What is Matched Betting & How Does It Work?

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In the world of sports betting, there exists a technique that has been making waves for its consistent ability to generate profits. This technique is known as matched betting, and it’s not your typical gambling approach.

Unlike traditional betting that involves risk, matched betting allows you to lock in profits regardless of the outcome of a sporting event. If you’re curious about how this ingenious strategy works, its legality and ethical implications, as well as the nuts and bolts of matched betting, then keep reading!

What is Matched Betting

What is Matched Betting?

Matched betting is a strategic method that capitalises on the promotional offers and bonuses provided by bookmakers. It involves placing two opposing bets to ensure a profit, no matter the result of the event. By utilising the free bets and bonuses offered by bookmakers, matched bettors can cover all possible outcomes of a bet, effectively cancelling out the risk.

How Does Matched Betting Work?

The core principle of matched betting revolves around placing two contrasting bets: a back bet (placing a bet for a specific outcome to occur) with a bookmaker and a lay bet (betting against that outcome) with a betting exchange.

This process covers all possible outcomes and guarantees a profit, thanks to the bonus funds and free bets.

Understanding Lay Bets and Back Bets

Lay Bets: Imagine you’re watching a football match, and you’re convinced that Team A won’t win. In a lay bet, you’re essentially stepping into the shoes of the bookmaker. You’re offering odds to other bettors who think Team A will win. If Team A loses or draws, your lay bet wins.

Example: Let’s say you lay £20 against Manchester United at odds of 3.00. If Man. United loses, you win £20 (minus the betting exchange’s commission). But if the Red Devils win, you’ll pay out £40 (your stake times the odds) plus the commission.

Back Bets: On the other hand, let’s say you believe that Team B will emerge victorious. In a back bet, you’re placing a traditional bet with the bookmaker, backing your prediction that Team B will win the match. If Team B wins, your back bet wins.

Example: You place a £10 back bet on Arsenal at odds of 2.50. If Arsenal wins, you’ll receive £25 (your stake times the odds).

Is Matched Betting Legal?

Yes, it is! Matched betting is a legitimate technique that involves no manipulation or cheating. While it may sound too good to be true, it’s a loophole that bookmakers are aware of and allow.

On the ethical side, some individuals may question its morality due to the method of profiting from free bets. However, matched betting is simply utilising offers that bookmakers willingly provide to attract customers.

Understanding Betting Odds

Before delving deeper into matched betting, it’s crucial to grasp the concept of betting odds. These odds represent the probability of a particular outcome occurring and determine the potential payout of a bet. Betting odds come in different formats, including fractional, decimal, and moneyline odds.

  • Fractional odds (e.g. 3/1) represent the potential profit in relation to the stake. For every £1 wagered, a winning bet would yield £3 in profit.
  • Decimal odds (e.g. 4.00) show the total amount that would be returned, including the initial stake, for every £1 wagered.
  • Moneyline odds (e.g. +300) indicate the potential profit on a £100 bet for positive odds and the amount needed to wager for a £100 profit on negative odds.

Converting Odds for Effective Comparison

Comparing odds from different bookmakers is essential to find the best value. Converting odds into a percentage-based probability helps in assessing the likelihood of an outcome and identifying the most profitable bets.

How to Place a Matched Bet?

Placing a matched bet might sound complex at first, but with a clear understanding of the process, you’ll be executing bets with confidence in no time. Whether you’re new to matched betting or looking to refine your technique, this step-by-step guide will walk you through the process to ensure a successful outcome.

  1. Begin by opening an account with a reputable bookmaker, such as Betway or Betfred.
  2. Simultaneously, create an account on a trusted betting exchange like Betfair.
  3. Use comprehensive tools such as the Odds Matcher tool and calculator to identify a suitable sporting event for your bets.
  4. Place a back bet: Initiate your matched betting journey by making both a back bet and a lay bet. While you’ll be using your funds at this stage, remember that the objective is to qualify for the bookmaker’s enticing free bet offer. Your profits will stem from the next step.
  5. Place a lay bet: Once you’ve successfully accessed the bookmaker’s free bet offer, it’s time to replicate the previous step. However, this time around, leverage the power of the free bet instead of your personal funds. This shift is where your matched betting profits will materialize.

Placing matched bets may seem intricate initially, but with practice, it becomes second nature. By following this guide, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the art of matched betting and consistently extracting profits from bookmakers’ offers.

Matched Betting vs Arbitrage Betting – What’s the Difference?

Is Matched Betting the Same as Arbitrage? Not quite. While these strategies share certain similarities, they diverge in their core approaches.

Matched betting capitalises on bookmakers’ free bet offers by meticulously placing opposing bets, ensuring guaranteed profits or minimal losses.

On the other hand, arbitrage betting involves calculating profits from differences in regular odds across various platforms. It’s important to note that matched betting is often restricted by bookmakers, whereas arbitrage betting is approached case by case, albeit with caution.

Additionally, identifying arbitrage betting is more intricate, as it involves scrutiny of both bettor conduct and player behaviour related to bonus offers. These distinctions underscore the nuanced differences between the two strategies, catering to distinct preferences and risk considerations among bettors.


Liability is the potential amount of money you could lose on a lay bet. It's calculated by multiplying the lay stake by the lay odds minus 1. While your liability can be higher than your stake, it represents the worst-case scenario if your lay bet loses.

The time it takes to complete a matched betting offer can vary. Simple sign-up offers can take as little as 15-30 minutes, while more complex offers or those with higher free bet values might require a couple of hours. As you gain experience, your speed and efficiency will improve.

Matched betting is designed to ensure profits or minimal losses by covering all possible outcomes. However, there's a small chance of incurring a qualifying loss when unlocking free bets. If you follow the matched betting process correctly and double-check your calculations, the risk of significant losses is extremely low.

No prior betting experience is necessary to start matched betting. Detailed guides and tools are available to assist beginners in understanding the process and executing bets accurately.

The amount you can make from matched betting depends on various factors, including the number of offers you complete, the time you're willing and able to invest, the amount of money you're comfortable staking, the lay odds provided by betting exchanges, and your proficiency and expertise in matched betting.

Initially, capitalising on sign-up/welcome offers can typically yield around £1,000 in matched betting. However, matched betting offers sustained and long-term profitability.

After setting up your bookie accounts, you can potentially generate £500–£700 per month through ongoing customer offers, requiring approximately 40 minutes per day, which equates to an hourly rate of approximately £25–£35.

Importantly, all earnings from matched betting are entirely tax-free, and you are not obligated to declare your earnings to HMRC.

While having a larger bankroll can provide more flexibility and allow you to complete multiple offers simultaneously, you can start with a relatively small bankroll and gradually build it up as you make profits from offers.

Yes, many matched bettors continue to profit from offers in the long term, especially through reload offers and ongoing promotions from bookmakers.

Matched betting can be suitable for individuals who are willing to invest time in learning the process and who are comfortable with managing their bets and bankroll responsibly. It's essential to understand the principles and commit to responsible gambling practices.

About the author:

Adam Holland

Adam Holland


With my journalism and editing background, I am able to research and provide readers with accurate and up-to-date information about online sports betting in the UK.