Matched Betting, The Reality – One Month Diary

sao paolo fans

I’ve noticed a few articles about matched betting which piqued my interest.  So I decided to give it a go. I’ve kept a diary for my month of matched betting, hopefully it’ll provide some insight and help you decide whether to try it out.

The concept of risk free betting is very appealing, but does set off my “too good to be true” alarm.  My betting experience can be summed up by the occasional flutter on the grand national and a couple of world cup bets.  I tried not to let my lack of experience stop me and decided to give matched betting a whirl…

Matched Betting – The Basic Idea

In essence, matched betting takes advantage of free offers from online bookies.  The process is as follows:

  • You place a qualifying bet – typically £10 at a bookie.
  • You hedge this by placing an opposing bet on a betting exchange
  • These two bets result in a loss of 20p (ish), but you are credited with a free bet of £10.
  • You then place this free bet, and also place an opposing bet on an exchange.
  • Either the free bet or opposing bet are converted to cash.  You finish up with about £7.

First Month Matched Betting Profits = £153

In under three weeks I managed to earn £153 with a time investment of around three and a half hours. My hourly rate came to about £45/hour.

I’ve opened about nine different accounts and had to build a simple tracking spreadsheet to keep things organised.  To convert each offer to cash you need to place 4 bets.  It’s pretty tedious, but easy money if you’ve got the concentration and time.

In the first month there are probably £400 worth of free offers to hoover up, which being a procrastinator at heart I still haven’t taken advantage of.

Useful Websites to Get Started

The best exchange to use is Betfair.  Well, there may be better ones, but it seemed pretty straightforward to me and I preferred it to the bookies sites.

Some bookies have better offers than others.  I seemed to do well with these three William hill, Stan James, Ladbrokes.

In terms of finding valid bets and calculating the odds, without assistance this is a massive overhead.  To take the effort out of it I used Oddsmonkey, they are pretty popular and their website is pretty slick.  Without them this whole exercise would have been a non-starter.

They charge a monthly fee – which was paid for within two bets.  If you want to try matched betting I’d recommend signing up with them a similar service to take advantage of the tutorials etc, then after your first month, if you think you know enough to go it alone, then go for it.

So if you want to dive into more detail read on…  this is the diary I kept throughout my little experiment.

Day 1 – Getting Started

So, I signed up with Oddsmonkey…  It pains me to pay the £15 subscription but it seems a necessary evil.  I’m assured i’ll soon make it back…

Day 12 – Overcoming Procrastination

Wow, talk about procrastination.  I’ve let 12 days pass without doing anything.  Ok, there’s £15 riding on this so better get my act together.

I’ve just opened a Betfair account and deposited £200, this is the exchange I’ll use to hedge all my bets. I’ve also just signed up with 188bet and deposited £22 which I’ll use to get access to the free £20 bet.

Time for my first qualifying bet.  After watching the Oddsmonkey tutorial, and rewatching various parts I think I’m ready for my first qualifying bet.

So I flip to the oddsmatcher on Oddsmonkey to find a suitable bet. This allows you to filter by sport/exchange/bookie… and shows suitable events to place matched bets on.

odds matcher on oddsmonkey


Looks like some obscure Brasilian teams are ticking the boxes.

I goto 188bet and spend about 3 minutes clicking through dropdowns and sports looking for the Brasil league… ok match found…  Why can’t they just have a search box for the love of god…  Then I spend  another 3 minutes hunting around for the decimal odds setting…

Decimal odds found, ok, that makes things a little less mystifying.  So I look at the goals under / over and click on the odds that oddsmonkey says to click on.  This all feels pretty foreign and cumbersome to me, I hesitantly type “10” into the stake box…

Theres a big green “place bet” button.  I click it.  I’m consumed by doubt, did I just screw that up?  The stake and estimated winnings are quoted below…  I flip to oddsmonkey – it matches the calculator…  Ok that’s reassuring.  Now for the next step.

I flip to Betfair exchange, they have a much better search facility, which makes it really easy to find an event and bet. I click on the lay odds for the obscure Brasilian match. I stake the amount indicated by oddsmonkey £10.11 and my liability is displayed as more than £20.  Doubt creeps back into my mind, if I screw this up, I could lose the £10 and also be liable for another £20…  At this point I begin to appreciate the need to be very meticulous and double check everything.  I switch back to 188bet and oddsmonkey, then back to Betfair.  I reassure myself that I’ve selected the right game, the right odds and the expected liability matches, so I click the place bet button.  Betfair then asks me to confirm.  I confirm. Lay bet placed.

I open up excel and type up the bet I’ve just placed, this seems prudent of me, after 2 minutes I’m happy I’ve got all the necessary details in the sheet so I can track my bets and winnings.

