Matched Betting vs Gambling

A while back, I listened to Huw’s interviews with Guy on matched betting with great interest (second interview here).

Guy made close to £7k in just 6 months – he’s broken the £15k barrier since that interview! It was great to know first hand the potential that can be earned via matched betting, although from the sounds of things, Guy does put a lot of effort into getting the profits rolling in.

Prior to matched betting, Guy had never ventured into a bookie and his gambling was limited to just playing the lottery.  I guess that meant that at no point has he been tempted to just gamble whilst he’s been doing his matched betting.

Former Gambler

On the other hand, as someone who used to count gambling (sports betting) as one of her favourite hobbies, I cannot say that I have not been tempted and that temptation to have a ‘flutter’ is something that I continue to struggle with.

Yes, I do the lotto (£2 a week with a lottery syndicate) and I take part in a football predictions league at work (£1 a week) but these activities still struggle to dampen my bubbling gambling urges.

I don’t think I will fall off the wagon in an epic way and start spending/throwing away all my matched betting profits but the threat of stepping off the rails lingers in the background.

The good news is that I can’t end up wasting all my profits now anyway, as I’ve started investing some of it (into property crowdfunding via Property Moose) but sometimes, I can feel my finger twitching and hovering over the ‘Bet Now’ button for a pure gamble! Oh the…


Below is an actual 6-leg football accumulator I did at the end of last season, whereby I bet that 6 teams would win.

All the teams did win and doing it the matched betting way, I made around £15 profit – nice, eh?

However, if I had just gambled my £25 bet on the accumulator, I would have made £167.85 profit…


Feeling Lucky?

I’m finding that I win around 1 in 4 of the accumulators I do, so a little voice in the back of my mind is ‘suggesting’ that I should perhaps just place normal bets instead of matched bets for some of the accumulators I do.

Making £167 profit is obviously a lot more exciting (to me), but I need to keep reminding myself that had all the teams not won, I would have ended up losing my entire £25 stake in a straight gamble. (Most bookies have ‘acca insurance’ whereby if one team lets you down, you get your stake returned as a free bet but if two teams had lost, then you get zip!)

Matched betting ultimately wins hands down as regardless of the results, no money is lost (aside from small qualifying losses) and with the right selections/odds, you can make small risk free profits, which, with patience, you can build into bigger profits.

Stop Matched Betting?

I don’t want to stop just because I might be weak and succumb to temptation and revert back to my old gambling ways. I like that this side income adds to my savings and if I end up without a job long term, I will be counting on it to help cover some of my living expenses.

I have to keep my focus and make sure that my matched betting follows the way I invest, ie slowly and steadily, with growth via small increases.

That said, I can’t say for certain that there won’t be the odd ‘blip’ – there hasn’t been so far (much…).

Got to focus, got to focus and be happy to be making on average £400 a month tax free in my spare time.

I’ve only been at this for a little over 6 months now and I hope to be able to continue to reap the benefits for as long as I can.

I know, I know – gambling is a complete mug’s game – tell me something I don’t know!

Anyway, the matched betting website I subscribe to is OddsMonkey*. I started drafting this post a while ago and since then, the website has come up with a way where I might be able to satisfy the ‘gambler gremlin’ inside me with less risk. I’ll give it a try to see how it goes!

Any other matched bettors out there who feel the pull of gambling or is it just me??


25 thoughts on “Matched Betting vs Gambling

  1. I started doing Matched Betting at the end of August and have made about £450 so far but have also managed to lose the odd £5 and £10 as you get bombarded with emails about the casino and the bingo and the list goes on…
    I’m not really a ‘gambler’ as I don’t like wasting money but obviously the devil on my shoulder is!
    I think I should stick to doing it on the weekend when I have more time and am not so tired and vulnerable.
    How do you resist the urge?

    • Hi Becky
      Well done on your matched betting so far. I tend to steer away from the casino and bingo offers, very occasionally do them if they are ‘risk free’. Resisting the urge isn’t easy but I think I need to recall how much money I used to lose when I was just gambling…

  2. I have the same feeling. Matchedbetting is safe but not as satisfying as the real sportsbet. So the first is helping me with the money to fo the occasional second one…

    • Hi Mr MB
      You’re right, the thrill from MB doesn’t compare…When I was gambling, I rarely had much money sitting in my gambling accounts. Now that I do matched betting, my accounts always have money and it’s tempting to use that money to fund my gambling.

