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Make Money

Make money from Matched Betting (full guide)

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Now, I'm not a gambler by any means. But I have made a good amount of money from bookmakers, without gambling, using a technique called matched betting.

The result is this guide, where I'll share the exact steps with you too. It includes screenshots and a free oddsmatcher tool. You must be over 18.

Why should I trust this guide?

What I'm teaching you here is a completely legal, tried-and-tested method called 'matched betting'. Matched betting allows you to turn the tables on the bookmakers to extract their free bet offers.

Matched betting is legal and a spokesperson for William Hill has indicated the betting industry does not have a problem with this use of free bets – Wikipedia

I've used it myself for several years and have never lost any money doing it. But I have taken my time and been very careful to avoid making mistakes.

Do not rush this guide. Make sure you understand it 100% before depositing any money, and please ask any questions if unsure of anything.

I'll be taking you through the 'need-to-knows' then showing you how I made £17.44 in 20 minutes in a full-blown example.

matched betting article in The Guardian

Piece by The Guardian on making money from free bets

What is Matched Betting?

Matched betting is a technique that mathematically generates a profit from free bet promotions offered by betting companies. Almost all bookmakers advertise these offers to entice new customers to place bets with them.

For example, "bet £25 with us and we'll give you a £25 free bet!". We have a list of the best ones at the end of this guide.

How does matched betting work?

Firstly, you don't need to know all the betting terminology if you follow the steps below. But it's important you know two types of bet which allow matched betting to work:

A 'back' bet

Betting for a certain outcome to come true. Eg. "I bet England will win" is a backing bet. If it comes true, you win the bet and the winnings. If England lose or draw, you lose your stake. You can place a back bet at any bookmaker, such as Paddy Power, William Hill, Betfred etc.

A 'lay' bet

Betting against a certain outcome to come true. Eg. "I bet England will not win" is a lay bet. If they lose or draw, you win the bet. You can only place a lay bet at a betting exchange such as Smarkets.

Matched betting works by cancelling out the risk on the 'back' bet at the online bookies by betting against yourself at the same odds (know as 'laying' a bet) at a betting exchange. In other words, you are 'matching' your bet.

Following your first or 'qualifying' real money bet, you will be awarded the free bet by the bookmaker. This is where the profit is made.

Quite simply, you repeat the process: bet using the free bet and then lay the bet. Whatever the result you will be in profit (which I'll be demonstrating below).

How much profit can I make?

For each matched bet, you can typically expect to extract 50-80% of the free bet amount as profit. This is because betting exchanges usually charge a commission on winnings. You may also make a small loss on the qualifying bet due to the minor difference in odds on each website. This is normal, and you will recoup this when you use the free bet.

In the steps below I'll show you how to profit from a £30 free bet using a real-life example. Replicate the same steps across the dozens of free bet offers each year, and you can quickly be looking at £100s (depending on how much time and effort you put in).

Earnings from the gambling industry are currently tax-free. Whilst you can make a good amount of money from matched betting, for most people it's not going to replace a job.

What's the risk?

Anyone can learn how to do matched betting and, in theory, there is no risk involved because you are covering yourself by betting for and against the same event.

However the risk comes when mistakes are made. So you need to double-check everything and follow the steps exactly. On rare occasions free bets do not always come through right away, so be patient and always abide by the promotion's terms.

Once you've understood the process and successfully followed the steps below, you can continue matched betting at other online bookies with free bet offers (see my table at end) which can help you earn extra money.

It's also worth knowing that depositing at gambling websites does not affect your credit rating.

Get My Free Matched Betting Course

I'll share the best offers, common mistakes and how to make money every month.
You'll also be invited to join my Private Facebook Group to ask me anything.

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7 steps to matched betting profit

Note: This is literally a step-by-step, hold-your-hand kind of guide. There's lots of fragmented information out there on forums etc, which often results in costly mistakes for novices. Below I outline exactly the steps I follow, using the practical example of one free bet. So long as you follow word for word, you can't go wrong. I strongly suggest reading through all the steps first before making any bets. You'll also find using a desktop computer far easier than on mobile.

