Oct 02

Beginner’s guide to Matched Betting

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Interesting article, but I’m still not sure about matched betting.

James H
James H

Give it a go, there is absolutely no risk if you follow the instructions 🙂

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Reading Time: 14 mins

What is Matched Betting?

Matched betting is a mathematical strategy that is used to take advantage of bookmaker offers that give out free bets to new and existing customers. No doubt you’ve seen plenty of examples online and in the high street of bookmakers advertising these offers.

Here are a few examples:


Betting offers

With matched betting, you take these offers and match your bets to cancel out the risk. You’re going to be betting for AND against the same outcome. You neither win nor lose. This then gives you the free bet which you can guarantee your profit on.

Bookmakers don’t just limit themselves to offers for new customers though! They also give out numerous offers to existing customers every week. When you think how many bookies there are in the UK (over 100), each giving out offers every week, you can begin to understand just how much money there is to be made.

Matched Betting is completely legal, all we are doing here is turning the tables on the bookmakers to extract their free bet offers.

This guide will take you through the ‘need-to-knows’, then show you how to make £16 in 20 minutes in a full-blown example.


So how does this work?

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

Following your first or ‘qualifying’ bet, you will then 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 are guaranteed to make a profit (which will be demonstrated).


How much profit can I make?

For each matched bet, you will be left with up to 85% of the free bet amount as profit. You may make a very 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 you’ll see how to profit from a £20 free bet using a real-life example. Replicate the same steps across the hundreds of free bet offers and you can quickly be looking at £1,000s.

And it’s worth pointing out, earnings from the gambling industry are currently completely tax-free.


What’s the risk?

Anyone can learn how to do matched betting and, in theory, there’s no risk involved because you’re covering yourself by betting for and against the same outcome.

The only risk is making mistakes so, once again, you need to double-check everything and follow the steps exactly as shown. On rare occasions free bets do not always come through right away, so just be patient.

Once you’ve understood the process and been successful by following the steps below, you can then continue matched betting at many other online bookies with free bet offers which will quickly land you a lot of money without any risk.

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


Don’t recognise any of the terms?

Well, we don’t blame you. When you first start matched betting, you’ll be bombarded by numerous terms that you’ve never heard of before. Below are some of the absolute basics! And they take very little time to learn.



Set by bookmakers, they represent the likelihood of something happening, and therefore how much you could win on any bet.

Simply, the higher the odds the less likely it is that outcome will occur. So, if your horse is at odds of 20, this horse would be considered a massive outsider to win the race.

Even if you’ve never placed a bet before, you’ll likely have come across ‘odds’, but more likely in their fractional form i.e 2/1. As matched bettors, we always view the odds in decimal format (2.1 or 3.5) as this makes it far easier to compare the value of odds than when they’re in the fractional format.

Bookmakers allow you to change the odds to this format, so you don’t need to worry about converting these odds from fractional to decimal yourself.



The amount of your bet.

“I stake £10 on Chelsea to beat Man Utd”



How much you’re going to receive from the bookmaker if your bet wins. This will also include your original Stake.

A stake of £10 on Man Utd to win (at odds of 2.00) will return £20 (£10 stake + £10 winnings).



The profit from a winning bet. This does not include your initial stake.

A stake of £10 on Man Utd to win (at odds of 2.00) will return £20, so my winnings are £10.


Back Bet/Stake

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, Ladbrokes etc.


Lay Bet/Stake

Betting against a certain outcome to occur. Eg. “I Lay England to win”. If England lose or draw, you win the bet. You can only place a lay bet at a betting exchange such as Betfair Exchange.



To explain liability, you first need to understand what it means to “lay a bet” in an Exchange. When you lay a bet, you are betting that an outcome will not happen. You are essentially becoming the bookmaker when you lay a bet, in that your liability is being used to fund the winnings of that backer (if the backer wins, of course). However, if the backer is incorrect then the Layer will win the total of their lay stake (minus commission).

