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Matched Betting Guide

The ultimate step-by-step guide to matched betting and placing your first bets.
Level: Beginner
Updated: November 17, 2020

In this guide, I’ll briefly explain what matched betting is, how it works, and walk you through making £15 profit from Coral’s new customer offer, step by step. There’s no rush to complete this guide and I recommend taking the time to fully understand each part. Once complete, you’ll be able to apply the same process to any similar offer and make a guaranteed profit, so it’s well worth the rewards at the end! Without further ado, let’s get going…

What is matched betting?

Put simply, matched betting is the process of covering all outcomes of an event in order to qualify for free bets and bonuses for next to nothing. Once you have your free bet, you repeat the process to make a fixed profit.

I’ll emphasise now that matched betting is not about taking risks or punts. It’s about using simple maths (no manual calculations needed!), to make a consistent profit from each offer you claim. For this reason, matched betting is generally accepted as being risk-free. My ’What is matched betting?’ overview will clear up some of the common questions about matched betting if you’re completely new to the idea.

A simple example

Let’s consider that a bookmaker is running a promotion where you get a free £10 bet if you place a bet of £10 on any event.

For the sake of simplicity, the event I’ll use in this example is a coin toss. There are two possible outcomes, heads or tails, with an equal chance of both happening.

If you place a £10 bet on heads as well as a £10 bet on tails, you won’t win any money, but you won’t lose any either. The two bets will cancel each other out, but you will have met the requirements to claim your £10 free bet without taking any risks. You can see this illustrated in the table below.

£10 on
Heads
£10 on
Tails
Outcome
If Heads
Wins
+ £10– £10£0 profit + Qualified for £10 free bet
If Tails
Wins
– £10+ £10£0 profit + Qualified for £10 free bet

As you can see, if heads wins, you both win and lose £10. If tails wins, you also win and lose £10. Either way, your overall profit is zero, but you will have met the conditions needed to qualify for your free bet (by having placed a £10 bet).

Now, you could just place your free bet on anything and hope it wins, but you’d be relying on luck! Matched betting is all about guaranteeing yourself a profit. To do that, you simply repeat the process again, covering all outcomes on another event, but this time using your free bet. Doing this will give you around 80% of the value of the free bet. So, if your free bet is worth £10, you’ll make around £8 profit, no matter the outcome.

Congrats! You’ve just learned the fundamental principle of matched betting!

In the real world, events can have more than two outcomes (like a football match being a home win, away win or a draw) and each result has a different likelihood of happening (your betting odds). Even so, the basic principle remains the same, but the amount you stake on each outcome will vary.

Because most events have more than two possible outcomes, you can make use of something called a betting exchange. As with normal bookmakers, these allow you to place a bet that something will happen. However, unlike regular bookmakers, they also allow you to bet that something won’t happen.

For example, you can bet at a bookmaker that the home team will win a football match. An exchange then allows you to bet that the home team won’t win – which covers a draw or away win. By doing this, you still only need to place two bets to cover all possible outcomes.

Betting exchanges

Many newbies find betting exchanges a stumbling block to learning matched betting and that’s perfectly natural. Overcome the initial learning curve and they’re actually pretty simple. Take your time and don’t be put off if it’s not clear the first time around.

Betting exchanges are very similar to bookmakers, with one key difference. Instead of betting against a bookmaker, you bet against other people. That’s why it’s called a betting exchange; people are exchanging bets.

Betting exchanges allow a user to propose a bet that they want to place. If another user is happy to take that bet, the bet becomes ‘matched’. The second user here effectively plays the role of the bookmaker. 

In matched betting speak, the regular bettor has placed a ‘back’ bet, whereas the user playing the bookmaker has placed a ‘lay’ bet. In matched betting you will almost always be on the ‘lay’ side, but might occasionally play the role of a ‘back’ user, so it’s important that you understand both sides.

Illustration of two betting exchange users betting against each other.

If the ‘back’ user’s bet wins, the ‘lay’ user would pay out their winnings, just like a bookmaker would. For example, if the ‘back’ bet was £10 on Man Utd to win at odds of 2/1, and Man Utd did win, the user on the ‘lay’ side pays the ‘back’ user £20. In matched betting speak, that £20 is the ‘lay‘ user’s liability – the amount they stand to lose should the outcome not go their way.

At a bookmaker you will always be on the ‘back’ side of the bet, with the bookmaker obviously playing the role of the bookmaker. When you use the exchange, you will be on the ‘lay’ side, where you play the role of the bookmaker. Doing this allows you to cover all of the outcomes of an event using only two bets, even if there are more than two outcomes. 

For example, let’s consider the result of a football match. There are three possible outcomes – home win, away win, or a draw. If you ‘back’ the home team to win at the bookmaker, this covers one outcome. 

