Matched Betting Guide

The ultimate step-by-step guide to matched betting and placing your first bets.
Level: Beginner
Updated: June 13, 2022

In this guide, I’ll briefly explain what matched betting is, how it works, and walk you through making a £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 understand each part fully. Once complete, you’ll be able to apply the same process to any similar offer and make a profit no matter the outcome, so it’s well worth the rewards at the end! Without further ado, let’s get going.

What is matched betting?

Matched betting is the process of covering all outcomes of an event 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.

My ‘What is Matched Betting?‘ overview answers some common questions about matched betting if you’re entirely new to the idea. 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.

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 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 and 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 locking in a profit. To do that, you simply repeat the process, covering all outcomes on another event, but this time using your free bet. Doing this will give you around 80% of the free bet value. So, if your free bet is worth £10, you’ll make about £8 profit, no matter the outcome.

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

Events can have more than two outcomes (like a football match being a home win, away win or a draw). In addition, each result has a different likelihood of happening (your betting odds). The basic principle remains the same, though the amount you stake on each outcome will vary.

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

For example, you can bet that the home team will win a football match at a bookmaker. An exchange lets you bet that the home team won’t win, therefore covering a draw or away win. So, 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 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 users 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. You will almost always be on the ‘lay‘ side when matched betting. Still, you might occasionally play the role of a ‘back‘ user, so it’s important to understand both sides.

Illustration of two betting exchange users betting against each other.

If the ‘back‘ user’s bet wins, the ‘lay‘ user will pay out their winnings, just like a bookmaker. 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, £20 is the ‘lay‘ user’s liability – the amount they stand to lose should the outcome not go their way.

Betting at a bookmaker, you will always be on the ‘back‘ side of the bet, with the bookmaker naturally playing the role of the bookmaker. When you use the exchange, you will be on the ‘lay‘ side, where you play the part 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). 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.

If you feel you need to go in-depth on betting exchanges, take a look at my ‘What is a Betting Exchange?‘ guide. It 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.

First offer walkthrough

The offer I’m going to walk you through is a new customer offer from Coral. It’s not the largest offer, but it’s a good one to start with. From it, you can make a £15 profit no matter the outcome. The amounts you need to stake are small, so it’s great for building 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, making it easier to match bets with other users.

Matched Betting Blog receives a small commission when you sign up to Betfair via the link above. It helps support the site and keeps it free for everyone to learn matched betting.

Sign up to Betfair using the link above, and you’ll pay just 2% commission on winning lay bets instead of their standard rate of 5%.

2. Open a Coral account

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

It may not be the biggest welcome offer, 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 that £35 includes your initial £10 stake, making a £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 via the top of the page, the sidebar, or your account settings.

Coral

4. Qualifying bet

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

The key terms of your Coral welcome offer state that you can place your qualifying bet on any sport, but you must place it at odds of 1.50 (1/2) or greater. It’s also worth noting that the promotion is not available to new customers depositing funds with Prepaid Cards, Moneybookers, Apple Pay, PayPal, Paysafe, Neteller or Skrill.

It’s important to check the terms of each offer for any specific requirements. Every offer I post includes the key requirements you need to meet.

Place your bets on popular events that regular people will be betting on. Doing so will make it easier for you to match your bets. Football matches are usually the best option.

It’s best to place qualifying bets at low odds. In the case of your Coral offer, that means above and as close to 1.50 as possible.

It’s also best to look for close odds between your back bet at the bookmaker (Coral) and your lay bet at the exchange (Betfair).

Sticking to both criteria 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, which 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, you will cover the outcomes 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

You don’t know yet how much you need to stake at Betfair to even out your bets. That’s 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 break-even as possible. Based on my Liverpool example, that is a stake of £5.14, resulting in a slight 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: £

I’ve entered ‘Lay commission’ of 5% on the calculator as this is Betfair’s default commission rate. If you’ve signed up for their 2% commission offer, you can simply enter 2% instead.

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. That’s the amount you stand to lose if Liverpool win. Don’t worry; 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 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 slight loss of £0.12. However, this loss is worth it as you’ve just qualified for a £20 free bet!

5. Using your free bet

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

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

Your £20 free bet at Coral should be credited when you place your qualifying bet. Again, it’s important to check the free bet terms for specific requirements.

As with most free bets, your Coral free bet is ‘stake not returned‘, meaning Coral won’t return your £20 stake to you with any winnings. You only get back what would have been your profit on a standard bet. The free bet is valid for 7 days.

The only real difference in the process is that you should place your free bet at high odds 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, I’ve found the following odds 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 £20 free bet at Coral. You’ll need to select it using the dropdown on your bet slip.

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 select the ‘Free Bet’ setting and input your odds and free bet stake. You can leave the ‘Stake returned’ box unchecked as Coral will not return your free bet stake with any winnings.

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. 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.

You’ll need to deposit enough funds into your Betfair account to cover your £124.10 liability. That’s the amount you stand to lose at Betfair if Newcastle win. Don’t worry; 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 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 Bet+ £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 free bet! Since your qualifying loss was just £0.12, you’ve made at least £15.78 profit from Coral’s welcome offer.

Summary and next steps

It 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).

Now it’s time to repeat the same process for the next bookmaker’s welcome offer. This one is from Sky Bet, and you’ll bag around £15.50 for completing it.

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.