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Free Bets Guide

Level: Next steps
Updated: January 21, 2021

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 that you understand them and know how to maximise your profits.

In this guide, I’ll explain what free bets are and show you how best to convert them into cash!

What is a free bet?

Free bets are simply bets that you don’t have to pay for. You can place them safe in the knowledge that if they lose, you’ve not lost a penny of your own money.

Bookmakers offer free bets to encourage customers to place bets with them. The offers vary in value and type. They range from ‘Bet & Get’ sign up offers to trigger bet offers, where your stake is returned as a free bet if a particular event happens.

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?

Just 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.

You’ll either win at the bookie and lose at the exchange or lose your free bet at the bookie and win at the exchange. In other words, your two bets cancel each other out, leaving you with a nice profit no matter what happens!

Free bets are usually credited as a ‘token’ which can then be selected in your betslip. Most free bets are ‘stake not returned’, which means that 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.

You’ll find plenty of free bet sign up offers on my ‘New Customer Offers‘ page and I post all profitable reload offers on my main blog.

You’ll also find more available free bet offers on my ‘Horse Racing Offers‘ and ‘Football Offers‘ pages. See, I told you there were 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 to be placed on a specific sport, event or market or it may need to be placed 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 £20.00 in free bets if you first bet £5.00.

Coral

The key free bet terms to note are as follows…

  • Credited as 4 x £5.00 free bets.
  • Valid for 7 days.
  • Stakes not returned.
  • No cashout.

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

2. High odds

Unlike qualifying bets, that are placed at low odds, free bets should be placed at high odds. This accounts for the free bet stake not being returned and enables 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, you’ll just make a smaller profit.

For more information about lay betting, please see my betting exchange guide.

3. Close back and lay odds

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

So, in a nutshell, free bets should be placed 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

Looking at the odds above, 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 stake for laying at Betfair, you just 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 that you should 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 £5.00 free bet.

High odds example

Looking at the same match above, 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

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 that you should 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 £5.00 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 certainly the best option, with a profit of £3.68.

You can divide your profit by your free bet stake to work out the percentage that you’re converting into cash…

£3.68 / £5.00 = 0.736 (73.6%)

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

Sometimes you might have to go 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 a bit trickier to find close matches in play, so aiming for 70-75% is fine.

Final words

Converting free bets into cash is pretty straightforward.

Always read the free bet terms and be sure to keep your back and lay odds high and close.

Also, make sure you have enough funds at the exchange to lay it off before placing any bets. Higher odds means a larger liability at the exchange, but it’s worth it for the bigger profits!

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Matt Kirman - Matched Betting Blogger

Matt KirmanMatched Betting Blogger

Since 2014, I’ve blogged over £50,000 worth of profit, and made it my mission to make matched betting accessible to everyone.