What are the Differences Between Matched Betting and Arbitrage Betting?

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What are the Differences Between Matched Betting and Arbitrage Betting?

Learn the key differences between Matched Betting and Arbitrage Betting. Discover how to legally profit from bookmakers with a little extra work.



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Updated on 11 November 2018
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Matched Betting vs Arbitrage Betting


It goes without saying that everyone who bets wants to make money. What isn’t said enough, however, is that the most reliable way to do this – by far – is to have an actual plan in place.


It won’t surprise you to learn that there are many betting plans out there. These range from the safe to the risky, and the long-term to the short-term.


The plans I’m going to look at here are both on the safer end of the spectrum. In fact, if you carry them out correctly, you’ll actually be guaranteed a profit.


Those plans are matched betting and arbitrage betting. They’re certainly similar, but the terms are not interchangeable – a mistake that many people make.


In this guide, I’ll give you explanations of both matched betting and arbitrage betting, and explain the differences between the two.

Matched Betting



Matched betting is a system which looks to exploit bookies’ signup offers, and – if practised properly – delivers a guaranteed profit. That might sound a little dodgy, but it is entirely legal.


How does it work?


So, you know the general idea. Now, let’s look at the actual mechanics of matched betting.


Matched betting makes use of the many promotions that bookies offer, in which they give away free bets. You’ve surely seen them on TV, online, on the sides of buses, and basically everywhere else you look. “Bet £10, Get £30 free” – that kind of thing.


As you probably know, free bets can’t simply be converted into actual cash. They need to be wagered first, and then they become real, withdrawable money.


If you’re wagering, of course, then there’s a chance you’ll lose… right? Well, yes, but if you place an opposing bet too (i.e. you hedge your bets), with a different bookie, then you’ll win on one of them. If you calculate the odds properly, then you’re guaranteed to make a profit.


Do that once with your initial stake to unlock the free bet, do it again with the (larger) free bet, and you’re done. You do need to check out the bookmaker terms, but if you secure a profit from the free bet, the money is yours.


How do you do it


Firstly, you need to find a bookmaker with a welcome offer featuring a free bet. That shouldn’t prove too hard. Sign up with them, and stick the qualifying bet (often £10) down on a market.


Then, you want to place a bet down on the other outcome of that market. You’ll preferably put that bet down at the same odds as the first one. Using a betting exchange is the easiest way to do this, although you might be able to find suitable odds with another bookmaker.


That first stage is basically arbitrage betting (which I’ll look at later). The difference with matched betting is that you then use the free bet that you’ve unlocked.


The free bet will be wagered on another market, and – once again – you’ll lay the opposite outcome elsewhere. Whichever site you win on, you’ll end up making a profit… again, if you’ve calculated everything correctly.


How much money do you need to put in?


Mostly, this depends on the size of the bookmaker’s offer.


If the offer is “Bet £10, Get £30”, then you’ll obviously need to stick a tenner down to unlock the £30 free bet. When it comes to subsequently placing that £30 free bet, you’ll need to match it with another £30 bet – at the same odds – on a betting exchange.


(Remember that betting exchanges also usually charge commissions – that must be factored in to your calculations too).


Considering you’re guaranteed a profit – as long as you calculate the odds and your stakes properly – the amount of money you put in doesn’t actually matter too much.


What profits can you expect?


One limiting factor on your profits is the size of the free bets that bookies offer. Unsurprisingly, they’re not going to fork over £500 in exchange for you sticking a fiver into your account. Most offers fall somewhere in the £10-£30 range, with some higher exceptions.


This limits the size of your bets. Your odds will also be limited by the need to use an exchange as part of the strategy. You’ll be able to stick an outlandish 20/1 bet on anything you want with a bookmaker… but remember, you need to be able to take the opposite side of every bet – with the same odds – on the exchange.


Ultimately, there are a huge range of signup offers out there which give you free bets. If you commit to working through them systematically and smartly, you’ll certainly end up with a tidy profit.


Associated risks of matched betting


If you follow a matched betting strategy properly, you really can’t lose. The only risk is human error… but that is a pretty big risk.


If you’re going to use this strategy, you need to be extremely organised. You must have a list of all the suitable signup offers you plan to take advantage of. You must also keep track of your bets as you go along, to make sure that you’re doing everything correctly (clue: if you’re losing money, you’re doing it wrong).


Finally, you must also carefully and precisely calculate the odds on every pair of bets you place. Remember, that includes the commissions from using betting exchanges.


What tools do you need to do?




All those calculations sound pretty complicated, right? Fortunately, matched betting is a pretty popular strategy. Accordingly, people out there have created tools which can help you, and all the other matched bettors.


The most famous is probably OddsMatcher. All you need to do is enter a market, and OddsMatcher will search a range of bookies and exchanges, automatically finding you matching odds. Thankfully, it also includes a calculator, to take care of the more difficult sums for you.


Aside from that, you’ll need to use Excel or Google Spreadsheets to carefully track your progress. Nobody really likes making spreadsheets, but – as I mentioned above – they’re integral to your success here.