      Maybe I need to set myself a gambling budget to do the ‘occasional’ real bet.

  3. weenie,

    My grandfather was a part-time bookmaker. He would often tell me that you are on to a winner when there are 3 windows to place bets and just 1 for pay-outs!

    Sports betting can be very addictive so take care – even with the matched betting. As Oscar Wilde once said ” I can resist everything apart from temptation”.

    • Hi diy
      Yes, I shall take care. Even with the matched betting, I don’t go for big numbers, opting to go for the middle ground, ie low to medium gains, rather than massive gains.

  4. If you are undecided about whether to stick to matched betting or real bets, why not split the stakes 50/50 on each? Then decide what to do based on how that turns out.

    • Hi The Gambler
      50/50 will be too a tad much I reckon, although I concede that I may have to either set myself a ‘gambling budget’ or allow myself the occasional guilt-free bet. I know matched betting is the way to go to ensure growing profits, gambling is just a bit more exciting but with no guarantee.

      • Hello again weenie,

        I’ve been gambling as a living for well over a decade. With the exchanges it doesn’t have to be about picking winners. All you have to do is just choose the correct way the odds are going to move. Then trade out of your position, for a profit either way, whether the selection wins or loses.

        As to taking laying gets back, you don’t go bust taking a profit.

        As to betting in singles I agree. In the past I worked for a major bookmaker. I saw figures that indicated betting shops in the South of the country made more profit than those in the North. This was thought to be because Southerners largely used bets like Yankees, Super Yankees, etc. that required at least 2 winners for a return. Northerners placed bets where one winner got a return, e.g. Patent. The small returns on one winner add up over time and dent bookmaker profits so obviously increase profits for punters.

        • I used to do patents during my gambling days – such accumulators don’t qualify for acca bonus so I’m not sure I’d do them again, except for fun…and I don’t want to head too far down that path again!

  5. I have a good friend who is a professional sports trader and his constant advice to me is to “bet only when you have an edge”. The only time i have an edge is when he gives me the occasional tip based upon his thorough research. The rest of the time i am gambling, i accept this, and in the long run i know I will lose. Gambling is of course good fun when using expendable funds and i stick to manageable levels. If you do gamble, stick to singles as opposed to accumulators – bookies love ‘accas’, and there is better value for you with singles and your pot will last you longer.
    Matched betting for me though is far more satisfying – a guaranteed profit before the outcome hopefully. Perfect for the FI seeker (until the bookies catch up with you and close you down!).

    ps – many thanks to you and the rest of the FI blogging community (7circles, RIT, Monevator etc) – your blogs are highly entertaining and contain a wealth of knowledge that the newspapers and financial press should be striving to match.

    • Thanks for your insight, Kid Cocoa and you’re right, I need to knock betting on accas on the head and maybe look at singles. Setting myself a small gambling budget using ‘expendable’ funds might be a way to go but I need to remind myself why I got into matched betting in the first place and try to forget the excitement I get from gambling.

      Thanks for the feedback on the blog too – glad to hear you are reading my mutterings and enjoying them!

      • As I pointed out below this is actually the incorrect conclusion from Kid Cocoa’s totally correct point about only betting when you have an edge. If you play the acca’s for the refund offer only then that is your edge (otherwise you wouldn’t be able to lay them off for a profit).

        By laying off you are just eating into your edge and also wasting a lot of time.

        He is also right that bookies normally love acca’s as it compounds their edge with every selection you add, but again if you stick to the offer and only do the minimum number of selections (and get good value picks) then it is in fact you that have the edge.

        I’d give it a go without laying off with the acca’s and see how you get on, just stick to only doing it where the refund offers are available!

        I’m not saying never lay anything off because guaranteed profit is nice but with the acca’s as something you enjoy punting on anyway and it’s so much more hard to work to lay those off, I’d say just gamble them straight up.

