Ever since its inception, matched betting has been defined as one of the most successful systems to implement in football betting. As such, it ensured a decent side profit to a lot of football punters, but online bookmakers quickly found ways to limit the available matched betting opportunities. They might be difficult to spot at times but they are well worth the effort.

Matched betting is a betting technique that involves placing a free back bet at a sportsbook and a lay bet at a betting exchange. Just like arbitrage bets, matched bets leave nothing to chance in the process. There are some essential differences though.

Unlike arbitrage betting, which requires making use of at least two bookmakers, matched betting entails having an account at a bookmaker and a betting exchange. This betting system is regarded as risk-free, as it makes use of sportsbooks’ promotional offers.

If you are interested in profiting from matched betting, you are welcome to read our publication on the topic, containing an in-depth explanation of the system, the formulas needed to implement it, as well as some of the major drawbacks associated with it.

Matched Betting Explained

As already pointed out, for a matched betting opportunity to arise, punters need to place a back bet at a bookmaker and lay the bet at a betting exchange.

  1. To back a bet at a bookmaker and to lay a bet at a betting exchange

    To get a complete understanding of the difference between matched betting and arbitrage betting, football fans should realize the concepts of placing a back bet and laying a bet. All bets placed at bookmakers are back bets, i.e. punters back a certain outcome to occur. Whereas, when using a betting exchange, they also have the opportunity to lay a bet, or back a certain outcome not to occur.

  2. The promotional offers punters may utilize for matched betting

    Betting on all possible outcomes of a football match at a single bookmaker is certainly not a correct approach, as bookmakers incorporate a profit margin into their odds to make sure they will profit from every single stake. What punters can do to gain an advantage over the bookmakers is to make use of the promotions they offer to entice new customers and retain the existing ones. As a matched bettor, you need to search for promotional offers that would propel the process.

    To claim the free bet offer, punters need to make a deposit and place a qualifying bet. Every sportsbook’s promotion has its terms and conditions, which should be read and adhered to. For example, free bets typically have requirements regarding the minimum odds of the selected markets.

    The promo types could be Welcome bonuses, ongoing bonuses, and reload bonuses. Welcome bonuses are awarded to bettors when they sign up to a bookmaker and make an initial deposit. They usually come in the form of free bets. Ongoing promotional offers include odds boosts, early Cash-out options, and so on. Reload bonuses are granted once bettors deposit additional funds to their sports betting accounts.

  3. What is needed for matched betting?

    Bettors interested in matched betting need to open an account at a bookmaker and a betting exchange.

  4. Matched betting software

    Matched betting software is designed to review the available promotions and compile them into a list that is updated on a daily basis. It can be very helpful also for the necessary calculations. Since matched betting can be a time-consuming occupation and many punters lack the necessary time, utilizing a reliable matched betting software could be a great solution.

How to Calculate Football Matched Bets

Now that we have covered the basic characteristics of matched betting, let’s proceed with an example of how to implement the system and make the necessary calculations.

  1. Choose a football match to bet on and a bookmaker’s sign-up offer

    In an upcoming match from the UEFA Champions League, Manchester City is playing Atletico Madrid. We decide to sign up with a sportsbook and their promotional offer entails matching our initial deposit up to €100 in bonus bets. On making a first deposit amounting to, let’s say, €100, we decide to take advantage of the offer and activate it. It is done by placing a qualifying bet. As is typical for free bet offers, the initial stake is not returned if our bet is winning.

    In the forthcoming fixture, Atletico Madrid is the underdog, with odds of 9.71, and Manchester City is the favorite, with odds of 1.33. If we use our bonus, we can place a back bet of €100 on Atletico Madrid and we stand a chance of winning €871 (we multiply our stake by the offered odds and take out the initial stake, as per the promo offer conditions). If the team loses or draws the match, however, we neither win nor risk any money. These would be our options if we were not exploring the benefits of matched betting.

  2. Sign up for a betting exchange

    At this stage, bettors in search of matched betting opportunities, need to sign up for a betting exchange. As we already pointed out, betting exchanges enable them also to lay bets. Basically, instead of betting against a bookmaker, punters bet against other punters.

    For instance, they may bet at a betting exchange that the away team will not win, thus covering the probability of a draw and a home win. By using only two bets at a bookmaker and a betting exchange, punters cover all the outcomes of a football match (home win, away win, and a draw).

