Risk-free bet offers are a great source of guaranteed matched betting profit. Bookmakers will invite us to bet on an event, safe in the knowledge that if our bet loses, they’ll refund our stake as a free bet or bonus.

Like many other matched betting newbies, when I first started out, I didn’t make the most of these risk-free bet offers. I wrongly assumed that I just needed to place my qualifying bet at high odds and then hope it lost, in order to receive a free bet refund, from which I would extract my profit.

I soon realised that this wasn’t the best approach. Although my selections would lose the majority of the time, there were occasions where my qualifying bet would win, meaning I had made a small loss on the offer and wasted a good opportunity for a guaranteed profit. By underlaying our qualifying bet, instead of matching it completely, we can guarantee ourselves a profit on any outcome.

I’ve therefore put this risk-free bet guide together, to demonstrate just how profitable and straightforward these offers actually are.

Finding a risk-free bet offer

There are a number of bookmakers who offer risk-free bets as their welcome offer, a prime example being Totesport.

As always, it’s important we read the terms and conditions of an offer thoroughly before getting stuck in, although the Totesport welcome offer is pretty straightforward. All we need to do is stake £1.00 or more on any sport and if our bet loses, Totesport will refund our stake as a free bet, up to a maximum of £25.00.

When placing our qualifying bets for risk-free bet offers, we need to place them at high odds (you’ll see why in a few moments). I always tend to look for football matches where there is a clear underdog, in the hope that I can get some tight back and lay odds.

The following odds were for the Tottenham v Bournemouth, Premier League match, which was played on Sunday 20th March 2016…

Back odds for Tottenham v Bournemouth at Totesport.

Lay odds for Tottenham v Bournemouth at Smarkets.

Now that we have some back and lay odds, we need to decide which selection is going to be the most profitable. We can do this by entering the figures into my matched betting calculator, using the ‘Risk-Free Bet’ setting.

You’ll notice that there is an extra ‘Cashback’ field with this setting, and this is where we can enter how much cash we expect to get back, should our qualifying bet lose. If you’ve read through my free bet strategy guide, you’ll know that we are able to extract approximately 80% of our £25.00 free bet as cash. We can therefore enter £20.00 as our ‘Cashback’ figure.

Having entered the figures into my matched betting calculator, the results are as follows…

Selection Back Odds Lay Odds Guaranteed Profit
Tottenham 1.53 1.56 £6.61
Draw 4.20 4.50 £13.59
Bournemouth 7.50 7.80 £16.10

As you can see, if we place our qualifying bet on Bournemouth, we will make a nice profit of £16.10. If we bet on a draw, we’ll make £13.59 profit, and if we bet on Tottenham, we’ll make a measly £6.61 profit. Obviously, we need our back and lay odds to be fairly tight, but generally, the higher the odds, the more guaranteed profit we will make on these risk-free bet offers.

Placing our qualifying bet

Now that we have decided to place our £25.00 qualifying bet on Bournemouth at Totesport, we just need to work out our Smarkets lay stake…

Enter the back stake, cashback amount, odds and commission into the calculator to find out how much we need to lay at Smarkets.

As you can see, by using the ‘Risk-Free Bet’ setting and entering the relevant figures, the calculator tells us that our lay stake should be £21.53.

Enter the lay stake from the calculator at Smarkets.

So, all we need to do is click on the 7.80 lay button and enter our stake of £21.53. It tells us that our liability on this bet is £146.41 and it’s good practice to check this figure against the expected liability on the matched betting calculator. As you can see, they are both the same but for a penny (due to rounding), so we know we have entered the correct lay stake.

We will need to ensure we have enough funds in our Smarkets account to cover the £146.41 liability as this is the amount we stand to lose at Smarkets if Bournemouth win. Don’t worry though, our potential Totesport winnings of £162.50 will more than cover it.

Let’s have a look at our resulting profit/loss for the two outcomes…

Bournemouth win + £162.50 – £146.40 = £16.10 profit
Bournemouth don’t win – £25.00 + £21.10 + £20.00 (extract 80% of £25.00 free bet) = £16.10 profit

So, regardless of whether Bournemouth win, lose or draw, we will make a guaranteed profit of £16.10 on this risk-free bet offer. Given that this was a £25.00 risk-free bet offer, we’ve managed to extract just over 64% of it as cash, which is a good return.

Applying the strategy to any risk-free bet offer

Not only can we apply the above strategy to straightforward offers like the Totesport welcome offer, but we can apply it to any offer where a bookmaker is offering us something back if our bet loses.

Sky Bet ran a great promotion during the Cheltenham Festival 2016, where they were offering money back as a free bet if our horse lost in the first race each day. Using the risk-free bet strategy above, we were able to make a guaranteed profit of £16.00 every day for all four days of the festival, giving us a guaranteed overall profit of £64.00.

The strategy isn’t just limited to offers where the bookmaker will refund our full stake as a free bet or bonus. We can also apply the strategy to offers where we will only receive a percentage of our stake back. 188BET ran a fantastic offer on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival 2016. They were offering 25% money back as a bonus on all Day 1 losses. As you can see, by working out how much cash we could extract from the 25% refund bonus, we were able to make just over £60.00 guaranteed profit!

Probably the most popular risk-free bet offer of them all is the Bet365 in play offer (scroll down to the ‘matched betting method’ section). For some of the biggest matches on the football calendar, Bet365 will invite us to place a £50.00 bet pre-match on any market. In return, they will give us a £50.00 risk-free in play bet. The great thing about these Bet365 offers, is that the risk-free bets are always refunded in cash, meaning we can enter the same ‘Cashback’ figure as our ‘Back stake’ on the calculator to guarantee more profit.

So, keep your eyes peeled for any promotions where the bookmaker is offering you something back on your net losses or if your bet simply loses. By applying the risk-free bet strategy above, we can usually make a nice guaranteed profit with very little hassle.