It is natural curiosity for a punter to wonder if a fool-proof system exists which guarantees that they will earn money from sports betting, and over time a number of techniques have been devised. Matched betting has emerged as one popular method because it does theoretically remove the risk from gambling, by using free bets and betting exchanges to ensure a profit.
The principle of matched betting stems from recognising how many sportsbooks offer free bets, price boosts or various other specials. Such incentives are commonplace as operators try to entice new players, knowing that for every customer who just takes advantage of a free bet and quickly leaves again, others will hang around and keep on depositing.
However, matched betting, also known as double betting or lay bet matching, allows punters to exploit these offers by backing all possible outcomes with the aid of a betting exchange. A betting exchange effectively gives punters the chance to act as a bookmaker by laying bets for others. This is a great way of wagering on an event not happening, whether it’s a horse not crossing the line first or a football team not winning a match. Find out more about lay betting here, including liability and how to offer a price.
By using a betting exchange and laying a bet which goes against how you wagered with your free bet, you can guarantee a profit. For example, a sportsbook might look to draw in new players by saying that anyone who signs up and wagers £10 will then be given a free £10 bet. It is a good offer, but, without matched betting, if your initial tenner does not make you any money and then your free bet loses, you are £10 down. You would be left having to decide whether to make another deposit or cut your losses. However, by matching up the bets, you can guarantee a profit. Here’s an example.
As well as taking into account that betting exchanges usually charge a small fee on winnings (typically around 5 percent), there are a few other considerations in what can be a tricky process. Firstly, it is highly unlikely that a free bet stake will be included in any returns. If you wanted to back a firm favourite with a £10 free bet, for example, and placed a wager on a selection at odds of 1/100, you would get a return of 10p and not £10.10 like you would if you had staked your own money.
Some sportsbooks may stipulate that a free bet has to be used on a selection with certain odds, for example 3/1 or longer. This means that bettors are less likely to win than if they were able to wager on shorter-priced selections, but with matched betting it is not bad to have a bigger price as you can cancel it out on the betting exchange.
As with any bet on an exchange, the main issue is the level of liability, and although by matched betting you are technically guaranteed to earn a profit, you will still need to make sure you have enough in your account to cover the worst-case scenario on the exchange where you must pay out.
There can also be some hidden wagering requirements to unlock a free bet, meaning that you might have to bet a sum equal to the free bet five or ten times before you can use it. Alternatively, the free bet might be instantly accessible, but it could be that you can’t then withdraw your winnings until you have wagered the same amount a number of times.
It can be quite difficult to sustain successful matched betting strategies over a long period of time. By covering all the different outcomes and therefore backing losers as well as winners on each occasion, it is likely that you will only make a small amount of money on each of these occasions.
It is also possible for bookmakers to track customers’ activity so they can monitor who is signing up with multiple accounts. While matched betting is perfectly legal and considered acceptable by some operators, they can shut down any accounts they choose if they grow suspicious of the owner’s wagering patterns. Free bets are also usually available for new users only, so it can be hard to keep finding good value once you have signed up to several bookmakers.
Punters do not necessarily have to exploit welcome offers or free bets to guarantee a profit. You can find sure bets by researching different prices across various sportsbooks, or try dutching to increase your chances of success. However, matched betting is certainly one of the most effective techniques for those who like the idea of removing some of the risk from gambling.