Free Bet Strategy

Difficulty: Easy Read time: 5 mins

You may have noticed in my matched betting guide that we placed our free bet at high odds. There’s a reason for that and I’ll explain why.

Once we’ve received a free bet, it’s time to extract our profit. The vast majority of free bets are ‘stake not returned’, which means that we only get the winnings back and not the free bet stake itself.

Say, for example, we have a £10.00 free bet that wins at odds of 3.00 (2/1). We would win £20.00 cash and the £10.00 free bet stake would not be returned.

We can maximise our extracted profit by placing our free bets at high odds, which accounts for the fact that the free bet stake is not returned.

Which outcome should I choose?

Following on from my Qualifying Bet Strategy example, I’ll show you how to extract your profit from the Ladbrokes £50.00 free bet.

Before we go ahead and place a free bet, it’s important that we double check the free bet terms.

There may be restrictions on how we can use them, such as having to be placed on specific markets or at certain odds.

I’ve opted to place my free bet on a football match between Juventus and Sporting Lisbon…

Ladbrokes Back Odds
Back odds for Juventus v Sporting Lisbon at Ladbrokes.
Betfair Lay Odds
Lay odds for Juventus v Sporting Lisbon at Betfair.

As you can see, we can place our free bet on a Juventus win, a draw or a Sporting Lisbon win. In order to determine which selection gives us the biggest profit, we need to input the figures into the matched betting calculator.

The results are as follows…

OutcomeBack OddsLay OddsExchange LiabilityProfit Extracted
Sporting Lisbon8.509.40£336.92£38.08

As you can see, placing our free bet on Sporting Lisbon to win (the highest odds), allows us to make the biggest profit of £38.08. If we bet on a draw, we’ll make £34.27 profit and if we bet on Juventus to win, we’ll make a rather small £14.84 profit.

Obviously, we need back and lay odds that are fairly tight, but generally speaking, the higher the odds, the more profit we’ll extract from our free bets.

It’s also important to note the exchange liability figures. Our exchange liability is the amount we stand to lose from our Betfair account in the event that our lay bet loses. As you can see, the higher the odds, the more money we need in our Betfair account to place the lay bet.

There may be occasions where you don’t quite have enough exchange funds to go for the most profitable option. There’s nothing wrong with placing your free bet on an outcome with a smaller exchange liability, you’ll just make a slightly smaller profit.

For more information about lay betting, please see my Betting Exchange Guide.

Placing our free bet

We know we need to place our £50.00 free bet on Sporting Lisbon at Ladbrokes as this is the selection that gives us the biggest profit. All we need to do now is work out our lay stake for the Betfair bet…

Calculator for Sporting Lisbon Lay Bet
Select ‘Free Bet’ and enter the back stake, odds and commission into the calculator to find out how much we need to lay at Betfair.

As you can see, the calculator tells us that our lay stake should be £40.11…

Sporting Lisbon Lay Betslip
Enter the lay stake from the calculator at Betfair.
Sporting Lisbon Lay Bet
Potential profit or loss at Betfair for the possible outcomes.

So, all we need to do is click on the ‘9.4’ lay button and enter our stake of £40.11. It tells us that our liability on this bet is £336.92 and it’s good practice to check this figure against the expected liability on the matched betting calculator. As you can see, they’re both the same, so we know we have entered the correct lay stake.

We’ll need to deposit enough funds into our Betfair account to cover our £336.92 liability as this is the amount we stand to lose from Betfair if Sporting Lisbon win. Don’t worry though, our winnings at Ladbrokes will more than cover it.

Let’s have a look at our resulting profit/loss for the two outcomes…

OutcomeProfit Extracted
Sporting Lisbon win+ £375.00 – £336.92 = £38.08 profit
Sporting Lisbon don't win- £0.00 + £38.10 (£40.11 minus 5% commission) = £38.10 profit

So regardless of whether Sporting Lisbon win, lose or draw, we’ll extract guaranteed cash of £38.08 from our £50.00 free bet.

As mentioned earlier, our bankroll will determine how much cash we are able to extract from our free bets. As a rule of thumb though, we should be looking to extract an average of around 75%. Sometimes we’ll be able to extract more and it’s absolutely fine to extract less.


Always place your free bets at high odds. You’ll need more money in your exchange account but it’ll help you maximise your profits!


  1. Jamie Corrington

    Guest user

    A lot of the free bet offers say that the bonus ‘must be rolled over X times before withdrawal’. How does this affect the bets that we place?

    1. Matt


      We have two options with bonuses Jamie…

      The first option is place and lay our bonus at high odds with the aim of losing our bonus straight into our exchange account.

      The second option is to keep placing and laying bets at low odds until we’ve met the rollover requirement.

      Whichever method you choose, you can just use the ‘Free Bet – Stake returned’ setting on the matched betting calculator.

  2. Bob

    Guest user

    I’ve heard that betting on high odds with high amounts, especially for free bets, like you did here is a good way of getting your account gubbed – its something the typical match better would do. Would it not be better making a little less profit and not risk getting gubbed?

    1. Matt


      I think variety is the key Bob as it’s not a good idea to take the best value every time. Sometimes you’ll find odds that allow you to extract higher than 80%, whereas other times, you may struggle to extract 75%. Just mix things up as much as possible and you should be okay.

  3. Simon

    Guest user

    Came across this site recently, and have found it enlightening and enjoyable!

    One bit I’m struggling with at the moment though is extracting the 80% (average) on free bets – generally I seem to be doing well to get to 70%. So far I’ve mainly focused on Football, and had assumed initially the problem was that because of the summer break there weren’t a lot of matches being heavily traded, but it doesn’t seem to have improved much since the season started. Would I be better looking at another sport, or is it purely that I’ve been a bit unlucky on the matches I’ve been running the calculator on?

    As an example, yesterday on my York Ebor free bet with Betway, the best return I managed to find were on the Olympiakos v Burnley match – but that only returned 69.7%.

    Great site, and look forward to your thoughts! Thanks

    1. Matt


      Hi Simon, thanks for the kind words. If you’re struggling to find close matches on football, you can always take a look at horse racing, particularly if the free bet has come from a horse racing offer. It’s best to mix things up as much as possible, so placing a few bets on the horses shouldn’t be a problem.

      The other factor to consider is the exchange you’re using to lay your bets. We can generally extract a higher percentage with Smarkets than we can Betfair, due to the differing commission rates.

  4. Jonathan C

    Guest user

    Hi Matt, I’m wondering if you meant to say ‘underlaying’ instead of ‘overlaying’ for a risk free bet. Surely it makes more sense to place a smaller lay bet at the exchange to guarantee a profit.

    1. Matt


      Hi Jonathan, I think you meant to post this on the Risk-Free Bet Strategy page. It’s a slight overlay compared to a free bet, to account for the fact that we lose our stake with a risk-free bet. It just evens up the profit figures, regardless of the outcome.


Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *