The Matched Betting Guide

Training: Beginner

What is Matched Betting?

matched bettingOk. Let’s start by quickly tearing apart this term ‘matched betting’.

As a non-gambler, when I first came across the strategy 6 years ago, the word ‘betting’ screamed RISK RISK, STAY AWAY STAY AWAY!!!

The ‘matched’ bit sustained my curiosity though. And I soon realised this is actually the complete opposite of gambling.

Matching a bet cancels out the risk, the point being to expose juicy offers from bookmakers and guaranteeing a profit every time.

Anyone over 18 can take advantage, matched betting is all done online. You don’t need to be good with numbers, and prior betting experience is not required (in fact, the less the better).

Still sounding a teensy bit dodgy? Halt those alarms! You’ve stumbled across a legal loophole that even the bookmakers don’t have a problem with.

"There’s no illegal element. It’s a free bet and you can do what you like with it."
– Graham Sharpe (Media Director, William Hill)

The Guardian on matched betting

The Guardian reporting on matched betting

The casual matched bettor can expect to bring home £600 a month, in return for about 5 hours a week (£30 an hour). The more hardcore contingent have been known to rake in over £2,000 a month. It all depends on how much time you can dedicate to it.

Ready to get a piece of the action?

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This guide has been written for total beginners. After a quick overview, we’ll go over the basic terminology before explaining the full strategy of matched betting with examples. You’ll need to set aside about 30 minutes.

If at any point you have a question, head to the forum or drop us an email.

How matched betting works

Matched betting takes advantage of bookmakers giving out free bets to entice customers to place bets with them.

You’ve probably seen the ads, like “Bet £10 with us and we’ll give you a £20 free bet!”

Free bet offers

‘Matched betting’ literally is matching your bets to cancel out the risk, you bet for and against the same outcome. Whatever happens, one of our bets will win, and the other will lose.

This simple strategy exposes the sizable free bets given where – because you’re not using your own money – you are able to guarantee a profit every time.

Bookmakers offer free bets not only for new customers (when you sign up), but frequently for existing customers to encourage loyalty.

Multiply this by dozens of online bookmakers and you soon realize how some people quit their 9-5 and do this for a living.

Tackling the terms

betting terms

There’s a good chance you’ve never placed a bet before, and this guide assumes that. So first let’s cover some of the basic terms you will come across.

Don’t worry if some things whizz over your head! It will all make more sense when we come to the strategy itself.


Companies and websites that accept bets from people on virtually any event, but mostly sports like football and horse racing. There are dozens of ‘bookies’, including Ladbrokes, Coral and Paddy Power, and they're all online.

It’s a fiercely competitive industry, so they all have generous incentive offers to attract and keep customers 😉


Set by bookmakers, they represent the likelihood of something happening, and therefore how much you could win on any bet.

You’ve probably come across “2 to 1” or the traditional format like “2/15”. These are fractional odds and can be overly confusing!

To make our lives easier, we’ll be using decimal odds. For example, instead of 2/7 it’s 1.28. Figuring out that 1.35 is bigger than 1.28 is a bit more manageable than comparing 7/20 and 2/7.

Bookmakers allow you to change the odds to this format, so don’t worry about the conversion (or any of the maths for that matter).

All you need to know now is: the higher the number, the less likely the outcome!


The amount of your bet.

“I stake £10 on Liverpool to beat Chelsea”


How much you’re going to receive from the bookmaker if your bet wins. This includes your Stake.

A stake of £10 on Liverpool to win (at odds of 3.00) will return £30.


The profit from a winning bet. This does not include your initial Stake.

A stake of £10 on Liverpool to win (at odds of 3.00) will return £30, so my profit is £20.

Why matched betting works

matched betting chart

“Backing” and “Laying”

The essence of matched betting is covering all possible outcomes to cancel out risk.

To do this in practice, we must place 2 bets:

  1. Back bet = betting for something to happen (backing). Eg: Liverpool will win a game.
  2. Lay bet = betting for the same thing not to happen (laying). Eg: Liverpool will not win a game.

To unlock the free bet from a bookmaker, you typically need to place a qualifying bet first.

If a bookmaker offers "Bet £5 get £20" the qualifying bet is £5 and the free bet is £20.

So for each offer you will place 2 bets with the bookmaker. The first uses your own money, the second is their money!

You will also place 2 lay bets on a betting exchange website to nuke the risk. After all said and done, you get your initial outlay back and profit is guaranteed.

Betting exchanges

These are the new kids on the block, and the key to matched betting. Unlike traditional bookmakers, exchanges like Betfair allow you to place the vital lay bet (against something happening). You’re essentially playing the role of the bookmaker!

Another big difference is they are actually marketplaces: you are betting against other people, not the exchange itself. The exchange makes money by taking a small commission from winning bets, a bit like eBay.

Here’s a typical example of a market on Betfair, a football match this weekend between Manchester City and Chelsea:

Betfair market

The odds (eg. 2.2) are for that outcome listed on the left to happen (Back) or not happen (Lay).

For example, 2.2 for Man City to Win the match and 2.22 for Man City to not win. Or 3.6 for the match to end in a Draw and 3.65 for the match to not end in a Draw.

When matched betting we’re only interested in the Lay bets (pink areas) on exchanges! Don’t worry about the other numbers for now.

Tip: Refer to our full Glossary if you come across any more terms you’re unsure about.

