How to find close odds when Matched Betting

One of the most common questions I get asked is how do you find close odds to match bets out when matched betting.

Manual method

During the earlier days of matched betting the only way to find a close odds match was to open up the bookmaker odds on one browser screen and the betting exchange on another and compare the odds on a market one by one.  Taking football as an example, the process involved loading up the UK match coupon at the bookmaker and the same at the betting exchange and then trawling through the home – draw – away odds until you found a close match.  Then for free bets the same process but with correct scores on a particular game.

Whilst there is nothing wrong with this method and there are occasions when I still check for close odds manually (see the bottom of this page for reasons, an automated service is a massive time saver.

Automated method

There are services that bring automation to the process of matched betting and make the time it takes to find a decent match much quicker.  They work by collecting all the odds from bookmakers and betting exchanges and bringing them all together in a database which then displays the closest matches in order.  The great thing about such services is they are relatively cheap to subscribe to and they have the ability to filter odds by bookmaker and/or event making finding a close match for a certain event or for a certain bookmakers free bet that much easier.

I would thoroughly recommend Oddsmonkey for such a service, they have a free offering which is delayed by half an hour, which i handy to try out what they offer but for £8 £15 per month you get their premier search which shows instant odds on offer.  If you are only semi serious about matched betting it will still save you hours per month compared to the manual method above.

One thing I would say though however, and this ties in with protecting your bookmaker accounts, is that to avoid losing your bookie accounts I would suggest avoiding the following:

  1. Obscure markets, where possible keep to mainstream football matches or horse racing.  Because even though there are markets it’s not usual to put a £50 bet on the winner of a game in the Russian Premier League!
  2. Odds out of line, by that I mean arbs such as the ones below, these will only increase the risk of having your account limited, bonus banned or closed.

oddsmonkey

Why check manually?

Enhanced Odds

Sometimes it is not possible to use an automated service such as Oddsmonkey.  For example Skybet often have enhanced odds for key football matches or horse races, these are not usually part of the odds feed offered by the bookmaker and so will not get picked up, yet they may be the best match in terms of odds around, so it is worth looking for these.

In-Play

If you get any in-play free bets or are required to bet in-play to qualify for a free bet then you will need to find a close match manually as the odds will not show up on an automated service.

Protecting Your Bookmaker Accounts

Keeping your bookmaker accounts

Once you have been matched betting for a while and used up all of the opening account free bets available, you may then decide to move onto offers for existing customers. If this is the case then one thing you will want to try and do is keep all of the your accounts open and intact.

Bookmakers love punters that mug bet i.e. bet on what they want, they especially love punters than place bets on high odds accumulators or short favourite in horse racing. These types of bets are where they make their money.
What bookmakers do not like is punters who look for value and by that I mean place bets on odds that are out of line or those that are perceived to be bonus abusers and take up every offer going.

This is where things get a little more tricky when matched betting as those two things are what make the most money, after all we don’t really care if our bets win or lose at the bookmaker, in fact we would prefer to lose as it gets the money out of the bookie and back into the exchange without it building up.

Longevity is the key

The longer you can keep an account open the more offers you can take part in.  Some bookmakers along the way will do one or both of two things; limit your account i.e. restrict the amount you can bet or win with them (this was covered in the Guardian) or remove your ability to take part in future offers and promotions.

Some bookmakers are well known to restrict accounts and limit users to penny bets in next to no time at all and these accounts are only worth the initial free bet and obviously provide less value to the average matched bettor.  Others will happily throw free bets and refund offers at you in the hope that you will continue to use them in the future.

Side effects of matched betting

The main side effect of matched betting is that bookmakers may start to take an interest in your account.  It is fairly easy for a bookmaker to pick out those who take up only the promotional offers, or those that bet in certain patterns.  Losing your account or get limited by certain bookmakers will greatly restrict the amount of money you can make by matched betting on an ongoing basis.

Whilst there is no fail safe method the following tips in theory should help you maintain and extend the life of your accounts.

Avoid arbs

Arbitrage bets or arbs are those bets where the back odds at the bookmaker are higher than the lay odds at the betting exchange, these happen when shifts occur in the markets and the bookmaker is slow to react.  For example a team may change their usual line up, weakening the team, the betting exchange will react quickest as the odds are set by the users yet a bookmaker may take time to adjust their prices, leaving a gap in the odds.  The same can occur if inside news is known about a particular hose in a race.

As tempting as it may be to take arbs (if the gap is large enough you can make some good money), the bookmaker will soon realise their price is out of line and adjust accordingly, it would be easy for a bookmaker to build a system to pick out those that keep on taking prices out of line and limit them.  Whilst a bookmaker will not admit it, this goes on and is common practice in the betting world.

Place accumulator bets

Act like a normal punter and place the occasional acca bet.  A couple of pound here or there is unlikely to dent your matched betting profits by much but may just make you look more like a traditional punter.  If you have friends or family that like the odd bet (although why haven’t you explained the benefits or matched betting!) then offer to place the odd bet for them with your online account (as long as they pay you).  My mum would never dream of opening a betting account but she does like the odd flutter on events like the Grand National.