    Outcomes covered at a BookmakerOutcomes covered at a Betting exchange
    Away Team WinDrawHome Team Win
    Back bet on Atletico Madrid to winLay bet on Atletico Madrid not to win

    Another important fact to take into consideration is that betting exchanges charge commissions, which in our case amounts to 5% of the winnings. Once we have backed Atletico at odds of 9.71 at our selected sportsbook, we then have to lay the team at the betting exchange. It offers odds of 11.00.

  3. Calculate the optimal amount of the lay stake

    To calculate the optimal amount of the lay stake at the betting exchange, we may either use an online back/lay calculator or do the math by ourselves. These calculations are necessary so that bettors generate the same profit no matter the outcome. When using an online calculator, we need to indicate the type of promotion we are making use of (a free bet promo in our case), our back stake, the back odds, plus the lay odds, and the lay commission.

    However, to achieve a better understanding of the matched betting process, we will explain the mathematical calculations that need to be done. The formula to be used for manual calculations of the lay stake is the following:

    Lay stake for an even profit = (back odds – 1) / (lay odds – commission) * free bet size

    So, for our lay bet at the betting exchange, we need to lay Atletico Madrid for €79.54.

    Lay stake for an even profit = (9.71 – 1) / (11 – 0.05) * 100 = €79.54

  4. Calculate the profit if the lay bet wins

    In case Atletico Madrid does not win, meaning that our lay bet is successful, our profit would be calculated in the following manner:

    Profit = lay stake * (1 – commission)

    €79.54 * (1-0.05) = €75.56

  5. Calculate the profit if the lay bet loses

    However, if Atletico Madrid does win, this means that our lay bet is unsuccessful, but our free bet at the bookmaker wins. Below is the formula to calculate the profit for this scenario:

    Profit = (back odds – 1) * free bet size – (lay odds – 1) * lay stake

    (9.71-1) * 100 – (11.00-1) * 79.54 = €75.60

    If the lay bet loses, punters need to pay out a betting exchange liability of €795.40. It is calculated in the following manner:

    Liability = (Lay odds * Lay Stake)-Lay Stake = (11.00 * €79.54) – €79.54 = €795.40

    In the table below, punters may have a look at all the figures:

    UEFA Champions League
    Manchester City vs Atletico Madrid
    BookmakerBetting Exchange
    Stake€100 (we make use of the available bookmaker’s free bet promotion, whereby winnings exclude the initial stake)Optimal lay stake = (9.71-1) / (11.00 – 0.05) * 100 = €79.54
    Profit if the lay bet winsProfit = €79.54 * (1-0.05) = €75.56
    Profit if the lay bet losesProfit = (9.71-1) * 100 – (11-1) * 79.54 = €75.60
    LiabilityLiability = (Lay odds * Lay Stake)-Lay Stake = (11 * €79.54) – €79.54 = €795.40

    To sum up, matched betting requires a punter to back a bet at a bookmaker, using a promo offer, and lay the bet at a betting exchange.

The Risks of Football Matched Bets

Although many believe matched betting to be a risk-free system, there are some variables to be considered when it comes to its consistent implementation. In the long run, winnings from matched betting are dependent on the size of your bankroll and the time you are willing to dedicate to the system. Furthermore, since this strategy relies on promotional offers, their availability (or lack thereof), is of essential importance.

Once a bookmaker finds evidence of matched betting and realizes a bettor is active only when there is a certain promotional offer, the operator may impose account limitations such as a ban to take advantage of bonuses. What is more, the maximum allowable stake of individual bettors can be reduced.

Yet another downside of matched betting related to the promotional offers is that some of them have quite demanding rollover requirements. That is why reading the related terms and conditions before activating a promo offer is of essential importance.

Due to the calculations that need to be done, bettors run the risk of making a mistake, which may lead to losses. At an initial stage, they are advised to stake smaller amounts on matched betting opportunities to build up their confidence before embarking on more lucrative offers.


Matched betting can be an optimum solution for football punters who seek a mathematically guaranteed profit from their stakes. To be more precise, this betting system could be described as low-risk rather than risk-free, because of the potential of making an error. Like anything else, this betting system has its shortcomings such as running the risk of account limitation and lack of promotional offers, among others.

The key to matched betting is to derive as much profit from the available promotions as possible. By successfully implementing the system, bettors stand a chance of winning approximately 80% of the free bet value they have claimed. It may look time-consuming and difficult to pull off at the beginning, but ultimately, it is worth the effort.

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