What is Matched Betting?

Written by: Alex Windsor
Fact checked by Brian Webb  
Updated: June 18, 2024

Sports bettors have many ways to make money from their bets, and strategies are one way to maximise wins. Matched betting is one of the strategies that help you make money from your bets by leveraging bonuses and rewards dished out by betting sites to ensure a win no matter the outcome.

With matched betting, you essentially place two bets. One is that something will happen, and the other is that it will not. It allows you to cover all outcomes of an event in just a couple of bets, even when there are more than two expected outcomes.

Read on as I take you through the strategy and give you tips to make you a pro at it.

How Matched Betting Works

Matched betting is about placing opposing bets on the same result. It’s a technique where you place both back and lay bets, using freebies from bookmakers to bankroll the back bet. By placing the two bets, you ensure that you still win, no matter the outcome.

The strategy needs you to have an account at a bookie and a betting exchange. This way, you use your bookie account to place the back bet and the lay bet through your account on the betting exchange. Using this technique, you can lock in up to 80% of the value from your freebie, notwithstanding the outcome.

The odds on either bet and their liability are at the core of the strategy. Below, I discuss the back bet, lay bet, and liability further.

Back Bets, Lay Bets, and Liability Explained

By now, you must have figured out that a matched bet has two parts. These include a back and a lay bet placed against the same result.

In layman’s terms, I invite you to picture the punter and bookie with me. The punter wagers that something will happen, and the bookie wagers that it will not. The punter’s wager is the back bet, while the bookie’s is the lay bet.

Both bets carry liability, but this is interpreted differently for each.

Back bet

This is the traditional bet we are used to: what you typically get on a bookie site. The bet affirms that an event will happen. To wager that Arsenal will win an upcoming English Premier League match against Chelsea is to place a back bet.

Your stake is the amount you risk losing if the bet doesn’t win.

As such, the bookie assumes liability and will pay your winnings if your bet is a winner. Back bets include their liability in the odds, so you don’t have to worry about it.

Lay bet

Lay betting was previously unheard of until betting exchanges became popular. It is the direct opposite of the back bet, so we refer to it as the bookie’s bet.

For a lay bet, you wager that something will not happen. The lay bet is what sets a betting exchange apart from your typical bookie. Quintessentially, members on a betting exchange can act as both backers and layers, setting their own odds for others to match.

In a lay bet, your stake is the amount you put up to cover potential payouts. Your liability is variable and depends on the lay odds, representing the amount you would potentially pay the backer if their bet wins.

Liability

In betting, liability refers to the stake you risk when you place a bet. However, how we interpret liability varies depending on whether you’re placing a back bet or a lay bet.

For back bets, this is the stake you place. The bookie locks your wager amount, say £10, once you place your bet and give it back, adding an extra £10 in winnings when you win. The wager amount remains with the bookie if your back bet loses.

Liability works a little differently for lay bets. While it is still money out of your bankroll if your bet loses, the liability on lay bets depends on the odds you wager against. While the most liability you can incur for back bets is your stake, this varies for lay bets.

For lay bets, liability represents the amount you could (potentially) have to pay out if the outcome you’re wagering against does happen. To calculate liability, we use the formula:

Liability = Stake x (Lay Odds – 1)

If your lay bet wins, you get to keep the stake of the backer who matched your lay bet. Conversely, if you lose the lay bet, you pay the backer their potential winning, equivalent to your liability, as calculated above.

Matched Betting Example

Now that you understand all the parts it entails and what a matched bet would look like, it is time to use a practical example. First, you need to find a bookmaker with a welcome offer and sign up. Next, find a betting exchange and create an account there, too.

To explain the strategy, we will take an English Premier League game between London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea. Taking the moneyline (1X2) bet in particular, we choose a team between the two, say Arsenal, that we back to win on the bookie site. If an Arsenal win offers odds of 2.13 at the bookie site, a bet of £10 would yield a profit of £11.30.

We then head to the betting exchange and place a lay bet that Arsenal loses the game. If the lay bet comes with odds of 2.05, a stake of £10 would include a payout liability of 10.50. This earns you a net profit of £0.80.

Lay Liability: Stake x (Lay Odds – 1)

£10 x (2.05 – 1) = £10.50

Net Profit: £11.30 – £10.50 = £0.80

Alternatively, if Arsenal were to lose the game, you would lose the £10 moneyline bet and win the lay bet. In this case, the betting exchange returns your original stake of £10. And the stake of the bettor who placed the opposing back bet wagered.