  1. Open a Smarkets account

    Smarkets is a betting exchange where you can 'lay' bets to match against 'back' bets at bookmakers.

    Unlike traditional bookmakers, Smarkets is a place where you bet against other people.

    Right now they have a 0% commission promotion when using the code COMMFREE.

    You will need to deposit £10 after registering to activate this offer.

    Register on Smarkets

    Seeing blank pages? Turn off Ad Blocking plugins when matched betting.

  2. Open a Betfred account

    free bet

    One of the best offers right now is with Betfred who are offering a £30 free bet on new sign ups when you bet just £10 (don't worry we'll be matching this too). So we'll be using this 'bookie' in this practical example.

    Always check the full T&Cs of receiving free bet offers.

    New 18+ UK customers only, min odds 2.0, place a single £10 bet settled within 7 days, £30 free bet credited within 10 hours of qualifying bet being settled. Full terms.

    During registration, you will be prompted to make a deposit. Use a debit card in your name to deposit £10 (needed to unlock the free bet).

    Register on Betfred

  3. Use decimal odds

    Once you've logged into Betfred, change your odds display from fractions to decimal for easy comparison with Smarkets.

    You can do this by going to "Settings", found in the lefthand menu under "Useful links". This is essential!
    Choose Decimal Odds

  4. Find and place your qualifying bet

    Ideally you want to find a sporting bet (I recommend football) which has close odds on both Betfred (the bet to back) and Smarkets (the lay bet).

    Lay odds on Smarkets are the blue boxes, not the green.

    For this free bet offer, Betfred's terms state you must pick odds of 2.0 or greater. Choose a bet with odds close to 2.0 for this step (no more than 3.0).

    Remember the game needs to be within 7 days of opening your account.

    See my example below then use the Oddsmatcher tool which does the hard work for you.

    My example

    I used the Oddsmatcher below which suggested a football match between Aston Villa and Leicester City. The 'back bet' was for Aston Villa to win at odds 2.00. The lay odds were 2.08.

    So I went to find this game on Betfred and Smarkets, each on separate browser tabs.

    I will back Aston Villa to win at Betfred with odds of 2.00 and lay that same bet on Smarkets with odds of 2.08 (blue box).
    Choosing the odds
    In my example bet, the difference in odds is 0.08 which the Oddsmatcher calculated as giving me a small acceptable loss of 38p on this qualifying bet.

    Here are my betting slips on both websites for my qualifying bet:
    Matched Bet Betslips

    Oddsmatcher tool (Qualifying bet)

    Use the Oddsmatcher tool below. This will save you a LOT of time and maximise your overall profit.

    It fetches live odds from Betfred and finds the equivalent lay odds on Smarkets for thousands of upcoming football matches.

    The hardest part is also done for you, which is to calculate the best matches for your qualifying bet based on the closest possible odds and smallest loss. Feel free to switch between them and the steps and calculations will be updated (below the table).

    Just click the blue refresh icon to start and then follow the 4 steps.

Mobile users: The widget may not work properly. Use on a desktop if possible.

Get bonus tips & more free bets:

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  1. Claim your free bet

    In my Aston Villa v Leicester City game, Aston Villa lost 2-4. So I lost the £10 bet on Betfred but made a profit of £9.62 on Smarkets.

    The total amount between the accounts is therefore 38p, the "acceptable loss" as predicted by the Oddsmatcher.

    As I have placed and seen through the £10 qualifying bet, I now have a £30 free bet! I also have my £10.39 liability stake and £9.62 profit sitting in my Smarkets account.

    The free bet of £30 will be credited to your Betfred account.

  2. Find & place a new bet

    We're basically going to repeat the process in step 4, but using the £30 free bet instead of the £10.

