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What is Matched Betting?



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Matched Betting is a technique used to take advantage of free bet promotions offered by online bookmakers to essentially make cash risk-free.

It involves putting down money on both sides of a two-outcome bet: ‘placing’ the free bet at the bookmaker and ‘laying’ a second counter-balancing bet with a betting exchange, in order to turn the free bet offer into profit.

The Matched Betting method works because both of the bets placed cancel each other out (ie. one wins and the other loses), leaving you with the sum of money equivalent to the free bet offered by the bookmaker.

What is the Difference Between a Bookmaker and a Betting Exchange?

To understand Matched Betting it is vital to distinguish the difference between ‘placing’ a bet with a traditional bookmaker and ‘laying’ a bet with a betting exchange.

When placing a bet with a UK betting site you are betting for an outcome (ie. Team A to win) and get paid out if it happens.

In contrast, when ‘laying’ a bet with a betting exchange you act as the bookie, offering the bet (ie. Team A to win) to others and essentially betting against the outcome of the bet (ie. Team A to draw or lose).

As a result you get paid with the money ‘laid’ by the person betting if the outcome in question does not happen.


The example above is from the Matched Betting blog.

These are the ‘Winner’ market for the 2015 Copa America final between Chile and Argentina. The only two columns in question are the green column for ‘backing a bet’ and the blue column for ‘laying a bet’.  If we want to back Chile to beat Argentina, we could do so at odds of 3.90. If we wanted to bet against Chile beating Argentina, we could do so at odds of 3.95.

Bet365 and William Hill are examples of online bookmakers while Betfair is an example of an online betting exchange.

How Matched Betting Works

Let’s say you see an advertisement online for a £20 free bet for signing up to an online bookmaker and want to make your matched bet on how many goals (let’s say in this example, over 2.5 goals) will be scored in a Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester United.

If you were to ‘place’ this £20 free bet with the bookmaker at odds of 3.00 (2/1 in English format) and there were over 2.5 goals in the game, you would win the bet and receive £60 profit (your original £20 free bet and £40 made in profit in winning the bet).

If there were under 2.5 goals you you would lose the bet, yet lose no money because the £20 bet placed was a free bet.

This in itself is risk-free bet because you cannot lose any money, but the chance is also there that you may not win anything and this is where ‘laying’ a counter-balancing bet with a betting exchange turns things in your favour.

Indeed, if you were to ‘place’ the above bet and also ‘lay’ a counter-balancing bet as a bookmaker at a betting exchange (offer someone a £20 bet for the same outcome, at the same odds), then regardless of the outcome, you will make a £20 profit due to the free bet offered by the online bookmaker.

On one hand, if you win the bet with the online bookmaker and lose the bet with the betting exchange. you will win £60 (as explained above), and lose £40 (the money you have to pay to the person who wins your counter-balanced bet) respectively, leaving you with a profit of £20 from a free bet.

It is important to remember that you don’t have to pay them the £20 free bet that they used to make their bet; that is their money and not yours.

On the other hand, if you lose the bet with the online bookmaker and win the bet with the betting exchange you will lose £0 (as explained above) and win £20 (the money that the person who loses your counter-balanced bet) respectively, leaving you with the same profit of £20.

Technicalities in Matched Betting

The conceptual example shown above indicates that it is possible to make a profit identical to the free bet listed by an online bookmaker.

However, things are not always so straightforward and there are some technicalities that lessen this profit that you should be aware of:

  • Betting exchanges generally charge a 5% commission on winnings made
  • There is often a small difference between the odds given to ‘lay’ bets and the odds given by an online bookie
  • Many free bet offers have terms and conditions that need to be investigated and understood before a matched bet is made

Taking these technicalities into account it is still possible to take advantage of the huge number of free bets offered by online bookies, make the appropriate two-sided bets and come away with a decent short-term profit.

Finding Matched Betting Opportunities

A bookmakers’ biggest weapon to attract new customers is their free bet offers for new sign-ups.  These are a gold mine for Matched Betting.

There are numerous online bookmakers out there to sign up to and take advantage of the introductory offer.  After that, find the next matched bet opportunities becomes a little more difficult.  However, from time to time bookmakers offer free bets to their regular customers.  Here are a few:

Match Bonus

A match bonus works in the same way as introductory offers to new customers, with almost identical preset conditions. The difference is only that a match bonus is not tied to an initial deposit.

Ahmed Bilal created Sportslens in 2006. He is a business consultant and entrepreneur who helps businesses identify and overcome their biggest challenges. He’s also the founder of Football Media, an online advertising agency that specialises in sports and male audience targeting, with a monthly reach of 100m+ sports fans in the UK and US. He’s also the previous owner of Soccerlens.com – a sports news site that reaches 3m+ readers / month.