The ‘How To’ Guide For Matched Betting

So, a lot of people are singing about matched betting. About how it has provided them with an extra income, how its risk free and with a little time you can make a real profit. Yes, a lot of people are singing about matched betting and I’m one of the convinced. Don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself and see how quickly you can turn a profit. There are guides out there that guarantee you a profit through just taking part in their demo alone – signing up to a few free bets and following a few simple steps.

The truth is, if your curiosity or desire takes you beyond the initial beginner’s guides, tutorials and basic principles, then you are going to need to know how to turn that curiosity into a skill. You need to know what’s out there to help, how to balance time matched betting with your regular income generation, and finding a place for it in your work life balance.


The Goal Of Matched Betting

goal of matched betting

The principle goal of matched betting, is to make money from betting by removing risk from the process. This is done, by covering all positions of a bet, using both bookies and exchanges to bet for and against the same result. Then, carefully calculating your stake and matching odds so that whatever the result you win.



The actual method of matched betting doesn’t take long to process and understand, but it does take time and experience to develop trust and faith in the system. The reason it takes time to develop trust, is because you are often required to place a great deal of bankroll on a position for a relatively small to modest return per bet. Even on a qualifying bet on which you are essentially aiming to break even or close to even, you often still need to put a fair bit of cash on the table to match your back and lay bets. Any new bet that requires you to place money feels risky, because betting is naturally associated with gambling. But matched betting is not gambling. Only time and experience can help your mind change your social conditioning and paradigm under which this type of action is associated. Once you get it and trust it, the method is simple.

Lay bets and back bets

The act of matched betting, is all about placing back bets and lay bets on bookie sites and betting exchanges. By placing a back-bet position on a bookie then placing a lay bet on a betting exchange, you can cover all positions on a bet to ensure that whatever the outcome of the race or event, win, lose or draw you win.

A ‘Back’ bet is they type of bet that most people are familiar with. It is a bet on something to happen, a team to win a game or a horse to win a race. It’s the type of bet you would place in a bookmaker shop, a betting site or amongst friends.

A ‘Lay’ Bet on the other hand is a bet on something not to happen. So, if for example, a back bet was on ‘Spurs to win’, then a lay bet would be on ‘Spurs not to win’. By covering a back bet with a bookmaker and a lay bet with a betting exchange for the same odds, you can effectively cover each end result scenario, win, lose or draw. If Spurs win, your bet at the bookies wins but your lay bet at the betting exchange loses. If Spurs lose, your lay bet at the betting exchange wins but your bet at the bookies loses.

Now, if this is a qualifying bet you would aim to use low (even) odds, and break even. you may even lose a few pence, but this is completely negated with the profit you then go on to make with your free bet. If this was a free bet, you would go for greater odds to maximise profit, and as you would only really be covering one side of the bet (the lay position) with your own money, you would be set to make a profit. We will look at this in a bit more detail to define how both the qualifying and free bet work, then after the theory we will look at an example of the whole process.


Qualifying Bet

qualifying bet

The qualifying bet is essentially a bet that you place in order to obtain a free bet from a bookie. Say for example that Ladbrokes are offering ‘bet £10 get a £10 free bet’, then you would be placing a bet to ultimately ‘qualify’ you to be given the £10 free bet. Now you want to do this without losing any of your own money and to do this you have to place two bets. One on the bookies site, in this case Ladbrokes, so that you qualify for the free bet, and one on a betting exchange such as betfair, on the opposite position. By placing both a back bet on the bookie and a lay bet on the betting exchange, whatever the result, you will break even or at worst, lose a few pence due to commissions on the exchange. When placing your qualifying bet there are a few things you need to consider or be aware of:

  • There may be a minimum or maximum odds value required for your initial bet to qualify you for the free bet. For example, a bookie may state that the odds must be ‘even’ (at least 2.0) but in some cases 1.5. Remember, they are in the business of making money, so the last thing they want is to allow you to stake your bet on odds that really favour you. If they are going to give you a free bet, they want a good chance of keeping your initial stake for the privilege so that they are not losing out entirely. Either way don’t worry because the goal of a qualifying bet is to break even on your initial investment and win the free bet, not to make money.
  • You need to match odds either exactly or really close on both the bookie site (back bet), and on a betting exchange (lay bet) so that you break even on the result. As you are placing your own money on both the back and lay position of a result, this is really important to make sure you retain your initial investment.
  • It is recommended that you use an odds matcher from a matched betting site to do this, as it can be quite time consuming or difficult to do this unaided.
  • You might lose a few pence on the qualifying bet due to commission at the betting exchange (usually 5%) but this is negligible against the profit you stand to make when you win the free bet.