So, for example; You are backing £50 on Coral (at odds of 1.5) and placing a £51.37 lay stake with Betfair (at odds of 1.51), this would give us a liability of £26.20.

If you win your back bet in Coral and lose your lay bet at Betfair – you lose your liability of £26.20 at Betfair, but win £25 at Coral (remember, we do not include the original backer stake in the winnings if the bet wins with the bookmaker).

If you lose your back bet on Coral, and win your lay bet on Betfair – You lose £50 at Coral and win your lay stake of £51.37 (£48.80 after Betfair’s 5% commission) at Betfair.

Regardless of the outcome you will lose £1.20

So to summarise, if you lose your lay bet you forfeit your liability and if you win your lay bet you gain your lay stake.

A general rule is: If the Lay odds are below the Back odds then this bet will be more profitable for you.


Still all sounding a bit complex?

There is a lot to take in initially, but the beauty of matched betting is that whilst completing the first offer or two may be a little daunting, once you’ve got through them you’ll suddenly find everything starting to make sense. Before you know it, it will become second nature and you’ll fly through all the available offers.

So, to try and reduce the hesitancy of tackling your first offer, we are going to run through a comprehensive example in a ‘Step-by-Step’ style guide.

Please note that in order to follow along to this guide you will need to have signed up to Heads&Heads so you can use of their Oddsmatching Software and calculators


Click here to sign up


Completing an Offer – Step by Step

So, you’ve decided to tackle Coral’s offer!




1. Sign Up for

Matched Betting betfair logo

Betfair is a betting exchange. It’s here that you can ‘lay’ bets in order to cancel out your risk at the bookmaker. Betfair exchange is amongst the most popular global betting exchange and its relatively simple user interface makes it the perfect place for matched betting novices to start.

You will need to deposit some funds into your Betfair account in order to fund the liability of your lay stakes. The amount you deposit is up to you. You can deposit as little as £15, which should be enough to cover your first couple of bets. Our recommended deposit is £50 – this will allow you to progress through multiple offers without worrying about needing to move money around.

The money you deposit into Betfair is NOT at risk. If you follow our instructions, it is mathematically impossible to lose this money.


2. Sign Up for Coral

Matched Betting Coral Screenshot

This offer from Coral is the one we advise all beginners start with. It’s lucrative and incredibly straightforward. The offer is as follows is – bet £5, get £20 in free bets.

During the registration process you will be prompted to make a deposit. Stick to using your debit card and deposit £5 into Coral.


3. Decimal Odds

This is a habit you need to get into for every bookmaker you tackle on your matched betting journey. Nearly all bookmakers will display their odds in fractional format (7/2). However, because the Heads&Heads Oddsmatching Software (which we will get on to later) displays the odds in decimal format, it’s important we are able to view the bookmaker odds as decimal.

For most bookmakers, switching the odds format can be done in your bookmaker ‘Account Settings’. With Coral it is even easier, and can be done on the homepage of their site whilst you are logged in.

Screenshot 2

Located in the top right of the site you will see a drop-down box which will be defaulted to ‘Fractional’. Simply click on it and select ‘Decimal’. The Coral site will then automatically update


4. Finding & Placing our £5 Qualifying Bet

Now, in order for you to get your £20 free bets from Coral, you need to first place a £5 bet with them using your own money.

In order for you to keep this £5 bet risk free you will need to use the Heads&Heads Oddsmatching Software to find an event that we can back in the bookmaker and lay in the exchange.

The Heads&Heads Oddsmatching Software for Coral is free to use as part of the Free Trial.


Click here to sign up and get access to the Oddsmatching Software for Free


Once you’re on our Oddsmatching Software, follow the below process.


Make sure that ‘Normal’ is selected at the top of the page – located under the title ‘Oddsmatching’. This tells the Heads&Heads Oddsmatching software what kind of bet you are placing and adjusts the calculation used to ensure that your lay stake is optimal. Heads&Heads will always tell you which calculation to select for each bet – but the general rule is, ‘Normal’ for the Qualifying Bet and ‘SNR’ (Stake Not Returned) when using a Free Bet.




