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So, what is matched betting and how is it low-risk, or even risk-free in many instances? This guide will help you understand what it is all about and set you on the road to making a substantial extra income.

This step-by-step guide walks you through a matched bet for a customer opening a new account with  bookmaker.

Matched betting consists of two main parts:

Back bet

This is basically a traditional bet, where you bet on an event. As a Gooner, I will use the example of an Arsenal vs Tottenham football match. If I were to bet that Arsenal were to win the game, this would be a back bet. If the back bet wins, I collect my winnings and get my original stake back as well. But, if my back bet loses, I lose my original stake.

Lay bet

A lay bet is different, in that you are betting on something NOT to happen! Using the same example again, I would place a lay bet at the betting exchange, but I would be betting that Arsenal do not win the game, i.e. they draw or, heaven forbid, lose!

So, I have a back bet on Arsenal to win and a lay bet on Arsenal not to win. Whatever happens then, the two bets will cancel each other out, albeit with a small loss.

Hold on a minute! A loss, did I hear you say?! I thought this was risk-free? Well, now we come to the crux of the matter! Keep reading…

Bookmaker Bonuses

Because bookmakers are keen to get and keep your business, they offer sign-up bonuses as well as ongoing free bets, enhanced odds, offers and bonuses. This is where matched betting comes into it’s own and we can start to make some real money.

For example, BetFred are offering a free £30 bet when you open an account with them, deposit £10 into your account and use it to place a bet with them. You need to be aware, though, before beginning any of these offers, that there are often terms and conditions in place. For example, with BetFred, the back bet  needs to be placed at odds of 2.0 or greater. Just make sure you are aware of the T’s & C’s before embarking on any offer and that you are happy to continue.

So, let’s use the BetFred example to walk you through the process of how we can start to make money from matched betting.

1. Open an Account with the Bookmaker

The first step is to open an account with BetFred. You can do this here. Once you have done that, deposit £10 into your new account. I would recommend using a debit card to do this for most bookmakers, as some do  not like their customers using credit cards or payment services, such as Skrill.

2. Open an account with a betting exchange

A betting exchange is where we need to place our lay bet, i.e. to bet on an event NOT to happen. There re a few to choose from, but I would recommend Smarkets, as it is very easy to use, it is very stable and, more importantly, it has a lower commission than many others, at just 2%. Sign up for an account here.

You will then need to deposit some money into your exchange account. Deposit as much as you can afford, but for this example, you will only need a small amount, so I would suggest £20.

3. Place our first Back bet

As mentioned, with BetFred the first (qualifying) bet needs to be placed at odds of 2.0 or greater. You may need to change the settings to display decimal odds rather than fractional. We use decimal odds as it  makes it easier to calculate returns.

Next we need to find an event on which to place our back bet. We are looking for an event where the back odds and the lay odds are fairly close together, to minimise our qualifying losses.


We have selected the highlighted game between Middlesbrough and Bournemouth and will place a bet on the home win at odds of 2.6. This meets the requirements of the terms, being greater than 2.0 and, as you will see, it is also fairly close to the lay odds. We have entered our stake of £10, so we just need to click on ‘Place bets’.

We have now placed our first back bet. Time to lay it off!

4. Find a matching Lay bet

Now we need to login to our Smarkets account and find the odds for the game we have just placed our back bet on. To do this, we can either navigate through the menu on the left hand side of the Smarkets screen, or we can simply type either team in the search box at the top of the Smarkets screen.

You should now see a screen similar to the one below:

smark_betWhat we are looking for here are the blue highlighted odds. DO NOT bet using the green highlighted odds, as these are for placing a back bet.

As you can see, the lay odds (blue highlighted) are 2.7. This compares favourably with the back odds (2.6), so should give us fairly low qualifying losses.

5. Calculate our Lay bet

Before we can place our lay bet, however, we need to know how much we need to bet. To do this, we should use a betting calculator. There are a few online, but such as this one on OddsMonkey.


