Betting Guides

What is Matched Betting?

By Dean Smith

matched betting

Published: 20:13, 30 May 2023 | Updated: 11:42, 18 December 2023

Matched Betting is a technique that allows a bettor to use the sign-up and free bet bonuses on offer from bookmakers to guarantee a profit by laying off on the betting exchanges. If you want to know more about how to start matched Betting, strategies for success, and avoiding pitfalls, read on for our free matched betting guide.

Understanding the Different Types of Bets that Work with Matched Betting

A matched bet has two parts – a back bet and a lay bet. The back bet is placed with a traditional bookmaker, and the lay is with a betting exchange like Betfair and Spreadex. A back bet means that you are betting on something to win – the lay is the opposite – you’re betting on that same thing to lose. By covering both outcomes in a qualifying and a free bet (we’ll cover these below), the punter is guaranteed to make a profit. 

Lay bet with betfair

Steps to Follow to Start Matched Betting

You don’t need a huge bankroll to start matched Betting, but the more you have, the quicker you’ll bank a profit. A separate bank account is often a good idea as well. Some of the best matched betting sites require a monetary sign-up for their help, but you can find a lay betting calculator for free. Keep a spreadsheet of all you’ve done – it’s easier to track sign-up offers and profit.

Take your time at first – if you try to rush things to make money, then you are more inclined to make a mistake. Things will happen slowly at first but ensure you fully understand what you are doing to eliminate costly errors. Check your workings and calculations to avoid the typical pitfalls that newcomers fall into.

How Matched Betting Works 

Fundamentally matched Betting is about covering all outcomes in a betting event. Using the free bets from bookmakers’ sign-up offers is a low-risk way of making a profit from gambling. So, how do you start?

Sign Up & Deposit

The first thing is to sign up for an exchange. You will need a bigger bank on this side because you will act as the bookmaker and lay a bet. Sign-up for one bookmaker at a time to keep things simple.

Find Your First Bet

Some sites will allow you to find the best matched betting offers. You are looking for as close a match as possible, as your first bet will give you a slight qualifying loss. Your profit comes from the free bet afterwards. 

Make a Qualifying Bet

You have signed up to Bookmaker A, offering a £20 free bet for those who sign up and deposit £10. Your qualifying bet is your initial deposit. Look for a selection where the price offered by a bookie is as close to the one on the exchange.

You have found Horse B at 2/1 or 3.0 if you prefer decimal, and the exchange is 3.05. So you place your £10 bet to win £30 (including your £10 stake returned) and lay £10 on the exchange, which will give you a liability of £20.50. So if the horse wins, you have made a 50p loss (£20 win with bookie, £20.50 loss at the exchange) – if they lose, it’s a push.  

Use Your Free Bet

You now have the free £20 bet to play with. Repeat the process; no matter what happens, a profit has been made. 

Rinse & Repeat

Once you have finished with one bookmaker, roll on to the next to take advantage of their sign-up offer. Again, there are a lot of offers to work through, so take your time. 

Matched Betting Strategies

Once free bets have been taken advantage of, most matched bettors must look for other strategies. One of the most popular is arbing. This is when you are backing at a higher price with a bookmaker than the one you are laying with an exchange. Of course, you need to be quick to arb as many look to do this, but it is also a way to shut your bookmaker accounts down quicker. You can also take advantage of prices in a physical bookies shop before laying off, known as sharbing. 

Casino offers are more popular for those with more experience who have played their way through other offers. However, they are more complex and run at a much higher risk than simple sign-up offers. 

Choosing the right strategy depends on how much money you have to put in and how much time you can dedicate to matched betting.  

Benefits of Matched Betting

Profit when matched betting only adds up slowly but continually goes in the right direction. That is a big plus over traditional Betting when a losing run can hurt. It’s an easy concept that is simple to learn, even for someone who knows nothing about gambling. That is what makes it so popular. It’s low-risk and easy to get into, so it’s perfect for a side hustle.

Risks & Potential Drawbacks

Matched Betting is a low-risk betting strategy, though not wholly no risk, as some providers will claim. Generally, the problems will come with user error. For example, a slightly mistyped price in a betting calculator can put the entire process out of joint.

Prices change quickly, so matched punters need to work quickly. However, that does open a punter up to make mistakes. So keep distractions at a minimum and concentrate on what you need to do, as any change in the odds means that the betting calculator needs to be updated to ensure the lay odds and stakes are correct.  

It is generally advisable to place the back bet first, and then the lay bet afterwards. Ensure that all your bets are on a spreadsheet, making it easier to track your all-important bankroll. 

Matched Betting & Football

Football and horse racing are the two most popular sports regarding matched betting sites. Every week, there are special offers on football, from price boosts on a single selection to an enhanced price on a set acca. These are perfect for a matched bettor as there is plenty of juice to backing at boosted odds, say 11/4, and laying at the ordinary odds, for example, 2/1. 

One of the favourite markets for matched bettors is ‘2 up’. These are offered by several bookmakers who pay out when a team leads by two goals. The popularity comes when teams behind come back to draw or win, which gives a payout on both sides of the bet.

A popular way is to try and take the draw out of the equation. Some matched bettors don’t like football as it is not as simple to win or not to win as it is in horse racing. For example, finding the correct matches with a shorter-priced favourite, such as Arsenal at home to Everton, can be an easy way to take advantage of a 2 up. 

One of the most important factors is that football has such excellent liquidity on the exchanges. That makes getting a lay done at the right price much more straightforward than if a bettor is matched betting on a lesser sport. 

How Bookmakers Respond to Matched Betting

It should be no surprise that a type of Betting that takes advantage of free bets offered by bookmakers is not always looked upon fondly. While a bookmaker offers free bets to lure customers in, someone solely taking advantage of them will not be popular.

For many matched bettors, however, the aim is to lose with the bookie and win on the exchange, which will keep accounts open longer. Those who try to match bets outside of special offers will fare better. 

Accounts are regularly restricted so that a bettor won’t be given any special offers or closed completely if the bettor is suspected of matched Betting. This is known as gubbing. Gubbing is especially common if arbing.

Matched Betting Frequently Asked Questions

Is matched betting legal?

Absolutely! Matched Betting is perfectly legal and used by many to supplement their income.

Can I lose money with matched betting?

With any betting, it is possible to lose money and while matched Betting is almost foolproof, it is still possible that something can go wrong from time to time.

Is matched betting the same as gambling?

No, with gambling, only one side of a bet is covered. So backing and laying the same selection with matched betting is slightly different. 

Is it possible to lose money in matched betting?

This can happen and is generally either if a price changes quickly or a mistake is put into a bet calculator, so always check your numbers before placing a matched bet.

Can I make a full-time income with matched betting?

While that would be a dream for many, realistically, the answer is no. It can boost your income as a side hustle, though.