Free Bets Guide

Level: Next steps
Updated: March 8, 2022

Free bets are essentially free money. That is if you know what to do with them!

Most matched betting offers involve free bets, so it’s important to understand them and know how to maximise your profits.

This guide will explain what free bets are and show you how best to convert them into cash!

What is a free bet?

A free bet is a bet that you don’t have to pay for. The bookmaker pays for the stake, so if your bet loses, you’ve not lost a penny of your own money.

Bookmakers offer free bets to encourage customers to bet with them. For example, a bookmaker might provide you with a free bet if you first place a qualifying bet (bet X, get X). Or, they might offer to refund losing stakes as a free bet if a particular event/trigger occurs (money back offers).

Bookmakers don’t mind taking losses on free bet offers as they know they’ll make far more profit in the long run from non-savvy regular punters.

How do free bets work?

Like qualifying bets, free bets work by placing them on a suitable selection at the bookmaker and then laying against the same selection at a betting exchange. It’s straightforward matched betting, and you can find a walkthrough of the process in my matched betting guide.

If your free bet wins at the bookmaker, you’ll lose your lay bet at the exchange. If your free bet loses at the bookmaker, you’ll win your lay bet at the exchange. Either way, your two bets cancel each other out, and because the bookmaker paid for the free bet stake, it leaves you with a nice profit!

A bookmaker will usually credit your free bet as a ‘token’, which you can select in your bet slip. Most free bets are ‘stake not returned’, which means you only get the winnings back and not the free bet stake itself. You can usually withdraw free bet winnings without any restrictions.

How to get free bets

Free bet offers aren’t in short supply as bookmakers are constantly competing with one another for your custom.

The vast majority of sign up offers will reward you with free bets. You’ll find them all listed on my ‘New Customer Offers‘ page.

And if that’s not enough, you’ll find more free bet offers for existing customers on my ‘Reload Offers‘ calendar page.

See, I told you there are plenty of them!

Finding free bet selections

There are three things to consider when looking to place a free bet.

1. Check the terms

First and foremost, you must check the free bet terms for any specific requirements. You don’t want to spend time looking for a suitable selection, only to find that your bet doesn’t meet the required criteria.

Your free bet may need placing on a specific sport, event or market, or it may require placing at minimum or maximum odds.

You’ll also want to check for an expiry period, which is the amount of time you have to use your free bet before it disappears. If that happens, you can query it with the bookmaker. If you’re lucky, they may reinstate it as a goodwill gesture, though they’re not obliged to do so.

Let’s take a look at the terms for the Coral sign up offer, where they’ll give you £20 in free bets if you first bet £5.

Coral

The key free bet terms are as follows.

  • Credited as 4 x £5 free bets.
  • Valid for 7 days.
  • Stakes not returned.
  • No cashout.

Checking the free bet terms can seem a bit tedious, but you’ll soon get used to picking out the key criteria.

2. High odds

It’s best to place a free bet at high odds due to the free bet stake not being returned, and this will allow you to maximise your profit.

Bear in mind that the higher the odds, the larger your lay bet liability will be. That’s the amount you need to have in your exchange account to cover your lay bet loss if your free bet wins.

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 at lower odds if you need to and taking a smaller profit.

Please see my ‘What is a betting exchange?‘ guide for more information about lay betting.

3. Close back and lay odds

As with all matched bets, the back and lay odds should be as close as possible. The closer the odds, the more cash you’ll be able to make from your free bet.

So, in a nutshell, you should place your free bets at odds that are high and as close as possible.

To illustrate this, I’ll take you through a couple of examples using the odds from the 2020 Community Shield, which featured Arsenal v Liverpool.

Coral
Betfair

Low odds example

Your low odds option is to place your free bet on Liverpool at back odds of 1.67 and lay odds of 1.70.

Coral logo

Place £5.00 free bet on Liverpool @ 1.67 = Potential profit of £3.35

To calculate your Betfair lay stake, you need to select the ‘Free Bet‘ setting on my Matched Betting Calculator and enter your free bet stake and odds.

