It turns out it was about a year ago (almost to the day) that a few of us had a go at Matched Betting. In fact, Matt had been doing it for a while before then, and it was only when he was showing off his £2k new PC with uber-graphics cards that we were convinced it wasn't all going to go horribly wrong and end up with him living in a cardboard box under a railway bridge.
But, sure enough, he knew what he was doing. And seemed to be making money quite easily. I had a go and, following his instructions, I made about £700 over two months. I stopped after doing all the "easy" sign-up offers (rather than continue with the reload offers) but this left me with £700 tied up in a couple of betting exchange accounts.
Rather than withdraw this cash, I did the same offers again, on behalf of friends and family. This time, having a large(ish) amount in the exchanges allowed me to do multiple offers at once, getting through the offers more quickly and turning free bets into cash. I turned over about £450 within ten days for my mother, £400 within about the same timeframe for one of my friends in Brighton, and about £300 for another friend, just in time for Xmas.
It's worth noting that as Matched Betting became "a thing" late last year, and as more and more of us were doing it, the rewards for the time invested went down and down - the bookies were onto it, pretty quickly!
However, having Christmas dinner for the entire family paid for by Mssrs Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and William Hill was quite a nice touch. So, naturally, we're going to give it another try this year. Now, of course, we can't go doing the same sign-up offers again, but - in preparation for running a few matched bets through the exchanges again this year- I was clearing up some old accounts, and in doing so was offered a couple of free bets to get an otherwise dormant account active again. It's thanks to this that I found a bit of an anomaly:
Betfair (the exchange we use to "lay" the bets off) was offering a £25 free sportsbook bet. Simply put, if I wagered £25 on a an event (I choose Liverpool to beat Man U on Monday) we were immediately given a £25 free bet. I did exactly this, then went to the Smarkets website and laid off Liverpool (i.e bet on United to win or draw) for the same value.
Because each exchange charges a percentage commission, this "matched bet" was always going to lose a little bit of money. It turned out that the combination of prices chosenm, I stood to lose £1.69 irrespective of the result of the Liverpool v ManU game. A kick in the pants. But worth it, to earn a free £25 bet.
So with the "qualifying bet" placed and matched on the exchange, I was pretty pleased to see the free bet immediately appear in the Betfair account. Now I'm already having to wait over 24 hours for the qualifying bet to resolve, and didn't want to wait longer than this again, so chose to place the free bet on a much higher odds result on a football game happening in just a couple of hours time.
I chose Villareal and bet that their opponents (at 5/1) would win. The game was to kick off just two hours after the bet was placed, so it would all by over in a little under four hours. Of course, my bet selection didn't win (Villareal won 4-nil in the end) so our free Betfair sportsbook bet lost, and the amount in our Smarkets account went up.
So I just had to wait for the Liverpool/Man U match to resolve, and I'd have turned the free bet into cash. Except I didn't actually have to wait. Thanks to the "cash in" feature on Betfair, I was able to "cancel" the qualifying bet:
And by betting on the reverse result on the Smarket exchange, effectively "cancel" that bet too.
And if we look at the costs involved:
To cash out the Betfair bet, they took £24.31 from our initial £25 bet - so it cost us £0.69. Irrespective of the result on Smarkets (whether Liverpool win, Man U win or it's a draw) we lose £0.47 at most (only £0.42 if it's anything other than a Liverpool win). Which means that, irrespective of the match result, we've lost a total of £1.16 in "cancelling" our qualifying bets.
But this is less than the £1.69 it would have cost us, if we'd let the bets stand, to resolve fully 24 hours later. In short, it worked out better for placing a qualifying bet on an event that occurred after the event I had used the free bet on.
Once the free bet was "spent" (i.e. it lost and the money appeared in the Smarkets betting exchange - after all, the bet is only really insurance in case the lay bet fails) I was able to "cancel" the qualifying bet at Betfair, and the lay bet on Smarkets. Not only to generate lower loss, but also to resolve the entire position 24 hours earlier than had I allowed the bets to run to their full conclusion.
It's a tactic I might look at again in the future.
And one that everyone else doing Matched Betting might want to consider too. After all, if you're trying to turn over a number of high-value bets quickly, getting the cash out of the bookies and back into the exchange balance, rather than have it riding on sports events is critical. Being able to cancel qualifying bets and get the money back 24 hours earlier means another day of opportunities tomorrow - rather than having to pass over them because of a lack of cashflow!
There are a few of use having a go at matched betting over the coming weeks. We might just post some results here, to log our progress and - hopefully - explain how it all works a little bit better (complete with cock-ups, mis-calculations and lucky breaks).
The aim is a rather modest £300 for Christmas. At least it means no-one has to worry about paying for a turkey big enough to feed 14 of us on the big day!