    This time it's worth picking odds greater than 2.5 to maximise your profit. Just bear in mind that the higher they are the more you'll need to have in your Smarkets account to lay it (see the "Liability" amount in the tool below).

    My example

    I used the next step of the Oddsmatcher (embedded below) which suggested a football match between Southampton and Wolves. The 'back bet' was for Wolves to win the game at odds 2.63. The lay odds were 2.72.

    I went to find this game on Betfred and Smarkets, again each on separate browser tabs.

    I will back Wolves to win at Betfred with odds of 2.63 and lay that same bet on Smarkets with odds of 2.72 (blue box).

    Choosing the odds again

    On Smarkets I had £29.62 in my account, so I deposited another £10 to more than cover my calculated Liability of £30.93.

    Here are my bet slips on both websites for my free bet:

    betting slips using free bet
    The Oddsmatcher below calculated that I'll make a clear profit of £17.82, whatever happens. Nice.

    Oddsmatcher tool (Free bet)

    Just click the blue refresh icon to start and then follow the 3 steps.

    Once again, feel free to switch between the matches in the table and the calculations will be updated.

    Mobile users: The widget may not work properly. Use on a desktop if possible.
  3. Withdraw the profit

    Whatever the outcome, you will now be in profit to the amount calculated in the Oddsmatcher. Now it's time to cash out!

    In my example of the Southampton v Wolves game, Wolves won the game 2-1. This means my £30 free bet on Betfred won with a return of £48.75.

    Meanwhile, I lost the liability amount of £30.93 on Smarkets (which was betting that Wolves would not win). This leaves me with a profit of £17.82.

    Below are my full betting statements for both Betfred and Smarkets, showing the qualifying and free bet outcomes.

    Matched betting statements
    My total profit from both matched bets, accounting for the 38p loss on my £10 qualifying bet, totals £17.44. I spent just under 20 minutes on the whole process, as I move on to the other free bets out there (best listed below).

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Matched betting offers

If you are confident enough with the process of matched betting and eager to make more profit, work through the free bet offers in the table below (ordered by ease).

The same key steps above still apply, and I've written a mini guide for each one. All offers are 18+. Always check the full T&Cs.

Important: Unlock ALL free bets

The table below is just the tip of the iceberg. Lots more free bet offers come and go, never making it to this page, but I share where to find them in my email list.

You'll also be invited to my Private Facebook Group. Don't miss out, join now:

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Current free bet total: £380

Free bet offers

BookmakerDepositFree betMin. oddsGuide
cor £5 £20 1.50 Claim »
lad £5 £20 1.50 Claim »
willhill £10 £30 1.50 Claim »
PP £10 £10 1.50 Claim »
bw £20 £20 1.50 Claim »
8sport £10 £30 1.50 Claim »
10b £50 £50 1.60 Claim »
betw £10 £10 1.75 Claim »
boy £10 £20 2.00 Claim »
unib £40 £40 1.40 Claim »
sky £5 £20 2.00 Claim »
b36 £10 £50 1.20 Claim »
fred £10 £30 2.00 Claim »

Click for even more free bets »

Note: Although the greatest care is taken and these free bets are reviewed regularly it's important that you check the full terms and conditions of each free bet offer after clicking through to the bookmaker's site.

Matched betting services

Since I first wrote this tutorial, there has been a massive growth in other websites dedicated to helping you maximise earnings from matched betting.

They have really active communities, dozens of automated and tracking tools, multiple sports and most importantly daily existing customer offers to sustain the potential to keep making money beyond new customer offers.

Head over to my review of the best matched betting sites to see what’s on offer.

Matched betting FAQs

Is matched betting legal?

Matched betting is completely legal in the UK. It takes advantage of a loophole between betting exchanges and bookmakers, but neither of them lose out because not backing or laying elsewhere has no influence on their result from your matched bet.

Some people assume matched betting is illegal because it’s almost too good to be true. But it’s legit (assuming you’re over 18)!