Free Bet

Once you have placed your qualifying bet and won your free bet, this is where you are set to actually make some money. With the free bet, you are again placing a back bet at the bookies, and a lay bet at the exchange, but you are only putting up your own money on the lay side as the other is free. Again, you are looking to match similar odds but you want big odds this time (over 5) to maximise profit. The goal is to make over 70% of the value of your free bet as profit. So if the free bet is £10, the goal would be to end up with £7 as profit from the bet. As with the qualifying bet, you will either win the back and lose the lay, or lose the back and win the lay. Either way, by setting your stake right and matching your odds correctly, you make a profit. We will see how this works in an example shortly. First, here are some things to be aware of regarding your free bet:

  • Most free bets, unless stated otherwise, are ‘stake not returned’ bets. This means that your original stake is not returned in addition to your winnings, as you would normally expect with a back bet.
  • Some free bets have conditions to adhere to in order to qualify. Make sure you understand these before placing your bet.
  • Some free offers are split over several bets. For example, you may see an offer that states ‘bet £5 and get £20 in free bets’. This may actually be 4 x £5 free bets rather than 1 x £20 free bet. This doesn’t really matter as you can just stick all four on to back the same result.




Until you learn about liability, what it is and how it works in matched betting, do not place your first bet. This is core learning and you need to grasp it competently before you place any bet. Here are the basics on how liability works, and why it is core to matched betting. It is essentially how much you stand to lose on a lay bet if the result doesn’t go your way. To understand this, you need to understand how the back and lay bet work in alignment to each other and the best way to do this is to illustrate with an example.

An Example of the above method applied

For illustrative purposes, we will keep this simple and leave commissions out of this example. Once you understand the principle of how it works you can then add commissions to that understanding.

Qualifying Bet Example

Say Chelsea are playing Arsenal, and you spot a ‘Bet £10, get a £10 free bet’ offer on Betfred. They are offering decimal odds of 3.0 (2/1 fracitonal) that Chelsea will win. You check out a betting exchange to see what they are offering on the same match, and notice that they are matching these odds for Chelsea to lose. So:

  • You open an account with Betfred and place £10 on Chelsea to win against Arsenal
  • You open an account with a betting exchange, say Betfair, and place a bet also for £10 on Chelsea not to win against Arsenal.

Your bet with the bookmaker is called your stake. If your bet loses, you lose your £10 stake with the bookmaker. If your bet wins, you win your stake multiplied by your odds. So a winning bet would return you £10 x 3.0 (decimal Odds) so £30 in total (£10 original stake plus £20 winnings).

The lay bet works as an exact opposite, you are effectively taking on the position of a bookie. So when you ‘lay’ a bet against Chelsea, you are effectively taking on, or matching someone elses ‘back’ bet that Chelsea will win. Now, if you were to ‘lay’ £10 in this example, at decimal odds of 3.0, this generates what we call ‘liability’. The liability is what you stand to lose if the bet doesn’t go your way. It is the polar opposite of a winning return. The liability is your stake x the ‘lay’ odds of the betting result. If Chelsea win you don’t just lose your £10 stake, you have to pay out £30 (your stake multiplied by the odds) which is your ‘liability’. If Chelsea lose, you win the backers £10, exactly the opposite of what would happen if your bet comes in on Betfred. Let’s illustrate this:

Chelsea Win

  • Betfred – Bookie pays out your stake plus profit (3.0 Odds) which is £10 stake plus £20 profit. You also win a free bet as per the promotion.
  • Betfair Exchange – You pay out your liability (‘lay’ decimal odds (3) – 1 x stake) which is £20

Chelsea Don Not Win (Result is Lose or Draw)

  • Betfred – You lose your £10 stake and win nothing from the bookie. However, you still win a free bet as per the promotion.
  • Betfair Exchange – You win your £10 ‘lay’ bet

Now you can see in both scenarios above you break even. That is the whole point of the qualifying bet. By placing both a back and a lay bet, you break even, but you win the free bet. It is on the free bet that you stand to make money.

While getting familiar with matched betting it is good to use sports where there are limited scenarios, such as football, rugby or most team sports. Using the football example above, the outcomes are 2 fold, either Chelsea win, or Chelsea do not win. Sports such as horseracing or Formula 1 where there are a diverse set of possible outcomes are best left until you have a good understanding of the skill.

Free Bet Example

Using the same teams as above and the same result, but this time on your free bet rather than your qualifying bet.

