Matched Betting - Alex gives you the basics... - Blog | Oddsmonkey | Make Money Matched Betting | Free Bets

Archived Blog

Matched Betting - Alex gives you the basics...

Posted on 12/02/2015 by OddsMonkey Admin in Matched Betting Beginner

So, you’ve decided to learn more about ‘Matched Betting’ – firstly well done for even taking the time to read a guide such as this, as a lot of people completely dismiss the idea, or just can’t be bothered; so good work so far.

I’m going to try to keep your interest for as long as possible, so this guide will be short and sweet. 

The categories are detailed below, so you won’t need to spool through a big block of text. If you are a newbie, my suggestion would be go through the guide fully, and then re-read the bits that you don’t understand, and, if you’re still lost, get in touch.

Okay, so here we go....

1 - What is Matched Betting?

This is my chance to hook you. You’ll probably want to see terms like ‘sure-thing’ and ‘risk free’. Who would I be to disappoint?

"The mathematical exploitation of online welcome bonuses, which is both legal and risk-free" (A Gray, 2012)

Okay, so that’s the technical definition, but what actually IS matched betting? Broken into its simplest form, it’s basically:

  1. Registering with an online bookmaker (or ‘bookie’ – i.e. Ladbrokes) who offer a free welcome bet. Often these bets might be ‘Bet £50 and get a free £50 bet!’
  2. Place a qualifying bet to unlock your free bet by simultaneously ‘Backing’ an event to happen (betting that it will happen) and ‘Laying’ that the exact event will not happen (playing the bookmaker, and taking someone else’s money for the exact same bet that you made with the bookmaker’ resulting in a ‘break-even’ situation.
  3. Place a free bet following the exact same method, to achieve a second ‘break-even’ situation, which will result in:

Just look at it for a minute. You aren’t gambling here; you’re not hoping that an event you have bet on will fortunately happen.

Matched Betting actually has very little to do with events.

Now, lets assess this for a minute. You’ve signed up, you’ve thought of a witty username and you’re ready to make some money. First you need to satisfy the first half of the free bet requirement.

Bet £50and get a free £50 bet!

So firstly we have to find a way to bet £50 risk free. This is extremely easy to do. It does not mean that you will necessarily make a profit without risk; it simply means that you will breakeven without risk. But anyway, this is not the part that we are interested in. Stage 2, or the bit written in red is what we are interested in.

Now after you have placed your £50, you will have access to a FREE BET of £50. You do the exact same process and ‘breakeven’. But wait…the money wasn’t actually yours - it was free money. Therefore, ‘breakeven’ means that you gain the value of the free bet (in this case £50) free of charge, free of risk, in 10-15 minutes work.

Now that I hopefully have your attention, I will attempt to further explain the concepts.

2 - How is it risk free?

The outcome of the event you bet on DOES NOT MATTER TO YOU. If either the qualifying or free bet was, for instance, Liverpool Vs. Manchester United and you simultaneously back (bet on) and lay (take a bet on) Liverpool… It DOES NOT MATTER whether Liscverpool win, draw or lose. There is NO gamble. With any outcome, you will win and lose nothing – resulting in the ‘break-even’.

Okay, so there is one thing to bear in mind. Human error is always a consideration. The only way you will stand to lose money is if you make a mistake. By mistake, I mean that you miss a step in the process, or you read the screen wrongly and bet on the wrong event, or you place the wrong amount of money in the wrong website.

I have been matched betting for about 18 months, and I have never made a mistake. You just have to be careful, that’s all. Oddsmonkey basically does all of the work. You just need to engage your keyboard, check and re-check.

3 - I don’t understand. What’s Backing and Laying?

If you empathise with the title of section 3, don’t worry. You’re undoubtedly in good company. The way to eliminate the risk in this process is to both back and lay an event.



A ‘Back’ bet is a bet on something to happen – a horse to win a race, a football team to win, a person to be evicted from Big Brother etc. It’s just like the bet you’d regularly place with a traditional bookmaker or even with your mates.


YOU:"I bet that Newcastle FC will win today. I would like to put £10 on it."

BOOKMAKER:"Certainly sir, I will give you odds (ratio of chance) of 5/1. That means that if Newcastle FC do win, you get £60 back (£50 profit + £10 original stake). But if Newcastle DO NOT WIN (i.e. Lose OR draw) I am going to keep your £10."