        • Hey TFS
          Having now read your below comment and this one a couple of times now, I think I finally ‘get’ what you are saying!

          Value is the key and I don’t think I’ve really thought about it.
          I’d need to boost my funds up a bit more before I start on a big ‘no laying spree’. And yes, I do tend to stick to the accas that offer bonuses.

          I’ve got the rest of the football season to consider things anyway, plus I may change my tune about things when I’m not working….

          Cheers as ever!

  6. Hi Weenie, I did quite well with the matched betting, but I found it took quite a bit of commitment and time. Then most of the major bookies banned me and I hadn’t even won that much from some of them! That was demotivating – I wasn’t up for signing up new accounts for my gran etc.. so I’ve drifted away from it. I did do the odd gamble with some of the free bets, especially free tenners and fivers, but gambling doesn’t float my boat. The thrill of winning a hundred quid doesn’t match the “pain” of losing three tenners in my psychology!

    • Hi Jim
      I wondered if you would have time to do any matched betting now that you were back at work and there’s my answer! Still, at least you got a new iphone out of it while the going was good!

  7. I’ve been matched betting for a bit over a year now and I’ve kind of run out of steam, having been gubbed by most of the main bookies, but I am still slowly ticking over, and I need to make an effort to try things like extra place offers; I understand the theory, but I can never seem to find good odds matches.

    My understanding is that if you followed matched betting principles but didn’t actually lay any of the bets off, *in the long run* you would be slightly better off – the “luck” involved would even out, and you’d be better off by the commission saved at the exchange. The key phrase is, of course, *in the long run* – you could lose a lot of money in the short term before “luck” turned your way.

    However, if you do feel the temptation to “gamble”, you could do it by sometimes not laying off your matched bets. So, for example, you don’t say “As a skilled gambler, I think Man Utd are almost certain to win, much more likely than the odds I can bet at the bookie imply, I’m shoving £25 on”, but if a bookie has an offer such as “money back as a free bet if you bet on Man Utd and it’s a draw” and you decide the offer is profitable as a matched betting proposition, you put the back bet on but don’t lay it off. Maybe this is too “controlled” to satisfy the temptation, but I thought I’d suggest it. (If you do this, it might be be worth keeping track of the profits from these bets, to make sure that in the long run you *are* making a profit from them.)

    I don’t do this most of the time, but I do do it with the Sky weekly Soccer Saturday boost – the lay odds on the multiple market at Betfair usually seem poor, so I just check the boost is at good odds compared to the cumulative odds on the individual teams and back without laying. I keep pretty strict records and track the expected profit from each such bet and so far my net expected profit from these bets has evened out about how I’d expect – but I have lost many £20 bets in a row before getting a win which compensated for them.

    • Hi Steve R

      Thanks for the detailed comment and I think what I’ve lost sight of is ‘in the long run’ – the little voice inside my head is chasing for fast gains when I’m more likely to be a winner in the long run, coupled with positive Expected Values.

      As TFS says, I need to stomach some losses and I think that’s the hard bit – keep at it, grind out the losses and win in the long run…

      However, I’m not sure what my frame of mind will be, losing lots of £20 bets in a row!

  8. Hi weenie,

    As Steve R just pointed out if you were purely going on the numbers game you should never lay off your bets, and therefore. By laying off all we are doing is paying between 2% and 5% of your profit (depending on the exchange) to guarantee your profit.

    Furthermore, the odds matcher software all of the sites give you automatically give you really good value bets if you pick ones that are in the high 90’s% so if you do want to let a few of those ride I would say go for it. I have done so and have hit a few big winners on that which has bumped my profit. I wouldn’t do it on all of them because you can’t always get a good value bet on (If its 95% or below I wouldn’t even consider it). I know plenty of people who make lot’s of money simply by finding 100%+ matches and betting them with as large a stake as they can, they never lay off and don’t even bother with offers. 100%+ matches mean the odds are in your favour and therefore if you let a few of those ride with your bonus bets I don’t see an issue with that.

