Free Bets Guide


Difficulty: Easy Read time: 5 mins

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 walk-through 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 business.

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

You’ll also find a list of 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.

Banner showing the Coral sign up offer where you get £20 in free bets if you first bet £5.
Banner showing the Coral sign up offer where you get £20 in free bets if you first bet £5.

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…

Match Result market at Coral for Arsenal v Liverpool.
Match Result market at Coral for Arsenal v Liverpool.
Match Odds market on the Betfair Exchange for Arsenal v Liverpool.
Match Odds market on the Betfair Exchange for Arsenal v Liverpool.

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…

Outcome Coral Betfair Profit/Loss
Liverpool win +£3.35 -£1.42 £1.93 profit
Liverpool don't win -£5.00 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

Again, to calculate your stake for laying at Betfair, you just need to select the ‘Free Bet‘ setting on my 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 £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…

Outcome Coral Betfair Profit/Loss
Arsenal win +£20.00 -£16.29 £3.71 profit
Arsenal don't win -£5.00 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…

Selection Back Odds Lay Odds Liability Profit/Loss
Arsenal 5.00 5.20 £16.29 £3.68 profit
Draw 4.20 4.70 £12.72 £3.26 profit
Liverpool 1.67 1.70 £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!

Comments


  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?

    +0
    Reply
    1. Matt

      340

      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.

      +1
      Reply
  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?

    +0
    Reply
    1. Matt

      340

      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.

      +0
      Reply
  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

    +0
    Reply
    1. Matt

      340

      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.

      +0
      Reply
  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.

    +0
    Reply
    1. Matt

      340

      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.

      +0
      Reply
  5. Anthony H

    Guest user

    Hi Matt,

    So pleased I found your site. I get free bet offers on Bet365 and I found the qualifying and free bet articles really useful, I wasn’t taking full advantage high odds.

    Looking forward to further reading!

    Cheers, Tony

    +0
    Reply
    1. Matt

      340

      Thanks Anthony. It’s great to hear that you found them useful.

      Just give me a shout if you have any questions about anything else. Always happy to help.

      +0
      Reply

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