Matched Betting 101

How To Do Matched Betting

Matched Betting Guide
Have you ever heard of “matched betting”? If so, you probably are pretty curious, considering it is supposedly a way to quickly and easily make a practically guaranteed profit through sports betting sites. You may wonder if such a thing is possible and if there are any caveats.

Well, the short answer is this: Yes, matched betting really does work. The only real caveat is the fact that you can only use it to make a limited amount of money. But it is still worth it. Why would you ever say no to easy money?

What Is Matched Betting?

While checking out the sportsbooks on our recommended list, you will notice there is a column for bonus offers. Sometimes under that column, you will find an offer like Bet $5 get $20,” (the current offer for Coral) which is known as a free bet. Coral is well known for these types of offers, but many other sportsbooks give out free bets as well.

You may also be aware that free bets are not exactly free. In order to claim them, you have to meet the terms in the fine print, which generally require you to place another wager first with your own funds, and usually at less than favorable odds. So you generally end up losing money to claim money, which is at best a sum-zero game, though probably will amount to a loss (through the vig if nothing else).

With matched betting, you essentially hedge by placing two opposing wagers on a single event at two different betting sites. The trick is to make sure that the odds on the two wagers are as close as possible, which is why this is known as “matched betting.”

Profit is almost a guarantee with matched betting if you do it right. It is not guaranteed, and you will probably take a small loss temporarily as part of the process, but it offsets by the time you have completed it. It is also possible for you to lose money overall if you make an error at any point in the process.

You need to do two rounds of bets in this fashion in order to make a profit. I realize all of this likely sounds quite complicated, but I am going to break it down for you one step at a time in just a moment.coral-logo-150

Key Matched Betting Vocabulary Terms

There are a few words that I am going to use in this article which you may or may not know. So let me define them quick before we really jump into things.

  • Free bet: This is a bet worth a certain amount which is provided to you for free as a bonus by a sportsbook. Usually (but not always) it is a promotion for new customers only.
  • Qualifying bet: This is a bet you have to place with your own money to qualify for the free bet.
  • Back bet: This is the most common type of bet. You are wagering that a certain outcome will occur.
  • Lay bet: This is a less common type of bet where you wager that a certain outcome will not unfold. Only betting exchanges offer lay bets.

Steps to Placing a Matched Bet

    1. Start by selecting two betting sites.

One must offer a free bet, the other must be an exchange like Betfair. Arguably the most tedious aspect of matched betting is the fact that you have to repeatedly search for sites which offer free bets.

Again, most sites only offer them as a one-time promotion to new customers. Coral is one of our favorite sportsbooks. You can only use their free bet offer once, but it does make Coral a great starting point for placing your first matched bet.

Make sure that every time you choose a site offering a free bet that you take the time to read through the terms for claiming and using the bonus.

As mentioned already a couple of times, the other site needs to be a betting exchange. This is a site where you can bet against others directly, rather than the sportsbook always taking the opposite side of your wagers. Only on a betting exchange can you place a lay bet. You can use the betting exchange repeatedly since you are not relying on any special offers there. Betfair is a good example of a well-known, reputable betting exchange permitting lay bets.

  1. Deposit what you need to in order to wager on both sites.

  2. Now you need to place at least the minimum deposit on both of the betting sites. With Coral, that amount would be just $5, which is also sufficient to make you eligible for the free bet after you place your qualifying wager. Make sure you have enough money in both of your accounts to cover your bets on both of the websites.

  3. Find a lay bet and a back bet on the same event which offer closely matched odds on the two sites you have joined.

  4. You will notice at this point that in order to claim the free bet, you will have to place a qualifying bet which is going to have relatively high odds. Usually these odds will exceed 1.5 or even 2.0. This is the snag which generally causes you to lose money trying to claim a free bet.

    So now you need to find two bets on the same event with very close odds—a back bet on the site offering the free bet (Coral for example), and a lay bet on your betting exchange (Betfair for instance).

    Here is an example:

    Plymouth v. Cambridge is a match which is scheduled for Saturday, September 10th, at 15:00.

    You find back odds of 2.00
    … And lay odds of 2.06

    This is a perfect choice for your matched bet. You can see that the odds are above the minimum threshold required for your qualifying wager at Coral. You will also notice that the odds are very close to each other.

