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Matched betting guide – is it risk free? Explanation + how to make money with free bets!

Betting has always been difficult, and the very fact that bookmakers are still around indicates that the house edge is impossible to beat.

When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, so it is easy to understand why people are reluctant to believe in any system that guarantees winnings.

The system that we will talk about here is commonly referred to as matched betting, but it is like betting arbitrage.

If you want to know how to get the edge on your bookmaker when betting on sports and want matched betting explained, then our guide is all you need.

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About matched betting

What is matched betting?  At least for the vast majority of punters, a match bet is about finding a way to make steady profits. It can be a chore, and even the most successful ones are only marginally weighed in your favor.

Bookies frown upon it, but until recently the sheer complexity of this way of wagering made it acceptable. The advent of technology as well as the growing interest in this system has led to the creation of matched betting guides and dedicated software.

Below you will find out what exactly matched betting is and what it takes to start winning in a few and simple steps.

In its simplest form, matched betting will require players to have a minimum of two accounts with different bookmakers. The more accounts the better, because this will allow players to maximize the return on investment by taking advantage of top odds.

Compared to the standard arbitrage system which delivers low yields and requires a lot of time spent with research, our matched betting tutorial is easier and more lucrative. That’s because it uses free bets as an instrument to enhance the output and is virtually risk-free.

If you are asking “what is matched betting?”, you should know that it involves placing opposite wagers and free bets. Players can do it at conventional bookmakers by betting on one team or an athlete to win and placing a wager on the same side on their opponent to prevail elsewhere. This answers the question, can you bet on both teams to win, meaning that with matched betting you can definitely bet on both teams to win. You can also find out here what are unmatched bets and partially matched bets right here.

In this equation, the free bet comes in handy because it allows players to wager money that he or she receives for free. As long as bookmakers will continue to regard this incentive as the ultimate bonus, matched bets will continue to work smoothly, even when using the “accept all odds movement” feature. That said, this feature supposes that you will accept dropping odds, too. If you still don’t like the odds, you can always opt for the “request a bet” option, where you can create your own bet.

Another interesting feature would be “edit my acca“. This is useful in case you change your mind after placing your bets.

What is matched betting?

To begin with, we need to look at two of the core elements of risk-free matched betting. They are the back bet and the lay bet. You will never learn how to make money betting on football or discover how to match bet without learning these two types of stakes. Like all matched betting tutorials, understanding how each of these works is essential. They consist of:

  • Back Bet: After claiming a bonus (free bets or betting reload bonus deals), you can place a bet at your bookmaker on whatever takes your fancy. This is the bet you are going to “back” to win. It needs to be a qualifying bet, so always make sure you check the terms and conditions of any bonus funds you intend on using to make sure your odds are above those stated.
  • Lay Bet: The lay bet is placed at a betting exchange. With this bet, you are betting against your back bet. So, if you picked Team A to win with your back bet, you are laying Team A NOT to win here. You should always check the lay odds or use a calculator to ensure that there is money in the market.

The basic idea is that whichever way the game goes, you should make a profit, albeit a small one in some cases.

Key things you need to know about how matched betting works

Further Information

We will go into the details of how matched betting works in just a few moments. First, though, we need to discuss two more key elements of bet matching. You will not learn how to beat the bookies or how to win at sports betting without properly understanding risk, and other valuable information like sports betting benefits. Even so-called no-risk matched betting comes with a few strings attached.

Matched betting risks primarily come in the form of lay commission and liability. Here is what each term means:

  • Lay Commission: You will typically need to pay a commission on your lay bets at betting exchanges. To ensure that there is value in football betting, you need to account for that commission when you set your lay odds. A profit accumulator is the best to do this, as it will tell you exactly how much you can take home after your commission has been paid.
  • Liability: When betting at an exchange, you are essentially becoming the bookie. You will need to pay out winnings to those who have backed your lay bet odds. This is known as liability. A decent calculator, such as those at Odds Monkey, can tell you the optimal odds to set and any potential liability (the amount you could have to pay to winners). Most betting exchanges will not let you be liable for more than you have in your account, but it is best to check first.

Only after you understand these two concepts can you move on to how matched betting works.

Why Betting Exchanges are Better for Matched Betting?

In this matched betting walkthrough we strive to provide beginners with the easiest and most effective system. Even though it is possible to successfully deploy this system while relying exclusively on traditional bookmakers, betting exchanges are better.

That’s because you can simply back and lay the same team or back and lay the draw,  without trying to find all the exact opposite outcomes. It helps players greatly cut down on the time spent tinkering with the odds and allows them to focus on finding the next bet.