You can then place a ‘lay’ bet on the home team at the exchange (remember you’re playing the role of the bookmaker on the lay side). This means you’re effectively betting that the home team won’t win, which covers the draw and away win outcomes.

At this point, you may be wondering how betting exchanges make money if it’s just users betting against each other. Well, the exchange takes a small commission from the user who wins the bet, usually 0-5% of the winnings. 

This covers the fundamentals of betting exchanges and how they’re useful when matched betting. You’re now ready to walk through a real offer, where you’ll see how all of these basic principles work in the real world. If you feel you need to go in depth on betting exchanges, take a look at my ‘What is a betting exchange?’ guide.

First offer walkthrough

The offer I’m going to walk you through is a new customer offer from Coral. From this, you can make a guaranteed £15. This isn’t the largest offer out there, but it is a good one to start with. The amounts you need to stake are small, so it’s a great one to build up your confidence before tackling larger offers. 

Don’t worry if this sounds daunting; I’ll guide you through the process of placing each bet step by step.

1. Open a Betfair account

Before you can place any bets, you’ll need to open a betting exchange account. I’ll be using Betfair in this guide as I think they’re the best option for newbies. They’re the largest of all the betting exchanges, which makes it easier to match bets with other users.

2. Open a Coral account

Coral are offering new customers £20 in free bets when you place a bet of £5.

This may not be the biggest welcome offer around, but I advise new matched bettors to start small and work their way up. Once you’ve completed your first couple of offers, your confidence will grow and so will your bankroll for completing the larger ones.

3. Switch to decimal odds

Switching to decimal odds is essential for comparing odds at a glance. 

To work out your returns with decimal odds, you simply multiply your stake by the odds. For example, a £10 stake at odds of 3.50, gives £35 back. Note, the £35 includes your initial £10 stake, so you’re making £25 profit. You can learn more about decimal odds in my Betting Odds Explained guide.

Exchanges use decimal odds by default, but most bookmakers display traditional fractional odds. You can usually switch to decimal odds at the top of the page, in the sidebar, or failing that in your account settings.

Coral

4. Qualifying bet

Now you have your accounts set up, you can claim your offer! The bet you’ll place in order to qualify for your free bets is known as your ‘qualifying bet’.

It’s important to check the terms of each offer, as there may be specific requirements you need to meet. The key terms of your Coral welcome offer state that you can place your qualifying bet on any sport, but it must be placed at odds of 1.50 (1/2) or greater. Every offer I post includes the key requirements you need to meet.

You should place your bets on popular events that regular people will be betting on. This will make it easier for you to match your bets. Football matches are usually the best option. 

Qualifying bets should always be placed at low odds. In the case of your Coral offer, that means above and as close to 1.50 as possible.

You also need to look for close odds between your back bet at the bookmaker (Coral) and your lay bet at the exchange (Betfair). 

Doing both of these things means you can claim your free bet by losing just a few pence overall. If you feel you need to go in depth on qualifying bets, take a look at my ‘Qualifying Bets Guide’.

Place your back bet

At the time of writing, I’ve found odds of 1.50 for Liverpool to beat Arsenal at Coral. This is your back bet. On Betfair (your exchange), you can lay Liverpool at odds of 1.51. (Remember, ‘laying’ means you’re taking the role of bookmaker and therefore betting on Liverpool NOT to win). 

Coral
Betfair

So, your outcomes will be covered as below.

Illustration of the outcomes covered at Coral and Betfair.

You can now place your qualifying bet at Coral. You know you need to place a bet of £5 to qualify, so you can do that now.

Simply click on the ‘1.50‘ button underneath ‘Liverpool’, enter your stake of £5 and click ‘Place Bet.’

Coral

Place your lay bet

What you don’t know yet is how much you need to stake at Betfair to even out your bets. This is where my Matched Betting Calculator comes in! 

You simply select the ‘Qualifying Bet’ setting and input the stake and odds from your back bet, plus the odds of your lay bet. The calculator will then tell you how much you need to stake at Betfair to be as close to breaking even as possible. Based on my Liverpool example, that is a stake of £5.14 and results in a tiny overall loss of 12 pence. You can see the calculator populated with my numbers below.

Select bet type

Back Bet (Bookie)

Advanced
%

Lay Bet (Betting Exchange)

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

Note, in my example I’ve entered ‘Lay commission’ of 5%, which is Betfair’s default rate. If you were offered 0% commission by Betfair when signing up, I would recommend keeping the calculator set at 5%. That’s because the commission is still charged initially, before being refunded to your account each Wednesday.

Now, you can place your lay bet. Click on the ‘1.51’ lay button at Betfair and enter your stake of £5.14.