How can I keep track of my bets?

You can signup here for information on some nifty software we are about to launch that tracks all your matched betting activity!

How do I find more free bets?

Bookies also offer existing customers free bets and bonuses, called ‘reload offers’. These are designed to keep their customers coming back to them.

There are also more signup offers that come and go. I check for these daily but don’t add them to this page as it’d get even longer!

To get the latest offers simply subscribe to my email list or see matched betting sites.

Why does Smarkets say my bet has been “Unmatched” or “Partially Matched”?

What it means:

An unmatched (or partially matched) bet on Smarkets basically means that you’ve ‘offered’ the lay bet but there isn’t enough money being backed to cover you in full at the odds you chose.

How to avoid it happening:

It’s a pretty rare scenario, however it’s worth checking how much money is available for any odds/price by looking below the decimal odds for the £XXX amount (in the pink boxes). You may need to click “View full market” to see this:

unmatched bet

The amount of money shown needs to be higher than the “Backer’s Stake” figure you put in the betting slip, otherwise it won’t be fully matched. Generally speaking you want the figure to be much higher (ideally over a few hundred pounds) just to give you a nice cushion.

You also need to be quick in placing the bet, as the amount available can change in the time it takes to confirm the bet (particularly if the event is starting soon).

If the displayed amount is less than required:

You can either move on to another event/bet (recommended) or select the odds to the right at a higher price and update your calculations.

If the whole bet is unmatched:

You’ll get this notice after placing your bet if there isn’t any money available at the odds you chose.

Firstly it’s important you cancel this bet immediately, otherwise it could still be (partially) matched!

Then go back to the event page and select different odds which have enough money, ensuring to update your calculations (calculator here).

If the bet is partially matched:

In this case, you have no choice but to keep the partially matched bet and will need to match the remainder at the next odds available (check there’s enough money this time!).

It’s important to cancel the unmatched part of the bet in case it matches later without your knowledge.

If you don’t match the full amount you won’t cancel the risk of the bet with the bookmaker and could lose money. Going for slightly higher odds will have minimal impact on your total profit.

The bottom line is to make sure you’ve bet the full liability amount on Smarkets to cancel out the risk with the bet at the bookmaker.

Can I enter my own figures in the calculator tool?

Yep you can click the settings icon (top right) to alter the Stake/Stake Not Returned/Commission amounts.

For more advanced usage, or just to play around with outcomes, use our Matched Betting Calculator. You can also get to it via the dropdown on the tool.

I assume most people want to get the maximum free bet amount, so by default we automatically set the stake amounts etc for each bookmaker.

How does a bet refund offer work?

You’ll notice some promotions refund your qualifying bet if it loses (‘risk free’), rather than giving you a free bet after making a qualifying bet.

The calculations are a little different, so use our special bet refund calculator.

Most refunds are given in the form of a free SNR bet, but occasionally it can be given as cash. Each needs its own strategy which we’ll cover below.

Cash refund

The calculator is straightforward to use: type in the stake of the bet, the back/lay odds as usual and the full refund value in the ‘Refund amount’ box.

Free bet refund

Here the idea is to lay less on the exchange than we normally would as we have something to gain if the bookie bet loses (ie. a free bet).

If it wins, we’re done. If it loses, we need to use the free bet to compensate for our losses. Either way we’ll make roughly the same profit.

Typically we’ll be able to extract 70-75% of the free bet value into cash and so we’ve pre-adjusted the refund amount to 70% in the calculator to reflect this.

Can I register multiple accounts?

No, don’t do it. The bookies are extremely strict on this nowadays, and will ban you if they suspect you doing this.

They’ll check your IP, cookies, name, address and payment details at the very least. For actual terms check their site.

Do existing users get free bet offers?

Yes. Whilst the free bets listed on this page are strictly for new users, every so often bookies will email you with more free bets (‘reload offers’), especially if you haven’t been on their site for a while or a big sporting event is on the horizon.