The main reason why people who are using betting arbitrage do not tend to dwell exclusively on betting exchanges is that there are simply not enough of them out there. In the competitive landscape of online gambling they represent just a minority in a market that is dominated by traditional bookmakers. These can be online bookmakers or brick-and-mortar bookmakers. You could do arbitrage betting by placing one of the bets in a betting booth, and this would be “shop betting arbing” or sharbing.

To narrow down the search and find the ideal betting exchange for matched betting, people should look at liquidity as well as the commission charged. Since punters play against each other, the house makes a profit by charging commission from winning wagers.

As mentioned in our matched betting example (which we will come to shortly), a free bet is essential to maximize profits. This means that punters should find a bookmaker or ideally a betting exchange that offers such a free bet to newcomers and existing punters.

It goes without saying that the more free bets the merrier, but the good news is that even the least generous operators run such campaigns. Savvy players with accounts at many betting exchanges can also use dutching to mitigate the impact on the commission charged.

Matched betting risks explained

This guide has the purpose of getting matched betting explained to you quickly, and we want to paint an accurate image of what the system is all about. As with all things, even the best ones, there are always downsides and risks that players need to factor in.

So far, we have talked mostly about the benefits, so it’s time to take a closer look at the risks. Luckily for players who are just starting down this path, the biggest obstacle has been removed by smart applications and dedicated websites. They now check the Internet to find the best odds for matched betting and automatically calculate the return on investment when using free bets.

This takes us to the second issue that players who are ready to pick up matched betting need to consider. Bookmakers and betting exchanges have reluctantly accepted the fact that there is no effective way of dealing with this fast-growing phenomenon.

However, they offer fewer free bets, so players need to make the most of each opportunity they’ve got. Sooner or later, you either run out of bookmakers to open betting accounts at or they don’t offer enough free bets to keep your system going.

At least in theory and for those who respect all the rules and don’t get greedy, matched betting is risk-free. The downside is that as punters run out of free bets, they are confronted with diminishing returns and dwindling easy gains.

In the long run, one needs to get creative and also use accumulators and try to find special markets, with bigger odds. At the end of the day, they need to spend a little time researching, but this is probably a small price to pay given the guaranteed returns.

For those who have been using lay betting for a while as well as those taking their first matched betting steps, this is the Golden Age of the system, but if you want to know what is lay betting, read our 2024 updated article. That is because players have immediate access to calculators and apps that use formulas and equations to improve the yield. A quick glance at the spreadsheets and the time needed to learn how a match betting calculator works is all it takes.

How to wager matched bets - Our step-by-step guide

The essence of matched bets is that you bet on opposite outcomes and can still make a profit. At the first glance, that doesn’t seem to make any sense, as it would defeat the purpose of bookies running a lucrative business. That is why we will soon provide you with a match betting example, to learn how exactly you can make money in just a few easy steps. The best part is that this case can be used successfully on pretty much any sports event.

Be sure that you follow our matched betting step-by-step guide to the latter. You can adjust things based on the sport you want to wager on. For instance, if you are wondering how to win big on football bets, you may wish to start with decimal odds rather than American or fractional ones. Apart from that, follow the guide fully. Let us begin…

1. Choose one of our top bookmakers

In the long run, anyone who takes matched betting seriously will end up having accounts with dozens of bookmakers and betting exchanges. However, it is important to start on the right foot by choosing one of the operators we recommend here. This will shield you from the risks of becoming the victim of a scam and will also grant you access to the best odds. William Hill or Betfair and many more are on the list, so the choice is yours.

2. Register and verify your new account

In order to benefit from any free bet offer as well as bonuses that bookmakers and betting exchanges might offer, one would have to register an account. The registration process should take just a couple of minutes, plus a few more for setting the odds to decimal or fractional and making other customizations.

3. Sign up with our recommended betting exchanges

As mentioned above in this match betting tutorial betting, exchanges are a better choice because they offer the possibility of laying and backing teams. For a system that aims for low risk and guaranteed profits, it is important to spend the time needed to open an account here. The time it takes to sign up with a betting exchange is rewarded lavishly in the long run and will help players cut down on losses.

4. Claim a welcome bonus by depositing

Free bets are the way bookmakers cheese to welcome new customers, but most will require players to make a real money deposit. Read the FAQ section to become familiar with the payment methods to make an educated decision when you fund your account. We can give you advice on which financial instruments are faster, cheaper, and safer.