The state of play from your perspective
Newcastle FC win +£60
Draw -£10
Other team FC win -£10

So hang on. There’s risk here. We only make money if Newcastle win. I don’t want to lose anything if they draw or lose. How can we cover for this eventuality?



Betting against an event, by acting as a bookmaker, and taking a bet from someone who does think it will happen. In an entirely different part of the country, two friends are in a pub chatting…


YOU: "There is no way that Newcastle will win today"

YOUR MATE: "Are you joking? Newcastle FC will win today; Sheola Ameobi is playing! He’s a god amongst men"

YOU: "Put your money where your mouth is."

YOUR MATE: "Okay, I bet you £10 that Newcastle FC WILL WIN TODAY."

YOU: "I will take that bet. I will give you odds (ratio of chance) of 5/1. That means that if Newcastle FC do win, you get £60 back (£50 profit + £10 original stake), but, my dear friend… If Newcastle DO NOT WIN (i.e. Lose OR draw) I am going to keep your £10."

The state of play from your perspective
Newcastle FC win -£60
Draw +£10
Other team FC win +£10

We all make statements to friends like this every day. What you're actually doing is 'laying a bet': betting something won't happen – and this facility is readily available at the websites that act as ‘Betting Exchanges’.

So let’s now imagine that these events did not happen at the other end of the country… They happened to the same person.

If YOU went into a Bookmaker and placed £10 on Newcastle TO WIN, and then took a bet from your friend on Newcastle to WIN, you’ve effectively cancelled yourself out, or you have created a ‘break-even’ scenario. You could say that you are no longer involved in the bet, your friend has basically put the bet on with the bookmaker that you used.

The total state of play to someone who has both backed and layed
Newcastle FC win +£60 from bookmaker& -£60 to friend = £0
Draw -£10 to the bookmaker& +£10 from friend = £0
Other team FC win -£10 to the bookmaker& +£10 from friend = £0

And that, my friends is how you conduct a risk free bet. This will serve to unlock your free bet.


4 - What’s the difference between a bookmaker and a betting exchange?

Imagine a bookmaker as one man, behind a desk with a big board behind him offering you odds, as you would encounter at a race day or in your local town. You are betting against a company, Ladbrokes PLC for example. It is in their interest for you to lose your bet, so they keep your stake, and therefore boost their profits.

I like to think of a Betting Exchange as a big warehouse where there are hundreds of different people dressed in red and blue. The people dressed in red are those willing to offer odds (in the exact way that a bookmaker would do) and the people dressed in blue are people willing to bet their money with those in red (in the exact way a person would in the first example with a bookmaker).

Matched betting exchange image 1

Now, if you’re dressed in Blue and want to BACK, you can run around all of the people in red and look for the best odds for your money, the higher the better.

Matched betting exchange image 2

Of course the opposite is true if you’re dressed in red. You can run around all of the people in blue and make them an odds offer that’s too good to refuse, but the lower the better in your case, as you don’t want to risk too much. The betting exchange (or warehouse in this analogy) will take 5% of all profits that are transacted in the building when a bet settles.

Matched betting exchange image 3

In the first instance you can dress youself in blue and BACK, then you can switch to red, and LAY (take a bet)


With the combination of both a Bookmaker and a Betting Exchange, you can bet money and take money from a punter (lay) simultaneously, and completely remove the risk of betting. This is beneficial to unlock your free bet.

5 - The Methodology

A lot of bookmakers offer a free bet to new customers as soon as they've placed their first bet. We’re going to release this free bet, through ensuring that we don’t lose any money on our first bet.

Firstly, I'd like to say that we'd advise sticking to Football  events at this time - Horse Racing is definitely something you can introduce later, but for now, there is an added complication (known as rule 4) that is something you must fully understand before using Horse Racing for matched betting, let's keep things as simple as possible for now.