I have a separate email folder for bookmakers and scan through their promos every few days.

Join my list to get these reload offers each week here.

A bookie's offer is different to what’s in the guide. Help?

They can change every so often, simply adjust the figures by clicking the settings button in the tool (top right). The calculations will be updated for you.

For more flexibility, use the Manual Calculator.

Oh, and please give me a shout to update the guide.

I haven’t received my free bet. What do I do?

Firstly check the terms on the bookmaker’s website. If you believe you’ve followed them you’ll need to contact their customer services (with your account details).

Will matched betting affect my credit rating?

No it won’t since bookmakers don’t tend to perform credit checks.

Nothing has ever shown up on my credit report. Whilst bookmakers may sometimes carry out a credit check on you (rare), it isn’t recorded and has no effect on your overall score.

If you want to check your credit score at any point, you can do so for free (see our guide).

How can I lay accumulators?

If you’re looking to lay off accumulator bets you’ll need this spreadsheet.

Pick events that are at least half an hour apart because you’re going to lay each selection of a bet one at a time, depending on the outcome of the earlier leg.

The idea is if any leg on the accumulator bet loses you stop laying on Smarkets. If it wins you keep going.

  1. Enter your bookmaker stake under “Back Stake”.
  2. Under “Multiple Type” select what kind of bet it is (e.g. treble, four-fold etc).
  3. In cells E4 to E6, enter the description of each leg on the accumulator bet – ideally in chronological order. (So you don’t confuse yourself!)
  4. Enter the bookmaker odds for each selection in cells F4 to F6.
  5. Enter the exchange lay odds in cells G4 to G6.
  6. Enter the lay commission in cells I4 to I6.

The required lay stake for the first leg the acca will be shown in cell K4. If it loses (on the bookmaker side), you’re done. If it wins, continue to lay off the second leg as calculated in K5.

Keep going until a leg on the bookmaker side loses, and remember to lay as advised between each leg. Forgetting to lay between legs (even just once) could be a very expensive mistake!

Is a student website a suitable platform to explain matched betting?

The guide originated on the basis that we were well aware that many university students do it as a way to supplement their income, but information was (still is) often fragmented and misleading, typically in the form of copious forum posts which provide little guidance on a topic that must be understood properly for it to work.

In response to addressing this issue and ensuring students do not make mistakes and risk losing money, we wrote a thorough guide in 2010 and later invested in free-to-use tools that protect readers further against making mistakes whilst saving them time.

Matched betting is not gambling and is a genuine way to make some money that many students have used to meet their rising living costs.

The maintenance loan leaves a £582pm shortfall for the average UK student (NSMS, 2023).

Students struggling for money will likely come across matched betting so it’s important they are getting the full facts and proper guidance.

We email readers who subscribe after their first month asking how they are getting on, as we feel it’s important to know our guidance is working properly and people are not getting into difficulties. Many reply and we have lots of messages from readers who are grateful for our guide.

Whilst we are a student-facing website, 83% of readers come directly from Google searching for “matched betting” information. 72% are above the age of 24.

We very much believe our guide minimises the mistakes that can be made when starting matched betting, and this is the ultimate reason our guide exists.

How do I report incorrect information or bugs?

Please use the contact form.

Disclaimer: Please note that neither the author nor this website accept any liability for how you use the advice given on this page. So read it carefully, and if you decide to follow the matched betting steps then you use it at your own risk! Whilst matched betting is mathematically risk free, risk can be introduced by human error and in some rare instances bookmakers may withhold bonuses if they believe you have breached their terms so always read them carefully. Profit varies depending upon time and effort.

gamcare     gambleaware

Owen Burek


Owen is the founder of Save the Student, the leading student money website he started in 2007. He's passionate about educating young people about personal finance and ways to make extra money. Owen has appeared on BBC News and writes for major publications including The Guardian, Entrepreneur and HuffPost.
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