5. Wager your bonus bet and lay it elsewhere

Once you make the first deposit and the gambling operator awards you the free bet, you can move to the next step. Matched betting for beginners will require players to have an account with at least another bookie or a betting exchange. Whether they use one of the dedicated websites for arbitrage betting or do the research themselves, players must proceed with placing opposite bets on the same event.

Obviously, there is one that will win and the other will lose, with the net return being roughly 95% of the stakes. In a nutshell, players will lose 5% of the amount committed (due to commission), but practically, this loss is completely offset by the fact that they are using the free bet.

6. Clear wagering requirements before withdrawing

The next step is to meet the playthrough demands required, so you can actually enjoy your matched betting profit. Most bookmakers will require players to wager the amount won several times before a cash out is permitted. On the bright side, if you have an account with many betting exchanges you can do this many times and play many free bets. The system allows punters to hedge against risks, cover bets and it goes on and on as long as there are reload offers and free bets for existing customers to claim. When players run out of welcome free bets, they should check out other promotions for existing players.

One of the best ways of seeing matched betting via free bets at bookmakers in action is to showcase a matched betting example. Here is what we did to get ahead:

Here’s how we did it - A matched betting example to follow

You should no longer be wondering, “what is matched betting?” but you may still have questions on how it works. To see it in action, check out this simple and practical example. Our recommended Betfair trading strategies will help beginners but also advanced players understand how they can make profits by backing and laying bets at Betfair exchange.

We decided to open an account with Betfair, because of the reliability and liquidity of this betting exchange. It covers all the important football matches and has great odds for all sports not only football, plus great money depositing and withdrawing options. Here we decided to lay Atletico Madrid at odds of 3.25 in a derby match against Real Madrid. We used the free bet worth $10, offered for joining their betting shop.

At the same time, we have an account with William Hill, which is one of the best choices for those who want to bet in real-time. They also cover all types of bets and have hundreds of markets on popular events, such as the football derbies we like so much for our matched bets. They also have a poker room and a casino where you can bet pennies or hundreds of dollars, depending on your expectations. However, that’s beside the point, since we only placed a bet of $10 on Atletico to win at odds of 3.20.

We did the math then checked the numbers with Oddsmatcher to see exactly how much money could result from this venture. Then we waited patiently for the game to end and were not terribly disappointed to see that the match resulted in a scoreless draw.

That’s because even though we lost the $10 bet on the home side to win, we cashed in at Betfair where we laid them. The net profit was $6.52. This is nothing to frown at since we can repeat the process using bigger stakes. This would have resulted in a substantially larger win.

Is matched betting legal?

Many people often question whether matched betting is legal? In a nutshell – yes. Do not misunderstand; risk-free matched betting is something that bookmakers frown upon, and they have tried for years to find a way of eliminating this. However, if bookies removed all risk-free and no-lose offers, they would see a rapid drop in their number of clients. As a result, they have had to live with it.

However, it is important to know that if you regularly abuse promotions and bonuses at bookmakers, such as opening two accounts to claim the same deal twice, you can have your account terminated. In short, no – matched betting is not illegal, but it is not widely loved by bookmakers.

Matched betting tips and tricks


Does matched betting really work? That can depend entirely on how closely you stick to the rules and how clever you are in betting strategically. There are many matched betting strategies out there that you can use. However, sometimes just deploying a few handy tips and tricks is enough to see you get started. We have decided to include a few of those for you below:

  • Always use a matched betting calculator. This will allow you to gauge how much profit you can make, what your liability is, and whether matched betting odds are worth the risk.
  • Take full advantage of matched betting offers. Daily betting bonuses, free sign-up offers, money-back deals, and free bets are all essential if you want to guarantee a profit when engaging in free matched betting.
  • While it is ideal to start with low deposit betting, to begin with, you should note that if you wish to win vast sums, you will need to wager (and, therefore, risk) big sums of money in the long term.
  • Do not be shy about signing up to multiple bookmakers. While you only need an account at one betting exchange, you will need many bookmaker accounts if you are to take full advantage of all the sports betting free bet options out there.
  • Be sure that you take your time to investigate the best back and lay odds out there before choosing a fixture. Do your homework on the teams and players involved. While you might not like spending a bit of time researching, this will questionably help you become a better player in the long run.

Snap up the best matched betting offers today

It is our plan to make this matched betting guide the cornerstone of arbitrage systems by teaching you how to seek value in odds and offers. That’s why you can expect to find here all the best matched betting offers, with juicy free bets that are easy to claim.

For your part, you should register multiple accounts with bookies and betting exchanges to gain access to offers and odds. Our list is comprehensive and includes gambling operators from the UK, US, Australia, and other countries. This is perfect for opening multiple accounts.

