What is Matched Betting?
Matched betting is a technique that allows you make money from the free bets and deals offered by online bookmakers. Rather than relying on luck, you cover all potential outcomes of an event by placing two bets so that you win no matter what happens. Matched betting formulas or software calculate how much you need to stake on these bets in order to lock in a profit.
Continue reading our beginner’s guide to find out more about what matched betting is and how it works.
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How does matched betting work?
Matched betting works by using a ‘back and lay betting’ technique to turn free betting credit into real money.
Lots of online bookmakers give away ‘free bets’ as part of a welcome offer, to encourage users to sign up to their site. There are also free bet deals offered to existing customers, usually on a ‘bet £X get £X basis’.
With standard betting, there’s no guarantee that any of your bets will win.
With matched betting, you eliminate the risk associated with every bet for a particular outcome (back bet) by placing an equivalent bet against the same outcome (lay bet), so that you win no matter what the result. This back and lay betting technique allows you to make a profit* on free bets. Typically, you will end up with approximately 80% of the free bet amount, so a £30 free bet turns into around £24 profit.
You can do matched betting yourself, but the maths can be complicated and it’s easy to go wrong. That’s why most people use matched betting software like OddsMatcher, which will keep you on the right track. It finds, sorts and ranks the best odds for you, and its built-in calculator works out how much you’ll need to bet in order to make money. We can also help you find and take advantage of the best bookmaker welcome offers and daily betting deals.
The two parts of the matched bet
Matched Betting is a game of two halves. The ‘back bet’ and the ‘lay bet’. Below is a description of each.
A back bet is a bet for an outcome to come true — you’re betting that something will happen. For example, you can back England to win their next match. You place back bets at online bookmakers like Paddy Power or William Hill.
1. If the outcome happens, you will win your stake x odds. This is the potential return.
2. If the outcome does not happen, you will lose your stake. This is the liability.
When matched betting, you place back bets with bookmakers offering some kind of ‘free bet’ deal, or one you’ve already unlocked free betting credit with.
A lay bet is a bet against an outcome — you’re betting that something will not happen. This is what bookmakers do when they accept a back bet. For example, if you lay England to win, your bet will be successful should they lose or draw.
You can place lay bets through online betting exchanges like Betfair. These work by matching up users who want to place back bets, who act as the traditional better, with users who want to lay bets, who act as the bookmaker. The exchange makes money by charging a commission.
1. If the outcome happens, your lay bet is unsuccessful. Just like a bookmaker would, you have to pay the punter their winnings (stake x odds). This is the liability.
2. If the outcome does not happen, you win the back stake — just like the bookmaker does when you lose a back bet. You will usually pay a small commission to the betting exchange. So, the potential return on a lay bet is the back stake minus commission.
When matched betting, you place a lay bet that effectively cancels out your back bet, ensuring that you win no matter what the outcome.
For more information about lay bets, please see our beginner’s guide to lay betting.
How to place a matched bet
To place a matched bet, you need to:
2. Identify an outcome to back and lay (for example, England to win). To minimise the initial loss, the odds need to be low and close together — our OddsMatcher tool can help you.
3. Sign up to/into the bookmaker site and place the qualifying bet.
4. Sign up to/into a betting exchange and place the corresponding lay bet. A matched betting calculator will help you to determine the correct stake.
5. Place your second matched bet, using your free betting credit for the back bet. This time, the back odds and lay odds need to be high and close together, to maximise profits — again, OddsMatcher can help you find the right market to bet on.
Matched betting example
Here is an example of how matched betting works, step by step.
Let’s say a bookmaker is offering £30 of free bets when you stake £10. You can turn this into profit by placing two matched bets:
You visit the bookmaker’s site to deposit and stake £10 on England to win at odds of 2.0. Because this unlocks the £30 free bets deal, this is known as the qualifying bet. You’ll use this free bet later.
The betting exchange is offering lay odds of 2.1 on England to win and charges 5% commission.
If England win, your back bet is successful (you win odds x stake = £20) and your lay bet is unsuccessful (you lose the £10.74 liability). Overall, taking your £10 back stake into account, you are 74p down.
If England do not win, your back bet is unsuccessful (you lose your £10 stake) and your lay bet is successful (you win the £9.76 stake minus 5% commission = £9.27). Overall, you are 73p down.
Whatever the outcome, you will have now unlocked a £30 free bet. We can now repeat this process but this time using a free bet.
