Matched Betting Explained

In our guide on how to bet on football, we looked at the basics of football betting, discussing what you need to know for the purposes of entertainment, enjoyment and having the best chance of winning.

However, there is an option out there for football bettors that is less about entertainment and more about guaranteeing profit: matched betting.

With matched betting, it is even possible to succeed without possessing any knowledge of football at all, as long as you know what you are doing with your selections.

In this guide, BetCompare will walk you through exactly what matched betting means, what you need to know when starting out and tips on how to maintain your matched betting success.

What is matched betting?

Matched betting is considered a low-risk form of gambling and is something that can be done particularly effectively when betting on football. In fact, some do not even believe matched betting should be classified as gambling, as its purpose is to guarantee profit.

Matched betting involves using free bets and other promotions to guarantee profit on a match or event, by covering all of its outcomes. It can be described as risk-free, as matched betting is based on mathematics rather than chance.

With the many free bets and promotions on offer across multiple different bookmakers, all of which you can view on Betcompare, there are regular opportunities to access the stakes you need to take part in matched betting.

How does matched betting work?

The two most important terms to know when beginning matched betting are a back bet and a lay bet.

A back bet represents the selection you think will win. A lay bet, only available on betting exchanges, covers the opposite of the back bet.

By laying a bet, you will be betting on that outcome not to happen. If your back bet fails to win, your lay bet wins – even if the match ends in a draw.
Your back bet and lay bet will therefore cover all a match’s possible outcomes, removing the risks associated with traditional betting, and your profit will derive from free bets and other promotions.

The first bet you place is called a qualifying bet, which earns your free bet. Once you receive your free bet, matched betting allows guaranteed profits through using the same back and lay method continuously.

For every layed bet, you’ll have to pay a tiny percentage of your winnings as commission – this is how betting exchanges make their money, rather than profiting through odds. You also need to consider your liability, which is the amount you stand to ‘lose’ on a lay bet.

Once you have signed up with a bookmaker and placed your qualifying bet, sign up with a betting exchange and place the corresponding lay bet.

You then place your second matched bet, using your free betting credit for the back bet. This is then matched using the returns from your first bet – either if the back bet or lay bet wins (one of the two is guaranteed). Your profit is the winnings made on each bet.

Matched Betting Example

The following is an example to help you visualise exactly what matched betting is and how you go about the process:

A bookmaker is offering a £20 free bet if you deposit and bet £20 of your own money. Step one is to sign up with said bookmaker and deposit £20.

Once this is done, sign up with a betting exchange and select your match. Software and betting calculators can help you with this, ensuring this process can also be done with limited to no football knowledge.

Of course, you must always ensure the odds will add up to a profit, with decimal odds most helpful when matched betting.

The next step would be to place a £20 bet on Barcelona to beat Valencia (which qualifies you for the free £20 bet), then lay Barcelona on the betting exchange with the appropriate stake that would cover the back bet.

Starting out

To start matched betting, a good amount to initially deposit is considered to be £50. If your attempts at matched betting are successful, you should not need to make any future deposits with money of your own that hasn’t been won from bookmakers (through winnings or free bets).

Your initial bankroll will also depend on the offers available with different bookmakers at a given time. But a good minimum to start with is an amount that would cover the stake for your qualifying bet, the liability for your first lay bet and the liability for your second lay bet.

Traditionally good bookmakers to start off matched betting with are bigger-named brands, due to their higher frequency of offers and most competitive odds.

But, as your matched betting progresses, opening more and more accounts will give you access to a greater amount of offers – so broadening your horizons as you go is a strategy worth adopting.

Is there a chance of losing?

By nature, the idea of matched betting is to guarantee profit, so the chances of losing money are extremely minimal and are nowhere near as high as the chances of losing through regular betting.

However, it is theoretically possible to lose money simply through human error; for example, if you have made a mistake during the betting process. Odds can also change in between the placing of your back bet and the placing of your lay bet, causing an overall loss – although this is also very unlikely.

Even in a situation like this, your aim will be to make your lost bet back through future matched betting. If done correctly, matched betting should only involve your own money when it comes to making your initial deposits.

Is matched betting illegal?

In the UK, matched betting is not illegal in any way; it simply requires you to be aged 18 or over. It is simply not welcomed by bookmakers, often being referred to by the bookies as bonus abuse, although this does not affect the betting exchanges.

However, there are certain measures bookmakers can take against your account if they suspect you are a matched bettor. Commonly, they will restrict your account, with every limited account reducing your overall chances of making a profit and successfully matched betting.

Restrictions put in place by bookmakers are known as gubbing, with the most extreme form of punishment being the closure of an account. Due to bookmakers’ awareness of matched betting, gubbing applies only to sports betting, with bookmakers still allowing you to play their casino or bingo games.

Restrictions can happen without any notification, although bookmakers will often send you notice via email, while you should be able to withdraw any funds still in that account even if your betting is restricted.

Just as important as how you go about matched betting, therefore, is avoiding detection.

Staying under the radar

Every bet will vary but there are a few general methods of keeping under the radar when matched betting. One is to bet on high-profile or common competitions, such as the Premier League, Champions League etc. A bet on an obscure league or team may raise suspicion that you are not just a regular player.

The amounts you stake and deposit can have a similar impact, so vary your deposit amounts and round up your bets. A very specific bet of £33.17 can, again, attract unwanted attention, especially if you are constantly staking in this fashion.

Time your bets well, too, placing qualifying bets on the day of an offer or just before a match starts. This creates a more impromptu feel and looks less planned.

Finally, if you don’t have an urgent need to withdraw your funds, avoid withdrawing from your account too often. Big withdrawals, or withdrawals that look scheduled, will equally make your account more noticeable.

Have patience

The lower-risk nature of making a profit through matched betting can sometimes mean a slower, longer-term win. For example, it will take far longer to make a large amount from matched betting than one instant win on an accumulator.

But the lower risk of matched betting is a completely different prospect to betting on a long-odds multiplier. Building up a good balance may therefore take time, if your aim is to regularly make withdrawals for profit.

The idea in play with matched betting is never having to make deposits again after your initial deposit, although this requires patience. If you are committed to matched betting, it’s advisable not to use the same funds for non-matched betting, otherwise you risk losing what you have built up.

As discussed earlier, placing the occasional casual bet may actually help you stay under the radar. But always ensure you separate this from your matched betting.

Matched betting is a totally different prospect to what is considered the norm in football betting and, if you are more interested in traditional betting, you can visit our guides on the different football bet types, as well as our best football accumulator tips. Check out our reviews of the best sports betting sites to get the best odds on your next matched bet.