Matched Betting In 2021 – The Complete Beginners Guide

Last Updated on February 13, 2021 by Ben Adams

Matched betting is suitable for anybody who has some spare time and wants to make some extra money from home.

Over the past few years, it’s been a hugely popular side income for students and stay-at-home parents in particular. 

Here, you’re going to learn all about how matched betting works, with a real example. 

You’ll also find a long list of Frequently Asked Questions where I cover all you need to know about the world of matched betting in 2021.

Matched betting is a low-risk betting technique that allows you to guarantee a profit by covering all outcomes of an event.

The profit comes from the free bets and incentives offered by bookmakers.

This probably sounds too good to be true.

However, it really is a genuine way to make money from home.

But don’t just take my word for it. The topic has been covered in national newspapers.

Matched betting - Guardian
The Guardian – Read the article here.
Matched betting - Telegraph
The Telegraph. Read the article here.

How Does Matched Betting Work?

Before we go through a real matched betting example, this graphic will help you understand the basics of matched betting.

Here, you can see the steps involved that allows you to guarantee a profit using a bookmaker’s new account welcome offer.

Matched betting infographic, five step example

What Are Back Bets And Lay Bets?

The matched betting process involves placing two types of bets.

A back bet and a lay bet.

Here’s my explanation of these bets using farm animals, for no apparent reason.

Maybe I’ve been reading too many children’s books lately.


I can confirm it was Cow, the rank outsider, who went on to win an epic 2021 Farmyard chase.

Don’t worry if you don’t quite grasp the difference between a back and lay bet just yet.

I’ll go through an example of how to do matched betting.

You’ll see how to place back and lay bets, and also see exactly how they can lock in a profit.

Real-Life Matched Betting Example – In 5 Steps 

To make things super clear, I’ll take you through a real-life example.

This will show you precisely how to execute the process of matched betting.

#1 – Find an Offer, Sign Up and Deposit

To get started I identified an offer I could take advantage of.

This one is from a bookmaker called Coral:

Matched Betting - Coral offer
If I bet £5 I get £20 In Free Bets, nice!

I went through the sign-up process and completed the online forms with my details.

After that, I deposited £5.

Depositing into bookmaker accounts is done in the same as any typical online purchase.

Matched betting - Coral sign-up

#2 – Place a Back Bet

The purpose of the back bet is to unlock the free bet.

I now had to find a back bet to place at Coral.

You ideally want to find a bet with as close odds as possible to the lay bet at a betting exchange.

The closer the odds, the more money you will make from an offer.

You can find these bets manually. Alternatively, you can use a tool that displays current, real-time bookmaker odds vs betting exchange odds.

I use a service called Oddsmonkey. Their odds tool is called the Oddsmatcher.

I used the filter to display live odds from Coral (Bookmaker) vs Betfair (Exchange).

The Oddsmatcher sorts the best odds matches in ascending order.
Fractional vs Decimal Odds

Bookmakers will often have their odds displayed in Fractional format, for example, 4/1

Exchanges will display their odds in decimal format, for example, 4/1 is shown as 5.0

When using odds matching tools and matched betting calculators, we only want the decimal format.

You can easily change fractional to decimal odds on all bookmaker sites.

There will be an option on the homepage or in your account settings.

This will make things a lot easier going forward.

I choose to go with the top odds match, Newport County v Swansea.

Matched betting - Oddsmatcher bet
The Coral back odds are 1.83 (in blue). The Betfair Lay odds are 1.9 (in pink).

Now that I had found a back bet that I was happy with, I could place the bet at Coral.

I searched the site to find the Newport County v Swansea football game.

I placed my £5 back bet at Coral on Swansea to win.

Navigating bookmaker websites becomes easier the more you use them.

Some sites have search bars where you can simply enter a team name to find your event.

So, I now had a £5 bet on Swansea to win. If I left it at this stage, I would have simply been gambling.

Onwards to the Lay Bet.

#3 – Place a Lay Bet

I now needed to then place the opposite lay bet at Betfair.

By using a matched betting calculator, I can see what stake I need for any lay bet.

Clicking on the small ‘i’ symbol on the Oddsmatcher opens up a matched betting calculator. 

Click the ‘i’ symbol to open up the matched betting calculator.

In the Coral Stake section, I entered £5 (my back bet amount).

The calculator does the rest of the work.

It shows me I need to placea lay bet of £4.87 at odds of 1.9. And my liability will be £4.38.

The calculator is set to Normal mode because I was placing a normal bet in order to unlock the offer. I’ll use the Free Bet mode later.
Betting Exchange Commission

You’ll notice the betting exchanges charge a small commission on winning bets.

