What is matched betting?
Matched betting became pretty famous when a few major non-betting related websites featured the tactic. The Guardian newspaper was one such website that covered it for the upcoming 2010 football World Cup. This lead to a host of people who had little to no interest in sports betting to get involved.
Needless to say, because of this, the information and advice now available on the subject is very often given by people that are not familiar with the inner workings of sports betting. At first this wasn’t an issue, but bookies have evolved – well due to the sheer numbers of people taking advantage of matched betting you didn’t expect them to just take it on the chin did you.
So the people that are just regurgitating the match betting system of many moons ago are likely to be giving wrong, out of date or basic advice. By basic I mean advice that will give no longevity to the system, purely because of a lack of understanding or interest in sports betting. Fortunately you have found yourself on a site dedicated to everything to do with the maths behind sports betting, written by someone with a love of the subject and working in the industry.
Matched betting is any series of bets where you have covered all outcomes in a manner that returns a profit regardless of the result. But because this system has been hijacked by your average Joe its definition has been slightly skewed. It’s now common to think of match betting as two bets that involve a free bet at a traditional online bookie and a corresponding lay bet on a betting exchange.
In order to stay consistent with the majority of other sites writing on this topic, I will talk of match betting involving free bets, or what are now being called (rightly so) sign-up bonuses. But I will not confine this system to only being a back/lay system, that’s just ridiculous. I’ll also encourage you to think of this system as not only for sign-up bonuses, as it can be used for reload bonuses, price boosts and in fact any value bet you find. But as sign-up bonuses are the low hanging fruit to profit I will use examples involving them.
So if I’m not going to just use back/lay betting to achieve the goal of match betting, what else will I be using? There are two methods used to cover all selections in a betting market. One is of course back/lay betting, or what is more commonly known as arbitrage betting. The other and more beneficial method when using this system is Dutching.
The classic method of match betting, simply bet something with your sign-up bonus and then find the same selection on betfair betting exchange and place a lay bet. A lay bet is a bet on something to lose. Use our match betting calculator to calculate the exact amount you need to lay for a profit of the same amount regardless of the winner.
This is a much more advanced system of matched betting, if you have read several articles on this subject you might not even of heard of Dutching. It’s a system where you bet several selections in a betting market to maximise your chances of winning. In the case of match betting you’ll bet all selections of a betting market, but each selection with a different bookie.
Why is this system better than the commonly touted arbitrage method? The first and best reason is that you can play off two or more sign-up bonuses against each other. For example, a tennis match is a two-way market, if you bet player 1 with your first sign-up bonus and player 2 with your second you are guaranteed to make a profit.
Another great reason, and one expanded on later in the risk section, is to give your accounts longevity. If you want to use this system with promotions other than sign-up bonuses you also want your betting accounts to have bets that aren’t promotions. Using a promotion bet against a normal standard bet makes that later account look more natural and not that of a bonus abuser.
A third reason is that unlike betting exchanges, bookies are more likely to give extra bonuses to customers with more turn-over. If you play-off promotions with other bookies you will likely get extra free bets. It’s normally better to trade smaller company free bets off with the bigger names, as these are normally more generous and are accounts you’d rather keep.
Matched betting calculator
Matched betting tips
Virtually the whole of this article is matched betting tips, whether to use the dutching stake method just mentioned or the advice in the following section on risk. So this section of the article is basically tips on anything not covered in other sections.
One matched betting tip is to be aware of bookmaker margins. When trading free bets against each other it is best to look for low margin bet types. This is much easier than it sounds. Basically the more selections a bet type has, the higher the built in margin. Other factors like how obscure or popular a bet type is also comes into play. But simply look for 2-way markets in major tennis or football matches and you’ll find a low margin bet type.
Set-up a new email account, or create a new folder to redirect all bookmaker related emails. Bookmakers send a ton of emails and will quickly become an annoyance if they are arriving in your main email account. Although many of these emails will be marketing rubbish, a few will contain new promotions, specials or free bets. So you don’t want to ignore them completely, but best to have them in one place so they are easy to quickly scroll through.
Be careful of the odds range you use. This is more of an issue if you are using the back then lay tactic. If you bet on a massive underdog, remember you also have to have the funds in betfair to be able to lay the bet. Also if you have to roll-over free bet winning x-amount of times, selecting an outsider means you have to turnover loads more before cashing out your money.
Keep records of all your bets. This doesn’t have to be very detailed, and this should also be done even if you plan to do a quick smash and grab with only sign-up bonuses. You will have money spread around in several different accounts, and unless you have the memory of an elephant you are bound to forget where it all is. Better to have a simple spreadsheet that tells you where the money is at a glance.