    Likewise the acca’s you are doing, the bookies are putting the odds back into your favour so as long as that is the only type of accas you do then you should theoretically make more money over the long term. Plus you don’t have to lay off either… which sounds like a pain in the arse on Acca’s so an extra benefit. I’m sure you can stomach a few £25 losses if you are winning over 100 every time you hit one. Anyway, don’t want to persuade you to go gambling crazy but if you are only playing with the offers then I see no issue with it.

    So in summary, the value in matched betting doesn’t actually come from laying off your bet (or the “matched” part of it). I actually comes from the offer/bonus in the first place which is why I don’t really even like the term matched betting for what this is, but apparently that is the term that has stuck so that’s what I call it.

    If it were up to me I would call it “Bonus whoring” which is a term that was floating around about 7-8 years ago. A much more accurate description although I understand why most people wouldn’t go around telling their family and friends they were making money by being a bonus whore 🙂

    I was going to write a post about the above points so thanks for giving me the nudge, I will probably just copy this comment and expand upon it to use as the basis of the post…

    Good luck as always!

    • Hey TFS

      Thanks for taking the time to explain this and I look forward to when you write an even more detailed post on this! 🙂

      I think as well as really going for value, I need to find some sort of balance. I’m going to build up my funds again (depleted as I’ve invested some of it!) and then try not laying and see what happens.

      I feel a bit better about all this now that I have some sort of plan in mind – when I was drafting my post, I was a bit out of sorts! I’ll still need to get my head (or rather stomach) around losing some bets before I win in the long run…

      Haha, bad enough that I mentioned to some friends that I do matched betting (they think I might have a gambling problem…) – they’d think I was in serious trouble if I told them I was a ‘bonus whore’ haha!

      • Hi weenie,

        No worries!
        Yep you definitely need some sort of bank if you are doing it this way to take a series of losses before a decent win comes in.

        Just would like to re-state that I’m not encouraging you or anyone to gamble with what I’ve said above, and definitely most people getting into matched betting should lay off at all times until they are comfortable with the process and how the maths work out behind it all. I only mentioned it because it sounds like this is the route that you wanted to go anyway and it would in all likelihood make you more money in the long run, so it’s a win win for you with your particular mindset I reckon.

        For full disclosure: I’m still laying off like 95% of the matched bets I do, and let maybe 5% of them ride for the big win.


  9. Hi Weenie,

    I can totally understand your urge to place a regular bet…sometimes these betting sites are so hypnotic they practically lure you into betting without even realising it ha ha!

    The only regular bet I tend to place is on the Grand National each year, and until a couple of years ago I’d place very simple accumulators on the early days of Wimbledon. I also used to do the lottery on an ad hoc basis. These days I don’t really bet at all apart from the grand national, and partaking in family sweepstakes (we do a strictly come dancing sweep every year!) When I’m next out of contract (probably next year) I reckon I’all have another go at matched betting then.

    Incidentally did you see that the Euromillions entry cost is going up to £2.50? That’s inflation I guess!?


    • Hi OR

      When I cut down on my gambling (before I started matched betting), the only proper bets I allowed myself were on the Grand National too, as it’s kind of like a family tradition!
      I’ve picked the winners too for the past couple of years!

      Yes, I noticed that the Euromillions cost per ticket had gone up and yet in the news, there appeared to be the ‘shocking’ news that Camelot was reporting that lottery income was down which could affect future support towards our Olympians. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the more they put up the lottery fees, the less people will play!? If they dropped it back down to £1 a ticket, sale volumes would go back up.

  10. Hi, i think your a member of Oddsmonkey, take a look at the NoLay Accumulator tool.
    There is positive expected/long run profit due to the refund but without laying you have the variance of many smaller losses for each large win. Alternatively if your laying after each result and have some skill then underlaying would improve your expected value. This would include for example only choosing teams playing Home and looking at recent form.

    • Hi
      Yes, I’m a member of OM and since this post, I tried no lay accas as my main strategy for a while instead of sequential lay. Whilst I know there is positive expected/long run profit, I couldn’t take the losses (12 losing accas in a row, ouch!). I do now do a few no lays to satisfy my gambling itch and am currently up by a little. I do a bit of underlaying occasionally too. Thanks for stopping by.

Comments are closed.