Matched betting has become a popular way of earning extra money online, . In this piece, we’ll look to examine whether matched betting can really be considered to be using a offer, matched betting sites, and provide a few tips that can help to enhance your own matching betting experience.
An introduction to matched betting
The concept of matched betting relies heavily on bookmaker bonuses and so-called “free” bets. As these bets aren’t actually free – you’ll usually have to bet your own money to qualify for the bet – we prefer the term “bonus bets”, which is what we’ll be using throughout this article.
For normal punters, a bonus bet is just that – a bonus. If it wins, you profit. If the bet loses, well, no harm no foul; at least you haven’t lost your stake.
For a matched bettor, however, a bonus bet is an opportunity to profit regardless of the outcome. A matched bettor will use a bonus bet, and then “lay” that bet at an exchange. For those unfamiliar with the term, laying a bet means that you are essentially betting on an outcome not to happen – for example, if you lay on the draw in the football odds or even tennis odds, you are betting that the draw will not happen (i.e. one of the teams will win).
It’s possible to lay a standard bet you have made, if you wish, but you’ll usually make a loss. However, when laying a bonus bet, you can make a profit by using a specific calculator. There are countless matched betting free calculators available online, so you don’t need to understand the intricacies of the maths itself, but the principle is simple: by “laying” a bonus bet, you can profit. It’s important to note that, when matched betting, you will always use decimal odds rather than fractional odds, and here’s an example of how using a bonus bet to generate profit works out:
- You have a £5 bonus bet, which you decide to play on a horse race.
- You place your bonus bet at the bookmaker, backing your chosen horse – who we’ll call “Matched Betting Supremo” – to win the race at odds of 6 (5/1, in fractional)
- You can then set up a matched betting free calculator in “stake not returned” mode (as most bonus bets will not return the stake)
- You then check the odds at one of the exchanges: Betfair, Betdaq, Smarkets, Matchbook, or Ladbrokes Exchange
- You find you can lay Matched Betting Supremo at odds of 6.2
- You then run the matched betting calculator, which will tell you to place a lay with a stake of £4.03.
When you have placed your back and lay bets, you will profit regardless of how Matched Betting Supremo performs in the race. This is the essence of why matched betting is considered to be “risk-free” – because you are not dependent on a result to profit.
- If Matched Betting Supremo wins the race, then you will win your bookmaker bet and lose your lay bet. This means your bookmaker account will be credited with £25 and you will lose £20.96 at the exchange. As a result, your total profit is £4.04.
- If Matched Betting Supremo loses the race, then you will win your lay bet and lose your bookmaker bet. As you placed your bookmaker bet with a bonus bet, you won’t lose anything at the bookmaker, but you will profit £4.03 at the exchange.
So whatever happens during the race, you’re at least £4 in profit. Why not check out our matched betting guide?
Best betting sites for matched betting 2019
Common matched betting errors
Even the best matched betting sites can’t protect you from making an error when placing your back and lay bets. If you visit any matched betting forum, you will hear horror stories of people losing money by making mistakes, the most common of which include:
- Backing and laying different horses. So you place your back bet on Matched Betting Supremo, but you accidentally place your lay on Matched Betting Error. This could lead to a significant loss.
- Placing the wrong lay stake. A matched betting calculator will provide you with your lay stake, but you still need to input the stake into your chosen exchange. For example, you might mean to lay £4.04, but you mistype, and actually lay £40.04.
- Laying before backing. When matched betting, you should always place your back bet first. If the odds shift at the online bookmaker, then placing a lay bet first can mean you lose a significant amount at your exchange.
- Calculation errors. Most matched betting calculators offer a range of different calculations, which change the amount of the lay stake. If the calculator is on the wrong setting (for example, it is set to ‘normal’ – of which have different purposes than when using a bonus bet) then the lay stake will be wrong, which can result in significant losses.
- Mistakenly using account funds to place a bonus bet. The way that bookmakers allow the use of a bonus bet differs; some require you to check a box, others ask you to enter a stake and then select ‘use bonus funds’, and others are even more obtuse. As a result, it’s possible that you may place what is meant to be a bonus bet, but end up actually using your account funds. If this happens, you can still lay the bet, though you will make a small loss rather than a guaranteed profit.
As a result, matched betting as an entire concept cannot truly be considered to be. Yes, matched betting UK residents can use to bolster their bank balance exists in principle, but the potential for errors means that there’s always an underlying risk – and even the most experienced matched bettors will occasionally make a costly error.
How can you prevent matched betting mistakes?
While it is never 100% possible to prevent matched betting mistakes, there are a few things you can do to do to help minimise errors:
- Always back first. The cardinal rule of matched betting is to always place your back bet first, as errors at the exchange are far more costly. When placing a back bet at a bookmaker, you can only lose your stake; so if you mistakenly place a back bet with a bonus bet, you don’t lose out – you lose the chance to profit, but the bonus bet does not include your own funds. However, exchange bets can lose far more than your stake due to liability – the exact amount depends on the odds, but in our example above, the liability was £20.96 – which you would lose if the bet goes awry. As a result, always back first and confirm the bet has been successfully placed before moving to place your lay.
- Place your bonus bets when your account funds are empty. As we touched on above, there is always the risk that you will place what is meant to be a bonus bet, but do not select the correct section on the betslip – which results in the bet being placed with your own funds. To prevent this happening, you can withdraw all of the funds from your account before placing a back bet. By doing this, you can be certain that your back bet will actually use the bonus bet. It’s also worth mentioning that if you are withdrawing to a credit or debit card, you can usually reverse the withdrawal when you have placed your bonus bet successfully, which means you can still use your account funds for other purposes.
- Document your bets. Create a spreadsheet and fill out the following details every time you place a bet: the name of the event and the bet you have made, the back odds, the lay odds, the back stake, and the lay stake. When you have filled everything out, go back and double-check each section is correct in your bookmaker and exchange accounts.
- Don’t bet in a rush. Advanced matched bettors know that placing back and lay bets close to the start of a horse race or football match helps to improve their odds, but odds can change dramatically in an instant, which means the chances of making errors are far higher. If you’re just starting out, give yourself time to check each step without any time pressure; give yourself at least an hour to place and document your bets before the event you are betting on is set to start.
- Double-check your lay stake is correct. As we have mentioned, it is all too easy to accidentally stake more than you intended when placing your lay – a misplaced decimal point could lead to a very costly mistake. It is therefore best to always pause after keying your lay bet into the exchange, just to check you have bet the exact amount as shown by your calculator. Be sure to use a matched bet automatcher just in case.
- Check your calculator is on the correct setting. Before placing your bets, check that your calculator is set to “Stake Not Returned (SNR)” mode – or, on the rare occasions when you have a bonus bet that will return your stake, “Stake Returned (SR). If you try to place a lay with the calculator set to “Normal” mode, the stake will be incorrect, and you are unlikely to profit – in the worst case scenarios, you may actually make a loss, just because your calculator was on the wrong setting.
matched betting UK residents can use to improve their finances and earn a little cash on the side does exist in theory, but it is crucial that you understand that making an error when placing either your back or your lay bet can result in significant financial loss. Hopefully, the tips above will help you to avoid errors, and help to ensure your experience of using matched betting sites is as smooth and stress-free as possible.