Screenshot 3


The reason you need to filter the odds to be between 1.5 and 200 is because as part of this offer from Coral, you are required to place your qualifying bet on a selection that has odds of 1.5 or greater. This is part of the offer Terms & Conditions – you will find that nearly all bookmaker offers have some sort of odds restriction.


Now your Oddsmatching Software should look a little something like the below image. Your next task is to select an event to bet on.

Screenshot 5


The calculations are all done for you, within the Oddsmatching Software. It will show you the exact Lay stake you will need to place in Betfair Exchange in order for you to make that bet as risk-free as possible.



So, once you’ve selected an event (Sunderland v Scunthorpe) and made a note of the Lay stake you need to place in Betfair, you now need to find your selected bet on both Betfair and Coral.

Screenshot 7



Lay odds on Betfair are the red/pink boxes, not the blue. If you cannot see any red/pink boxes, you need to go to the exchange by clicking the top left link “Go to Exchange” or “Exchange“.

Matched Betting betfair Screenshot


There are two quick ways to find your bet on Betfair:


  1. Click on the Betfair Logo on the Oddsmatching software

Matched Betting Heads & Heads Screenshot


  1. Type the event into the Betfair Exchange search box at the top of their page:

Matched Betting betfair Screenshot



Now you need to select the red/pink odds for your selected bet:

Matched Betting Heads & Heads Screenshot


The lay stake you need to enter will be calculated for you on the Oddsmatching Software. So, in the case of our example ‘£5.03’.


Screenshot 12



Matched Betting Heads & Heads Screenshot


Now, don’t place this bet quite yet. Before that we need to find this event on Coral and get your back Bet placed first. This is a general rule to follow, always place the back stake first, because it will make any mistakes far easier to rectify.  



Now, all bookmakers have different forms of navigation on their sites. Some will have search bars that you can use to quickly find your bet, but some will rely on you manually navigating. Coral is an example of the latter.

Unfortunately, unlike Betfair Exchange, you cannot simply click on the Coral icon on the Oddsmatching Software. However, the Heads&Heads Oddsmatching software should give you all the information you need on your selected event to allow for speedy navigation.

Use the ‘i’ icon to get all the information you need on your selected bet.




Use this information to navigate the sports menus on the Coral site:

Matched Betting Coral Screenshot


So, once you’ve found the bet on Coral, add it to your bet slip by clicking on the odds:

Matched Betting Coral Screenshot


Then add in your back stake of £5:

Matched Betting Coral Screenshot

Now, place your Back bet on Coral and place your Lay bet on Betfair Exchange.

Congratulations, you have now completed your first qualifying bet.


The Outcome of the qualifying bet:

Sunderland ended up not winning


You won your lay stake in Betfair Exchange of £5.03.

However, you need to account for the 5% commission charged by Betfair Exchange on any winning bets. So, your total winnings were:


Now, you need to take into account your loss with Coral as well as the fact you were using £5 of your own money.

£4.78 – £5.00 = -£0.22


At this point you may be thinking, ok fine, but we just made a loss of £0.22 on that first bet – how is that risk free?

Yes, it’s likely that on most qualifying bets you will make a very small loss like the one in our example. However, when we do a bookmaker offer, we look at the overall profit from the offer – the qualifying bet is just the means to the end.

Remember, you now have a £20 worth of free bets to come from the bookmaker. The general rule of matched betting is that you can expect to make around 80% of the value of the free bet as profit.

So, as our Coral free bets are worth £20, you can expect to make around £16 once you use them. Minus your qualifying loss of £0.22, will give you a total profit of £15.78.

Now, let’s continue our example and complete the free bet, so you can see how this works in practice.


5. Finding & Placing our £20 Free Bet(s)

So, Coral should instantly credit you with your free bet. Whilst the value of the free bet will be £20, it may be credited to you as 4x £5 free bets.

You can either place them on 4 separate events, in which case you need to repeat the free bet process detailed below 4 times. Or you can place all 4 on the same event as separate bets. For the below example we will be placing all 4 on one event.