  5. Place the two bets.

  6. icon-chip-x2-gray-250

    Now it is time to finally take action! You will need to place both wagers.

    At Coral, you will need to place your back bet. Wager the $5 minimum which is required to claim the free bet. Bet on Plymouth to win.

    At your betting exchange, place your lay bet. This should be $4.98 on Plymouth to lose.

    On this bet, you will end up losing up to $0.27. The calculations on that are a bit complicated, but as you can see, it is a very small amount.

    Sweet! You now have the free bet available to use.

    You are not done at this point. Coral has given you $20 to use. You probably will not be able to do so all at once; Coral usually has a rule where they separate the $20 free bet into a series of four, each totaling $5. Anyway, moving along …

  7. Repeat the process above with a second event and another back bet and lay bet.

Now you just have to do everything you did in step 4 again, but with a different event, and using the free bet as your stake on your back bet.

So once again, you will need to locate a match which includes similar odds. So say you wager on Fulham v. Birmingham, and you find back bet odds of 4.50 and lay odds of 4.70:

Use your free bet of $20.00 over on Coral. Place it on Birmingham to win. This is again your back bet.

On your betting exchange, wager £15.05 on Birmingham to lose. This is your lay bet.

As I just stated, Coral makes your life a little more complicated by separating your free bet into four. You do not need to think too hard about this. If you place four separate $5 bets, that is the equivalent of the $20 bet, and will work just the same.

One of two things will happen

If Birmingham wins, you win the payout on your free bet. You do not get the free bet stake back with Coral. Some betting sites return it, while others do not (this is one of the reasons to check the terms and conditions first—just so you know). You lose your bet over at your betting exchange.

If Birmingham loses, you lose the free bet, but you win the wager over at the betting exchange.

Either way, you will end up with a profit of around $14.

Wait… Is This Legal?


Yes, it is. Betting sites do not really care if you do this. In fact, William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe has said, “There’s no illegal element. It’s a free bet and you can do what you like.”

The only situation where a betting site is likely to get angry at you for doing this is where you are abusing their promotions. If a site only makes a free bet available to you one time, then you should not look for loopholes to exploit. Do not for example make a bunch of new accounts and keep trying to claim the bonus over and over again. If they figure out what you are up to (and they eventually will), they will ban you for violating their terms of service.

Why Do Matched Betting?

Obviously the idea of an almost guaranteed profit is exciting, but you may wonder why you would put so much effort into winning a relatively small amount of money.

The answer is that it is only a lot of time and effort in the beginning. After you go through this process a few times, you will get to understanding it, and the steps will become second nature. At that point, it will speed way up, and you will find that you can earn money relatively quickly and reliably.

“But wait … what happens when I run out of free bets?”

Eventually, you will end up using up all the offers you find. Now and again you may find another opportunity, but basically, you will be done with matched betting. So why bother with something that is not going to last?

Here are a few reasons to consider:

Money is money. You should never take it for granted, even if it is a finite amount. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of pounds waiting to be made.

There are plenty of ways you can use the profit from matched betting. Either take your winnings and pay off an outstanding debt or buy something nice. Finance your education. Buy a new car. Or just keep the money in your betting account so you can use it on your sports bets in the future (which is what I recommend).

Sportsbooks offer free bets to get you interested, not to make you money. Again, you usually will lose money through free bets—if you bet the traditional way. If you use matched betting, you get to actually profit with free bets. It really is a roundabout way for you to claim as much of the original free bet amount as possible as actual free money.

On top of all of those reasons is one which I think is even more exciting than the rest, and that is that this is a great chance to learn a lot about sports betting. You are going to find out a ton about how to read, interpret, and calculate odds and payouts doing matched betting. You also will discover a great deal about calculating and managing your risk.


When you do get around to learning how to bet on sports using a system, you will be able to pair it up with this newfound knowledge of money management and odds. This will increase your profitability.

While you are at it, you also are going to find out a lot about individual sportsbooks. You will be familiar with their bonuses, promotions, and terms and conditions. You likely will learn a few things about the markets they offer, their customer service, and the speed of their payouts as well. By the time you are ready to wager on sports using real, long-term strategies, you will know exactly which sportsbooks are best to deal with.

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