Chelsea Win

  • Betfred – You win £30 (3.0 decimal odds) your stake plus profit
  • Betfair Exchange – You pay out your liability (‘lay’ decimal odds (3) – 1 x stake) which is £20

Chelsea Don Not Win (Result is Lose or Draw)

  • Betfred – You lose your £10 free bet and win nothing from the bookie. This cost you nothing as it was a free bet.
  • Betfair Exchange – You win your £10 ‘lay’ bet

This is a very basic explanation of the principle of matched betting, but that is it in a nutshell. There are a couple of other things to consider, ‘stake not returned’ bets, exchange commissions to name a few, but as a process the above framework is sound. Through repeating the process over lots of free bets, you can rake in quite a significant profit. The key is in finding the free bets and matching the odds. You can see though, that risk is completely negated, that whichever position wins, ultimately your investment is safe and profit is assured.


Offer hunting

offer hunting

That brings us onto offer hunting. Now this is something that if you attempt to do manually, could take a very long time. There are a ton of bookie sites out there, trying to find free bets on them all and evaluating their worth would almost be a full-time job. Fortunately, there are several matched betting sites out there that do the hard work for you, collating matched odds and free bet offers from a large amount of bookies on a daily basis. If you are looking to make a significant second income from matched betting, then using the tools offered by a matched betting site is worth the price. Seriously, if you plan on doing this on mass, then any help you can get to take the time out of finding offers, matching odds and calculating liability values and potential profits makes the difference between marginal and substantial profits.

Go It Alone or Sign Up to a Matched Betting Site

  • Why go it alone

If you are just having a dabble, or if you place the odd bet here or there and want to ‘try before you buy’ then you might want to do this without signing up to a matched betting site. There are some sites out there that even offer you a free account, with some basic tools to help you familiarise with the matched betting process.

If you have the skillset to create your own deal trackers, odds trackers and calculators then again, perhaps you don’t need to sign up with a matched betting site. But let’s face it, if you can build all these things yourself, you are likely in a job where the second income you can make from matched betting is marginal in comparison to your day job.

  • Why sign up to a matched betting site

For those of us without a great mathematical or technical skill set, a premium account on a matched betting site takes a lot of the pain or ‘thinking’ out of the process and opens the door to this industry to a wider audience. The monthly cost to many matched betting sites can be recovered through one matched bet, maybe two at most. Many sites offer tools to track profit, calculate different types of bet, match odds, find offers but also offer support in the forms of forums and communities. In fact, some matched betting sites such as OddsMonkey or MatchedBets offer free accounts where they provide you with the means to make £40-£50 without any commitment to signing up to their premium account. You can find OddsMonkey here and MatchedBets here if you want to check out their free account or get a good idea of what a matched betting site has to offer.

Matched betting can be complicated, involves the commitment of a significant bankroll to make a consistent income stream and requires a lot of trust, faith and discipline in the system. But a good tool set really simplifies the process and helps you limit the time you need to place your regular matched bets.


Balancing Matched Betting With Your Regular Income And Daily Life


One of the biggest appeals of matched betting, is that it offers the ability to generate a significant second income (£1200 a month is easily achievable with many people making more) with relatively no risk whatsoever. The practice of matched betting itself covers you from risk. Now that cover comes at the expense of having a significant bankroll upfront to cover your lability, but as all positions are covered, your bankroll is ultimately safe.

The more you put in to matched betting in terms of time and investment, the more you can get out of it. That being said money is just money and it is important to have a good balance for real quality of life. If you want to make a significant second income from matched betting, these are the things you need:

  • A good toolset, which many premium matched betting sites provide. This is the difference maker in allowing you to have all the information you need regarding promotions and odds at your fingertips without having to hunt.
  • A significant bankroll. This will likely develop over time, so don’t be put off if your bankroll is modest at first. It’s just that to make the most of some of the bigger offers, you need to put up a significant liability on the table. That can only happen with a significant bankroll.
  • Trust in the process. Until you have placed a few bets and develop faith that it works every time, not just by fluke, you will hesitate to put up the cash you need to make the profit. The profit can be, and usually is, rather modest compared to the bankroll you need to put up to secure it. But over time, the profit will rise, you will develop trust and it will become second nature.

So that’s matched betting in a nutshell. If you want to research further, to have a dabble or sample the process before even considering investing in a matched betting site there are some free accounts out there, like this one from OddsMonkey that is completely commitment free. This free account will show you how to make a profit with no commitment to sign up to a premium account. Another site that have a similar free account is MatchedBets, again with no commitment to take out a premium account. Ultimately what I would advise you to do, is to have a search, have a play and you will see, its not just a gimmick. It is a completely legal, risk free process to make a second income.