Your Comprehensive Guide to Matched Betting

Heard of arbitrage betting but haven’t got a clue what it involves? You’ve come to the right place. Check out our comprehensive guide to find out whether it really is a surefire way to beat the bookies.

What is Matched Betting

What is Matched Betting?

Matched betting is an advanced wagering technique involving standard bookmaker free bets and more progressive betting exchanges pioneered by Betfair, where you bet against other people rather than a traditional bookmaker. It can also be known as arbitrage when bettors use their own money on both wagers rather than a promotion.

Implemented successfully and with careful attention to detail, matched betting can guarantee a profit. Savvy punters cover all potential angles with mathematically calculated wagers called ‘back’ and ‘lay’ bets.

With matched betting, UK punters take advantage of odds discrepancies at traditional bookies and betting exchanges. If you can find an event with enough of an odds disparity at a bookmaker compared to a betting exchange, this can create an opportunity to bet on both scenarios while still guaranteeing a profit. 

Matched betting has two crucial components: ‘lay’ and ‘back’ bets. We’ll cover both in a little more detail below: 

Lay Bet

Lay bets are only available at betting exchanges like Betfair or Smarket. These wagers differ from the norm by allowing you to bet on something not to happen rather than the other way around. For example, you could predict a football team or tennis player not to win. In a horse racing context, you would be simply betting on a horse not to win a race. 

This gives a far better chance at correctly forecasting an event, essentially allowing you to step inside the bookmaker’s shoes and back something not to happen. Lay betting is only possible with somebody else betting on the same scenario to happen, so you’ll have to find an exchange with an available option for your preferences first. 

Back Bet

The second main matched betting element is a back bet. This is a more straightforward wager offered by both bookmakers and betting exchanges. While a lay bet predicts a scenario not to happen, a back bet is more conventional, allowing you to wager on something that will happen. 

A typical matched betting tactic involves back bets placed via sign-up offers, providing an additional safety net if the prediction loses.

How It Works

How does it Work?

Bookmakers rely on a margin between the actual probability of something happening versus their odds to make a profit. As a result, the market price at traditional betting sites is almost always over 100%. 

Unlike conventional bookmakers that set odds to ensure a profit margin, betting exchanges are influenced by customer supply and demand in a more dynamic way. This provides the perfect conditions for occasions where bookmaker odds on a specific prediction are higher than the odds on that same scenario not happening at a betting exchange. 

With matched betting, UK punters look for opportunities where the combined sum of the odds for a scenario happening and not happening is under 100%. We’ll clear things up with a theoretical example using tennis and decimal odds below: 

Bookmaker Odds: 

  • Carlos Alcaraz – 2.50 (40.0%) 
  • Novak Djokovic – 1.50 (66.7%) 

Betting Exchange Odds: 

  • Carlos Alcaraz not to win – 1.73 (57.8%) 

The odds of Alcaraz winning and not winning here add up to 97.8%, opening an opportunity to use matched betting. Let’s say you have a £10 free bet offer and use this on Alcaraz winning. This back bet would provide a £15 profit (as the stake won’t be returned). Conversely, a £10 lay bet on a betting exchange on Alcaraz not to win would return £10 profit with a liability (if you lose the bet, aka Alcaraz wins) of £7.30. 

As a result, you can score a profit in both scenarios: 

Alcaraz Wins: 

  • Back bet wins £15, lay bet loses £7.30 = £7.70 profit 

Alcaraz Loses: 

  • Lay bet wins £10, back bet loses £0 (as it’s a free bet) = £10 profit 

This is a simplified example to clarify how matched betting works. We’ll get deeper into the nit and gritty in the next sections.

What is a Bet Exchange Site?

A bet exchange acts as an intermediary for punters, eliminating the role of traditional online bookmakers. Instead of betting against bet365 or Paddy Power, you’re matched to other people who are backing the opposite outcome. Platforms like Betfair and Smarkets provide an opportunity to place or offer bets. In other words, back or lay. They are fundamental to matched betting strategies, enabling you to take the role of the bookmaker and bet against something happening. If you’re successful, you’ll receive the other back bettor’s stake.