A tip that is pretty unfair. Be British. Easier said than done, but I don’t mean you require a British passport, I just mean sign-up from the UK site. Bookies have British customers pegged as a better return on investment. And therefore some bookmakers offer them better sign-up bonuses. The screenshot below is of two sign-up bonuses from the same bookie. Taken at the same time, but I set my location as different regions (one in the United Kingdom the other in Malta). Clearly the UK one is the one you want.
Issues and risks of Matched betting
Although this is going to be the easiest money you will ever make from a bookie it isn’t without risk like many will have you believe. Of course some have a vested interest in selling you the dream of risk free and easy money, they could be trying to sell you their matched betting system or updates.
And in all fairness even the least intelligent among us should be able to make a few quid using this system, just don’t expect it to be life changing amounts or to be on a regular basis. There are only a finite number of bookies and promotions you are able to take advantage of, but if you have patience you can make a decent amount on first sign-up bonuses and some beer money thereafter with other promotions.
So what are the risks of matched betting?
1. Human error
The most obvious risk is human error, the excitement of making a fast buck is what has most likely got you reading this article. But don’t let this excitement spill over to your matched betting. Because make no mistake, you are gambling. Keep a cool head and double and treble check everything. If your maths isn’t the best, don’t take any chance, use one of our matched betting calculators to do it for you.
“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good” is a statement made from a high flying trader in the film wall street. And I’m not going to disagree with this statement as I’m sure in a lot of industries it’s what gets a person to the top.
But with matched betting it’s best to play it a little safer, being too greedy could lead to a big lose. Don’t hunt down a massive arb opportunity just to eke out that extra couple of pounds profit, because this could lead to one side of the bet being voided as a palpable error, leaving your money exposed.
Even if this doesn’t happen, it could still lead to your account being restricted, making any wagering requirement a lot harder to achieve. And of course a restricted or closed account means you will not be offered future promotions that could make you more money.
3. Terms and conditions
The risk involved here is a bit vague, as there are many issues to look out for. And different types of risk will occur in each bookies terms and conditions. But on the whole the main points to look out for are
Stake Returned bonus – This is the best type of free bet, it’s a bet where if your selection wins you will receive your original stake (the free bet) as well as the winnings.
Stake not returned – Be careful of this type of free bet. Here if your bet wins you will only have your winnings returned, as the name suggests, the original stake will not be returned.
Qualifying Bet – A bet you need to place in order to unlock the free bet. Be careful of these, a qualifying bet is generally only your first bet placed, so will have to be large enough to unlock the whole amount of the free bet. It may also come with restrictions on the market you can place the bet, and might only count if the bet is pre-event, or of course only count if it is in-play.
Wagering Requirement or Roll Over – another T&C many forget to look out for is rules on how much you must bet before being able to withdraw winnings from a free bet. I’ve see conditions range from being able to withdraw right away to having to roll over any winnings ten times. There may be odds limitations; it’s not uncommon to see odds having to be at least even money to count towards wagering requirements. Some even say bets must be placed on betting markets with three or more outcomes.
4. Account closure
This will rarely happen if you are just using match betting with sign-up bonuses, but it’s still a risk. Something more likely is having your account restricted to very low limits, but again it’s not a massive risk unless you are betting on palpable errors and arbs. And this can only affect accounts with big wagering requirements.
Of course if you are going to continue your match betting after using the initial sign-up bonus this becomes more likely. Because it also makes sense to take advantage of price boosts, money back specials, enhanced each-way terms and an array of other promotions. But you will need to be smarter about it than with normal sign-up bonus match betting.
You’ll need to stay well away from arbs, and probably not always take top price. This will insure your account isn’t closed. But want can also happen is you might be restricted from taking part in promotions. If all your bets are on promotional bets, it will not be long before you get an email saying you can no longer take part. So best to mix in some none promotional bets.
Below is an email I got from Paddy Power a few years back after I’d got involved in to many of their specials and promotions. I hadn’t taken care to follow the advice I have given in this article and it’s more than fair for them to have restricted me. But as matched betting isn’t a major form of betting income for me I wasn’t too worried. If it’s your only system of betting, you’ll need to be a lot more careful than me.
5. Dodgy bookies
I’ve not had much experience in this department, but I have read several scare stories or forum posts of people saying they have struggled to withdraw winnings. Not just from matched betting but also from normal bets. Most of the times they get this money but it just takes a lot of effort in proving you are who you say you are. But some say they never see their money again.
