Matched betting explained – Simple guide for beginners (works in 2018)

Written by Charles    |    Updated November 29, 2018 

Matched betting explained - Guide for beginners

Matched betting explained – This step by step beginners guide will explain everything you need to know about matched betting in 2018: how it works, the key terms and definitions you’ll need to understand and how much you can expect to make. Plus we walk you through a number of simple matched betting examples.

Ready to get started?

Let’s jump right in.

Matched betting explained

When you first start out, understanding matched betting can be quite a challenge. Match betting beginners are sometimes put off by the concepts and jargon involved with this risk free betting method.

It certainly took me a while to get to grips with certain concepts.

But not to worry.

I’ve created this simple matched betting guide explaining the important concepts and key terms you need to know in order for you to get earning as quickly as possible.

So, what is matched betting?

Match betting definition

Where better to start than a clear and concise explanation of matched betting:

No risk matched betting or double betting is a method used by individuals to profit from bookmakers’ free bets and promotions. This method is completely risk free as outcomes are based on a mathematical equation rather than chance.

As you can see, matched betting is very different to normal gambling which makes it incredibly popular with a wide range of people.

Individuals from all walks of life use match betting to make money online. Typically students and stay at home parents find matched betting the most effective but it’s not just limited to these types of people.

Bookmakers promotions

If you’re new to the betting scene, you may not be aware of the huge range of free bets, bonuses and other promotions the bookmakers offer.

However, if you’re into your sports and you watch a couple of football games each weekend you will have seen a number of bookmakers promoting their latest offers.

This is especially true for the larger bookmakers like Bet365, Ladbrokes and Coral.

Matched betting offers explained

Currently, there is over £1200 worth of free bets available for new and existing customers.

With match betting, you can make a guaranteed profit from a lot of these free bets.

So how does this risk free betting method work?

Understanding how matched betting works

If you’re new to matched betting, it may take you a while to understand how this concept works. As I mentioned above, it did for me.

However, once you’ve got the process nailed it’s incredibly easy and you’ll be a pro in no time.

Matched betting is based around a concept called back and lay betting. This method involves placing two opposite bets, at different betting companies.

You place one bet at a bookmaker (a back bet) and another bet at a betting exchange (called a lay bet).

What is a betting exchange?

Some of you may not have heard of a betting exchange before.

In basic terms, it’s an online betting platform that lets you bet against other punters rather than against the bookie.

Betting exchanges explained

You can place either a back bet or a lay bet at an exchange, making them more versatile than more traditional bookmakers (more on this below).

Betting exchanges are relatively new in the betting industry. Founded in 2000 by Betfair, match bettors have a lot to thank them for as they make matched betting a possibility.

For more explanation on how betting exchanges work, check out this article.

Backing and laying in matched betting explained

Backing an outcome is the same as betting something to happen where as laying an outcome is saying it will NOT happen.

When you have a bet with your mates, you’ll usually be placing a back bet without even knowing it.

Here’s an example to help explain:

Back bet: Leicester will win their next game
Lay bet: Leicester will NOT win their next game

Laying is the opposite of backing.

As I explained above, matched bettors place both a back bet and a lay bet on the same market.

By using a mathematical equation to calculate your stakes, these two bets effectively cancel each other out, leaving you where you started.

Thankfully you don’t need to know any equations or anything about the maths, that’s all done for you and built into our very own matched betting calculator.

You might be wondering what the point of all this is…

Let me explain.

You usually need to complete some sort of qualifying criteria to access a free bet or promotion. The bookies don’t just hand out these bonuses to anyone, they generally want something in return.

By using back and lay betting, you can qualify for a free bet or bonus without losing any of your own money.

You can trigger the free bet or bonus risk free! This is what sets match betting apart from other forms of betting.

Once you have access to the free bet, you repeat the same process, only this time you make a guaranteed profit as you’re using the bookies money.

