What Is Matched Betting?

Andy Schooler

29 November 2022

Matched betting is a strategic technique that allows punters and traders to turn free-bet offers and bookmaker incentives into real cash.

With bookmakers always keen to attract new users, most dangle an offer that involves free bets - Smarkets’ welcome offer at the time of writing is that new customers can receive either 0% commission or a £20 refund.

But for those matched betting customers who look to use other firms, you can place your ‘qualifying’ bet and then immediately ‘lay’ it off on Smarkets, ensuring all outcomes are covered and guaranteeing profit. While this process could result in an initial small cash loss, you will have a free bet at the end.

If you then repeat the process using the free bet, you can guarantee an overall profit. With many bookmakers to choose from, this can be done repeatedly. 

Let’s take an example. Bookmaker A offers a £10 free bet if you bet £10 - always check the terms and conditions as there are likely some provisos, such as the bet has to be above certain odds.

You then back Newcastle to beat Bournemouth at 1.5 with bookmaker A to the tune of £10. It’s then over to Smarkets to lay Newcastle (bet on them NOT winning) at 1.52 – note that it’s always best to find lay odds as close to the odds of your original bet as possible. 

To find out exactly how much your lay stake should be, it’s probably wise to use a matched betting calculator (https://matchedbettingblog.com/matched-betting-calculator/).

In this example, with Smarkets’ 2% commission tier, you need to lay £10, and the incurred loss (whatever the outcome) will be 20p. However, you now have your £10 free bet. Repeat the process, this time seeking higher odds.

So, place your £10 free bet on Everton to beat Manchester City at 7.0 and then lay that off on Smarkets at 7.2. In this example, you will win £60 from bookmaker A if Everton are victorious, while paying out £51.83 on your Smarkets bet.

And if Everton doesn’t win, you’ll win £8.19 on your Smarkets bet and lose nothing with Bookie A (as it’s a free bet). Factor in your ‘qualifying’ loss of 20p, and you have an overall profit of at least £7.97. A profit of around 80% of the free bet is usually what can be expected.

Taking advantage of other betting company offers

That’s matched betting in a nutshell, and it can also be used to take advantage of other offers, not just those available to new accounts. Bet365 currently has two notable offers – one on horse racing and one on football.

Let’s begin with the horses by looking at their ITV Racing 4/1+ offer. If you back a winner at 4/1 or higher, you get a risk-free bet on the next live ITV race, getting your money back (up to £50) if it loses. And if that bet also wins at 4/1 or bigger, you get another go at the offer, continuing until you lose. Again, the matched betting back-and-lay process can ensure you lock in an overall profit.

As for football, bet365 has their popular ‘two-up’ offer, which sees them pay out as a winner once the team you back goes two goals up. This is regardless of whether they go on to win the match or not.

This also provides matched-betting opportunities, although you will need the team you are backing to go two goals up to profit. Other bookmakers have similar offers for when a team goes so far ahead, often on different sports such as basketball and American football, so make sure you shop around!

Andy Schooler

29 November 2022

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