This Is Why I Drink, And How Matched Betting Taught Me To Appreciate My Job

damar
So anyway, we open the panda crate, and wouldn’t you know it, the damn thing was dead. Upchucked its bamboo. True story.

Some days at the office are better than others, and some of those other days couldn’t be over soon enough1. Over the years I’ve had days like this:

And I’ve had days like this (metaphorically speaking):

So it’s hardly surprising that my ears prick up each time anyone mentions earning a ton of cash by doing fuck all. To be honest, I don’t think it’s just me. In fact, I don’t think the quest for a free lunch is something which is limited to the humankind only. There isn’t a predator species on earth that would rather hunt than scavenge, and it all begins with the brutal frugality of nature. Squandering energy is a recipe for extinction; those that do get relegated to the Natural History Museum’s east wing. But I digress.

I don’t gamble in general2. Because: I hate to lose. Matched betting was my first foray into the world of online betting, and what a world that is. It wasn’t all bad, I did make some free cash; £938.02 over a little more than a month, to be precise3. And although the process was both time consuming and boring – so moverloving boring – the earnings are tax free. Hasa diga, HMRC.

How it works

Matched betting profits come from two sources: arbitrage and bookmakers’ promotional offers. The latter, once you chomp through all their new customer enticement carrots, can be rather unpredictable. The former will quickly land you on bookies’ naughty lists, which will result in closure of your online betting accounts. Bookies use Big Data these days, you see, and for some reason they dislike clients who match bets.

Arbitrage

In betting arbitrage, just like in financial arbitrage, you exploit price differences and make money on the margin. That’s usually small change. But it’s easy and quick, and it is by far my favourite form of matched betting. Spot an opportunity, back £100 with a bookie, lay at the exchange, then all you have to do is wait for the bet to settle. Bingo! you’ve made £6.85 in less than a minute.

The downsides are that (1) opportunities where you can lay in excess of £100 at the exchange at good odds are few and far between and (2) Big Data: the higher the stakes, the quicker you get onto the aforementioned naughty list and have your little operation shut down. Shame, that.

Promotional offers

Most promotional offers come in the form of free bets, and you can expect to “earn” about 80% of the free bet amount. E.g. a £5 free bet = £4 cash. There’s usually qualifying criteria to be met, so depending on the qualifying criteria and the free bet amount, and taking into account an occasional newbie f*up (they happen), at times you can end up “earning” an hourly rate that’s not much higher than the minimum wage. The higher your tax rate, the better it works out once you take into account imputed tax.

There are also deposit bonus offers where you have to wager your bonus many times over before you’re allowed to withdraw it, enhanced odds, risk free bets, profit boosts, and so on. Again, turning these into cash takes time and effort.

Is it worthwhile?

Not really. Rate divided by time equals profit (54th Rule of Acquisition), and herein lies the problem with matched betting. The rate is too low for my liking, and it decreases further as bookies begin to place restrictions on your accounts.

Having said that, it can be doable if you already enjoy betting on sports, or if there’s a particular sport (say, football) that you watch on telly rain or shine. Then you might as well pick up a few in-play bet offers, seeing as your behind is going to be glued to your sofa for the duration. Otherwise it’s a chore, and a tedious one at that.

Whatever the downsides of your day job, it’s got to be more interesting than matched betting, as well as better paid. The way I see it, if I’m going to be selling time for money in evenings and on weekends, it’s more profitable for me to try and push for a higher bonus bracket at work than to sit in front of a screen placing bets so as to pick up £25 on Saturday horse racing.

Where do I sign up?

But if you still want to give matched betting a go, I recommend signing up to Odds Monkey. They have newbie guides and the web-based software that finds matched betting opportunities. I don’t do affiliate/referral links, but some FI bloggers do. And if you’re going to sign up anyway, why not do it through a referral, help a fellow FI-ed out. Quietly Saving has a referral link on her website.

Here’s a random collection of tips I wish I had read before I started matched betting:

  • Try before you buy. An annual subscription to a matched betting site such as Odds Monkey can be cheaper than paying monthly, but try doing it for a while before purchasing 12 months’ worth. If you’re like me, a month will be more than enough.
  • When making deposits with bookies online only use debit cards and/or PayPal. Deposits are processed as cash transactions on credit cards. If you pay off your credit card bill monthly via a direct debit, you’ll still be charged 19% (or whatever’s the going rate) compound interest from the date of the transaction up until when the direct debit comes out. Even if you’re depositing £50, it’s still a £50 you don’t need to borrow at 19%.
  • If you’re betting on horses more than a few hours before the race, underlay your bets a little. Rule 4 is a bitch, and exchanges calculate deductions differently from how bookies do it. You can end up losing money because of it.
  • If you see yourself sticking with it, don’t arbitrage too much. You can find various theories and “information from reliable sources” on matched betting forums about what kind of arbitrage gets you put on bookies’ naughty lists and your accounts shut. I’m not sure if any of them have any merit. I’ve seen Big Data at work. It’s a fucking massive algorithm with a zillion variables supervised by a team of nerds, and (my impression at least) no single person in that team can coherently explain how that chimera of a thing fits together. If the computer says no, baby, then the computer says no.
  • On the subject of naughty lists, be aware of affiliate sites. ApolloBet and BoyleSports, Stan James and Unibet, 888sport and LeoVegas, Totesport and Betfred… and many more. Often these are merely different bookmaker brands that trade under a single gambling license. Some, e.g. ApolloBet and BoyleSports, share (at least some) software and databases. In my experience, if you open accounts with both in short succession, that will get you shut down – instantly – with at least one of them, and possibly both.