It’s something that has always surprised me with bookies, you can sign-up and lose thousands of pounds no questions asked. But as soon as you try and withdraw ten pounds they ask for a load of identification. And if you don’t have the documents they are happy to keep your winnings, but never refund any loses.
Anyway back to the point at hand. How do you know a trustworthy bookie to a dodgy one? Most of you reading this article will have none to very little experience of bookmakers. You just want to make a quick few quid and leave the betting to others. Generally you should be safe if the bookie is licenced in Gibraltar or Malta (Gibraltar being the most respected and harder to get of licences).
You will normally find this information in the footer of all sports betting sites, below is a couple of screenshots from two of the biggest bookmakers, Bet365 and William Hill. (Click image to enlarge if you can’t read the licence information)
6. Technical failure
Last on the list as it’s cause for the least concern. The heading explains it all, technical failure can be with your internet connection or hardware device cutting out when you have only placed one of your series of bets.
One technical failure most people will not take into account is that of the bookie going down. Like any software, bookies websites need updated, they will normally schedule this for the small hours when everyone is in bed. But sometimes hotfixes are needed and can’t wait, so be sure to check the bookmaker for each portion of your matched bet is live. Don’t just rely on odds comparison sites.
Matched betting step by step guide
As already mentioned, there are two different types of matched betting strategy – Back-lay and dutching. A simple guide to both will be shown, followed by a list of sign-up bonuses you can use to get you started.
Arbitrage matched betting guide
A tool that is invaluable to anyone embarking on a matched betting journey is a good odds comparison tool. Many other articles will advise using arbitrage software, such as Odds Monkey, but to play it extra safe it’s best to stay away from this. A few of the best odds comparison sites are
- Odds Checkers
- Odds portal
- Bet Brain
- Best Betting
Any of these will be sufficient, so it’s up to your personal preference.
Now decide on the bookmaker you want to test your matched betting skills against. If you aren’t very confident in what you’re doing I’d suggest you start with one of the smaller promotions. If you are happy you now know what you are doing then go for the bigger ones. Bet365 offer a sign-up bonus at the higher end of the spectrum, so let’s do a demo with them.
With arb matched betting it’s not as important to stick to 2-way markets, so we will do this initial bet with the big football match on the day of writing this article.
Another reason why I am demonstrating this example with the match result market, and not a 2-way market, is to highlight the importance of reading the terms and conditions. By far the two biggest 2-way markets in football are Asian Handicaps and Over/Under goals. If we just instinctively went for either of these markets we’d find ourselves in trouble. One of the T’s and C’s for bet365 is “Bets placed on Asian Handicap and Goal Line markets, both pre-match and In-Play will not count towards the turnover requirement stated in condition 4”.
Back to matched betting. As the odds clearly show we can bet on Everton at odds of 2.05, which is in-line with what the rest of the industry have to offer and is also a fraction away from what betfair is offering. This will mean a small loss on this bet, but this bet will release a free bet, and it’s this bet where you make your money. Also doing it this way, on the major sporting event of the day and at odds less than betfair, you’ll not raise any suspicion from the traders. Keeping your account unrestricted.
Once you have place the “back” bet, now you have to make the corresponding “lay” bet. This is the tricky bit, and the reason we have matched betting calculators to help you. Fill in the details of the back bet into our calculator, as well as the lay odds and press calculate.
As you can see, a loss of £10 is made no matter what the outcome is. “Not what you wanted”, I hear you saying in a confused tone. Where is the risk free money? Well this bet hasn’t made you money, but it has unlocked your £200 in free bets. All you now have to do is similar bets to match the rollover requirements and you should walk away with £150 plus in profit.
Dutching matched betting guide
Much of what you do for bookie-to-bookie matched betting is the same as the standard back-lay matched betting. The only difference is you replace the betting exchange lay bet with that of another bookmaker.
Let’s use bet365 again, but this time we will use a 2-way market. We’ll do this with a basketball match.
Place £200 on Dallas at 1.8. Now for the dutching, normally it would be best to select another bookie offering the best odds on the other side of this bet – that would be Paddy Power. But as they look a little out of sync with the rest of the industry I’d say play it safe and take one of the bookmakers at around the 2.1 mark.
Betway is one such bookie. To know how much you need to bet you will need to refer to our matched betting calculators again, this time the dutching one. Fill in the odds from both Bet365 and Betway along with the first stake and press calculate.
Again, just like using the betting exchange you make a small loss on this first bet. But the point is to release the bet365 free bet, and if you are smart you will have also released any free bet on offer at Betway.