Matched Bets Explained [What They Are, How They Work]


You’ve probably heard the expression, ‘the bookie always wins’, but that’s not always true—especially with matched betting. So how can you outsmart the bookie? Our guide gives you all the necessary information about this betting strategy, including how it works, when it’s used, and the potential profits.

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What Is Matched Betting in the UK?

Matched betting is a betting technique that allows punters to profit from promotional offers and free bets offered by online bookmakers. Most bookmakers offer bonuses to new players, which serve as incentives to attract more players and keep them playing on the platform. These bonuses can be converted into cash, meaning that players can turn a profit without staking their own money.

Too Good to Be True?

Although there is always a particular risk involved with gambling, matched betting reduces it to a minimum. Often referred to as no-risk matched betting, this strategy requires multiple bets on the same match/competition, but each bet needs to be placed on a different outcome. But regardless of the outcome, one of the bets will be a winning bet, hence risk-free.

DID YOU KNOW? UK gambling statistics have revealed that as many as 24 million people partake in online gambling—almost half of the UK’s adult population. Additionally, 50% of online gamblers use their smartphones to gamble.

Back Bet vs Lay Bet

To learn how to do matched betting, you need first to understand how back and lay bets work and the differences between them.

Back Bet Lay Bet
Betting on an outcome to deliver, e.g., betting on England to win Betting on an outcome not to deliver, e.g., betting on England not to win

Matched betting works on the principle of cancelling out the risk of the back bet by betting against the same odds with lay-bet matching. The lay bet will win if the match ends in a draw since it was placed against the back-bet matching. Whatever the match’s outcome, one of the bets is a winning bet.

How Does Matched Betting Work?

Whenever a bookmaker gives out a bonus, punters versed in matched betting rush to utilise it. This betting strategy requires placing two bets on one selection: a back bet and a lay bet.

As implied in the name, the back bet backs the selection to win. On the other hand, the lay bet is placed on the same choice on a betting exchange but back the opposite outcome.

You need, however, to place a qualifying bet with your bookmaker, who will unlock the free bets and bonuses available to newcomers. According to our matched betting guide, it’s likely that you’ll lose the money on qualifying bets. But once you have access to free bets, you can start making a profit because you don’t stake your own money but keep your winnings.

Matched Betting Explained

Can you employ this match-betting strategy if you have no previous experience in the world of betting? Yes. Neither do you need knowledge of sports nor be interested in the topic. Since the match’s outcome is irrelevant, you don’t have to concern yourself with a particular sport or the teams playing, which is not the case with traditional betting. Many who partake in matched betting have never placed a bet on anything yet have had great success.

Matched Betting for Dummies

All types of betting are widespread in the UK. The same holds for matched betting. At first, this betting strategy might seem complicated and scary. If you’re just starting, keep your bets simple. Comprehend the offers and understand the betting odds when first placing a matched bet. With matched betting, you must use decimal odds, which are more straightforward and make it easier to calculate your winnings and the liability.

DID YOU KNOW? The rise of betting exchanges in the early 2000s made the concept of matched betting a reality. As soon as online bookmakers began giving out bonuses, experienced punters realised they could make decent profits.

What Is Liability in Matched Betting?

In matched betting, liability is the amount of money you must have in your betting exchange to cover your lay bet. For example, if the lay bet stake is £5.00 and the liability is £20, you need to have £20 in your account on the betting exchange to place a successful bet. Once you place the bet, the balance in your account will decrease by the liability amount (£20). This amount is locked away until the end of the match—when the bet is settled.

How to Calculate Liability

Before trying to work out the liability, you should be aware that the matched betting definition includes two possible outcomes from lay-bet matching:

1) The lay bet loses, wherein you lose the liability but win the bet with the bookmaker.

2) The lay bet wins, wherein the liability and the stake are returned, but you lose the bet with the bookmaker.

If the liability of the bet isn’t clearly stated on the exchange, you can calculate it using the following formula:

(Odds x Stake) – Stake = Liability

So if you’re clear on the matched betting meaning, go ahead and place your first bet.

DID YOU KNOW? More than 60 online betting platforms are licensed to operate in the UK. But if you’re a newcomer and want to place bets from your phone, you should choose one of the best mobile apps for betting to make the process easier.

Key Takeaways

Matched betting is a betting strategy that utilises promotional offers and free bets offered by bookmakers.
Punters must place two separate bets (back and lay) for each matched bet.
Decimal odds should be used when placing matched bets, making it easier to calculate winnings and liability.
You can earn £300 to £1,000 per month with matched betting.
Matched betting is legal in the UK, and earnings are tax-free.