Who’s it suited for?


Everyone likes to make guaranteed money… obviously. But, that’s not to say that matched betting is for everyone. You must have two characteristics to succeed here.


Firstly, you need patience. This is not a “get rich quick” scheme. You’ll need to pragmatically work through a whole series of signup offers before you turn a substantial profit.


Secondly, you need an eye for detail. Matched betting relies on ensuring you pick the right markets, the right odds, and the right stakes. Every. Single. Time. Take your eye off the ball too often, and you’ll quickly start to eat into your profits.

Arbitrage Betting


In its basic elements, arbitrage betting is very similar to matched betting. It’s another long-term strategy which – if followed correctly – also ensures profits.

How does it work?




Simply put, arbitrage betting – also known as “arbing” – involves putting wagers on both sides of a market.


If Manchester United are playing Chelsea, for example, you could put one bet on the draw, and another bet on either team to win. Or, if the odds were better, you could put one bet on Man U to win or draw, and the second bet on Chelsea to win.


By betting on both outcomes, you’re obviously guaranteeing that you’ll win one of the wagers you place.


How do you do it


Firstly, you’ll need to have a lot of betting accounts open. These should be with both bookmakers and betting exchanges (like Betfair).


Arbing relies on exploiting price differences between different places. Those differences often occur through simple error, meaning they’ll usually be swiftly fixed. You need an account, in place and ready to go, to exploit those differences before they’re corrected.


Most arbitrage betting fans use betting exchanges for one of their bets. Exchanges do take commissions, but they also tend to offer higher odds. Also, they won’t close your account when you keep on winning… which a traditional bookie usually will.


Once your accounts are set up, you search for markets which have an exploitable price difference. Then, simply bet each outcome on different sites, and happily collect your winnings from whichever bet comes in.


How much money do you need to put in?


Unlike matched betting, this is entirely up to you.


There’s no need to put a certain amount of money in to trigger a special offer. You simply need to ensure that every account you own is funded, and ready to be used at a moment’s notice.


All bookies have a minimum deposit amount, typically ranging from £5 upwards. Many also have minimum bet amounts. Apart from that, there are no restrictions on how much or little money you use for arbing.  


What profits can you expect?


Your profits are entirely down to you. They’re directly tied to both how much you want to wager, and the odds on the markets you end up taking.


Like matched betting, this is a long-term strategy. It typically relies on making modest profits for an extended period of time. The trade-off for this is that it’s also very safe. The “home run” betting strategies out there – like the Bet It All staking plan – might deliver bigger profits, but they also carry more risk.


Arbing will bring more profit than matched betting in the long term, because it doesn’t rely on one-off promotions. Instead, you can keep doing it for as long as you want… or until your accounts with the bookies get closed.


Associated risks of arbitrage betting


As with matched betting, the biggest risk with arbing is simple human error.


In fact, that’s even more of a risk here. Partly, that’s because of its longer-term nature, and thus the need to maintain your concentration for a longer period of time.


In conjunction, you also need to be able to move extremely quickly as soon as you see a price difference… whilst still making sure your stakes are right, and that you can match the odds correctly on different websites.  


Finally, with matched betting, you don’t really have to worry about your accounts with bookies being closed. You’re only using them one time, after all. With arbing, you’re relying on keeping those accounts open.


Unfortunately, bookies have gotten pretty good at detecting arbitrage bettors. Whilst it’s not illegal, the chances are that – if you keep arbing for long enough – your account will get suspended eventually.


What tools do you need to do it?


Like matched betting, arbing requires you to put up in some analytical work. Fortunately – also like matched betting – there are tools out there to help you with this!


To save you a lot of time and effort, I’d recommend a tool which scans bookies’ odds for you, and helps to identify exploitable markets. The aforementioned OddsMatcher from OddsMonkey can do this, but there are plenty of alternatives out there.


Organisation is crucial for arbing, so you’ll also need spreadsheets to track your progress. Google Spreadsheets is free to use, and offers essentially the same functionality as Microsoft Excel.


Who’s it suited for?


Arbitrage betting definitely isn’t for everyone.


It requires plenty of research, meaning it also requires a lot of your time. Again, this is also a long-term strategy. If you’re not a patient person, or you prefer a riskier betting plan with a higher upside, arbing isn’t for you.


For those who value consistent returns, and are willing to put in the time and effort, arbitrage betting is an excellent system.

Final Thoughts


As I’ve shown (hopefully!), matched betting and arbitrage betting are certainly similar, but there are important differences.


Both involve placing bets on every outcome of a market. That means that – if you stick to the plans correctly – then both are also guaranteed to make you money.


Arbing is a longer-term strategy. It requires more patience, but ultimately it will deliver bigger returns. Matched betting puts an eventual cap on your profits – you will run out of signup offers eventually – but it’s less intensive.


Ultimately – and most importantly – both matched betting and arbing are safe and sensible betting plans to follow.


Good luck!



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