Ok, so in basic terms, there are going to be two transactions. The first will be the ‘Qualifying Bet’, which is going to unlock your free bet. In many cases, the free bet will be the exact amount of your first bet. So here’s how it goes…


 So firstly find an online bookie that has a sign up offer. They’re everywhere these days – the Oddsmonkey ‘free bets’ page is a good place to begin. Once you’ve picked one out, review the terms and conditions. There’re rarely any points of interest but there are a few things to look out for. When you come to do this, see appendix one.
Matched betting oddsmatcher

After depositing enough money to make the qualifying bet, you use Oddsmonkey to search for that bookmaker. In this example we’ll use Stan James, who offer a £10 free bet when you bet £10 with them. You’ll read their terms and conditions to see what the minimum odds requirement is, and then search against your preferred Betting Exchange account (in this case Betfair

So in this case, I’m going to pretend that the minimum odds requirement is Evens (odds 1/1), or in decimal ‘2’. Now this is the minimum required odds that Stan James ask me to bet on. If, for instance I bet on something that was extremely likely to happen (I.e. Real Madrid Vs Accrington Stanley) my odds would be probably 1/60 (If I put £60 on Real Madrid to win, and they did, I would win £1).

Bookmakers obviously want to keep your original £50 stake if they are going to give you a free chance to extract a lot of money out of them, so they want you to bet on something that isn’t likely. Or in our case, has a 50/50 chance (odds of 1/1, or in decimal format 2)

 Decimal format is used throughout the document. Decimals show how much money you will win if you win your bet, including your original stake - Think of each 0.01 representing another £0.01p. Therefore if a decimal was 2, I would win 2 overall (£1 profit + £1 stake. Just add ‘1’ onto your fractional odds if the denominator is ‘1’. So, for instance fractional odds of 5/1 become 6, and simple! In cases of fractional odds denominators not being 1, it’s just as easy. So if the odds were 13/2, simplify the equation to 6.5/1, and then add 1 to 6.5 – so your fractional would be 7.5 (that’s £6.50 profit for every £1, and £7.50 including your stake. than myself. We use decimals as they make comparing odds that are marginally different much easier. It’s much easier to compare odds of 2.25 and 3.38 than it is to compare 5/4 and 11/8! Its possible, but decimals make it easier.
Fraction Decimal Fraction Decimal Fraction Decimal
1/10 1.10 1/1 2.00 5/1 6.00


1.11 11/10 2.10 11/2 6.50
1/8 1.12 6/5 2.20 6/1 7.00


5/4 2.25 13/2 7.50
1/6 1.17 11/8 2.38 7/1 8.00
1/5 1.20 6/4 2.50 15/2 8.50
2/9 1.22 13/8 2.63 8/1 9.00
1/4 1.25 7/4 2.75 17/2 9.50
2/7 1.29 9/5 2.80 9/1 10.00
3/10 1.30 15/8 2.86 10/1 11.00
1/3 1.33 2/1 3.00 11/1 12.00
4/11 1.36 85/40 3.12 12/1 13.00
2/5 1.40 11/5 3.20 14/1 15.00
4/9 1.44 9/4 3.25 15/1 16.00
1/2 1.50 12/5 3.40 16/1 17.00
8/15 1.53 5/2 3.50 18/1 19.00
4/7 1.57 13/5 3.60 20/1 21.00
8/13 1.62 11/4 3.75 25/1 26.00
4/6 1.67 3/1 4.00 33/1 34.00
8/11 1.73 10/3 4.33 40/1 41.00
4/5 1.80 7/2 4.50 50/1 51.00
5/6 1.83 4/1 5.00 66/1 67.00
10/11 1.91 9/2 5.50 100/1 101.00


So you’ll notice that I’ve put 2 in the minimum and 4 in the maximum, which is just there to keep our liability down.

I do this because you’re going to have to take someone’s bet to create the ‘break-even’ situation, which means that you will have to pay out to them if the bookie pays out to you. Therefore you’ll have to have their possible profit ready to go, and there’s no sense tying up more money than you need to. If you don’t understand this, refer back to the tables in section 3. You won the bet with the bookie, and therefore gained £60, but because he had the same bet with you, you had to pay your friend that £60. Because you’re using a betting exchange to take that bet, it will be instantly paid to the backer if he wins, therefore you’ll need to have it in your account ready to go. Keeping the odds low is just so you don’t have to tie up too much of your own money.

Matched betting oddsmatcher zoomed

These are the first three bets that have appeared. Your ‘Rating’ is how much of your stake you will win back following the qualifying bet. It is acceptable to lose a small percentage overall, due to Betfair fees etc., but in the case of the first two bets, we’ll actually win money off the qualifying bet, which is excellent. Now click the ‘i’ button next to Stan James’s logo.