Good luck.

Notes:

  1. Those of you who have read this blog before will know that I don’t believe in self-actualisation through work. I have yammered about this before and I intend to continue.
  2. Putting a few quid on a race card at a corporate horse racing event doesn’t count. That’s about complying with convention, anything other than that would be perceived as strange by colleagues and clients. Ditto casinos, which allow you to peruse their 24-hour alcohol license so long as you’re willing to drop a few chips on a roulette table every now and then.
  3. I kept a spreadsheet. Obviously.

A special note on copyright:

Most of the visual material used in this post has been stolen from The Gul’s Itch Tumblr. STDS9 pictures + Futurama quotes = Nerdy bliss.

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11 thoughts on “This Is Why I Drink, And How Matched Betting Taught Me To Appreciate My Job”

  1. Hi 3652,

    I am glad I am not the only one who seems to think that matched betting isnt worth the effort for the returns. Whilst I know some of the FI community do make some good returns on it, its a huge amount of effort for that amount of money, and as a couple of others have said, its easy to make a mistake.

    FIREin’ London (disclaimer, site only just setup….)

    Like

    1. Indeed.
      Back in 2008/2009 Grauniad ran several articles in Your Money section along the lines of ‘how to make a few pounds on the side in a recession’. Most of their suggestions would have resulted in being paid less than the minimum wage… It looks like competition in the free lunch industry is rather stiff 😉

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  2. Thanks very much for the shout out, hosimpson!

    I currently spend ‘enough’ time on MB to get (in my opinion) a decent tax-free income (around £400 monthly on average). I’d say that time-wise, that’s me pretty much maxed out.

    I don’t find it tedious, though I guess it helps that I do like my football and as a former gambler, there’s still a little excitement in MB as luck still plays a big part in whether you get free bets or not.

    For now, most of my main accounts are still intact – I don’t place big bets, certainly nothing >£50.

    MB isn’t for everyone but in a similar vein, I’m unlikely to ever get into ebook publishing (although I did check it out to see if it was something I would want to do – it wasn’t), which appears to be a huge earner for some people.

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    1. Glad to hear it works for you 🙂 I agree that £400 per month tax free for doing something that you already do anyway isn’t bad at all. In my case however it required allocating a significant amount of time away from things I enjoyed doing so as to make space for something I had no interest in.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Always interesting to see different perspectives on this rather than the usual OMG this is the easiest free money you will ever earn type of posts which are our there. I’ve retorted income but hopefully not over sold it on my blog so far at least.

    I also find it quite boring if I’m honest but when you hit a decent win off a free bet it’s pretty good. As weenie said it’s a nice way to get a gambling buzz for free essentially as a lot of offers are down to chance if they are triggered.

    Also I think it comes down to how much you earn on your day job, if you earn 100/hour at work then yes you might as well just work more as you’ll never earn that over time with MB.

    I do agree with all the downsides you point out and I’d even add that it feels a bit “dirty”, which is why I decided to donate 10% of my profits to charity to attempt to rebalance my karmic energies or whatever bollocks you want to call that. But overall for me it’s still worth it given my hourly rate at work, the fact i can do it while sat on the couch while the Mrs watches some TV in the evening which would otherwise be productive, and the fact that I like to have a flutter quite often anyway it ticks enough boxes for me.

    Clearly not for everyone tho!

    For the record I’m earning about £1K/month for I’d estimate 15-20 hours work so over £50/hour most months I think. There are some tricks you can use to juice returns some of which I’ll reveal on my blog eventually 🙂

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  4. I can maybe just see it on the MB, if you already like a flutter. I certainly have no sympathy for the companies on the other side of the zero-sum.

    But the e-publishing – I’d rather churn out the plastic tat that goes into christmas crackers than puke up an e-book. I love reading, hence I find the whole endeavour utterly tragic.

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    1. Save for things that are morally reprehensible or could land you in jail, I think all experience is good experience, especially when it’s free or even better, nets you a few quid 🙂 Overall I’m glad I tried it out, even though, upon investigation, I found it to be a waste of oxygen and internet. From what I gather about you from your blog, I recon you’re not too displeased either with having waded into those murky waters to see what’s swimming there. Stoats are curious animals 😉
      I’m a little sorry for the people who must rely on matched betting to achieve their financial goals, or worse, to live on. Makes me count my blessings.

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      1. I got some win out of it, and at least I know what the score is from the inside, but what I’m left with now is the feeling I’m a *really* lazy b’stard. Mind you, I learned something from your tips.

        There’s always ebooks and surveys? Don’t think I’m hungry enough for the free lunch!

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