You can now stake your £30 free bet on Horse X to win at odds of 6.0 via the bookmaker.
The betting exchange is offering lay odds of 6.1 on Horse X to win and charges 5% commission.
Using a matched betting calculator, you determine that you need to stake £24.79 in order to ‘match’ your back bet. This gives you a liability of £126.43. Whatever the outcome of the race, you make a sizeable profit
If Horse X wins, your back bet is successful (you win odds x stake, minus the stake because free bets are ‘stake not returned’ = £150) and your lay bet is unsuccessful (you lose the £126.43 liability). Your profit is £23.57.
If Horse X does not win, your back bet is unsuccessful (you don’t lose anything because it was a free bet) and your lay bet is successful (you win the stake minus commission = £23.55). Your profit is therefore £23.55.
Simply by placing four bets (two matched bets), you have made a net profit of £22.81–£22.84.
You can imagine just how quickly the profits add up when you take advantage of multiple matched betting offers. Ready to get started? Sign up as a free member and we’ll walk you through your first three matched bets step by step.
Frequently asked questions
Matched betting is completely legal in the UK but you do have to be aged 18 or over, just as with any other gambling activity. It is not a scam and it is not a con — it may seem too good to be true, but it’s totally legit!
Bookmakers aren’t huge fans of matched betting, because they’re not making money off you — they sometimes refer to the practice as ‘bonus abuse’.
However, it’s by no means illegal and the worst they can do as ‘punishment’ is put restrictions on your account, in a process known as gubbing. Learn more about gubbing and how to avoid it.
We might be biased, but we believe that there is nothing unethical or immoral about matched betting. It is simply a clever technique that allows you to make the most of the promotions offered by bookmakers. Lots of people across the UK invest time and effort into matched betting as a way to legally supplement their income.
Graham Sharpe from William Hill said this about matched betting: “There’s no illegal element. It’s a free bet and you can do what you like.”
Some bookmakers are against matched betting because it means that the odds are no longer in their favour. However, bookmakers can still profit from matched betting, as our example showed.
There’s a lot of overlap with matched betting and gambling – you’ll be placing bets and using bookmaker sites.
However, gambling involves “taking a punt” on the outcome ending up in your favour. If you don’t get lucky, you won’t make any money.
On the other hand, the outcome doesn’t matter in matched betting. You don’t guess what will happen and risk your money on it coming true: you back both options so that it’s impossible to lose. So, matched betting is not really gambling in that sense.
Matched betting is not dead or dying. For as long as bookmakers offer free bet deals, back and lay betting can continue to deliver profits.
Bookmakers have been aware of matched betting for years, but they’re showing no signs of stopping these special offers. So, matched betting still works in 2020 and it’s extremely unlikely that it will die any time soon.
We estimate that tens of thousands of people in the UK will use matched betting to supplement their income this year.
Matched betting is safe and risk-free in principle — mathematically, it is guaranteed to generate profits. However, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) considers the claim of matched betting being 100% risk-free “misleading because, although theoretically sound, the process was open to human error”.
In other words, there is potential for you to make a mistake that will lose you money, so matched betting is not 100% without risk. There is also a small chance that the odds will change in the time between you placing your back bet and lay bet, meaning that the bet is no longer properly matched.
But that’s exactly what OddsMonkey is here for: to offer tools and advice that dramatically reduce the chance of you making a mistake and give you a plan B if the odds do change at the last second. Our resources ensure that matched betting is extremely low-risk.
You can find out more about matched betting risks in our blog post on matched betting problems.
You can initially make around £1,000–£1,500 from matched betting by taking advantage of welcome offers. There is the most opportunity to earn when you first begin matched betting, because most bookmakers offer generous sign-up deals to attract new customers.
However, matched betting is sustainable and profitable for the long-term. Once you’ve opened all of your bookie accounts, you can make around £500–£700 a month by taking advantage of offers for existing customers. That’ll take around 40 minutes per day, so equates to around £25–35 per hour. However, members in our forum regularly report making £900+ per month, so it is possible to make a living from matched betting.
All of the money you make from matched betting is 100% tax-free, and you do not have to declare your earnings to HMRC. This means you can make the equivalent of a £20,000+ salary by spending just a few hours a day.
Of course, the amount of money you can make from matched betting ultimately depends on a number of factors, including:
- the amount of time you are willing and able to spend,
- the amount of money you are willing and able to stake (your “float”),
- the deals and back odds offered by bookmakers,
- the lay odds offered by betting exchanges,
- your matched betting knowledge and skills, and
- your access to tools and resources.