Matched betting calculator

We are now presented with this box. Don’t be intimidated by it, it tells you very little that you did not already know. Ignore the green circle for now, that comes later.

So in the case of your first bet, ensure that the ‘Normal’ box is checked, this tells the online calculator that no free bet is involved at this point. That will come later. Now type in the amount of money that you want to bet, in my case, it’s £10. The odds boxes’ just reflect what is presented on the left hand side of the box. The closer these odds are together, the better for your wallet (in an ideal scenario, you’d like the blue figure to be much bigger than the red figure – thus selling high and buying low)

So what do the numbers in the boxes on the left hand side mean? They represent a return for every pound that you would gamble. In the case of Stan James, which is 2.38 – it means that if you were to put £1 on that outcome, and it happened, you would win a total of £2.38 back (which includes your original £1). This is the figure that Stan James is prepared to offer you on the outcome of the bet.

The other box is the figure that someone is prepared to offer YOU for the bet. There is someone on waiting for you to take their money, but, for you to take that money, they want at least £2.26 for every £1 that you take from them. Incidentally, the person that is waiting at Betfair would be better to go to Stan James, because if he were to win he would receive an additional £0.12 per winning £1, but that’s his problem, not yours.

Stan James website

So you click on the respective GO TO STAN JAMES and GO TO BETFAIR links at the bottom of the box. You will then be presented with the following screens.

In this case, you’re betting on upwards of 3.5 goals. So when you find the match, click on the ‘More Bets’ option

Stan James markets
Matched betting calculator

That’s what we’re after. Click on that one. When the box opens, put your £10 bet on it.


So put 10 in the stake box and the rest will update automatically. Then select place bets and confirm the bet.

Betfair page

Okay, that’s half of the bet done. Now to complete the qualifying bet, you need to cover the other eventuality, just in case there are less than 3.5 goals scored. In your other tab, Betfair should have opened. Go to this page.

This is the screen that you should be presented with. What we are doing now is covering for the other eventuality. If there are more than 3.5 goals scored in this game, you will win £23.80 at Stan James. But, if there are less than 3.5 goals scored, you will lose your £10. This is not an acceptable level of risk, so we ‘LAY’ the bet off simultaneously. You become the middleman between the person on Betfair who wants to bet his money and Stan James – and this is how…

Find the appropriate category, the over 3.5 goals one – and click on the box that matches the odds that Oddsmonkey told you earlier. In this case, we’re betting AGAINST Over 3.5 goals, at 2.26. This means that we will win money in this account if there are LESS THAN 3.5 GOALS SCORED. How much money do we take on this? Essentially, almost exactly the amount you bet with Stan James – and therefore removing all of the risk :)

Consult Oddsmonkey one more time. You will see that we were advised to ‘Lay £10.77’ (What you stand to win – the 77p will accommodate your fees to Betfair for finding the bet for you) and our liability would be (£13.57 – what you stand to lose should you lose the bet and there ARE MORE THAN 3.5 GOALS SCORED) – but remember, that’s okay – because if that happens, you’ll win with Stan James to that amount. Make sure that there is at least £10.77 in ‘available money’ at Betfair, as indicated by the green circles. Oddsmonkey says that there is £110 available, but there was a change in that amount while the page was loading, now there is £170 available (displayed below the odds in Betfair – refer to green circle) so we’re fine to put £10.77 on. Always make sure that there is enough money available in a market before placing your bet at the bookmaker. That is human error aspect of the process. You can be sure by filling out the ‘min liquidity’ box as your required lay stake, refer to section 5, qualifying bet and the box in grey that says ‘min liquidity’ – put 10.77 in there and you should get only those that have £10.77 or more – but still, check and check again before you place the bet.

So in the ‘Backers Stake’ box, key in £10.77 and click ‘Place Bet’ – Excellent, you’re done.

So, what do we have here? We have two bets, on each of the two outcomes of the game. So lets explore the possibilities of what might happen.

More than 3.5 goals are scored – You will lose £13.57 at Betfair, and win £13.80 at Stan James, so you’re in the black still.

Less than 3.5 goals are scored – You will win 10.77 (minus 5% fees from Betfair – which will take you down to a win of £10.23) and you will lose £10 with Stan James, so again, you’re in the black to the value of £0.23.