This is how they make their money.

Bookmakers never charge commission. Instead, they offer you unfair odds, and that is how they make their money.

Next, I went over to Betfair to place my lay bet.

I used Betfair’s search bar to quickly find the Newport County v Swansea game.

Betfair displays their back odds in blue and lay odds in pink. I can see the lay odds for Swansea are 1.9 as the Oddsmatcher indicated.

Clicking on the 1.9 pink lay odds opened up the Betfair bet slip. I entered £4.87 as the calculator stated.

My liability will be £4.38. I checked again with the calculator to make sure I was using the correct stake size.
What is Liability?

Liability is the amount of money you risk losing on a lay bet at a betting exchange.

 You’ll need to ensure you have enough funds in your exchange account to cover the liability of your lay bet.

Remember, you won’t lose this liability amount.

It isn’t at risk, because of the bookmaker back bet, you have covered all outcomes.

I had now successfully placed a qualifying bet.

A back bet and a lay bet on the same event, set up to exploit an offer, is often referred to as a qualifying bet. Making us qualify for an offer.

As a result, whatever happens in the game, the outcome would be the same, a -£0.23 qualifying loss.

So if Swansea win, my bookmaker bet wins but I lose the exchange bet = -£0.23

If Newport County win or the game ends as a draw, my bookmaker bet loses but I win the exchange bet = -£0.23

All I had to do now was wait for the game to finish.

After that, the £20 free bet would be unlocked and credited to my Coral account.

As soon as the bets are placed, I don’t have to worry about the outcome of the game.

I already know I’ve made a small qualifying loss (23p in this case) but can turn the free bet into profit.

#4 – Place the Free Back Bet

Shortly after the Newport County v Swansea game finished. My Coral account was credited with the £20 free bet.

Next, I had to repeat steps 2 (Place a back bet) and 3 (Place a lay bet) but with some differences.

The aim of the qualifying bet was to lose as little as possible.

The aim of this step is to turn as much of the £20 free bet as possible into real cash.

To achieve this, I need to again find a bet with close odds to the lay bet.

When using free bets, bet odds of 4.0 or above helps to retain more of the free bet value.

I returned to the Oddsmatcher to help me find a bet.

You can use a free version of the Oddsmatcher by signing up for a free trial of Oddsmonkey.

As before, I used the Oddsmatcher filter to display live odds from Coral (Bookmaker) vs Betfair (Exchange).

There is a column labelled ‘SNR (%)’. Clicking on it will order the bets that will retain most value from a free bet.

The SNR (%) figure is the percentage of the free bet that will be turned into withdrawable cash.
What Does SNR Mean?

SNR stands for Stake Not Returned.

In my example, the free bet is £20.

The £20 free bet stake is not included and returned in your winnings.

You only receive the winnings.

For example, you place a £20 free bet on a coin toss with an even chance (1/1 or 2.0) of happening.

You would receive £20 profit from the bookmaker.

Not £40 (the free bet stake and the winnings).

 The majority of free bets are Stake Not Returned.

I choose to go with, Spain v Ukraine.

Using this bet will turn 77.57% (see the SNR (%) column) of my free bet into cash. I always aim for at least 70% retention.

Next, I headed back to Coral to use my free bet.

I searched the site to find the Spain v Ukraine football game.

The main difference here is, I did;t need to use any of my money to place the back bet.

I selected the Ukraine back bet at odds of 7.0.

In the bet slip, there was now an option to use my free bet.

Coral issue the £20 free bet as 4 x £5 free bets.

I just simply used all four of the £5 free bets to back Ukraine. So £20 was the total free bet stake.

#5 – Place a Lay Bet to Guarantee a Profit

I now needed to then place the opposite lay bet at Betfair.

The purpose of this lay bet is to lock in a profit regardless of the bet outcome.

By using the matched betting calculator, I can see what stake I need for this lay bet.

As before, clicking on the small ‘i’ symbol on the Oddsmatcher opens up the matched betting calculator.

Click the ‘i’ symbol to open up the matched betting calculator.

In the Coral Stake section, I entered £20 (my free bet amount).

The main difference here, is we set the calculator to Free Bet (SNR) mode.

It then calculates the stake amount needed to lock in a profit from the £20 free bet.

Using this bet will guarantee £15.51 (no matter what the result of the game).

I need to place a lay bet of £15.83 at odds of 7.6. And my liability will be £104.48

Remember my liability of £104.48 is not at risk because of the free back bet I’d already placed.

Next I returned to Betfair to play my lay bet.