Select bet type

Back Bet (Bookie)

Advanced
%

Lay Bet (Betting Exchange)

%

Min £
Max £
Lay stake required: £
Bookie
Exchange
Cashback
Total
If back (bookie) bet wins
£
£
£
= £
If lay (exchange) bet wins
£
£
£
= £
Total profit: £

Optimal Underlay

Lay stake required: £
Exchange liability: £

If back (bookie) bet wins: £
If lay (exchange) bet wins: £

Optimal Overlay

Lay stake required: £
Exchange liability: £

If back (bookie) bet wins: £
If lay (exchange) bet wins: £

As you can see, the calculator tells you to lay £2.03 against Liverpool.

Betfair logo

Lay £2.03 against Liverpool @ 1.70 = Potential liability of £1.42

Let’s take a look at your resulting profit/loss for the two possible outcomes.

OutcomeCoralBetfairProfit/Loss
Liverpool win+ £3.35– £1.42£1.93 profit
Liverpool lose or draw– Free Bet+ £1.92£1.92 profit

So, regardless of whether Liverpool win, lose or draw, you’ll make a minimum of £1.92 cash from your £5 free bet.

High odds example

Your high odds option is to place your free bet on Arsenal at back odds of 5.00 and lay odds of 5.20.

Coral logo

Place £5.00 free bet on Arsenal @ 5.00 = Potential profit of £20.00

Using the ‘Free Bet’ setting on the calculator, you enter your free bet stake and odds.

Select bet type

Back Bet (Bookie)

Advanced
%

Lay Bet (Betting Exchange)

%

Min £
Max £
Lay stake required: £
Bookie
Exchange
Cashback
Total
If back (bookie) bet wins
£
£
£
= £
If lay (exchange) bet wins
£
£
£
= £
Total profit: £

Optimal Underlay

Lay stake required: £
Exchange liability: £

If back (bookie) bet wins: £
If lay (exchange) bet wins: £

Optimal Overlay

Lay stake required: £
Exchange liability: £

If back (bookie) bet wins: £
If lay (exchange) bet wins: £

As you can see, the calculator tells you to lay £3.88 against Arsenal.

Betfair logo

Lay £3.88 against Arsenal @ 5.20 = Potential liability of £16.29

Let’s take a look at your resulting profit/loss for the two possible outcomes.

OutcomeCoralBetfairProfit/Loss
Arsenal win+ £20.00– £16.29£3.71 profit
Arsenal lose or draw– Free Bet+ £3.68£3.68 profit

So, regardless of whether Arsenal win, lose or draw, you’ll make a minimum of £3.68 cash from your £5 free bet. That’s almost double the amount of profit available on Liverpool (£1.92).

Summary

Here’s a table that displays the liabilities and profits for each of the three selections.

SelectionBack OddsLay OddsLiabilityProfit/Loss
Arsenal5.005.20£16.29£3.68 profit
Draw4.204.70£12.72£3.26 profit
Liverpool1.671.70£1.42£1.92 profit

As you can see, Arsenal is undoubtedly the best option with a profit of £3.68.

You can divide your profit by your free bet stake to determine the percentage you’re converting into cash.

£3.68 ÷ £5.00 = 0.736 (73.6%)

Anything between 70% and 80% is pretty good but aim for closer to 80% if you can.

Sometimes you might have to accept a little lower; it just depends on the bookmaker’s odds and terms. An example would be having to use your free bet in play. It’s generally trickier to find close matches in-play, so aiming for 70-75% is acceptable.

Final words

The strategy behind converting free bets into cash is pretty straightforward.

Always read the free bet terms and keep your back and lay odds high and close. Higher odds may mean a larger liability at the exchange, but it’s worth it for the bigger profits!

Learn matched betting the free, easy way.

The Matched Betting Academy

  • Logically structured to tackle strategies and offers as you’re ready for them.
  • Bag profits every step of the way. About £650 from welcome offers, and another £500 monthly.
  • Make £15 from your very first offer.
Screenshot of the Matched Betting Academy

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Matt Kirman - Matched Betting Blogger

Matt KirmanMatched Betting Blogger

Since 2014, I’ve blogged over £60,000 worth of profit, and made it my mission to make matched betting accessible to everyone.