This will permit punters a chance of enjoying the best of both worlds when they return to this matched betting tutorial. They can stay up-to-date with the latest offers and also remember the basic strategies.

Not only the promotions are highlighted here; the bookmakers offering them have also been approved after a scrupulous review. You can learn everything you need to know about rollover and wagering requirements as well as other hidden details in the terms and conditions.

The pros and cons of matched betting

Here are the pros and cons associated with matched betting. They include:


  • If done correctly, you can guarantee a profit
  • Plenty of sites offer free bets and bonuses
  • Less risky than other betting strategies


  • You could be liable to pay out winnings
  • Matched betting can be time-consuming

FAQs: Your questions about matched betting answered

There are so many questions regarding the betting arbitrage system as well as the best way of extracting matched betting profit. Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that can help clarify most doubts. They shed some light on how things are supposed to work and what kind of obstacles might block your way. Heed their advice and you’ll have no problem in overcoming all these barriers.

Matched betting explained properly will highlight the fact that this is a legitimate system that can produce predictable profits. It removes the risks caused by chance and luck as well as the ones resulting from the mistakes committed by players. Bookmakers try to limit its effects by keeping the free bets low and enforcing wagering requirements.

These matched betting techniques and strategies can help remove the role played by luck from the equation. To be effective, discipline is essential since profits should not be squandered by betting on hunches. It is a ruinous mistake to squander winnings from arbitrage by placing random bets.

As mentioned above in this match betting tutorial, the entire system requires a very analytical approach. It is important to use spreadsheets and formulas to keep track of the money you make, so you can determine your efficiency. Arbitrage betting involves hundreds of bets and a lot of money wagered.

When it comes to money and gambling, paper trails also have the merit of avoiding taxation and legal problems, not to mention those issues with pesky credit checks and credit scores. The good news is that gambling profits are not subject to taxes in most jurisdictions, and when they are, the rates are small.

There are hundreds of bookies and betting exchanges out there, and most of them have some sort of a sign-up promotion or welcome bonus. Many are one-time opportunities, but there are recurrent and occasional campaigns that you can take advantage of.

A player from the UK can make an amount ranging from £500 to £2,000 monthly. People need to keep in mind the bookmakers can remove offers or close accounts if they notice bonus abuse. Discipline, patience and most importantly, accounts with different bookmakers help a lot.

Many bookmakers also run a poker room and an online casino and offer free spins and poker bonuses for those who bet on sports. Basically, those who bet a predetermined amount on selected sports matches will receive several free spins at the casino and potentially even free money (or free rolls) in a poker room.

It is entirely up to you if you want to support these services and subscription-based software, as well as the people behind them. However, you can get the same quality of advice completely for free. That is because all information, tutorials, techniques and offers can be found for free on

Bookmakers will always try to identify bonus hunters and restrict their actions by lowering the betting limits. The worst-case scenario is to have your account blocked, so to avoid all these issues; players must occasionally play mug bets - bets you intend on losing on purpose. Focus on low-risk events.

Matched betting is a more complex version of betting arbitrage because it also uses free bets. The idea is to take advantage of the financial incentives offered by bookmakers and betting exchanges and turn them into cashable amounts. Punters should focus on popular sports events and major competitions, where the return on investment is better.

Wagering requirements state that you must wager your bonus several times before you can cash out your winnings. This is to stop you from claiming bonus funds and withdrawing them. Regular free bets with no playthrough demands are the best because you can extract up to 95% of their value.

It is always recommended to bet on popular events because they enjoy superior liquidity at betting exchanges. The odds are bigger, not to mention that you will fly under the radar and will not trigger the algorithms used by bookmakers to identify those using matched betting.

The choice of payment methods rests exclusively with players, and they can use anything from credit cards to electronic wallets and wire transfers. Skrill, Neteller and PayPal are also great choices, but most bookmakers do not allow players to use them when claiming bonuses.

That is a bad idea because there is a good chance the bookmakers will verify your identity before allowing a withdrawal. Do not take any chances and instead use one of the hundreds of other bookies out there. Start with the ones recommended by us.

We pay a lot of attention to residents from other countries who want to make sports betting profitable. Our matched betting guide will help every player, no matter the country of origin, through customised offers and special pages. Members can filter free bets on our pages with the available bookies at

Start matched betting online today with leading bookies

Now that you have had matched betting explained to you, it is time to find matched betting sites. Whether you are looking for new bookmakers to bet at or exchanges to lay bets on sports, you can find everything you need right here. Head over to our recommended sites to claim the best free bet and sign-up bonuses and begin playing today.