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What is matched betting?

Matched betting is a betting strategy that takes advantage of bonus bets offered by bookmakers.

By using a bonus bet as a free stake, you bet on both sides of the market to secure a guaranteed win. It is a form of arbitrage betting that uses bonus bets.

Is it legal?

Matched betting is legal in the UK and Australia. Bookmakers don’t love it though because it means losses for them. As long as you are allowed to open an account with a bookmaker, you are free to use the matched betting strategy to gain profits.

How matched betting works

The idea with matched betting is to bet on both sides of the market, guaranteeing you a profit regardless of the outcome. In simple terms, you take odds from one bookmaker with a qualifying bet or back bet. This is the bet you must place in order to qualify for a bonus bet.

Once you have acquired your bonus betting funds, you are ready for matched betting. You start with a back bet on an outcome to be successful, such as the horse, player or team to win. Then you place a lay bet on that same horse, player or team to lose. Or alternatively you could bet on the opponent to win (in a contest with two opponents). Either way, you are a winner.

Matched betting using sign up bonuses

Many bookmakers in the UK offer sign up bonuses to entice new customers in a competitive market. With matched betting, you register for the sign up bonus, then use it to create guaranteed income by placing a bet on both outcomes. Sign up bonuses vary in value and the terms and conditions. You can even weekly betting offers for matched betting.

Matched using bonus bet promotions

Matched betting using bonus betting offers is slightly different, as depending on the type of betting promotion, you are not always guaranteed to make a profit. You place a qualifying bet on an outcome in the hope that the promotion will be triggered delivering you a free bet. If the promotion is not triggered, you will suffer a very small loss, normally between 5 – 10% of your betting stake which reflects the bookmaker’s margin on the odds for all outcomes.

Examples of offers that can be used for matched betting

Matched betting example

You receive a free $200 bet from a bookmaker. You decide to place that bet on the NRL, placing $200 on Melbourne Storm at odds of $3.00 to beat the North Queensland Cowboys. Then, with your own money you place a lay bet on the Melbourne Storm at odds of $3.20 with Betfair. You are guaranteed a win regardless of the outcome provided you use the correct stake amounts; in this case a lay amount of $127 (factoring in commission). For either result, you will net yourself a $120 profit.

Tips for matched betting

You can use a matched bet for any bet at all. The key to success is knowing how to choose the right matched bet.

  • Look for similar odds for and against
  • When using Betfair to place lay bets, take commission fees into account
  • Use our matched betting calculator to predict your return
  • It is better to have your bonus bet lose so that you do not have to turnover bonus bet winnings
  • If you are laying your bonus bet, the higher the odds of the back bet, the greater the return on your matched bet
  • The market moves quickly, so be prepared to place bets promptly before odds change
  • Place the bet with the bookie first, then use Betfair (if you’re new to the bookmaker it may take time, whereas you’ll be quicker with Betfair)

Bonus abuse and bookmakers

Bookmakers are always on the lookout out for bonus abuse. They have ways to protect themselves against this, usually via the lengthy terms and conditions that you didn’t read properly when you clicked a tick box. If they suspect you of abusing bonus bets, they can suspend your account and retain your winnings; but more likely will ban you from receiving bonus bet promotions. That’s why it’s important to spread your risk across several betting sites.

Bookmakers may have limitations on the use of bonus bets, such as not returning you the initial stake, and limiting your ability to withdraw funds won using bonus bets. This effectively forces you to re-wager your winnings until you are eligible to withdraw.

Pros and cons of matched betting:

Pros Cons
You are creating a win-win scenario, guaranteeing yourself a profit If you make a mistake in your calculations you can be exposed
No need for complex mathematical formulas (though you can use calculator tools to maximise success) If the market shifts while you are calculating opportunities and placing bets you can be exposed
It’s easy and fun to do You need to place qualifying bets in order to secure the bonus bet promotion
You need to calculate commissions on winnings if using a betting exchange which may reduce potential winnings
if bookmaker suspects you of bonus bets abuse, your account can be terminated and your winnings withheld