This is an excellent scenario. In many cases, it is acceptable to lose up to a couple of pounds on a qualifying bet, but any chance you get to break even or even make a small profit should be taken advantage of.


I know it seems long-winded, but do it a couple of times and you’ll be able to look up the odds and make the two bets in less than 1 minute – I promise you. If you were to assign yourself an hourly rate for Matched Betting, it would probably be astronomical.

6 - The Free Bet

So now you have access to this lovely £10 free bet. Unfortunately I can’t show you a screenshot of this as I’ve already done it with Stan James. But you’ll have your £10 free bet credited within 24 hours. So when you do, we can use it.

Essentially, you’re just doing the exact same thing again, but this time, for the first half of the bet (when you bet on an outcome with Stan James), you’re not providing the money, so you’re going to equal yourself out again, but only will have supplied half of the money.

So to do this, go back to Oddsmonkey, and search something with odds of 4 or above. There is little point betting on something with odds of less than 4 (3/1 fractional). This is because with ordinary bets, you will receive your original stake back; with around 90% of free bets, you will not receive your stake back. So you have to maximise the profit that you make. If you bet on something for instance that had odds of 1.5, you would make £5 if it came in, as the £10 that you used to place the bet will disappear. If you bet on something that had odds of 4.0, you would win £30, which will give you a higher retention of the £10 free bet. It’s extremely hard to explain this, but bear with me. I’ll try to explain it with the use of screenshots.

Matched betting calculator image

Remember, switch to ‘Free Bet (SNR), as you do not receive your stake back.

In this case I’ve shown you what would happen in the case of 1.5 and 1.5. You would win £3.28 profit either way; which just is not worth it.

Matched betting calculator odds

Now I have changed the odds to 5.0 – and you will notice how the amount you will win has dramatically increased. 5.0 gives us 76.8% retention of the £10 free bet. As a rule of thumb, I tend to accept anything upwards of 75%.

It’s worth noting that you will need £32.32 in your Betfair account to be able to lay off this bet.

The higher the odds of the bet, the more of the £10 free bet you would retain.


When you place the free bet with the bookmaker, make sure you tick the ‘place using free bet’ box – most bookmakers have these. But you do not need to worry about these for Betfair because we are not using free bets at Betfair, we are just using the Betfair (The Betting Exchange) as a tool to balance our bet on each side and ensure we do not lose any money.

Matched Betting calcuator

So when you’ve found something with decimal odds of about 4 or upwards, fill out the box in the same way as we did earlier, making sure that the ‘Free Bet (SNR) is checked. Go to Stan James and make the bet. Once that’s done, go across to Betfair and find the event that you want. Oddsmonkey will usually just link you straight there. Click on the red box that corresponds with the odds that you were quoted. In the side, you’ll get a box pop-up. Enter in the backer’s stake. In our case, it’s £8 as shown with the corresponding black ring. As you can see, the liability is identical in both calculations.

Betfair odds

Make sure there is at least as much money ‘available’ as your backers stake. To see the amount of money available, look at the green circles. In our case, we need to take £8 – so we need to know there has to be at least £8 of money waiting to be taken. In our case, as indicated by the green circles, there is £18 available, so we’re fine to put it on. Always make sure that there is enough money available in a market before placing your bet at the bookmaker. That is human error aspect of the process.

So go ahead and pop that on. Well done, you’ve made your first £7.60 risk free! Give yourself a pat on the back.

And that concludes the guide. It’s a good idea to keep a track of your earnings by using a matched betting spreadsheet. You can use the Ultimatcher 3 spreadsheet, that’s available here (or here for Excel 2003), with instructions here.

I wrote this guide as I find Matched Betting interesting and I wanted to offer something back on Oddsmonkey for newcomers.  I didn’t charge for the writing of this document, so if you want to say thanks, feel free to quote me on your referral form on Betfair and get us both a nice £25 free bet! That’d be lovely.

Betfair signup

When you sign up, you’ll get the chance to enter a referral code. Put this one in: TQ3YDF3NG

Betfair RAF

Appendix One

The importance of terms and conditions

BE RUTHLESS in looking over the terms and conditions. As I said earlier in the guide, there’s usually nothing there to intentionally trip you up but there are a few things to look out for. Generally, here are the things to scan the text for. 

