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Latest update:March 16, 2024

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How does matched betting work? Find out with this matched betting guide.

Bookmakers offer free bets and promotions.

We back and lay a selection to cover all outcomes in an event, converting these offers into cash.

Let’s see how a typical free bet offer works.

How to do matched betting


The bookmaker offers a £10 free bet if you bet £10 with your own cash first.

Here is a step-by-step guide.

(this example assumes 0% exchange commission).

Step 1: Register at the exchange

Register at√ā¬†Smarkets exchange. Deposit ¬£100. You need an exchange account to place lay bets.

Step 2: Register at the bookmaker

Sign-up at the bookmaker. Deposit £10.

Step 3: Change to decimal odds

At the bookmaker website, change the Settings from fractional odds to decimal odds. This makes it easy to compare bookie and exchange odds.

Step 4: Place your qualifying bet

The first bet – a ‘qualifying bet’ – qualifies you for a free bet.

  • a). Check the minimum odds needed for your bookie back bet.
  • b). Go to the relevant betting market at the bookie and the exchange. In this case, the Match Odds market.
  • c). Place a ¬£10 bet on England to beat Germany at odds of 6/4 (2.50) at the bookmaker.¬†This is your¬†back bet.¬†

Step 5: Calculate qualifying bet lay stake

Now match your back bet with an opposing lay bet.

Before placing your lay bet, use Trickybet calculator to calculate the correct lay stake.

Enter the following information:

  • Bet Type:¬†Select “Qual”. This is a qualifying bet with your own money
  • Bet Size: Enter 10 for a ¬£10 qualifying bet
  • Back and Lay Odds: Enter 2.50 back odds and 2.50 lay odds
  • Lay Commission: Enter 0% exchange commission¬†(this is usually at least 2%).
  • Finally, click “calculate”.¬†The calculator suggests a ¬£10 lay stake.
Matched betting guide - Matched Betting Calculator - Beating Bonuses calculator used for illustration

Step 6: Lay your qualifying bet

Navigate to the “Winner” (Match Odds) market at Smarkets.¬†Then place a ¬£10 lay bet on¬†England at 2.50 odds. Your lay liability is ¬£15.

Back and lay bets on England ensure zero risk. No matter the result, the money goes into either your bookie or exchange account.

The possible outcomes are:

  • If England win the match:¬†Your bookie account balance gains ¬£25 (¬£10 stake plus ¬£15 bet returns). But your exchange account balance reduces by ¬£15 as the lay bet loses.
  • If England do not win (the game ends in a draw or Germany win):¬†You lose the bookie¬†¬£10 back bet stake. But your lay bet wins and your exchange balance increases by ¬£10 to counteract the losing back bet.

Step 7: Place your free bet

After your £10 qualifying bet settles, the bookie will credit your £10 free bet.

What do I use my free bet on?

The free bet is Stake Not Returned (SNR), i.e. The free bet stake is not included if your bet wins.

So, use a high odds selection at odds of at least 4/1. For example, imagine a Scotland versus Germany football match.

Go to the Match Odds market at the bookmaker. Place the £10 free bet on Scotland to beat Germany at 4/1 (5.0) odds.

Follow steps 8 and 9 to lock-in profit from the £10 free bet.

Step 8: Calculate your free bet lay stake

Using the Trickybet calculator enter the following information:

  • Bet Type:¬†Select “SNR” for a Stake Not Returned (SNR) free bet
  • Bet Type: Enter 10 for a ¬£10 free bet.
  • Back and Lay Odds: Enter the¬†5.0 back odds and 5.0 lay odds.
  • Lay Commission: Enter 0% exchange commission.
  • Finally, click “calculate”. The calculator suggests ¬£8 lay stake.
Matched betting guide- SNR free bet calculator calculator used for illustration

Step 9: Lay your free bet

Go to Scotland versus Germany on Smarkets exchange. Select the “Winner” (Match Odds) market.

Place an £8 lay bet on Scotland at odds of 5.0. Your liability is £32.

  • If Scotland win: Your bookie account gets credited with ¬£40. Your lay bet loses and ¬£32 gets deducted from your exchange account.
  • If Scotland do not win:¬†Your bookie account does not gain anything. But your exchange balance increases by ¬£8.

So, your profit is £8 from the £10 free bet (80% profit) regardless of the Scotland-Germany result.


This guide has explained the basics of matched betting. For further techniques, have a read of the advanced guides.

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