These matched betting stories show that every OddsMonkey member has a different lifestyle, goals, and amount of time available, which affect how much money they make.
Lots of people believe that matched betting is worth it, as our customer reviews and matched betting success stories prove. Of course, whether it’s worth it to you depends on your personal circumstances.
All of the money that you make from matched betting is 100% tax-free and, with the right tools and resources at your disposal, the process is quick and easy. This, combined with the high profits on offer, means that you can make a relatively high hourly rate.
Over the years, we have helped thousands of people earn a second income with matched betting. We have even helped some customers make a living from matched betting.
Matched betting is not free at first, because you will need some money to get started (approximately £50). However, you should quickly make a profit on this initial investment.
Once you have made enough profit, you can simply reinvest a portion of your matched betting returns into future matched bets. If you keep doing this, you won’t need to invest any more of your regular income. This means that matched betting becomes “free” in a sense.
There are also optional matched betting expenses to consider — for example, an OddsMonkey premium subscription. However, the benefits of this are designed to far outweigh the costs.
It is extremely unlikely that you will lose money matched betting, but it is possible if you make a mistake during the betting process. It is also unlikely but possible that the odds will change in-between you placing your back bet and lay bet in a way that causes an overall loss.
If you place your matched bets correctly and the odds used to calculate them do not dramatically change for the worse in the middle of the process, the maths means that you are guaranteed to make a profit.
Plus, if you are unfortunate enough to lose money on a matched bet, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to make it back quickly.
There is a chance that matched betting will affect your mortgage application if you do not use a separate bank account for your betting activity. This is because most lenders will look at your bank statements when processing your application and may not wish to lend to someone who appears to gamble frequently. They won’t necessarily know that you’ve been matched betting, not gambling.
However, there are few reports of matched betters who have been rejected for mortgage applications for this reason.
If you are concerned that a lender will look unfavourably on your mortgage application due to betting activity on your bank statements, it’s a good idea to set up a separate bank account for matched betting or use an e-wallet like Skrill. That way, the mortgage lender won’t be able to see and judge these transactions. There is nothing illegal about doing this.
Bear in mind that matched betting earnings will not count as an official form of monthly income when applying for your mortgage. In other words, you can’t use matched betting to prove that you’ll be able to afford your future mortgage repayments.
Matched betting can be easy if you have the right tools and resources to help you, although you do need to be careful that you’re entering the correct numbers at every stage. At OddsMonkey, we are dedicated to helping members get to grips with matched betting and maximise their profits.
If you sign up as a free member, we will take you through six matched betting tutorials step-by-step. These will make sure you understand what matched betting is, what a betting exchange is, and how our OddsMatcher tool works. We will then walk you through your first three matched bets.
Once you have completed these tutorials, we are confident that you will have a good understanding of how matched betting works. However, you will still need tools and resources to help you find and take advantage of more matched betting deals. That’s where our premium membership comes in.
Matched betting does not affect your credit score. Credit rating agency Experian told the Guardian: “It won’t appear on the credit reference radar. You can have as many gaming accounts as you want.”
Betting websites may make a “soft search” on your credit report to make sure you are who you say you are, but they do not perform a proper credit check — after all, you are not applying for credit. Lenders will not be able to see these searches, and there will be no impact on your credit rating.
To get started with matched betting, you need an internet-connected device, an email address, an online bank account or wallet, and starting funds.
1. An internet-connected device: You can do matched betting on your smartphone. However, in an ideal world, you will have a desktop computer with multiple screens, to make it easier to switch between sites and place your bets at the right times. A strong and reliable internet connection is also important for this reason.
2. An email address: You will need an email address in order to sign up to bookmaker and betting exchange sites. We recommend setting up an email address specifically for matched betting so that everything is easy to find — and to keep your personal inbox clutter-free. There are loads of free email services out there, such as Yahoo!, Gmail, Hotmail and Mail.com. Get a separate account and sync it up to your smartphone so you never miss an offer.
3. An online bank account or wallet: Lots of people use their main bank account in order to transfer money into and out of their betting accounts. However, it can be useful to have a separate bank account or e-wallet for matched betting.
4. Starting funds: As our matched betting example showed, you will usually need to stake some of your own money before you can start making a profit. Read on to find out how much money you need to start matched betting.
You will then be able to find and take advantage of your first matched betting offer.
You do not need a separate bank account for matched betting, but it can be helpful.