Play the casino

The reasoning is the same as the above.  The odd few pounds in the casino will again keep your account looking normal. For some bookmakers they make more money on their casino punters than they do on their sportsbook.  On a side note, some will have welcome offers and regular promotions and there is money to be made from these, however they are not risk free and are subject to variance.

Place normal bets and lay them off

Try mixing things up with the odd bet on something that isn’t an offer nor a leading price.  Have a look at the various prices on offer using sites such as www.oddschecker.com and bet on an outcome where the particular bookmaker doesn’t have top price, then lay it off as if it were a matched bet.  Whilst it may cost you a few pounds once taking into account commission it will help improve your appearance as a mug punter and potentially keep you under the radar.

Use mobile betting apps

Bookmakers love punters who use their betting apps. The theory being that mobile betting is often done by guys down the pub or at the game who haven’t done their research.

They are also handy whilst on the go (you can carry on matched betting whilst out and about) and some leading bookmakers like to give app specific offers so it is worth downloading the main ones and keeping them on your mobile.

The next stage after introductory offers

A common question asked is whether you can continue to make money from matched betting after the introductory offers have been completed.

Lets break this down into sections to explore the avenues open after working through the opening account offers;

New bookmaker offers

Whilst you may get to a point whereby you think you have completed the worthwhile signup offers there is always the next bookmaker around the corner.  Some big named bookmakers have been and gone over the years, some merged, others stopped trading.  There is always room for a new bookie to come and join in.  Whilst this is true new offers will come around from time to time, giving you another bite at the cherry.

Existing customer offers

This is where the regular money is.  You can quite easily take part in existing customer offers and keep making money monthly.  I will cover these in more detail in a separate guide but in short there are two sorts of offers for existing customers; those which are the same as free bet offers i.e. bet on something and get a free bet, and ‘what if’/refund offers.

‘What if’ offers are those that you may not be able to guarantee a profit from but if you partake in enough of them, over time some will come off enough to cover any losses in covering bets to take part in such offers.

Examples of ‘what if’ bets are;

The basic idea to these offers is to find a bet that can be matched out for as small loss as possible, then should the offer occur you will profit from either money back, enhanced winnings or free bets (depending on the offer).

Whilst the above type of offers do carry some risk in that you may lose say £1 each time you take part in an offer and match a bet out, over time (especially with the Channel 4 offers) you will make far more money than you lose.

Comeback offers

Last of off, if you stop using certain bookmakers for a period of time the good ones (think well known UK high street bookies) will contact you offering free bets to come back and bet with them.  So it is worth setting up an email address just for matched betting, that way any emails sent to you offering free bets and offers can be checked up on regularly.

Having been matched betting for over 10 years now I can safely say that money can still be made once the signup offers have been completed.

Back and Lay markets explained

Using a betting exchange for the first time can be confusing, so here is a recent reply to a question asked by a newcomer to matched betting.

Can you explain the back and lay markets on Betfair?

With the betting exchange (in this case Betfair) if the bet has been matched then it is a valid bet, unmatched bets are bets that have not yet been taken and are waiting in the queue.  For example:

back and lay explained

If you were to lay a bet on the Tottenham you could do so at 4.1 (this is the lowest odds available (in pink), this would then become a matched bet.  If however you wanted to offer odds of 4.0 then this amount would queue on the back side (blue side) for someone to take and would remain unmatched until it is done so.  Your money would join the end of the queue and be added to the £94 already there, once the money at 4.0 is taken then your bet would become matched.

When looking to match a bet for matched betting purposes it is ideal to find a bet (at the bookmaker) that has as close odd as possible to the lay side (pink side) at Betfair.  You would then place the bet at the bookmaker and lay the correct amount at Betfair.  For example say Ladbrokes were offering odds of 4.0 for Tottenham to win you would back this amount (say with £10 for example) then using the spreadsheet or the matched betting calculator you would calculate the lay amount in this case it would be £9.88 which is the amount you would place the lay bet of at the current odds available of 4.00 (assuming 5% commission).

 

Realistically how much can be made from free bet offers?

The value of free bets available currently from the main UK bookmakers can be found on the free bets page. 80-85% of that value is achievable in terms of potential profit with opening account offers using the matched betting technique.

The majority of free bets are what is known as ‘Stake Not Returned’ (see glossary) and on average you can expect to make around £20-£21 profit from a £25 free bet.  This depends on the odds in terms of how close the back and lay odds are and how high the odds you are matching the bet out with.  The higher the better.

Once the free bets are used up from opening account offers it doesn’t end there.  Bookmakers offer free bets for other reasons such as:

  • Birthday’s (how nice!)
  • Major sporting events – Think big football matches, World Cup, Wimbledon, US Masters (you get the idea)
  • Come back offer – If you haven’t bet for a while you may be offered a free bet to come back and place a bet
  • Refund offers – William Hill & Ladbrokes have weekly refund offers on the Channel 4 racing.