Well, it’s past my bedtime, these Brasilians play their games late, and with the timezone difference I’m not sticking around to find out the result.

sao paolo fans
Sao Paolo and the beautiful game

Day 14 – First Free Bet Credited

After a lazy Saturday morning, I logon to check my accounts, I’ve started using Lastpass to store my betting passwords.  It makes logging on much quicker.  Once you start using one of these you never want to go back…   I can see I’ve won the bet at 188bet and lost at Betfair, this sums up to a total loss of 30p.  A free £10 has been credited to my 188bet account…  Ok this seems promising.

I logon to Betfair and check the oddsmatcher.  I click the “stake not returned” selection and filter for higher odds.  A German match between two teams I’ve never heard of shows up with a good payout percentage.  Ok, same drill as before, except this time I decide to tee up my Betfair bet first – so I can double check everything before I place my bet on 188bet.  As I’m doing this I realise that my liability on Betfair will be over £280…  and my account only has £200 in it.

To make money with matched betting you need enough money in your exchange to offset the other side of the bet, the higher the odds, the bigger the potential loss (and matching win at the bookies).  I put another £200 into the account.  If you haven’t got £500 lying around you’ll need to be more selective about your odds and it may take a little longer to build up your accounts.

Free bet placed on 188bet – if I haven’t screwed things up I’m In line for a “risk free” £16 credit to one of my accounts.  I can’t say that it’s totally risk free, since there is a chance that I mess up the placing of bets.  Getting into the habit of double checking everything and lining up the bets before placing should minimise the chance of that happening.

Ladbrokes Qualifying Bet

My morning coffee has kicked in so I’m moving onto the next offer, I sign up for Ladbrokes and deposit £50.  Ladbrokes offer a free bet upto this value, based on how much you place for your qualifying bet.  So to extract maximum value you need to place a £50 bet.  Looks like another Brasilian game is a good option.  This time it’s a half time / full time bet.  I place the bet on Ladbrokes, it’s quite a nice site to use.  I then place the Betfair lay bet.

Coral Qualifying Bet

That last bet placement was surprisingly smooth so I open an account at Coral.  This is a free £20 bet.  I watch the tutorial at oddsmonkey, then check the oddsmatcher.  Brasil again, although a different match – I don’t want to confuse myself, which is easily done.  I find the bet at Betfair and Coral, double check and then place both sides.  Ok looks like I’m set.

That’ll do for today. About 30 minutes spent doing all that.  I’m beginning to feel a little more comfortable placing these bets.

Day 15 – Free Money Hits my Account

Celebrating first matched betting profit
Celebrating first matched betting profit

Sunday morning, after tucking into some croissants and a caffeine fix I logon to Betfair.  I can see that £16 has been added to my balance.

So I lost the bet at 188bet… the £20 free bet which used none of my money, but I won £16 on the exchange.  Something clicks into place in my head.  A flicker of a smile tries to surface as I realise that this does work.

I fill in my spreadsheet and add a formula or two, a positive value appears…  Nice.

I logon to Coral and see the free bet has been credited to my account…  Ok, over to oddsmonkey.  Finally two teams I recognise, I place a £20 free bet on a London derby, and lay it on Betfair.  This should be another £16 into the kitty.

I make a note of the details and numbers in my spreadsheet.

Opening an Account at William Hill

Oddsmonkey odds calculator
Oddsmonkey odds calculator

Time to open an account at William Hill.  I add the username and password to my password tracker…  I’m currently up to 7 different logons.  This could quickly get unmanageable without a good way to track passwords and different bets.

I credit my William Hill account with £15 and then find an appropriate match to bet on.  On the right is a screenshot of the oddsmonkey odds calculator.  Gives you an idea of how much effort it saves you.  I place my bets on William Hill and Betfair and logoff.

I open an account at Redbet.  Never heard of them, but there’s a £10 free bet going.  I place a bet on a French match and note the details.

The £10 free bet appears immediately so I switch back to the oddsmatcher and find another match using the free bet option.  Two Scando teams selected for a 2:2 draw.  I place the relevant bets and note the details.

If I’ve not messed anything up I should be getting about £25 from these two bets.

Day 17 – Building a Rhythm

Racking up the free bets
Racking up the free bets

I logon to Betfair to see the results from the games.  Betfair has a friendlier interface than the other sites.  After checking my betting history I can see that the two games have bumped my balance up by £25.

I’m beginning to understand what the fuss is about. Converting free bets into risk free money is quite satisfying.

I have £30 in free bets from William Hill.  After checking for games with a good percentage payout favourable odds I realise that I won’t be able to bet the full amount in one go, because my balance on Betfair isn’t big enough to cover the potential liabilaty when laying the bet.  So I start with a £20 bet which I lay off with a liability of £300.  That’s means my money is tied up until that result is settled.