How to Get Started

How to Get Started with Matched Betting

A guaranteed profit sounds appealing, but don’t get carried away. Accurate matched betting is no easy feat, demanding very careful calculations and a keen eye for spotting the best opportunities. Here are a few things you’ll need to get started: 

  • Valid Accounts – You’ll need to have verified accounts on at least one conventional bookmaker and betting exchange. Ideally, you’ll need multiple accounts across a few different platforms so you can enjoy more free bet offers and broader matched betting opportunities. 
  • Mobile – We highly recommend using a mobile to maximise your matched betting experience. Bookies often have mobile app-exclusive free bet offers and also use push notifications to ensure you’re kept in the loop. Apps also allow you to keep track of your matched betting process while out and about. 
  • Payment Method – Choose your preferred payment method and ensure you’re set up on the bookmaker and betting exchange.
  • Matched Betting Tools – Due to the mathematical complexity involved, most punters use matched betting tools to help them make accurate calculations and find the right odds opportunities. These include things like an oddsmatcher or matched betting calculator. Some of the best matched betting sites and tools include OddsMonkey and Outplayed (previously known as Profit Accumulator). 

Remember to start slow – matched betting rewards patience and risk aversion more than anything else. It’s also bound to be confusing at the beginning, so don’t instantly worry about making a profit, rather understanding the underlying mechanics to help you take more advantage going forwards. 

Place a Matched Bet

How to Place a Matched Bet

Use the step-by-step tutorial below to place a matched bet: 

  • Accept a Free Bet Offer – Find and accept a free bet offer. Check our free bets homepage for several options. For example, bet365 offers a bet £10 and get £30 in free bets welcome bonus. 
  • Verify Account & Place Qualifying Deposit – Create an account and validate any KYC checks before making a qualifying deposit. Read the terms and conditions closely to ensure you don’t miss out. Our dedicated bonus terms and conditions help page will help you understand what to look for. 
  • Switch Odds to Decimal – Using decimal odds for matched betting makes comparisons far easier. Most betting exchanges default to decimal odds, but you’ll usually have to switch to decimal at a UK bookmaker. 
  • Place a Qualifying Back Bet –  Study the market and consider using some matched betting tools to highlight where to place your qualifying back bet. We found a good opportunity to back Liverpool against Arsenal in the December 23rd top-of-the-table clash at 2.3 odds (43.5% implied probability). Make sure you adhere to minimum stake values. 
  • Place a Matching Lay Bet – Next, head to a betting exchange like Betfair. At the time of writing, you could get around 2.48 odds (40.3% implied probability) on Liverpool not beating Arsenal (loss or draw).The sum of these probabilities equals 83.8%, indicating a matched betting opportunity. Take care to consider the liability value to bring you into guaranteed profitability or at least breaking even (as you can use the free bet later to expand actual real money profits) 
  • Use the Free Bet on a Back Bet – Now you’ve unlocked the free bet by placing an initial back bet and corresponding lay bet, you can use the free bet stake to essentially repeat the process. Find another opportunity to place a back bet by comparing odds across bookmakers and betting exchanges. 
  • Set a Corresponding Lay Bet – Set the corresponding lay bet with the right amount of liability to cover the rest of the outcomes. For example, you may have backed Wolves against Chelsea on the Sunday after Liverpool vs Arsenal. Go to a betting exchange and lay bet on Wolves not winning to cover all angles. 
  • Pick Up The Profit – With the right calculations with your lay and back bets, you’ll be guaranteed a profit regardless of the result of both games. This may not be much at all on your first cycle, but using the subsequent free bet unlocks a more eye-catching opportunity.

Pros and Cons of Matched Betting

Matched betting is an eye-catching strategy that can pay serious dividends if utilised with enough accuracy, patience, and desire. Identifying the correct conditions for back and lay bets takes practice, even with advanced matched betting tools in tow. Here are some of the main pros and cons: 



  • Offers a risk-free approach to gambling
  • Produces a deeper understanding of how the betting industry and odds probability work
  • Maximises bookmaker free bet offers
  • Creates legal and tax-free real money profits
  • Logical strategy that can be endlessly practised and honed


  • Difficult to initially understand
  • Can be time-consuming and requires careful organisation
  • Relies on free bet offers
  • Can be frowned upon

The people behind this page's online gambling content experts helped write, edit and check this page:

Danielle has six years of experience writing on a wide variety of topics, including online casino, sports betting and tourism. She has a BA in French with English from King’s College.

Sam is the SEO Manager for and joined us in 2020. He has an MSC in International Marketing & spent time abroad at Louisiana State University. He also works on our interview series for news, speaking to Robert Huth, Glen Johnson and Louis Saha among others. Sam enjoys following Leicester City, the LSU Tigers and the NFL in his spare time.