Anyone who is serious about matched betting should be familiar with 2nd place refund offers. We can take advantage of these offers by bagging a free bet every time our horse finishes 2nd in selected races. These offers are hugely profitable, so if you’ve not yet given them a go, allow me to explain all…

Step 1: Find an offer

The first step is fairly self-explanatory. We need to find an offer and check the terms and conditions thoroughly. We need to be aware that some bookmakers run 2nd place refunds, but they’ll only refund 2nd place if our horse is beaten by less than a length, or if it’s beaten by the favourite. Some bookmakers also offer refunds if our horse falls. These slight variations make it much more difficult to hit a refund and I’d therefore advise you to give them a miss unless you can get ridiculously good back and lay odds that give you a qualifying loss of next to nothing.

To show you how a standard 2nd place refund offer should be done, I’ll share my results from a Ladbrokes offer that ran on Saturday 31st October 2015.

The terms were pretty straightforward. If my horse finished second in any live Channel 4 race or selected Breeders’ Cup race (Keeneland, USA) with at least 5 runners, Ladbrokes would refund my stake as a free bet, up to a maximum of £25.00.


Step 2: Find tight odds

The strategy for these offers is simple. We need to find horses with tight back and lay odds in order to minimise our potential losses and as we only get a refund if our horse finishes 2nd, it also makes sense to pick horses with fairly short odds.

Back odds at Ladbrokes for the 1.45 at Ascot

Back and lay odds at Smarkets for the 1.45 at Ascot

The screenshots above show the top 5 horses from a total off 11 runners in the first eligible race, the 1.45 at Ascot. We can enter the Ladbrokes back odds and the Smarkets lay odds for each horse into the matched betting calculator to work out which horse gives us the smallest qualifying loss.

Selection Back Odds Lay Odds Qualifying Loss
Voix D’eax 5.50 6.40 £3.88
Anatol 6.50 6.60 £0.80
Padge 7.00 8.00 £3.51
Mont Royale 8.00 9.20 £3.65
Astigos 9.00 9.40 £1.49

As you can see, the matched betting calculator tells us that Anatol gives us the smallest qualifying loss of just £0.80. If Anatol finishes 2nd, Ladbrokes will refund our losing £25.00 stake as a free bet, from which we should be able to extract £20.00 cash. If we take into account our qualifying loss of £0.80, we will make a profit of £19.20 on this race. Risking £0.80 to make a potential profit of £19.20, gives us effective odds of 25.00, so you can see why these offers are so profitable over time.

If you’re unsure how to extract 80% cash from a free bet, have a read of my Free Bet Strategy page for a walk-through guide on how it should be done.

Once you’ve done a few of these offers, you’ll get used to picking out the best horse without having to punch all of the odds into the calculator. I find it’s always best to wait until 5 or 10 minutes before the start of each race as this is usually when the odds are tightest. If you can’t find tight enough odds, just forget about that race and move on to the next one. I like to work out my effective odds as it helps me decide whether or not the odds are tight enough.

Step 3: Get your bets on

Once we’ve found a suitable selection, it’s time to get our bets on and we can calculate our lay stake using the matched betting calculator. The following table shows the eligible races for this Ladbrokes offer, my selections, the odds I got and my overall profit/loss…

Race Selection Back Odds Lay Odds Result Starting Price Profit/Loss
1.45 Ascot Anatol 6.50 6.60 3/11 N/A -£0.80
2.00 Wetherby Kilcooley 6.50 6.60 1/9 6.00 -£0.80
2.15 Ascot Baby Mix 7.50 7.80 3/12 N/A -£1.38
2.30 Wetherby Blue Buttons 3.25 3.40 1/8 3.00 -£1.44
2.40 Down Royal Only 4 runners N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2.50 Ascot Nabucco 4.333 4.60 1/11 4.50 +£2.36
3.05 Wetherby Dynaste 4.00 4.30 2/7 N/A +£17.90
3.25 Ascot What a Warrior 8.50 8.60 4/15 N/A -£0.73
7.30 Keeneland Time Test 7.50 7.40 10/12 N/A -£0.10
8.10 Keeneland Nyquist 7.00 7.20 1/14 N/A -£1.11
8.50 Keeneland Golden Horn 1.67 1.74 2/12 N/A +£18.79
9.35 Keeneland American Pharoah 1.73 1.74 1/8 N/A -£0.36
Total Profit/Loss £32.33

As you can see, I made an overall profit of £32.33 on this offer with two 2nd place finishes out of 11 races. You’ll notice that I was close to bagging even more free bets with 1st/3rd place finishes in 7 of the 11 races and placing outside the top 3 only twice. By selecting horses with tight back and lay odds, I only needed one 2nd place finish to make a profit.

Despite Nabucco winning the 2.50 at Ascot, I actually made a small profit due to Ladbrokes’ best odds guarantee. At the time of writing, Ladbrokes offer Best Odds Guaranteed on all UK and Irish Horse Races, from 09:00 daily. We just take the price and if the starting price (SP) returns greater, they’ll pay us out at the bigger price. This is always something to look out for as quite a few bookmakers have a best odds guarantee and it can be a nice bonus when you hit a winner.

Step 4: Find more offers and make more profit

A profit of £32.33 is pretty good for one days work with just one bookmaker. These 2nd place refund offers are available most days and they’re a great way to make some cash during the day or during slack periods when there’s not much happening elsewhere. Occasionally, more than one bookmaker will run a 2nd place refund offer on the same race meeting, which is great news for us matched bettors. It enables us to select a different horse with each bookmaker and increase our chances of hitting a 2nd place refund.

As I said at the top of this guide, these 2nd place refund offers are a must for anyone serious about matched betting as they make up a big chunk of our monthly profits. Give it a go, you’ll be glad you did!