I used Betfair’s search bar again to speedily find the Spain v Ukraine game.

I double-checked the odds were still 7.6. Remember the lay odds are displayed in pink on Betfair.

Clinking on the 7.6 pink lay odds opened up the Betfair bet slip. I entered £15.83 as the calculator stated.

My liability will be £104.48. I checked again with the calculator to make sure I was using the correct stake size.
Job done! The offer was complete.

So if Ukraine win, my bookmaker bet wins but I lose the exchange bet = £15.52

If Spain win or the game ends as a draw, my bookmaker bet loses (at no cost to me, it was a free bet) but I win the exchange bet = £15.51

I had guaranteed a profit whatever happened.

I factored in the small £0.23 qualifying loss and recorded my £15.28 overall profit.

With a bit of practice and experience, the whole process doesn’t take any longer than 15-20 minutes to complete.

Whilst £15 profit may seem quite insignificant, it’s a good risk-free return for the time it takes.

The great news is that the process can be repeated multiple times using different bookmakers.

How To Start Matched Betting

You’ve already made a great start by taking the time to read this matched betting guide.

I’ve also created an eBook specifically for people who are new to matched betting.

I explain the steps you need to take in order to make your first £1000 profit from matched betting.

I recommend starting with £200, and I estimate it should take you no longer than 3 months to achieve £1000 profit by spending around 30 minutes a day taking action.

The process is quite straightforward, however, for many people, the biggest hurdle is getting started.

I’ve broken the process down into manageable steps for you to focus on.

Matched Betting Frequently Asked Questions

How much money can I make from matched betting long term?

Naturally, people want to know the answer to this before they start.

And I’ll estimate some realistic amounts you should be able to achieve.

However, the truth is, the amount you can make depends on a few things:

Patience – you’ll need to put some effort in to learn the basics. If you’ve made it through this guide so far, you’re well on your way!

Time – Once you know the basics, the more time you put in, the more money you will make.

Starting Bank – The bigger your starting bank, the more offers you can complete simultaneously. Meaning you’ll make more profit in a shorter space of time.

With the factors above in mind, you can see it’s a difficult question to answer.

Still, I think anyone with patience, a bit of spare time, and some money to invest, can expect to make £500 – £1000 profit from new account offers.

Beyond that, a reasonable target to aim for is between £200-£500 per month. This would be from using ongoing offers.

How much money do I need to start matched betting?

You’ll need at least £200 to start matched betting.

This will be enough to work through a few new account offers, to begin with.

The more money you start with, the more money you can potentially make sooner.

That being said, if you are completely new to matched betting. I think it would be sensible to still start slow.

Do one or two offers at a time until you are fully confident with the process.

After that, go ahead and increase the number of offers you are doing. 

How much time do I need to spend on matched betting?

The majority of people do this in their spare time as an extra side income.

I’d imagine most spend an average of 30 minutes to an hour a day matched betting.

The more time you dedicate to it, the more you will earn.

If you are brand new, it’s naturally going to be more time consuming as you learn.

You’ll be much more efficient when you can quickly navigate bookmaker and exchange websites.

In addition, when you master tools like the Oddsmonkey Oddsmatcher and matched betting calculators, you’ll be flying through offers.

In short, the more experience you have, the more efficient you will be.

This will result in an increase in your ‘hourly wage’.

I don’t know anything about sport! Or betting! Can I still do matched betting?

You don’t need any sports knowledge or betting experience.

The outcomes of the bets you place are irrelevant, so there is no prior knowledge of sports needed.

There is no predicting or guessing (like most normal punters are doing).

In fact, I think having no invested interest in sport and betting is an advantage.

You won’t have any emotional involvement with any teams or events.

Also, the aim is to start off by treating your matched betting as a business.

Therefore, you’ll only see placing bets as your work and part of the process.

You’ll be less likely to ever view it as ‘fun’, ‘leisure’ or be tempted to gamble.

You’ll feel the opposite of how bookmakers want you to feel about betting.

How long does it take to learn matched betting?

The great thing about matched betting is that you can earn as you learn right from the start.

So rather than try and put a time scale on when you to learn it all, just start with one offer at a time.

Matched betting sites such as Oddsmonkey exist to make learning and doing matched betting easy.

With step by step guides for hundreds of offers. You can complete one offer at a time, and make money as you’re gaining experience.

Oddsmonkey offer a free trial where you will learn to complete a few new account offers and earn over £50 in the process.

You can sign up for the free trial here.

If you can complete these few offers, there are plenty more waiting, and you’ll have the know-how to complete them.

There are different types of offers and strategies to learn as you become more experienced.