Betfair

It tells you that your liability is £2.62 and it’s good practice to check this figure against the expected exchange loss on the calculator. As you can see, they’re both the same, so you know you have entered the correct lay stake.

You’ll need to deposit enough funds into your Betfair account to cover your £2.62 liability as this is the amount you stand to lose if Liverpool win. Don’t worry though, your winnings at Coral will cover all of this but for a few pence.

Your Betfair screen should now update to display your potential profit or loss for each possible outcome. 

Betfair

Outcomes

Let’s have a look at your overall potential profit/loss for each outcome.

OutcomeCoralBetfairProfit/Loss
Liverpool win+ £2.50– £2.62£0.12 loss
Liverpool lose or draw– £5.00+ £4.88£0.12 loss

As you can see, regardless of whether Liverpool win, lose or draw, you’ll incur a small loss of £0.12. This loss is worth it though, as you’ve just qualified for £20 in free bets!

5. Using your free bets

Nice work! You’ve just completed your first matched bet!

Now, you could just place your free bets on anything you like and see if they win or lose, but you’d be relying on luck! With matched betting, you want to know for sure that you’ll make a profit from those free bets. How do you do that? You simply repeat the process you’ve just done.

Your £20 in free bets (4 x £5) at Coral should be credited as soon as your qualifying bet is placed. Again, it’s important to check the free bet terms for any specific requirements.

As with the vast majority of free bets, your Coral free bets are ‘stake not returned’. This means that each of your £5 stakes will not be returned to you with any winnings. You only get back what would have been your profit on a normal bet. The free bets are valid for 7 days.

The only real difference in the process this time around is that your free bets should be placed at high odds in order to maximise your profit. As always, the closer the back and lay odds, the better. If you feel you need to go in depth on free bets, take a look at my ‘Free Bets Guide’.

Place your back bet

At the time of writing this guide, the following odds are available for a Premier League match between Tottenham and Newcastle.

Coral
Betfair

The odds for Newcastle are pretty high and back odds of 8.00 and lay odds of 8.40 are nice and close.

You can go ahead and place your 4 x £5 free bets at Coral. You’ll need to select them using the dropdown on your betslip.

Place your lay bet

Again, you need to calculate how much you need for your lay stake at Betfair. This time on my Matched Betting Calculator, you simply select the ‘Free Bet’ setting and input your odds and total stake. You can leave the ‘Stake returned’ box unchecked as your free bet stakes are not returned for this offer.

Select bet type

Back Bet (Bookie)

Advanced
%

Lay Bet (Betting Exchange)

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

As you can see, the calculator tells you that your lay stake should be £16.77. So, just as before, you click on the ‘8.40’ lay button at Betfair and enter your stake of £16.77.

Betfair

It tells you that your liability on this bet is £124.10 and again it’s good practice to check this figure against the expected exchange loss on the calculator. As you can see, they’re both the same but for a penny (due to rounding), so you know you have entered the correct lay stake.

If you feel the liability is too high or you’re starting with limited funds, you can simply place the free bets one at a time, waiting for each one to settle before placing the next. That should reduce your liability to around £30 per bet. It’ll just take you a little longer to work through them all.

If you’re happy to place them all at once, you’ll need to deposit enough funds into your Betfair account to cover your £124.10 liability as this is the amount you stand to lose at Betfair if Newcastle win. Don’t worry though, your winnings at Coral will more than cover it. Once done, just as before, you’ll see your potential profit or loss at Betfair for each possible outcome.

Betfair

Outcomes

Let’s have a look at your overall profit for the possible outcomes.

OutcomeCoralBetfairProfit/Loss
Newcastle win+ £140.00– £124.10£15.90 profit
Newcastle lose or draw– Free Bets+ £15.93£15.93 profit

So, regardless of whether Newcastle win, lose or draw, you’ll make a minimum of £15.90 cash from your £20 in free bets! Given that your qualifying loss was just £0.12, you’ve made at least £15.78 profit overall from Coral’s welcome offer.

Summary and next steps 

This might seem like a long process, but once you’re into the swing of it you’ll be able to go from selecting your offer to placing your free bets in no time at all. 

If you need help with anything, hit me up in the comments below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can (usually within 24 hours).

When you’re ready, I’ve got two more offers lined up for you to complete for a combined total of £38 profit. Exactly the same process, step-by-step walkthroughs and a bit more profit with each one! See you there!

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Keep it going!

Use the exact same process to make another £38 from the two offers below.

The more offers you complete, the quicker you’ll become at the process. Before you know it, you’ll be completing each offer in a matter of minutes.

2nd Offer

Bet £5, Get £20

£15 Guaranteed Profit

3rd Offer

Bet £10, Get £30

£23 Guaranteed Profit

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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.