What Is Matched Betting?

What is matched betting?

Q: What is matched betting?

A: Matched betting is a way to turn the free bets offered by bookmakers into real money. The technique relies on maths rather than chance which means the risk is low.

BOOKMAKER: A bookmaker, or ‘bookie’, offers odds on sporting and non-sporting events to people who want to gamble. They accept bets and then pay out if they win! For example, if you bet on England to win, and they do, you get money. The amount you win depends on the odds you took.
Traditionally, bookmakers were located in shops on the high street and at racecourses. You’ll have seen them on any high street you’ve walked down. Examples include, Coral, Betfred and William Hill. You can walk in, place a bet and (if your bet wins) return with proof of your bet to collect your winnings.
These days, bookmakers are online too. Online bookies offer the same service as shop ones but with the obvious convenience of being able to ‘visited’ whenever your internet connection allows. Choose and place a bet and if it wins, your funds will be added directly into your bookmaker account. It’s then up to you to withdraw these into your bank account. Depending on the bookmaker and/or your payment type, withdrawals can take 2-5 working days.
Not all bookmakers are created equal, so make sure you know who you can trust. It’s your money, after all. Student Matched Betting looks into bookmakers that are licensed to operate in the UK & Ireland and who have a good reputation. But we’d always recommend doing your own research too. And if you’ve got any doubts or reservations, don’t hesitate to ask.

OK, so that’s the short, sweet and simple answer. Let’s go into a bit more detail…

Q: What is no-risk matched betting?

A: Lots of bookmakers use promotions and incentives to attract new customers to their sites in the hopes of encouraging them to sign up. They’re a kind of welcome gift. And like most of us, these offers come in all shapes and sizes:

  • Bet £X, Get X
  • £X no deposit
  • X% free bet refund
  • Deposit bonus

By removing the risks associated with gambling, you can ensure that your money is protected and you win no matter what the outcome of your bet is.

Q: Is matched betting risk free?

A: If you’ve Googled matched betting at any point, you might’ve seen it referred to as ‘no-risk matched betting’. This is when you compare it against traditional betting or gambling.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) considers the claim of matched betting being 100% risk-free “misleading because although theoretically sound, the process was open to human error”. 
If done ‘properly’, the risk is minimal. However, with the ASA ruling in mind, let’s look at some of the potential risks of matched betting:

  • Human error: If you leap before you look and start placing bets before you understand exactly what to do, the chances are that you’ll make a mistake. There are a few steps to get your head around at first so just take your time, double check everything and make sure you’re comfortable with how it works before you do anything.
  • Changing odds: So you know how Ussain Bolt’s pretty fast, right? Well, odds move faster – sometimes much faster. Again, to minimise the chances of making a mistake, just make sure you check the odds before you place any bets.
ODDS: The way the likelihood of a particular outcome is shown in betting. Odds are shown as ‘fractional’ (10/1) or ‘decimal (11.00). 10/1 means that you’d receive 10 ‘units’ for every 1 units you staked (put on), plus your original bet amount too. If you stake £1 and you win, you’ll get £11 in back. Find out more in this post.


A: In a word: yes.
It’s just a different way of using the promotional offers. As long as you’re over the age of 18, matched betting is completely legal. And the betting industry’s fine with it, too. In an article with The Telegraph, Graham Sharpe, former Media Relations Director at William Hill, said that “There’s no illegal element,” and that “It’s a free bet and you can do what you like.”
(from an article by: Murray-West, Rosie. “Is this a bet you can’t lose?”, The Telegraph. Dec 2010.)


Q: Is matched betting gambling?

A: Not technically, no. Even though you’ll be using a gambling site (the bookmaker) to do it. It also benefits from the fact that winnings from gambling activities are not currently taxed in the UK. So why isn’t matched betting gambling? With gambling, you take a risk when you play games of chance in the hopes of winning money. You’re ‘taking a punt’ on the outcome ending up in your favour.

PUNTER: (Traditional) Also known as a ‘bettor’ or ‘gambler’. A person who risks money by gambling or placing a bet on something.

However, with matched betting you’re not putting your money at risk. Instead of placing just one bet with a bookmaker, you actually place two; you ‘match’ that bet with another one at a betting exchange.

BETTING EXCHANGE: An online website, platform or marketplace where gamblers can bet against each other, rather than against a bookmaker. Essentially, you can take the place of the bookmaker against someone else’s bet. There are currently 4 online betting exchanges available to UK customers: Betfair, Smarkets, Betdaq and Matchbook.

The very nature of matched betting means that you’re placing bets without actually gambling. We’ll talk about exactly how that works in this guide.

BET: In sports, this is the act of predicting the outcome of a race, game or event and agreeing to forfeit money if you’re wrong. Betting isn’t just limited to sports though. Bets can be placed on anything from TV shows to the date Man’s going to land on Mars.

Q: How much money can you make from matched betting?

The answer to this question is a bit ‘how long is a piece of string?’. But that just means that matched betting’s a flexible way to make money and can fit around your lifestyle.
Based on the expected value of each of the initial signup offers, you can probably make between £1000 – £1500. Obviously this is reliant on a few things, such as odds taken and float, but it’s a pretty nice chunk of money.
Then once you’ve opened all of your bookie accounts, there are many ongoing and daily offers you can take advantage of. Student Matched Betting has guides and tips for these offers, as well as the support available in our thriving Community.
Matched betting isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme but with a little time and effort, you can earn tax-free money each month.