The internet is full of get rich quick schemes and step-by-step programs to ‘make free money online.’
Spoiler alert: there’s no such thing as free money, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either delusional or actively trying to steal yours.
Matched betting is widely toted as one such golden ticket to the riches you’ve always dreamed of. So, is it a total scam?
The answer is no. Matched betting is a real way to make money online using the free bet promotions offered at sportsbooks. But it takes patience, strict attention to detail, and a major time investment to be successful.
Read on for a detailed breakdown of how matched betting works and why it’s not the ‘free money miracle’ the internet tells you it is (but might still be worth your time).
What Is Matched Betting?
Matched betting is a risk-free betting strategy that allows you to profit from the free bet offers at online sportsbooks by hedging against them at an online betting exchange. It’s not gambling, and it’s not betting on sports in the traditional sense – you’ve removed chance from the equation and know the outcome with complete certainty.
You don’t need to know anything about sports or handicapping to take advantage of matched betting, because you will always wager the same amount of money on both possible outcomes. The goal is not to ‘win’ a bet in the traditional sense, but to guarantee your free bet offer ends up a winner.
Matched betting is a hedging strategy, but you’re only using your money to wager on one of the two possible outcomes. You use the sportsbook’s money (in the form of a free bet) to hedge against your own.
Matched Betting Step-by-Step
Here’s a very high-level overview of how you can get started with matched betting. Because most sportsbooks make free bet offers contingent on rollover, you need to put down your own money on a qualifying bet before you’ll be able to use theirs. Remember, there is no risk of losing the money you put down. You simply need to have the cash on-hand to ‘unlock’ or ‘qualify’ the free bet.
Place a Qualifying Bet to Unlock Your Free Bet
- Find a free bet offer at an online sportsbook and register with the site to access the promotional offer.
- Select a bet that you can use to ‘unlock’ your free bet by meeting the rollover requirements at the sportsbook. If the book requires you to bet $100 to unlock a $100 free bet, bet $100 on any line with only two possible outcomes. Stay away from championship futures, horse racing, three-way moneylines, etc.
- Find the same event at a betting exchange and ‘lay’ your original bet at the same odds – i.e. bet the same amount of money on the exact opposite result you wagered on at the sportsbook.
- Following the sporting event, one bet will be graded a winner and the other a loser.
- At this juncture, you have a ledger balance of $100 (or the value of your free bet offer) minus the juice and any commission charged by the betting exchange. You’re technically going to lose a very small amount of your money placing qualifying bets, but you’ve essentially taken the sportsbook’s money in the form of a free bet that’s worth far more than the amount you’ve lost.
Place a Matched Bet for Guaranteed Profit
Repeat steps 2 – 4 using the free bet you’ve unlocked to the wager at the sportsbook (you’ll still need to use your own cash to lay against it at the betting exchange, but there’s no risk of losing this money). No matter what happens in the game, you will win the bet and withdraw the winnings.
Since there’s no chance of losing your money, matched betting can be a good time to wager on long odds that would otherwise be too risky.
Matched Betting vs. Arbitrage Betting
Matched betting is just like arbitrage betting in the sense that you are placing equal wagers on every possible outcome of an event. The difference is in your method – arbitrage betting exploits significant discrepancies in the odds at different sportsbooks, requiring bettors to engage in extensive line shopping to find opportunities.
Matched betting is much simpler – you can use the strategy to guarantee profit by betting both sides of any wager that is eligible for a free bet and offered at an online betting exchange.
Is Matched Betting a Scam?
Matched betting isn’t a scam, pyramid scheme, or nefarious attempt to steal your identity and drain the bank accounts you wanted to supplement in the first place.
That said, it’s been widely advertised on precisely the type of internet blogs we’d urge you to be wary of, with personal finance bloggers (who typically have ZERO qualifications to dispense financial advice) leading the charge.
Matched betting isn’t a scam, pyramid scheme or nefarious attempt to steal your identity and drain the bank accounts you wanted to supplement in the first place…but remember that it is not a way to make a living,
If you decide to pursue matched betting, just remember that you can figure it out on your own, and that it is not a way to make a living.
You’re unlikely to make more than a few thousand dollars per year, at the absolute maximum. Do not pay someone to tell you how to do this. It’s not worth paying for advice on something with such low returns – save your pennies and take them to a real financial adviser rather than a ‘matched betting expert.’
Are these Strategies Legal?
Matched betting is legal everywhere it is legal to bet on sports online. This includes the United States.
The only caveat is that you need access to a betting exchange in order to efficiently take advantage of matched betting. Betfair is the best-known exchange on the web, and it’s only available in three states that have explicitly sanctioned its operation: Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware.
At least for the time being, matched betting remains out of reach for most American bettors, despite its legality at the federal level.
Is It Worthwhile?
Matched betting is not the most efficient way to supplement your income, nor is it particularly entertaining, especially compared to traditional sports betting. Unless you are incredibly efficient, matched betting pays less than minimum wage. Even if you took advantage of every single introductory free bet, you’d likely walk away with a couple thousand dollars following hundreds of hours of effort.
Matched betting is a risk-free way to make money online. If you have extra time on your hands and enjoy working with numbers, it can be a lucrative hobby.
That said, matched betting truly is a risk-free way to make money online. If you have the extra time on your hands and enjoy working with numbers, it can be a lucrative hobby.
The bottom line: matched betting can net you some extra cash, but it’s no way to make a living.
Can You Be Banned From Sportsbooks?
Sportsbooks are always looking for bettors who take too much value, and those who engage in matched betting can fall into this category. Online betting sites cooperate via shared security servers, which means they’ll eventually identify anyone making lots of money with risk-free betting strategies.
Virtually all sportsbooks specify that they are for ‘recreational bettors only,’ and there’s nothing recreational about manipulating a free promotion to make guaranteed money at a gambling website.
That said, some executives in the industry have suggested that online sportsbooks really aren’t concerned with matched betting. They know people are taking advantage of free bet offers in this manner, but the offers are ultimately worth too much in terms of new customer acquisition for the books to overly restrict them.
Review the tips in our guide to avoid restriction when arbitrage betting to find strategies that also apply to matched bets.
Looking to Make Real Money Betting on Sports?
Matched betting offers some monetary value, but it offers zero entertainment value. Luckily, more traditional sports betting methods are increasingly gaining traction as investment opportunities.
Read up on sports betting and investing to see how the brightest minds in finance are applying their skills to make a tidy profit and change the way people think about betting on sports.
The next best thing to guaranteed profits is a strategy that provides reliable returns over the long run. Visit our sports betting strategy section to pick up on the tips and tricks the sharps have been using for years, and enjoy the action!