The key to maximising your returns when playing this strategy is to have the best odds you can find for your back bet and lay bet. Higher odds on your back bet mean more winnings, while higher odds on your lay bet mean more liability.

Tips and Advice When Playing Matched Bets

Matched bets seem like a surefire way to always win, no matter what bet you pick, right? Even so, there are tips you should implement in your strategy to ensure you get the most out of it. For starters, you have to know what stake you place on the lay bet so that you don’t lose money on the back bet.

This and other considerations are why you need tips to fine-tune your strategy.

Use Sign Up Offers As Much As Possible

As I mentioned earlier on, matched bets are most profitable when you don’t have to spend your bankroll on the back bet. A bonus is a good way to ensure you don’t spend money on the back bet, but not just any bonus.

Sticking to sign-up offers is a canny way to keep the profits coming. Welcome offers have fewer restrictions that you have to meet before accessing your winnings. You also get higher rewards than normal offers. Online bettors are in luck since there are hundreds of reputable bookies with decent welcome offers.

Bet £10, Get £50 In Free Bets
New customers only. Register with SUMMER50. Deposit £10+ and place first bet £10+ at Evens (2.0)+ on Sports within 7 days to get 3 x £10 in Sports Free Bets & 2 x £10 in Acca Free Bets within 10 hours of settlement. 7-day expiry. Eligibility & payment exclusions apply. Full T&Cs apply.
Bet £10 Get £35 In Free Bets
*New UK customers (Excluding NI) only. Mobile exclusive. Min Deposit £10. Min stake £10. Min odds Evs. Free bet applied on 1st settlement of any qualifying bet. 30 days to qualify. Free bets expire in 7 days. Cashed out/Free Bets won’t apply. Account & Payment method restrictions apply. 1 Free Bet offer per customer, household & IP Address only. 18+. T&Cs apply
Bet £10, Get £30 In Bonuses
18+ New customers only. Opt in & bet min £10 on any sports market at min odds of 1/1 (2.00)+ No cash out. Get £20 in Free Bets, £10 Live Casino Bonus + 30 Free Spins for selected slots. 40x wagering for the bonus, max withdrawal £250, valid 30 days. Free Bets expire in 7 days. Debit Card/Apple Pay Payments only. T&Cs Apply, see below. begambleaware.org | Please gamble responsibly

Have A Separate Email and Bank Account

You may be excited to try out different strategies with your bets, but the bookies don’t like it because it costs them money. As such, some of them do not allow strategies like matched betting. These are sometimes considered violations and can cost you the bonus amount or even have your accounts closed down.

What’s more, bookies have many sister sites these days and will track you down to find out your betting patterns on either. To avoid a ban on your bonus, you are better off having a separate bank account and email for your accounts at the bookie and betting exchange. You can also use our handy matched betting spreadsheet to keep track of all your activity.

Do Proper Research

It may sound like a foolproof plan to make money, but you cannot pick games at random when playing matched bets. You have to know what games will give you the right back and lay odds so that you make a profit regardless of the outcome.

Always find out about the expected returns before you place your matched bets. Tools like calculators for lay odds will come in handy as you do your research.

Always Read the Fine Print

Betting sites dangle all sorts of lucrative rewards in our faces, but it’s the terms and conditions behind these that matter. The terms and regulations on your bonus are meant to keep you honest, but they can be insurmountable in some cases.

Look out for rewards with low wagering limits and low minimum odds for qualifying bets so that it is easy to meet all the terms and conditions to claim your reward.

Conclusion

Bookies offer bonus rewards to help you win more, and matched betting is one of the strategies that could turn these into easy cash. The thing about matched betting that makes it such an awesome strategy, even for the newbies, is that you don’t need to know about team history or have knowledge of a sport.

It’s all about the odds and how to use them in your favour. Now that you understand how it works, it’s time to put the strategy into play to start winning immediately. Who said you need luck when betting? Use matched betting right and your smarts will be all you need.

Alex, a ten-year iGaming industry veteran and Managing Editor at BettingTools specializes in sports betting and betting tools. He also provides insightful reviews, ensures the accuracy of all offers, and maintains content quality helping you make informed choices. Combining professional expertise with a passion for football and soccer, Alex ensures we offer you a reliable resource, focusing on betting tools to assist with odds, accas, and other betting strategies.