It always makes sense to filter for games that are going to be played in the very near future, this prevents your money being tied up for too long.  In this case I’ve selected a midweek championship game that is due to start in the next 30 minutes at 7pm.  I note the details of the bets in my spreadsheet and log off.


A few hours have passed and it’s now 10pm so I log on.  Cha-ching, £17 in the Betfair account. I seem to be extracting about 80% of the value of the bets.  The money which was tied up in the liability is now available.  If the bet had gone the other way the money would be sitting in my account on the Ladbrokes website which would mean transferring it across.  I think it’s generally better to lose the money at the bookies, otherwise you’re liable to get your accounts restricted for being too successful…  Anyway, in this case the money is on Betfair so no drama mate.

Late Evening South American Games

All the European games are finished now but I still have £10 of the £30 free bet left so I look for something that is kicking off tonight.  South America has a few games, so I end up placing a bet on some random Uruguayan match.  Bets placed, if that comes off it’ll be another £7ish.  That will bring my total for the evening to about £24.  Not bad for less than 30 minutes work.

As I’m noting the details in my spreadsheet I realise my liability is twice as high as it should be.  Shit.  Instead of laying off a £10 free bet I laid off the equivalent of a £20 bet.  That means that if the bookie bet wins, I’ll win £140 at the bookies and be liable for a payout of £235 at the Betfair exchange, meaning a net loss of £95.  That will wipe out all the work I’ve done so far…  Well the odds are pretty long though, so hopefully it doesn’t happen.  I just leave it and goto bed.

Day 18 – Brasil Football Again

Back from a day at work, what a sh*tshow, I logon to Betfair.  It seems my bet from last night won on the exchange, so instead of losing £95 I’ve won £14.  Double the amount that was planned.  Well, that’s a relief.

I fill in the details on my spreadsheet and notice I still have a free £50 bet at Ladbrokes.  That seems worth banking.  I check the available matches, Brasil is calling, again.  I should maximise the amount I extract, the selected match will see me realise £37 of the free £50. Probably worth waiting a day for more options and a higher payout.  But I’m, logged on and I don’t want to be spending all my time hunting for plum odds so I just go for it.

During the day I was sent an email by William Hill with a free £15 offer.  Apparently this is the trick to keep things going after the initial sign up offers dry up. I place a qualifying bet and lay it off, that’ll be ready next time I log on.

Day 20 – Dictating my Schedule

Two days have passed.  It’s beginning to become apparent that this could take over your life if you let it.  With multiple accounts you receive multiple emails and texts, some of the offers require you to log in on different days or place multiple bets.  It’s becoming a little intrusive so I create a folder in my email account and filter all the betting messages into there.  That way I only see the messages when I choose to look.

I toy with the idea of getting a chip for my old phone and registering that with the bookies instead of my current phone.  Not a bad idea.  I decide to limit my log in days to tues and wed eve and fri and sat…  We’ll see how things pan out

My William Hill free bet has come through so I lay a bet on a 1-1 draw and lay off.

I’ve also received another offer from them so I place an additional qualifying bet and lay that off.  That immediately credits the free bet to my account so I place another bet and lay it off.  I’m becoming quite familiar with the website, which makes everything a Iittle easier.

I’d prefer to stick with just a few sites.  This is obviously part of the psychology of giving you multiple free bets at the beginning to get you hooked into one site.  Obviously, sticking religiously to risk free bets of paramount importance.  The moment you start making a bet without removing the risk with an opposing lay bet, you are on a slippery slope.

I note down the details in my spreadsheet.  I check my totals.  So far, including the Ladbrokes bet I’ve made £112.  However, I do have over £500 tied up across all the various account.

Day 25 – Another Sign Up, Stan James this Time

I sign up for a Stan James account, I deposit £11 into the account.  Pretty straightforward.  I flip over to bet monkey to find a bet to make and lay.  Madrid v Barcelona, el classico is coming up so I just placed a bet on that.

Looking through the offers still available, I decide to open an account with 888sport, simple enough.  I try to deposit some money in the account, after trying about 3 times and having an annoying “are you a robot” which I couldn’t pass (!?) I lost patience and decided not to bother.  There’s plenty of offers available, so spending 10 minutes trying to navigate their site is a waste of time.  I seem a little short on patience today.

Well, I’ll come back in a few days to use the free Stan James bet.

Day 28 – Madrid v Barcelona Result

So, I logged into Stan James, my Madrid v Barcelona bet went the exchanges way, so Stan James was down £10 and the Betfair account was up £9.93.  So that’s a loss of 7p to qualify for a free £20 bet.  I spent 2 minutes filling in my trusty spreadsheet and then flipped to betmonkey to find a decent bet for my free £20 bet.

Applied the filter and found a horse racing bet which looked promising.  Spent two minutes finding the bet on Stan James and Betfair. Bet placed.

