Qualifying Bets Guide


Difficulty: Easy Read time: 5 mins

Qualifying bets are a key part of matched betting.

The vast majority of matched betting offers require you to place a qualifying bet, so it’s important that you understand them and know what to look for.

In this guide, I’ll explain what qualifying bets are and show you how to select them in order to maximise your profits.

What is a qualifying bet?

A qualifying bet is simply a bet that you place at a bookmaker in order to qualify for something in return, such as a free bet or bonus. For example, a bookmaker might offer you a £10.00 free bet if you first bet £10.00 of your own money.

Qualifying bets are also placed for trigger bet offers, where the bookmaker will give you something back if a particular event (trigger) happens. For example, the bookmaker might offer to refund losing horse racing bets if your horse finishes 2nd.

How do qualifying bets work?

Qualifying bets work by placing a 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 walk-through of the process in my matched betting guide.

Depending on the outcome, you’ll either win at the bookie and lose at the exchange or lose at the bookie and win at the exchange. In other words, whatever happens, your two bets cancel each other out.

You’ll almost always make a small loss on your qualifying bets, which is commonly referred to as your ‘qualifying loss’. It’s due to the difference between your bookmaker odds and your exchange lay odds and the fact 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 bets, only to find that your bet hasn’t met the qualifying criteria.

Your qualifying bet may need to be placed on a specific sport, event or market. It may need to be placed at specific 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 £20.00 in free bets if you first bet £5.00.

Banner showing the Coral 'Bet £5, Get £20' sign up offer.
Banner showing the Coral 'Bet £5, Get £20' sign up offer.

The key terms to note are as follows…

  • Qualifying bet can be placed on any sport.
  • Minimum stake of £5.00.
  • Qualifying bet must be placed within 14 days of registration.
  • Minimum odds of 1.50 (1/2).

Checking the terms of an offer may seem a bit dull. Some of them can be pretty lengthy too, but you’ll soon get used to picking out the key criteria.

2. Low odds

Qualifying bets should be placed at low odds in order to minimise your qualifying losses. You just need to make sure they meet any minimum odds requirement.

Placing them at low odds will also mean a lower liability, which is the amount you need to have in your exchange account to cover your lay bet loss if your bookmaker back bet wins.

There’s nothing stopping you placing qualifying bets at high odds, but you’ll almost certainly incur a higher qualifying loss in doing so and you’ll need more funds at the exchange to cover your liability.

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

3. Close back and lay odds

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

So, in a nutshell, qualifying bets should be placed 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…

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 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 stake for laying at Betfair, you just 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 that you should 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…

Outcome Coral Betfair Profit/Loss
Liverpool win +£3.35 -£3.54 £0.19 loss
Liverpool don't win -£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 £20.00 in free bets.

High odds example

Looking at the same match above, 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

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

Outcome Coral Betfair Profit/Loss
Arsenal win +£20.00 -£20.37 £0.37 loss
Arsenal don't win -£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 £20.00 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…

Selection Back Odds Lay Odds Liability Profit/Loss
Arsenal 5.00 5.20 £20.37 £0.40 loss
Draw 4.20 4.70 £16.72 £0.72 loss
Liverpool 1.67 1.70 £3.54 £0.20 loss

As you can see, Liverpool is certainly 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 work out the percentage that 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 wider apart. This results in a hefty qualifying loss of £0.72, which emphasises the importance of finding odds that are BOTH low and close when placing qualifying bets.

Once you’ve qualified for your free bets, it’s time to convert them into cash! You can find a walk-through of how it should be done 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.

Simply 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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