The priority at first, however, is to complete the new account offers.

To sum up, spend your time learning as soon as possible. But there is no reason not to jump in and earn as you learn.

Why do bookmakers allow it to happen?

The gambling industry is extremely competitive.

There are a large number of bookmakers all desperately seeking your custom.

They do this by running promotions to try and attract both new and repeat customers.

These types of promotions are easy to exploit for profit by using matched betting techniques.

Bookmaker’s don’t ‘allow’ matched betting as such. They just can’t prove you’re doing it.

All you are doing is placing bets with the bookmaker.

They don’t know you are sneaking off to a betting exchange to lock in a profit.

As a result of doing matched betting, you will be an unprofitable customer for bookmakers.

Consequently, they will eventually restrict your promotions. This is known in the matched betting world as, being ‘gubbed’.

When this happens, you have to accept it and move on to the next bookmaker.

There are some sensible ways to reduce the chance of being gubbed too fast.

What risks are involved with matched betting?

When matched betting is done correctly, there is no risk.

Like in my example above, there was no way I was going to lose money.

However, your money could be put at risk by making a mistake.

Some potential mistakes that could be costly are:

  • entering the incorrect stakes and end up losing or winning more than the calculator suggested.
  • backing and laying the incorrect market or event so you don’t have a matched bet.
  • forgetting to use your free bet before it expires (although you’d only end up with a small qualifying loss).
  • Not checking bookmaker terms, conditions and minimum odds required for your qualifying bets.

By taking your time, being organised and double-checking everything, these mistakes can all be avoided.

Being a member of a matched betting site like Oddsmonkey will help you avoid a lot of common mistakes.

This is particularly important when starting out.

Is matched betting legal?

Matched betting is 100% legal.

We are simply using Bookmaker’s promotions.

There is nothing illegal about locking in a profit using a betting exchange.

Is matched betting a scam?

Matched betting is not a scam.

Although, I also thought it was when I first read about it!

Most things that sound too good to be true, usually are.

There are a lot of scams especially involving the ‘making money online’ industry.

Here are a few reports from National newspapers that have covered matched betting:

The Guardian

The Telegraph

The Sun

The Daily Mail

Do I have to pay tax on my matched betting profits?

Your matched betting profits are completely tax-free in the UK.

Despite matched betting being very low risk, it falls under the ‘gambling’ category which is fully exempt from tax charges.

What deposit method is best for matched betting?

You’ll notice bookmakers have a few different deposit methods to choose from.

I would always recommend using a Debit card.

E-Wallets such as PayPal, Skrill, Neteller can seem like a good idea to keep your matched betting activity separate from your bank.

However, many bookmakers state in their terms that their promotions are not available to customers depositing via E-Wallets.

We are only interested in promotions. So we need to make sure we qualify for them.

If you want to keep your betting activity separate from your everyday banking. It’s a great idea to open a bank account just for matched betting.

Having a dedicated ‘matched betting bank’ will help you see it as a small business.

This helps avoid the temptation to spend your profits too early.

You can keep reinvesting and grow your bankroll as you learn more strategies.

Will matched betting affect my credit rating/score?


When you sign up for a bookmaker account, you aren’t asking for credit. You deposit your own money.

So, it makes sense that they don’t need to perform any credit checks on you.

They can, however, perform a ‘soft search’.

They do this to make sure you are indeed who you say you are. And also to check you’re not money laundering.

A soft search is when a credit search is made on your credit file.

This doesn’t affect your credit rating/score.

It is recorded as a search, but lenders will never see it. So, it doesn’t affect their decision about whether to lend to you or not.

You can have lots of soft searches on your file and they will not affect your credit rating/score.

Will matched betting affect my mortgage application?

Potentially, it can.

Having lots of betting activity on your bank statement can look suspicious to lenders.

Lenders won’t be impressed, even if it is clear from the transactions that you are making money.

It is, however, still possible to get a mortgage even with these transactions on your statement.

I’d strongly advise though, to open a separate bank account for your matched betting activity.

Some lenders will only want to see your main bank account that you’re wages go into.

In addition to this, I would use a good mortgage broker.

The best brokers are free to use (they get a fee from the lender, not you), and you can be honest about matched betting.

A broker will advise the best course of action for you to take in order to secure a successful mortgage application.

Can I do matched betting outside the UK?

All the information here is based on my experiences of matched betting in the UK.

Different rules and regulations may apply in other countries.

You need to carry out further research in your country if you want to start matched betting outside the UK.

I’m still stuck with something. Help!

If there is something you’re still unsure about, comment below or send me a message.

Author: Peter Dixon