Yesterday I’d received a text from William Hill, offering a £15 free bet if I placed a £10 bet.  So this was the next stop.  I opened up William Hill, opened my password safe and logged in.  Decided to go for another horse race.  I was on the cusp of placing the bet and the odds changed.  Bugger.  This is why everyone advises against the horsies. Not wanting to get screwed by the odds I just decided to go for a footy game.  Two minutes later the bet is placed on William Hill and laid on Betfair.

Twenty minutes done, time for lunch and forget about it.

Click this swanky cafetiere

8pm.  After a day drinking pretentious sounding coffee, Indonesian Java if you must know and looking through Airbnb pads in Lisbon, for an imaginary holiday, it occurs to me to check my winnings.  I log onto Stan James, the free bet lost, which means the Betfair Lay has won.  Logged into Betfair.  Yep, £19 up.  Added to the spreadsheet.

Logged into William Hill, looks like my qualifying bet lost, so that’s more money to Betfair.  That qualifying bet actually broke even.  I then realised that the free £15 bet was credited immediately after placing the bet… so the smart thing would have been to place the bet in the afternoon.  Well, not to worry, it’s another 30 minutes until my evening starts, which involves cracking open a bottle of Kraken and assaulting my liver, so I decide to do another bet.

I skim through Oddsmonkey, there’s a couple of “soccer” games happening in the U.S., then I see one in Spain, happening tonight, that’ll do.  I select the match and the calculator says I’ll earn £12, all good.  I place the bet, add to my spreadsheet and log out.  The time is 8.20.  I’m seeming to average about 20 minutes to place a qualifying bet and a free bet, and to record everything on the spreadsheet.

I’m beginning to familiarise myself with the layout of a few sites.  Hunting around for the “decimal odds” button and the list of all markets is a little trying initially.

Day 30 – Opened a Betway Account For Free £30

I open a Betway account for a free £30 bet.  Easy sign up and deposit. Bet placed, noted and logged out.

Day 31 – Tuesday, French Football Time

On the radio I heard there were lots of games happening tonight – it’s a Tuesday, so I figured it would be straightforward to find a game with a decent payout percentage.  After selecting the bookie and exchange I picked the best football one from the list and placed the two bets.  Turns out it’s in France.  Well the net result will be £22ish pounds, ideally I should wait for something better or go for a horse race to milk it a little more. Getting closer to £30 is the aim, but I want to maximise income per hour, so I don’t want to be logging on multiple times hoping for better odds.  I’ll take what there is and be done with it.  With the time for the qualifying bet and placing this bet, plus adding to the tracking sheet, it’s probably taken less than 20 mins.

I’ve speeded things up as much as I can by having everything bookmarked and the password are auto entered by my password manager.  I guess I could get google to remember the passwords…  but I’m not a fan of storing passwords in browsers…

When I logged into Oddsmonkey I noticed that the account was a month old.  That means the £15 fee is due pretty soon…

End of Month Summary

So… after procrastinating for 10 days after initially signing up I eventually got the ball rolling.

  • 21 bets placedend of month summary
  • £168 won and in my account
  • £15 subscription paid
  • 250 minutes spent

This works out to about £45 per hour which is not too shabby.

The breakdown of time spent was about 2 hours upfront watching the videos on Oddsmonkey and trying to get my head around how it works.

After that I signed up for Betfair and William Hill and placed my first bet. The first bet I did really slowly since I was keen not to make a mistake. Since then I’ve become progressively faster.  Once you become familiar with the different sites and how to use the oddsmatcher you will naturally speed up.

I’m still very careful and triple check when entering the two sides of a bet, since one careless mistake can potentially cost you a weeks work.  So spending an extra minute to confirm everything a few times is worth it in my opinion.

The other consideration is having the finances to get you started in the first place.  I kicked things off with £250, but after not having enough money to lay off bets on Betfair I added another £200.  I subsequently added another £500 to various accounts to qualify for more free bets. At this point I’ll start recycling the money from Betfair to the other accounts as needed.

From a financial viewpoint it’s been a success.  The main risks in all this, are getting drawn into the world of gambling.  I.e. doing bets which aren’t hedged.  I think you need to judge if you’ve got the discipline and personality to stick to the rules; if not stay away.

The few people I’ve told about my matched betting escapades have gone away thinking I’ve got a gambling problem. The whole concept of free money seems a little far-fetched but I’ve proven to myself it can work.

Improved Focus to Double Your Money

I definitely could have made double what I did if I’d spent more time on this.  Once the initial offers dry up the subsequent offers seem to have more onerous conditions to extract your money.  As a long term money-spinner I’m not sure I have the staying power.

Couple of Hundred a Month

However if you want/need a couple of hundred quid extra each month this seems a good way of getting it, so long as you have the initial wedge of cash to get started and you don’t mind the jumping through hoops.

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