Updated Updated: 2024

Matched betting

To make money sports betting, you need a betting strategy, research, and some luck. You might win big from a low wager but you might also lose big when using bigger stakes and on a losing streak.

Betting comes with a level of risk. Profits cannot be guaranteed. But you can make a profit long-term. Some successful players make enough income from betting that they make it their full-time job. It does take time, discipline and luck, but it can be done.

What if there was a shortcut to make a profit from betting? And not just profit, but profit that is guaranteed and risk-free.

You might be sceptical and rightfully so, like most things that sound too good to be true, often are. You might have doubts as to if this could actually be done, everyone would be doing it.

Such a shortcut does exist though and comes in the shape and form of matched betting.

What Is Matched Betting?

Matched betting is a method to make guaranteed, risk-free profits from the free bets and bonuses available at different online bookmakers. It is completely legal and can earn you around £1000 per month. That is tax-free money if you are living in the UK.

Another benefit of matched betting, if guaranteed profit isn’t enough, is that you do not need to know anything about betting other than how to place bets online. No need to spend time and effort to research team statistics, head to head results, team news, player injuries and other criteria to determine your selection.

How To Start Matched Betting

You need three things to get started with matched betting:

  1. Betting exchange account – a betting exchange is a peer-to-peer betting platform. The exchange site makes a profit by charging a commission on the players’ winnings. Because a betting exchange makes its money regardless of the outcome, their odds tend to be higher than at a traditional bookmaker. A traditional bookmaker builds its profit margin inside the odds, so the odds tend to be shorter. 
    There are only 4 betting exchange sites available, with Betfair launching the first such platform back in 2000.

Betting exchange site Commission
Betdaq 2%
Betfair 5%
Matchbook 1.5%
Smarkets 2%

The most popular betting exchange sites are Betfair and Smarkets and it’s best to open an account with both of them. While Matchbook jumps out as having the lowest commission rate, it is also the only site that charges a commission on players’ net winnings and losses.

  • New account at a bookmaker with a free bet promotion – find a bookmaker that offers a free bet signup promotion and that you don’t already have an account with. Open an account with them. Thanks to the fierce competition among online betting sites for new players, it shouldn’t be too hard to find such offers. You should do a quick search for “free bets sign up offers” to get the latest offers. Some current signup offers that reward free bets:
Bookmaker Free bet
Ladbrokes Bet £5 get £20 in free bets
888sport Bet £10 get £30 in free bets
Betfred Bet £10 get £30 in free bets
WilliamHIll Bet £10 get £30 in free bets
Coral Bet £5 get £20 in free bets
  • Money – you will need some personal funds to get things started, around £60 is a good starting point. You will need to deposit some funds in the betting exchange site as well as in the newly created bookmaker account to access the free bets.

Matched Betting Guide

No-risk matched betting in the UK extracts the risk from the bet by covering both outcomes of an event. An outcome can either happen as you predict or not. It is a two-step process:

●       You BACK a bet at a bookmaker. That means you want that outcome to happen. For example, Manchester United to win.

●       You LAY the same outcome at a betting exchange. When you lay a bet, you bet against an outcome. So in this example, you are betting Manchester United will not win. This covers a draw or a loss. 

The two bets above cancel each other out, so you break even. You don’t lose money but you don’t make money either. It may seem pointless at first, until you realise you’ve unlocked the free bets.

Have you ever had a gift card with a certain amount of money on it and wished it was cash? In a way, that’s what matched betting does. It turns the tables on the bookmakers and lets you cash out their free bets offers.

Turning Free Bets Into Profit

There are two types of free bets that bookmakers offer:

●       Qualify for a free bet – this is the standard and most common type of free bets. You need to deposit and place a qualifying bet with your own money before receiving the free bet.

●       Meet a rollover requirement – this is where you receive the free bets before placing any bets. You have to deposit your own money up to a specified amount. For example, for a signup promotion that says 100% deposit match up to £25, you receive £25 in bet credits as soon as you deposit £25 of your own money.

The goal with free bets is to minimise losses on qualifying bets or bets placed to meet the rollover requirement. Finally, you want to make some profit from the free money offered by the bookmaker.

Using Betfred’s, “Bet £10 get £30 in free bets” offer, let’s take a look at how we can minimise our losses to unlock the free bets:

●       You bet £10 on Chelsea to win at odds 2.00 using Betfred.

●       You lay £10 on Chelsea at odds 1.95 using Betfair (bet on Chelsea to draw or lose)

If Chelsea wins, you win £20 plus the £30 free bets on Betfred. If Chelsea doesn’t win, you win £19.50 on Betfair while also unlocking the £30 free bets.