The strategy

We'll run through the 13 step process now, but please don't worry if some things are still a bit confusing. In the next guide you'll be doing your first matched bet with full guidance and the help of our tools which take care of the maths and the legwork!

Let’s follow Sarah on her path to £12.76 profit from one bookmaker, Coral. She's already signed up to the betting exchange Betfair.

  1. Sarah comes across Coral who have a new customer offer: Bet £5 get £20.
    Free bet

    That’s exactly Sarah’s expression when she found this offer.

    Tip: We list all of the current offers here.
  2. She signs up and deposits what’s required for the qualifying bet (£5).
  3. Places her qualifying back bet with Coral:

    Man City to Win (against Chelsea), at odds of 2.15.

  4. Searches on Betfair (betting exchange) for the same event to place her equivalent lay bet:

    Man City to not Win, at odds of 2.2.

  5. Opens up the Betting Slip by clicking on the 2.2 pink box.
  6. Enters £5 as the Backer’s Stake, the same amount as she bet on Coral.

    This is what Sarah will win at the exchange if Man City don’t win (the ‘backer’ being a person who stakes £5 they will win).

  7. The Betting Slip shows her Liability as £6.

    This is the amount Sarah will lose at the exchange if Man City do win (and what the backer will stand to win).

    She makes sure she has at least £6 in her Betfair account to cover this eventuality, and then places the bet.

    Sarah’s risk is now cancelled out, as she has a bet for and against the same outcome.

  8. She waits patiently for the event to finish and her bets to be settled.Waiting patiently

    Outcome 1: Man City Win

    Sarah has winnings of £5.75 (total return £10.75 including £5 stake) on Coral.

    She lost the £6 liability on Betfair.

    £5.75 – £6.00 = -25p down (due to small difference in back and lay odds).

    Outcome 2: Draw (Man City did not win)

    Sarah lost the £5 bet on Coral.

    She has winnings of £5 (total return £11 including £6 liability) on Befair. Betfair deduct 5% commission from winnings (25p).

    £5.00 – £5.00 – £0.25 = -25p down

    Whatever happens, Sarah has an acceptable loss on the qualifying bet of 25p.

    It’s acceptable because her £20 free bet has been unlocked, and she’ll be cashing in on the next stage!

  9. Places a new back bet using her free £20 bets with Coral:

    Crystal Palace v Manchester Utd to end in a Draw, at odds of 3.5.

  10. Searches on Betfair for the same event to place her equivalent lay bet:

    The match not to end in a Draw, at odds of 3.7.

  11. Enters £13.70 as the Backer’s Stake, calculated for her by the Bank of Bets software.

    (The next tutorial will guide you through your first offer using the tools which give you the numbers).

  12. The Betting Slip shows her Liability as £36.99.

    This is the amount Sarah will lose at the exchange if a draw happens.

    She makes sure she has at least £36.99 in her Betfair account to cover this eventuality, and then places the bet.

  13. She again waits for the bets to be settled, but either way she knows she’s guaranteed to profit £13.01.

    Outcome 1: A Draw

    Sarah has winnings of £50 (doesn’t include the £20 free stake) on Coral.

    She lost the £36.99 liability on Betfair.

    £50.00 – £36.99 = £13.01 profit

    Outcome 2: Manchester Utd Win

    Sarah lost the £20 free bet on Coral, but since it wasn’t her money she actually lost nothing (£0).

    She has winnings of £13.70 (total return £50.69 including £36.99 liability) on Befair. Betfair deduct 5% commission from her winnings (69p).

    £13.70 (Betfair) – £0 (Coral) – £0.69 (Commission) = £13.01 profit

    making money

Whatever the outcome, because of matched betting, Sarah makes £13.01.

But remember she lost 25p on the qualifying stage, so overall her profit is £12.76!

Over the next 3 weeks Sarah works her way through the remaining list of signup offers. She makes a cool £1,350 (tax-free).

The bookmakers start sending her more offers to encourage her to keep betting with them. Sarah match bets these existing customer offers (known as ‘reload offers‘) too, allowing her to make ongoing money every month. You can find the latest reload offers here.

Not from the UK? Click here to find out which bookmaker promotions are available in your country!

Why Bank of Bets?

Matched betting is a proven and reliable way to make up to £1,500 every month. But as you can see there are plenty of moving parts and potential pitfalls.

Bank of Bets was built with total matched betting newbies in mind. Our software is the closest thing you’ll get to a money-printing machine (without being arrested).

money machine

We spend all waking hours feeding your machine: hunting, updating and uploading the latest offers for you every day. We love it, but this would otherwise be a full-time job for you in itself!

The process for every bookmaker offer is automated for you, step-by-step to avoid any mistakes. We tell you exactly what to bet on and where, and crunch all the numbers to ensure you make the most profit possible whilst saving you LOTS of time!


You’ll be introduced to our software in the next guide 🙂

Most importantly, all of your activity is tracked under your personalised account. This is vital. With hundreds of offers available it’s incredibly easy to forget what accounts you’ve opened, where your money is and ultimately how much profit you’re making!

But we’re people too. The backbone of ‘BOB’ is our expert support team and friendly forum community of 10,000 members who provide endless inspiration. All of us started out scratching our head with nervous excitement as I’m sure you are now!


One of many success stories from our forum 🙂

Finally, our training series has been crafted to fast-track you towards picking up the best strategies and tips when matched betting.

Now it’s over to you! Our next guide walks you through your first signup offer and the tools you'll quickly become familiar with...

Next guide »
VIDEO: Your first matched bet

Bank of Bets

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