80 per cent of their free bets into real money. So, in this example, we should aim to make about £16.00.
Now, of course, there are several ways you could extract this profit, but often the manual approach is a little time-consuming. The more sure-fire way of getting the maximum from your free bets is to use OddsMonkey’s automated OddsMatcher tool. Their odds matching tool finds BACK and LAY odds from more bookmakers than you can shake a stick at — including the leading betting exchanges.
Here’s a decent video on how to use the tool:
Once you’ve got your four free £5 bets in-hand, head over to the OddsMatcher tool. I recommend finding an opportunity at odds of 4/1 or over (5.0+), as a BACK and LAY would retain 80 per cent of the free bet value.
Below is an example of a game between Armenia vs Italy from the European Championships. If we BACK the correct score to be 1-2 in the match at odds of 10.0, but then LAYED it on the Betfair Exchange at 11.0, we will make around 80 percent profit (as shown in the SNR% column).
Once we’ve decided that this is the game for us, we need to open up the OddsMatcher calculator. As you can see below, the calculator shows us that placing our free 4 x £5 bets on the win, and then LAYING for £16.39 on the Exchange, gives us an overall profit of £16.06 no matter the result. Bingo – the magic 80 percent.
And that’s it. At full-time, you will have magically turned a bookie’s sign-up offer into cold-hard cash that can be withdrawn from your account. Let’s re-cap:
- We set up an Exchange account.
- We set up a sportsbook account.
- We placed our qualifying bet to access our free bets.
- Once the free bet was credited, we found a match to place it on.
- We sailed off into the sunset with profit in our back pockets.
It’s as simple as that. If there’s anything you’re unsure about doing, give the relevant section another read. It should make more sense once you put it into practice.
I’ve put also together a few more answers to common matched betting questions, below. Give them a browse and good luck with bashing the bookies!
Matched betting FAQs
What is a ‘2UP’ matched betting?
What is a gubbed betting account?
The term “gubbing” or “gubbed” refers to when a bookmaker places restrictions on a betting account. There are some cases when a bookmaker might think you’re making too much money from matched betting or abusing their offers. In these situations, you’ll likely receive an email saying that you’re either excluded from promotions or restricted to a maximum stake limit. As ridiculous as it might sound, this happens quite a lot. However, the one advantage in our court is that there are hundreds of bookmakers in the industry. So, in the unfortunate situation that you get gubbed, just move your business elsewhere. You can also restrict the amount you matched bet to try and stay under the radar. You can read more about this topic in our guide to gubbing in 2021.
Do you have to pay tax on matched betting?
In the UK and Ireland, any winnings from gambling are exempt from tax. Even if you choose to make your living from matched betting, you won’t owe a penny to HMRC, as “betting and gambling” do not constitute trading under the Business Income Manual. If you live outside the UK, many jurisdictions follow the same rules as HMRC.
How much money do you need to start matched betting?
This is by far the most commonly asked question when it comes to starting matched betting. The size of your initial bankroll will depend on your circumstances and appetite for risk.
I always advise beginning with a minimum bankroll of £100. It’s preferable to start with more, say, £300-£500, but you absolutely can make a healthy profit with just £100 — provided you’re patient.
How long does matched betting take?
The answer to this question depends on how much money you want to make. Some people treat it as a full-time job, and, in turn, take home a full-time salary. Others put in a couple of hours a week and generate some additional pocket money. It’s totally up to you.
As a general rule of thumb, it typically takes 15 minutes to place a single matched bet. Taking our example above of the Aston Villa vs Brighton game, you would be looking at 15 minutes’ work to turn a profit of £16. Not bad. That’s the equivalent of £60 per hour.
Initially, it might take you longer than 15 minutes to place a matched bet. But the more experience you get, the more efficient you’ll become.