The main argument for having a bank account especially for matched betting is so everyday spending doesn’t get in the way. It’s as simple as that. With a separate bank account, you can keep track of your incomings and outgoings more easily. Without having to trawl through all those Just Eat orders and bills…
Joking aside though, most of us have direct debits set up for things, so we need money in the bank on a certain date. Withdrawal times differ between bookmakers and sometimes there’ll be extra delays that are out of your control. It can be a bit of a waiting game. And this all means that you won’t always be able to guarantee when you have the amount of money you were expecting.
A separate bank account can also be useful when applying for a mortgage.
We would recommend a minimum of £50, but the amount of money you need to start matched betting (known as your “float” or “bankroll”) depends on the current offers available. As a minimum, you will usually need the following available for your first matched bet:
1. The stake for your qualifying bet
2. The liability for your first lay bet
3. The liability for your second lay bet
You can then use the resulting profit towards your next matched bet, and so on. It won’t be long until you have enough matched betting profits to form your float, meaning that you don’t have to stake any of your regular income.
To minimise the amount of money you need to start matched betting, you can take advantage of a no-risk matched betting offer that doesn’t require a qualifying stake. You can also place your second matched bet at lower odds to reduce your liability (although this also reduces profits).
The more money you have available for matched betting, the more money you can make. A larger bankroll means you can do more offers at once without having to wait for your money to transfer between bank, bookmaker and betting exchange accounts. However, you should make a decision based on your own financial circumstances, as you should not place bets that you can’t afford.
When you first start matched betting, you should take advantage of bookies’ welcome offers, provided you haven’t already got accounts on these sites. These are usually very generous because they want to encourage you to become a customer. You can follow the usual process for placing a matched bet.
If you’d like some help placing your first matched bet, sign up to OddsMonkey as a free member. We provide full walkthroughs for your first three welcome offers, ensuring you make as much profit as possible and don’t make any mistakes along the way. The money you make from these is yours to keep, and Profit Tracker will help you see how much you’ve earned.
As a premium member, you’ll get access to a full list of sign-up offers and all the tools and resources you need to make the most of them. Once you’ve signed up to all the betting sites and taken advantage of every welcome offer, you can continue to make money with matched betting for existing customers.
You can continue matched betting for as long as you like because it is totally sustainable: once you have claimed all of the welcome offers, you can take advantage of the daily deals for existing customers. It is even possible to do matched betting without free bets.
It is common for users to do matched betting for the long-term — many of our customers have used it to supplement their income for years and have no reason to stop anytime soon! Some have even turned matched betting into a full-time job.
Because we’re located in the UK, most of the offers we find and post on OddsMonkey are UK-based. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that if you live outside the UK you can’t matched bet, it just means that you’ll need to check the terms and conditions of individual bookmakers and offers to see if you’re still eligible.
The availability of offers depends on the bookie. Some of the larger bookmakers operate in countries across the world and may have similar offers available in your country. It’s a slightly more manual process, finding these offers. But there’s still money to be made.
You should also check bookmakers’ terms if you’re a UK resident on holiday, as betting restrictions may still apply while you’re temporarily abroad.
OddsMonkey is the home of the world’s first matched betting tool, the OddsMatcher. This tool was created to help you find the best matched betting odds and opportunities.
We’ve also got guides to help you with every aspect of matched betting, from showing how to make money from bookmaker sign-up offers to using more advanced techniques and tools.
On top of all that, our team of matched betting experts and fantastic Community are all on hand to support you as you unlock real money from free bets.
We’re British, so it’s not really in our nature to blow our own horn, but we did create the original matched betting software. And it feels pretty good to know that OddsMatcher has been used throughout the matched betting community since 2011, helping tens of thousands of people earn real money.
Since then, we’ve put together a strong team of matched betting experts and top developers. All of this means we’ve been able to add new tools, training, videos, tutorials and customer support to the OddsMonkey site.
While we did build the first odds matching tool, we didn’t create matched betting itself. People used to have to search for odds and betting opportunities manually, which was tricky, time-consuming and pretty tedious. What OddsMonkey did was turn the process largely automatic, making it quicker and easier for anyone and everyone to use matched betting to make money online and add to their monthly income.
If you still have questions about what matched betting is or how it works, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You might also want to take a look at our matched betting glossary.
We also have lots more resources for those of you wondering how to make money online, covering everything from retail arbitrage and online surveys to dropshipping and Instagram.