We have entered the details of this bet into the calculator:

  • Bet Type: Normal. This is a qualifying bet, so the normal option should be used here.
  • Mode: Simple Mode. You should not need to change this under most circumstances.
  • Back Stake: £10. This is the amount that we are placing for our back bet with BetFred.
  • Back Odds: 2.6. The odds for our back bet with BetFred.
  • Back Commission: 0%. This will always be 0%, as bookmakers do not charge a commission on back bets.
  • Lay Odds: 2.7. The odds given for the lay bet at the betting exchange (Smarkets in this instance).
  • Lay Commission: 2%. As we have used Smarkets, we can put 2% here. If you use, for instance Betfair, you will need to change it (Betfair charge 5%).

The calculator will then show how much we should lay at the exchange (Smarkets). In this case, we should lay £9.70. It will also tell us how much our liability will be should we lose the bet. In this case £16.49. So we need to have at least this amount in our betting exchange account before placing the lay bet. That is why I suggested depositing £20 in our Smarkets account. To further clarify this, if the back bet wins, we have a liability (loss) with the exchange of £16.49, but we win at the bookmaker to balance this out.

From this, we can then see that the profit for this bet will be -0.49, or a 49p loss.

6. Place our first Lay bet

We can now go back to Smarkets and place the lay bet. Click on the blue highlighted odds for the correct outcome (i.e. against Middlesbrough).


In the box that now appears, we can place the lay stake. I know it now says back stake because we are backing Middlesbrough not to win. This may seem confusing, but trust me, this is our lay stake. We know, from our calculator that we should place a lay bet of £9.70. As a sense check, we can see that the liability is £16.48 (as opposed to £16.49 shown in the calculator, but that’s fine).

So, we can now click on ‘Place Bet’ and then click ‘Confirm’ to finish the process.

We have now placed our first matched bet!

 7. The Outcome!

So, to recap, we have placed our back bet with BetFred and we have placed a matching lay bet with Smarkets. Now we can relax and wait for the game to play out.

Let’s take a look at the possible outcomes:

  • Middlesbrough win the game
    • We win £16 at BetFred, plus return of £10 stake
    • We lose -£16.48 at Smarkets (our liability)
    • Net loss –48p
  • Bournemouth win the game or the game is drawn
    • We lose -£10 at BetFred (our back stake)
    • We win £9.51 at Smarkets (£9.70 winnings, less 19p commission)
    • Net loss -49p

 8. The Free Bet

Now that the bet has settled, within 48 hours our BetFred account will be credited with a free bet of £30. Hooray!

Our aim now is to extract the maximum profit from our free bet. In order to do this, we should look for a game with slightly higher odds. Ideally, we do not want the back bet to win, as there are often play-through conditions before you can withdraw your money won from a free bet. e.g. you need to wager the amount of the free bet three times before you can withdraw the money. This can be time-consuming and you could end up losing more than you need to. Look for a back bet that is unlikely to win! This means higher odds. The downside, though, is that you will need more in your exchange account to cover the liability. So, balance out what you can afford to place in your Smarkets account with what you can expect to win.

I have selected the match between Manchester United and Burnley and will place the back bet on a draw at odds of 7.0.

bf_freeNext, we need to look at the lay odds in Smarkets and we can se that they are close to the back odds (7.0) at 7.4.


Using the calculator, we need to change the bet type to Free Bet (SNR), which means ‘Stake not Returned’ and enter the bet details as before.


We can see from this that we will have a liability of £156.10, so we need to have at least that much in our Smarkets account before we can lay the bet. If you can afford to do this, deposit this into your account now, otherwise you will need to find another bet with a liability you can afford. Assuming you have deposited this, place the lay bet in Smarkets.


 9. The Free Bet Outcome

Let’s look at how this might pan out:

  • The game ends in a draw
    • We win £180 at BetFred. Our stake is not returned
    • We lose -£156.14 at Smarkets (our liability)
    • Net profit £23.86
  • The game is not a draw
    • We don’t lose anything at BetFred and our stake is not returned
    • We win £23.90 at Smarkets (£24.39 winnings, less 49p commission)
    • Net profit £23.90

Taking into account our loss from the qualifying bet, our overall net profit from the BetFred offer is:

  • Qualifying bet: Loss -49p
  • Free bet: Profit £23.90
  • Overall profit: £23.41

Not a bad profit from just one offer. Remember, there are many similar offers, both for new and existing customers. They just keep coming, so get in on the action and make yourself some money!