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Qualifying Bets Guide

Level: Next steps
Updated: November 24, 2021

Qualifying bets are a crucial part of matched betting, so it’s important to understand them and know what to look for.

This guide will explain what qualifying bets are and show you how to select them to maximise your profits.

What is a qualifying bet?

A qualifying bet is a bet you place at a bookmaker for something in return, such as a free bet or bonus. For example, a bookmaker might offer you a £10 free bet if you first bet £10 of your own money.

Money back offers require qualifying bets too, where the bookmaker will return your stake if your bet loses and a particular event/trigger occurs. For example, a bookmaker might offer to refund your bet stake if your horse finishes 2nd.

How do qualifying bets work?

Qualifying bets work by placing a back bet 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 back bet wins at the bookmaker, you’ll lose your lay bet at the exchange. If your back bet loses at the bookmaker, you’ll win your lay bet at the exchange. Either way, your two bets cancel each other out.

You’ll almost always make a small loss on your qualifying bets; your ‘qualifying loss’. It’s due to the difference between the back and lay odds and that exchanges charge a small commission on winning bets.

Finding qualifying bets

There are three things to consider when looking for a suitable qualifying bet.

1. Check the terms

First and foremost, you must check the offer terms for any specific requirements. You don’t want to spend time placing your qualifying bet only to find that it hasn’t met the qualifying criteria.

Your qualifying bet may need placing on a specific sport, event or market. It may need to be placed at particular odds or during a specific promotional period.

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 terms to note are as follows.

  • You can place your qualifying bet on any sport.
  • Minimum stake of £5.
  • You must place your qualifying bet within 14 days of registration.
  • Minimum odds of 1.50 (1/2).

Checking the terms of an offer may seem a bit dull, but it’s an important task, and you’ll soon get used to picking out the key criteria.

2. Low odds

It’s best to place your qualifying bets at low odds to minimise your qualifying losses. You need to make sure they meet any minimum odds requirement.

Placing a qualifying bet at low odds requires fewer funds in your exchange account to cover your lay bet liability.

Nothing is stopping you from placing qualifying bets at high odds. You’ll almost certainly incur a higher qualifying loss, though, and you’ll need more funds at the exchange to cover your liability.

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

3. Close back and lay odds

Just as crucial as placing qualifying bets at low odds, the back and lay odds should also be as close as possible. The closer the odds, the lower your qualifying loss will be.

So, in a nutshell, you should place your qualifying bets at odds that are low 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 qualifying bet on Liverpool at back odds of 1.67 and lay odds of 1.70.

Coral logo

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

To calculate your Betfair lay stake, you need to select the ‘Qualifying Bet‘ setting on my Matched Betting Calculator and enter your back 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 £5.06 against Liverpool.

Betfair logo

Lay £5.06 against Liverpool @ 1.70 = Potential liability of £3.54

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

OutcomeCoralBetfairProfit/Loss
Liverpool win+ £3.35– £3.54£0.19 loss
Liverpool lose or draw– £5.00+ £4.80£0.20 loss

So, regardless of whether Liverpool win, lose or draw, you’ll incur a maximum loss of £0.20 in qualifying for your £20 in free bets.

High odds example

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

Coral logo

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

Using the ‘Qualifying Bet‘ setting on the calculator, enter your back 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 £4.85 against Arsenal.

Betfair logo

Lay £4.85 against Arsenal @ 5.20 = Potential liability of £20.37

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

OutcomeCoralBetfairProfit/Loss
Arsenal win+ £20.00– £20.37£0.37 loss
Arsenal lose or draw– £5.00+ £4.60£0.40 loss

So, regardless of whether Arsenal win, lose or draw, you’ll incur a maximum loss of £0.40 in qualifying for your £20 in free bets. That’s double the amount when compared to your qualifying loss on Liverpool (£0.20).

Summary

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

SelectionBack OddsLay OddsLiabilityProfit/Loss
Arsenal5.005.20£20.37£0.40 loss
Draw4.204.70£16.72£0.72 loss
Liverpool1.671.70£3.54£0.20 loss

As you can see, Liverpool is undoubtedly the best option. You only need £3.54 in your exchange account, and the qualifying loss is just £0.20.

You can divide your qualifying loss by your stake to determine the percentage you’re losing.

£0.20 ÷ £5.00 = 0.04 (4%)

4% is a very nice match! Anything around 5% and under is pretty good. Sometimes you might have to go a little higher; it just depends on the bookmaker’s odds and terms.

Also, you can see from the table that although the Draw odds are lower than the odds on Arsenal, the back and lay odds are much further apart. The resulting £0.72 qualifying loss is pretty hefty, emphasising the importance of finding both low and close odds when placing qualifying bets.

Once you’ve qualified for your free bets, it’s time to convert them into cash! You’ll find a walkthrough of the process in my free bets guide.

Final words

The strategy behind qualifying bets is pretty straightforward. You’ll find plenty of sign up offers on my ‘New Customer Offers‘ page if you want to try things out.

Keep your back odds low and ensure the lay odds are nice and tight too.

It’ll mean you need less money in your exchange account, and it’ll minimise your qualifying losses. The smaller your qualifying losses, the bigger your profits!

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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.