Saturday, May 25, 2024

Matched Betting Explained – Risk-Free Strategy to Beat the Bookies

Staff Writer in Soccer Betting Strategies 16 Aug 2023


The very notion of a truly “risk-free” bet sounds like a punter’s fantasy. After all, gambling is inherently risky, and it’s safe to say that there’s no real way to beat the bookies. The house always wins, right?

But what if we told you that matched betting is exactly that – a statistically proven way to secure guaranteed wins with online bookmakers. It’s not hoodoo, and once you read about it you’ll understand that it makes sense. In fact, this sports betting strategy has been around for decades. It just got a new coat of paint with the rise of online bookmakers.

As one of the latest trends in online sports betting circles, there’s certainly plenty of interest in how matched betting works. We’ll explain it in detail below, along with some tips and tricks for getting started.

What Is Matched Betting?

Matched betting is a sports betting strategy that guarantees profits by relying on free bets offered by online bookmakers and a bit of betting arbitrage. 

It’s important to note that the term matched betting does not mean the same as arbitrage betting. Technically, it does involve arbitrage, however. It will help immensely if you’re familiar with what betting arbitrage is and how it works. It will make our guide a tad easier to understand.

Anyway, how does matched betting work?

The basic idea is to use free bet promotions that are offered by most top online sportsbooks. Using techniques such as arbitrage, we can negate all of the risks involved with betting and free bets by relying on sports betting exchanges. 

If that sounds confusing, don’t worry. We’ll walk you through the full process step by step, which makes things a lot easier even to complete beginners. However, we’ll need to clarify a few terms before we dive in.

  • Betting exchanges are sites that allow users to wager against each other. They use a system of “backing” and “laying” bets. This means that you can bet against other players that a certain result will happen, which is called backing. Laying, on the other hand, means that you’re betting a certain outcome won’t happen and predicting a backed bet will lose. If you need more info on exchanges and lay betting, check out this article.
  • Free bets are fairly self-explanatory. They are promotions that you use to place bets online without risking real money. Although you can win real money using free bets, their use is often limited by deposit requirements, playthrough requirements, and other limitations. Matched betting is all about getting around those limitations and walking away with a profit.

How to Make Matched Bets in 5 Simple Steps

If the information above seems daunting, we’ll now take you through a step-by-step guide to matched betting. It will cover everything you need to know and offer links and details for additional info. Let’s dive right in!

Step 1: Find and Collect a Free Bet Offer

The first thing you’ll need is a traditional fixed odds bookmaker. In other words, a regular betting site. Most offer some sort of welcome deal these days, many of which offer free bets.

If you need help finding online bookmakers to play with, check out our betting site reviews. Also, make sure to check out our collection of free bet offers if you want to try out matched betting right now.

Picking a good bookie is important, but we’ll leave that part to you. The important thing for our goals is to collect a promotion or bonus. Look for something like “Bet £10, get £10 Free Bet”.

For example, let’s go with William Hill. It’s offering a prize of £30 in free bets after you wager your first £10. It’s a great offer and you can collect it right now.

Step 2: Place a Qualifying Bet to Unlock Your Free Bets

Most top bookies place some sort of requirement on their free bets. In our example, we have to bet £10 in a single bet before we can collect the promotion. We’ll need to do so for that to work.

If you’re rolling your eyes thinking we said there was no risk – don’t worry. We’ll get this money back for sure in the following step.

The important part of this step is to find a good bet for matched betting. Some rely on third-party sites like Oddsmatcher, while others do it manually. Essentially, you want a good bet for arbitrage to minimize risks. If you’re not sure what that means, proceed to the next step where we’ll explain everything.

Also, make sure you’re qualifying bet fits the site’s criteria. For instance, the William Hill offer requires a qualifying bet with odds of 2.0 of greater.

Step 3: Lay an Opposing Bet via a Betting Exchange

Now we want to make sure we’re playing both sides, which guarantees a win. You’ll need a betting exchange for that. The most popular option is Betfair, which you can register for here.

Find the same betting market that you used for your qualifying bet and “lay” it. This means that you win here if your original qualifying bet loses. In other words, you’ll win no matter what happens. 

The stake for this lay bet depends on your qualifying bet. You want to a wager that will cover the initial £10 stake if it wins. For instance, if your qualifying bet has odds of 2.0, you’ll want to lay a bet as close to 2.0 as possible.

However, covering both outcomes of a wager results in a net loss because bookies use margins and exchanges have fees. That’s why we’re looking at two sites, and it’s why we’re using an exchange to wager against other punters instead of a bookmaker.

The trick with this is to find a single market whose odds are high for both your qualifying bet and the wager you lay on an exchange. The higher these two are, the better your profits. If you find a good pick, you’ll be able to do this with negligible losses or no losses at all. If you’re forced to take lose a few pennies to make it work, that’s fine. You’ll make more than enough to cover them.

Step 4: Use Your Free Bet

If you’ve done the above steps correctly, your free bets will now be available to you. You’re already ahead – in our example, we secured £30 in free bets without ever risking any of our money. Neat, huh?

Typically, your free bet tokens become available as soon as the original wager is settled. If not, you may wish to contact the betting site’s customer support.

However, you can’t just withdraw your free bets and pocket them. They can only be used for other wagers, which means you’ll have to risk them to collect them. There’s still a chance you straight-up lose all of them if you’re unlucky enough.

Luckily for us, we’ve just described a way of eliminating any risk at all from betting. All we have to do is repeat the process.

And so, you want to find another betting opportunity like in step 2 and use your free bets to place it.

Step 5: Lay Against Yourself and Collect Your Winnings

Repeat the process from step 3 and lay against your new free bet. Again, you’ll want to carefully calculate the stake you’ll have to use here. The gist is to at least win your stake back, or rather the same amount your free bets are worth. The longer the odds on your free bet, the bigger the stake you’ll need to lay to balance things out.

Once both of these steps are done, you can sit back and wait for the results of the match. One of two things will happen:

  1. Your free bet wins and your lay bet loses – If you’ve done things correctly, your winnings should be higher than your losses. At the very least you’ll cover the loss and then just repeat the whole process.
  2. Your lay bet wins and your free bet loses –  In this case, you win for sure. You used your free bets on the losing wager, so you lose nothing while collecting pure profit from the exchange.


There you have it! If you correctly sized up your stakes and picked the right bets you’ve now won without ever exposing yourself to risk. This will work with any sport you can lay and back wagers in. However, we recommend football because of the abundance of offers and coverage.

It’s important to note that the matched betting strategy doesn’t work without the free bets. They eliminate the risk from one of your two opposing bets, which is what makes the whole thing work in the first place.

This means you’ll always need more free bets. Welcome offers, reload bonuses, weekly deals – whatever it takes to get your hands on some. You can start by checking our promotions page for regular, updated offers. 


Staff Writer



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