Amount of free bet
Qualifying bet and odds 
When the free bet becomes available (straight away or after qualifying has settled) 
Dates of eligibility (qualifying bet often has 7 days to be made, as does free bet) 
Wagering requirements (Usually the free bet has to be bet as a whole, but some allow you to break them up)  
Whether the free bet stake is returned (nearly always no) 
Rollover requirements

Here is the current list of t’s and c’s from Coral, a bookmaker that is currently offering a bet £5 get @20 free bet. 

1. Offer available to UK & Republic of Ireland residents aged 18 years or over opening an Online, Mobile or Telephone Coral account in either £/€ currency.
2. To qualify for this bet £/€5 get £/€20 offer, the first bet on your account after registration must be a real money sports bet of £/€5 Win or £/€5 Each-way or more at fractional odds of 1/2 (decimal odds 1.5) or greater.
3. The £20 free bet will be triggered by the placement of the qualifying bet and will not apply to subsequent bets. Void bets do not count towards this promotion.
4. The qualifying bet must be made within 14 days of account registration to qualify. First sports bets placed after this duration will not qualify for this bet £5 get £20 free bet offer.
5. Free bet token will expire 7 days after issue.
6. The free bet must be wagered in full, can be redeemed on win or each-way bets and can be used on the following listed bet types: single, double, treble, 4-fold and upwards accumulator, forecast, combination
7. Free bet token is not valid on Football Jackpot, tote, other combination and multiple bets (i.e. Lucky 15s).
8. Free bet tokens are non-refundable. Free bet stake is not included in any returns.
9. Free bet tokens are not returned if wagered on a void selection.
10. This free bet offer cannot be used in conjunction with, or contribute to any other free bet offer or promotions.
11. For additional promotional terms click here.
Promoter: Coral Interactive (Gibraltar) Limited, Suite 711, 1st Floor, Europort, Europort Road, Gibraltar, GX11 1AA 

Okay so the underlined bits are the terms that we are interested in. This is a particularly kind offer from Coral. If you’re in the UK or ROI, bet £5 within 7 days of signing up at odds of 1.5 and you’ll get £20 straight away. Use this all at once within 7 days, and you’ll keep the profit from it. There are no ‘rollover requirements’. All in all it is an excellent offer. 


Rollover requirements

These can be extremely nasty. Sometimes a bookmaker will give you £20 free but you have to bet it 5x to unlock it. So if you match bet the £20 and lose at the bookmaker, you’re laughing – as you’ll have the profit in the betting exchange. But if you win at the bookmaker, and therefore lose at the betting exchange, all of your money is locked as a free bet, and you have to bet it again (and again) until you make up the allotted requirement. BET365 is a bookmaker that employs this method. Here it is: 

12. Qualifying deposits must be a minimum of £10*.
13. The maximum bonus that can be claimed is £200*.
14. To bet with your bonus, play through the amount of your qualifying deposit once on the sports and markets of your choice. You will need to rollover your deposit and bonus 3 times prior to making a withdrawal.

So, with Bet365, you can free up your £200 free bet straight away, but to withdraw the profits from it, you need to bet £1200 (depending on your deposit amount) 

Deposit (£200) + Free bet (£200) = £400 * 3 = £1200

So, if you win at the bookmaker for the free bet, any profit that you have is locked with them until you hit the £1200 rollover requirement. This means that (1) you’ll need more money to get it out, and (2) that now your money is locked as a free bet, whatever bet you make from now on is classed as a free bet, and you wont receive the stake back. 

There are three ways to play these offers. Either 
1. Matched bet it, have lots of money in reserve just in case you get your cash locked up at the bookie. A £200 free bet will still guarantee you lots of profit, so long as you have enough to lay it all off. 
2. Reduce the free bet amount, instead of going for the £200, just deposit and bet £30. This gives you a rollover amount of £180, which is more manageable. 
3. Bet the bonus stake, this is what I tend to do, but it isn’t matched betting. Put the £200 on something that has high odds (usually 6.0 or above to achieve the £1200 needed for the rollover) and hope it comes in. I haven’t had a winner yet though! 


Thanks guys – hope the guide helps.

Alex Gray

Alex Gray Author

You are viewing our old blog

View our new Blog here