At this stage you may be thinking this is all sounds great, but is matched betting legal?

Is matched betting legal?

In short, yes, this method is 100% legal and is actually endorsed by certain betting companies.

There’s nothing illegal with the match betting process. Matched bettors take advantage of the bookies’ free bets like anyone else would.

The only difference is that you place an opposite bet, using a different company, to guarantee a profit.

Check out this article for more information on the legality of matched betting.

How can matched betting be risk free?

After legality, this is probably the second most popular matched betting question that comes to mind – how on earth can anything to do with betting involve zero risk?

As I explained above, matched betting is technically not gambling. Back and lay betting is a risk free method used to guarantee a profit and mitigate any risk from normal gambling.

If you’re still not sure, I recommend you give matched betting a go and find out for yourself. We offer a free trial for those who are keen to get started.

Matched betting example

Here’s a matched betting example to help explain the whole process.

This example is based on a typical offer from Coral:

Matched betting explained - Coral sign up offer

Coral offer new customers a £20 free bet when you sign up and stake £5.

Therefore to trigger the free bet, you need to place a bet of just £5.

This bet can be placed on any sporting market, however, large football games are usually the easiest for beginners. The Premier League is usually a great place to start.

Once you’ve found a suitable market, it’s time to place your back and lay bets.

When these bets have settled your bonus should have been triggered. Your free bet will usually appear in the bet slip or the account funds section.

Now you can make a guaranteed profit from this offer!

We repeat the same process, only this time we use the free bet instead of our money at the bookmaker.

There’s obviously a bit more to it, but that simple explanation should give you enough to understand the main concept.

How much can you make from matched betting?

First things first, matched betting is not a get rich quick scheme.

If you’re looking to make millions overnight, matched betting is not for you.

What this is, is a proven strategy to make a sustainable income online. Some people use this as their primary income whilst others use it to supplement their full time job.

Obviously the amount you make really depends on how much time you invest.

However, on average, members generally make £500 each month.

Not bad when it’s all tax free…

Matched betting key terms

Below are the main matched betting key terms and abbreviations you’re likely to find on our site.

Whilst not all of these terms will directly affect your matched betting, they’re all worth knowing.

If you need more explanation on any of the following key terms or you come across one that’s not covered, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

The key terms and abbreviations are in alphabetical order.

Accumulator / Acca

An accumulator, combination or multiple bet is a single bet that contains 2 or more selections in one. For this to be a winning bet all the selections must come true.

In recent times, accumulator bets have become very popular, especially with football punters.

There are plenty of methods matched bettors can use to take advantage of accumulators.

Back bet

Betting on an outcome to happen – just like a traditional bet. For example we may bet that Chelsea will win the Premier League next season.

We generally place this bet at a bookmaker (bookie), however, it is also possible to place a back bet at a betting exchange.

Back bets are highlighted in green on our site – this is also the case for our matched betting calculator.

Back odds

The odds we get at the bookie or betting exchange when placing our back bet on a given market.

Betting exchange

The betting site where we place our lay bets, for example Smarkets or Betfair.

We use the betting exchange to make this process risk free. It allows us to bet against our first bet (back bet).

We explain this in greater depth in our what is a betting exchange guide.

Bookmaker or bookie

The betting site where we place our back bets, for example Coral or Ladbrokes. This is the most common type of betting company.

Free bet

A bet that we place using bonus funds given to us by the bookies or betting exchange. These free bets are usually from a promotion or offer that we have qualified for.

Free bets are the bread and butter of matched betting – without them, our potential profit would be severely restricted.


Gnoming, also known as multi-accounting, involves opening and running more than one betting account with the same bookmaker to maximise income from an offer.

Individuals usually do this by using a family member or friend’s name.

This is technically fraud, therefore we strongly recommend you don’t use this strategy. It’s very likely you’ll be banned by the bookmaker in question, limiting your potential profit.

For more explanation on the legality of multi-accounting check out this article.