Matched Betting in the UK: How to Place a Matched Bet

Once you understand how matched betting works, you can start placing bets yourself. We’ve compiled a step-by-step guide to help you through the process when you’re just starting.

#1 Create an Account With an Online Bookmaker

Register for an account with an online bookie who gives out bonuses and promotional offers. If this is your first time placing matched bets, Betfred and Paddy Power are good choices. Remember that you’ll be placing only back bets with the bookie, so the next step is just as important as this one.

#2 Create an Account With a Betting Exchange

Does matched betting work if you don’t use a betting exchange? No. You need to open an account with one of the betting exchanges to place lay bets to cover the back bets placed with a bookie.

#3 Become Eligible for the Promotional Offer

To receive a free bet or bonus from the bookmaker, you must deposit money into your account and place a bet, which will unlock the promotional offer to place one half of the matched bet.

#4 Ensure the Odds Are Decimal

Matched betting? What is it? How does it work? It’s crucial to remember that the odds are decimal and not fractional. Online bookies allow you to choose how you see the odds, which will enable you to have better insight into potential earnings.

#5 Place Both Bets

You’re essentially double betting with matched bets—place the back bet with the bookmaker and a lay bet at an exchange. Then, wait for the match to end. No-risk matched betting in the UK is as simple as that.

DID YOU KNOW? Matched betting can be done manuallymake a selection and place bets yourself. But there’s also the option of automating the process by using an auto-matcher or one of the many matched betting services available to UK punters.

How Much Can You Make From Matched Betting?

Matched betting can be lucrative if done correctly. How much you make depends on how much time you put into it and how many bets you place. So how much can I make from matched betting if I’m not a professional punter?

Punters can make approximately £300 per month if they only put in half an hour per day. More committed punters can make £1,000 or more each month if they put in at least an hour per day.

DID YOU KNOW? Matched betting in the UK is tax-free, so all earnings from bets are yours—which is partially why many experienced punters earn their living exclusively with matched betting.

Is Matched Betting Safe?

Many are sceptical of matched betting, wondering if this betting strategy carries risks since it is a form of gambling. But with matched bets, there’s a mathematical assurance of a return from your bets. And even if there wasn’t a return, you would still break even.

Is Matched Betting Worth It?

So what is matched betting in regards to its advantages? The profits with matched betting can be quite substantial and virtually risk-free. You simply need to be careful when placing your bets and ensure you don’t place a bet on the wrong selection. The only possible risk can be due to ‘gubbing’—a bookmaker limiting or shutting down your account if they suspect foul play. Other than this minimal risk, matched betting is safe.

DID YOU KNOW? More than 10,000 people in the UK actively use matched betting to turn a profit.

Is Matched Betting Legal in the UK?

Sometimes, what is matched betting in the UK prompts another question of whether it’s legal. Anyone over 18 can open an account with an online bookmaker and legally place bets and claim winnings.

Matched betting, however, is not to the bookmaker’s advantage. But even if they suspect that you’re taking advantage of their incentives, the worst action they can take is to close your account—there are no legal repercussions.

DID YOU KNOW? When bookmakers identify a persistent match bettor, they typically rush to close the bettor’s account. But they’re required to notify the bettor by email and give them sufficient time to withdraw the funds from their account.


What is no-risk matched betting? You can use free bets and bonuses offered by bookmakers to profit and avoid potential losses from traditional betting. The matched betting strategy is safe and legal—so there are no obstacles on your way to tax-free earnings.


Can you lose money on matched betting?

Losing money on matched betting is unlikely. The only possibility of this occurring is if you make a mistake when placing your bet or the odds on one of the bets change between the placement of the two bets.

Is matched betting legal?

In the UK, matched betting is legal, and all winnings are tax-free. Even if the platform recognises you as an insistent match bettor, there are no legal consequences.

Can you make a living from matched betting?

Many are curious to ask what is matched betting because they want to make money. If you’re willing to commit yourself to it, you can easily earn a living wage. Remember that you need to put in the time and effort to live on the earnings.

18+ Gambling



Alex is an IT wizz gone SEO gone fire-juggler. We’re not even joking. When he isn’t researching why one personal loan is better than the other and which piece of hardware you should buy next, he’s rollerblading or selling homes (because he does that, too, the smarty-pants).

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