Matched Betting Basics

You can use the free bets from the bookmaker to enjoy free matched betting. It is important to keep a few things in mind before you embark on matched betting:

●       Similar value odds – you want to find odds of similar value on the bookmaker and the exchange site. This is extremely important as it is what makes matched betting work. You want the lay odds on the exchange site to be as close to 100% in value to the bookmaker’s price, and definitely above 90%. 
For example, if you back Liverpool at your bookmaker with 2.00 odds and lay them at odds 2.50 at the exchange site, that is a weak match. The bookmaker’s price is just 80% of the lay odds (divide bookmaker price by exchange odds and multiply by 100%).
You would want the betting exchange odds to be 2.20 or below in order to have value. The closer to the bookmaker’s 2.00 odds the better.

●       Any sport – it doesn’t matter the sport you use for matched betting. It is the odds that you are looking to identify.

●       Decimal odds – you will notice that betting exchange sites show their odds in decimal format. As such, make sure you convert your bookmaker’s odds in decimal format as well. It is the easiest and most straightforward way to compare the two sets of odds.

●       Lay stake – when you lay a bet on a betting exchange, you have to take into account the commission in order to have sufficient funds to lay the bet. This may be a bit tricky and time-consuming and since matched betting is supposed to be a shortcut to guaranteed profit, why not use an online calculator? Save The Student matched betting calculator is an excellent resource that’s free to use (www.savethestudent.org)

Matched Betting Step By Step

Let’s take a look at a step by step guide on using matched betting using Betfred’s “Bet £10 get £30 in free credits”. A practical example will help to get a better understanding of how matched betting works.

Let’s take a look at two separate examples of matched betting (qualifying bet and free bets) using the following information:

Betting selection Tottenham
Qualifying Bet
Betfred Back odds 2.00 Betfair Lay odds 1.90
Free Bets
Betfred Back odds 4.10 Betfair Lay odds

Qualifying Bet

Here you have to bet £10 on an outcome in order to unlock the £30 in free bets from Betfred. You want to keep the loss as small as possible which is why it’s important for the odds on the bookmaker to be as close in value to the betting exchange. It’s best to keep the odds low, or as low as required by the T&Cs of the free bets promotion. In this case, you must place the £10 at minimum odds of 2.00

  1. Bet £10 on Tottenham to win using your Betfred funds.
  • On Betfair make sure you have at least £9.73 balance. Lay odds at 1.90 and put £10.81 under “Backer’s Stake”. Confirm bet.
  • You will make an expected and very acceptable loss of £0.27

That’s it. Again, this step revolves towards releasing the free bets, not making a profit. That comes in the next step.

Free Bets

This is similar to the matched betting for the qualifying bet, only you will now be using the £30 in free credits awarded by Betfred. You want to use high odds, greater than 4.00 if possible to maximise your profit. Do note that the higher the odds, the more money you will need to have in Betfair to cover the stake.

  1. On Betfred, bet £30.00 to back the outcome at odds of 4.10
  • On Betfair, you will need to have at least £72.20 in your account. Lay odds at 4.30 and put £21.88 under “Backer’s Stake”. Confirm bet.
  • Regardless of the outcome, you will make a profit of £20.80

There you have it. You earned £20.80 that is yours to keep. The next step is to rinse and repeat with another bookmaker’s free bets promotion. You can keep a matched betting spreadsheet to keep track of the bookmakers you’ve used and the profit earned from each free bets promotion.

Matched Betting Tips

No-risk matched betting in the UK is a guaranteed way to make a profit. You might be hesitant as you think it’s only a matter of time until you run out of bookmakers to register with and get free bets. However, most bookmakers also provide free bets and bonuses to existing customers in the form of reload or risk-free bonuses.

Matched betting is all about the odds. You have to search for the odds across bookmakers and betting exchanges, find available free bets promotions and identify betting opportunities. This is a time-consuming, monotonous and a pretty delicate process.

Use tools to help you automate this process. The matched betting calculator is one example of such a useful tool. You also have OddsMonkey, a British site that completely automates the matched betting process. It makes it quick and easy to start making a profit from matched betting. You do have to pay a subscription fee of £17.99 / month or £150.00 / year to get access to its premium features. But it also has a free trial where you are guaranteed to earn up to £45.00. That’s a great place to start and once you have £45 you can decide whether to invest it in premium subscription or do it all manually.

Before you start matched betting, make sure you have a complete understanding of the process. Read as much as possible, watch videos and tutorials so that you can make the most out of it.


  1. How much money can I make from matched betting?
    It depends on the time you commit and the offers you use. When you start out, it is easier to profit from all bookmaker’s welcome offers and making around £1,000.00 profit is not unusual in the first month. Once you get done with the signup offers, you can take advantage of their reload offers and with 30 minutes a day you can bring in a monthly profit of £500.00
  • Do I need betting experience and sports knowledge to get involved?
    You do not need either as matched betting is just simple maths where the outcome doesn’t really matter. It’s actually better if you have no betting experience as you will be eligible for more new customer offers.
  • How much money do I need to invest to get started?
    With as little as £50-60 you can get started on matched betting by focusing on the smaller signup offers, working your way up. The more money you start with, the quicker it is to build your bankroll and move the cash around bookmakers. £500 would be an ideal starting amount.