Now, the process is almost exactly the same as it was for your qualifying bet, except there are two subtle but very key differences.


  1. You need to change our Oddsmatching Software calculation from ‘Normal’ to ‘SNR’. This will adjust the formula behind the software to ensure that a guaranteed profit will be made on this bet.

Matched Betting Oddsmatching Screenshot


  1. Unlike the qualifying bet, there is no limit on the odds you can select. However, whilst it is a good idea to keep the odds low for a Qualifying bet, it’s the exact opposite when using a free bet. The sweet spot, in terms of odds size for a free bet, is between 4 and 10. But be aware, that the larger the odds, the more money you will need in your betting exchange (Betfair) to cover the liability of this lay bet.


Screenshot 19


You will note that the ‘Rating’ column on the Oddsmatching Software changes slightly for a ‘SNR’ calculated bet. When calculating as SNR, a rating of 100+ is far rarer – unlike ‘Normal’ where the rating can exceed 100. So, don’t be surprised that there are no 100+ rated odds matches, the important thing is to look at the profit figure.


So, now you need to pick an event to bet on using your free bets from Coral. For this example we’ve selected Gravina to win in the 14:50 race at Leicester:

Screenshot 19


Now, as with the qualifying bet, you need to locate the bets on both Coral and Betfair.

Once you have found the bets on the respective sites you need to Enter £5 into the stake box on Coral:

Matched Betting Coral Screenshot


If you are choosing to place all £20 at once, make sure that the Back Stake amount on the Heads&Heads Oddsmatching Software is set to £20.


Matched Betting Oddsmatching Screenshot


Additionally, Coral will only let you place one free bet at a time. So, you will need to repeat the process of placing your free bet 4 times in quick succession to ensure all 4 free bets are placed on the same bet at the same odds.

Of course, if you are choosing to do the £5 free bets on separate events, you do not have to do this, but make sure the Back Stake filter on the Oddsmatching Software is set to £5.

Before you place your Coral bets, make sure you locate the same event on Betfair Exchange and enter the relevant Lay Stake (depending on whether you are using all 4 free bets at once or not).

Matched Betting Betfair Screenshot

Once this is done, place all your Coral bets first, followed by your Betfair Lay Stake.

If you need to deposit more into Betfair Exchange in order to cover the liability, you can either do just that or find another odds match at smaller odds (which will decrease the liability requirement).


The Outcome of the Free bets:

The selected horse (Gravina) ended up winning the race


The returns from Coral were £110. You of course, need to remember to take our back stake (£20) away from this number to give us an accurate profit figure. £110 – £20 = £90.


Now, we need to take into account the loss with Betfair Exchange. With the Exchange if your bet wins, you win your Lay Stake. If it loses then you lose your liability. In the case of our example we lost, so we would lose our liability of £73.70 (no commission is taken on a loss).


£90 – £73.70 = £16.30 profit


6. Withdrawing the profit

The total profit from my example, including for the 22p loss on the £5 qualifying bet, was £16.10. Even as a beginner you should only spend around 20 minutes on the whole process, giving you an hourly rate of £48.60.

This is just one of 100’s of welcome offers available, meaning there is still thousands of pounds worth of profit to be extracted. 

If you enjoyed and profited from this guide, share it with friends, family or someone that could just use a way of earning a bit of money.

If you’ve been following along with this guide using the Heads&Heads free trial, you can now move on to the Betfred offer. There is, as there is for every offer, a full written guide and video for this Betfred Offer on Heads&Heads.

For full access to Heads&Heads and the huge profits available, use the discount code below for a MoneyMagpie exclusive discount – giving you 30 days Premium Membership for just £5!

Discount Code: MAGPIE5

 Sign up here now

Got questions regarding this guide or matched betting in general? Just put them in the comment section below to get a full answer!


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Interesting article, but I’m still not sure about matched betting.

James H
James H

Give it a go, there is absolutely no risk if you follow the instructions 🙂

1 10 11 12

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