Gubbing is a term used to describe the situation when a bookmaker restricts our account in some way.

This can be anything from a stake restriction to a complete account ban.

For a successful matched betting strategy in 2018, we need as many bookmaker accounts open as possible, preferably without any restrictions.

There are a number of methods we can use to keep our accounts open and active for as long as possible.

Lay bet

Betting on an outcome NOT to happen.

A lay bet is the opposite of a back bet.

We bet that Chelsea will NOT win the Premier League next season. We place this bet at a betting exchange. Lay Bets are highlighted in blue on our site – the same applies to our matched betting calculator.

For more explanation on back and lay betting check out our specific guide.

Lay odds

The odds we get at the betting exchange when placing our lay bet on a given market.


Liability is the amount we stand to lose at the betting exchange should our bookie (back) bet win.

Any losses at the betting exchange are covered by wins at the bookmaker.

Before placing any lay bets, we need to ensure we have enough money in our exchange account to cover the liability amount.

Our matched betting calculator always shows this amount in the results section underneath the exchange heading:

So in the example below, we’d need to ensure we have at least £20.75 in our betting exchange account before being able to place our lay bet.

matched betting faqs - what is liability?


In relation to a betting exchange – the amount of money waiting to be matched for a given selection.

This figure is always changing and increases considerably, closer to the start of an event.

This is why we suggest you place your bets around 15 minutes before the scheduled start time.

You’ll find the liquidity underneath the market price in all betting exchanges:

matched betting explained - liquidity


In relation to a betting exchange – our bet is matched when it has been accepted by the exchange.

If the liquidity is high, like the above example, our bet will be matched as soon as we place it.

Therefore it’s best to stick to popular markets where the liquidity is bound to he high. Large football games and horse racing events are usually the most effective.

Mug bet

A bet that we place to help keep our accounts from being gubbed by the bookies.

We place a back and lay bet on the same market just like a qualifying bet, however, there is no promotion or bonus to unlock.

Mug bets are an important strategy to increase the long term profitability of matched betting.

Qualifying bet

A bet that we place to unlock a free bet.

When completing a qualifying bet we place a back and lay bet on the same market, effectively cancelling out the risk from each bet. We’ve then qualified for our free bet.

It’s important to add, we usually lose a small amount of money when placing qualifying bets. See below for more details.

Qualifying loss

The amount we stand to lose when qualifying for our free bet tokens.

We work out this loss before the event has even started using our matched betting calculator.

As a guide, we aim to restrict this amount to below 5% of the overall back stake. So for a £10 bet, we don’t want to lose any more than £0.50.

Stake not returned / SNR

In relation to a free bet – the free bet stake is not returned with your winnings.

Let’s say we place a £10 free bet at odds of 2.0 and it goes on to win.

We’ll receive £10 from the bookie.

In this scenario, they don’t give us our £10 stake back, like they would in a stake returned free bet or a normal bet.

Most free bets we use are SNR.

Stake returned / SR

In relation to a matched betting free bet – the free bet stake is returned along with any winnings, just like a normal bet. This is quite rare as bookies don’t usually return the stake within a promotion or offer.


In relation to a betting exchange – our bet is unmatched until it has been accepted by the exchange.

If your bet is unmatched it’s probably due to a lack of liquidity in the market.

If this is the case, I suggest you pick a market with more popularity and therefore higher liquidity.

Matched betting explained

When you start out with anything new – whether that’s a new job or hobby, there’s always some kind of learning curve with new terms and concepts to get your head around.

That’s why it’s important to summon the help of experts in the field and that’s where a matched betting service comes in handy.

Here at The Sure Bettor, we provide all the matched betting help you could wish for. Check out this article for more information on what we offer.

I hope this matched betting explained article has given you a better understanding of the most important concepts and key terms we use.

Stay tuned for more matched betting tips and tricks in the future.

Keep reading – Is matched betting legal?