Only once have I ever chanted Daniel Sturridge’s name.
And it won’t happen again. But this was significant.
Not just because his injury-time winner gave England victory over Wales at Euro 2016 but because his goal had just won me my first ever bet. It also sparked my journey into the world of Matched Betting.
England to win 2-1 seemed such an obvious scoreline in the pub before kick-off. So emboldened by a few pints of Stella, I put £20 on and earned myself £250, immediately proving that betting was a doddle.
“Why on earth hadn’t I thought of doing it before?”
The next day, with a thick head and an aftertaste of Jägermeister on my pallet, I logged in to withdraw my winnings like the betting king I was destined to be. But I noticed something in my bet slip that I wasn’t expecting. Free money in the form of a free bet! An extra £20 just for watching football with my mates? Sweet baby Jesus, what a time to be alive!
Alas, that free bet inevitably lost. Maybe I wasn’t ready to rule the betting world. Wounded, I decided to retire as one of the few gamblers in healthy profit.
Months later at Newcastle races I recounted my epic rags-to-riches tale after being asked why I wasn’t backing any of the horses. I explained – probably smugly – how I didn’t want to ruin my 100% record. The response changed my life.
“Why didn’t you lay that £20 free bet to guarantee yourself profit?”, said one of the lads.
What? I had no idea what he was talking about. “Guaranteed profit?” We all looked at him as though he was talking gibberish.
“Look, I’ll show you.….”
And so as soon as I got home, I threw myself into Matched Betting.
The aim was to make enough ‘risk free’ cash for a milestone birthday holiday with the girlfriend – paid for by the bookies. A couple of years to make a couple of grand.
A WhatsApp group followed, with the lads and I comparing and competing over who had made what each day, weekend and month. Cheltenham and the Grand National came and went and it was like printing money.
Spreadsheets popped up to track profits, bookies accounts and free bets. From a few quid a day, it quickly escalated to hundreds and then thousands per month. Free money and we were sticking it to those greedy bookies!
I passed my holiday target in a couple of months and each month was better than the last. The offers were thick and fast, every day, every sport. My skills were improving as I learned new techniques on how to get an edge. From simple ‘bet X and get Y’ I’m now “dutching” horse races, playing the advanced accumulator, bingo and slots methods (always chance of an epic win) and whilst the risks grew, the rewards became larger and larger.
I’d settled into a routine of waking up, checking how the overnight US sports bets had gone, checking the offers for the day ahead and placing what I could early. Through the day I’d be constantly checking the exchanges to get the best possible matches to maximise returns. I’d race home from work and check I’d covered every bookie and every eventuality on the evening football. Before lights out, I’d do the same for the US.
Saturday and Sunday were more intense with so much sport on. I’d pop down to the bookies for in-shop promotions, or weekly bet clubs that gave you in-store free bets.
The girlfriend was understanding and stayed away while I pored over the day’s offers and odds. The results don’t matter, it’s all about the odds. Making money had never been easier. But my love of football – and family – had never felt more distant.
From being nervous about sticking down a couple of quid, I was now chucking around hundreds if not thousands of pounds without a care in the world. At the time it felt totally worth it for that tenner I’d get from the arb or the guaranteed £5 free bets. It all adds up.
The £500 risk-free offer for this new Football Index thing I kept hearing about suddenly felt like pocket money. I could try it for a week, make some cash, easy-peasy. If I don’t, I get my £500 back and no harm done.
One week later I was up £50, Philippe Coutinho making me some bucks with his impending move to Barcelona. Hmmmm, maybe there was something to it? So thought ‘I’ll keep my eyes on this.’
Two years on from singing Sturridge’s name in the pub and I approach World Cup 2018 with a hefty balance thanks to the Matched Betting. It was all set up to be the big one.
So many games every day, multiple accounts across every bookies and more liquidity than ever, I thought I’d make a killing. The girlfriend was resigned to losing me for the summer but it would be worth it.
Football Index was actually bubbling away nicely in the background and the players had risen soooo much since I started, I really should have been paying it more attention. But Matched Betting is where I was going to make my money during the World Cup, for sure.
Between watching games, hunting offers, signing up to new bookies, spinning the casino offers (I’m bound to hit that big win before long) and chasing up free bets from unfamiliar bookmakers, I just didn’t feel I had the extra time needed for Football Index really.
But it was picking up as the World Cup moved ever closer and the returns were racking up, so I was happy to have it in the background earning me an income while I made some big money elsewhere.
Or so I thought… but the tournament was a bit of a bust from a betting perspective. Spain, Argentina and Germany went out early, along with my main outcome bets. The offers were naff and the odds even naffer. I found I didn’t even care about the games, I just cared about the result and if they qualified me for a free bet or two.
I was still making money from Matched Betting and during the World Cup alone I earned more than my original couple-of-grand target, but it was destroying my personal life.
Without realizing, I’d become anti-social at family gatherings or break off from dog walks on the beach when news broke of a high EV race to dutch. I even remember hunting for signal atop Whitby Abbey to hit an ‘unmissable’ arb. It all felt worth it for the winnings.
It was also getting more difficult. Smaller bookies were restricting or banning me, with more and more following suit as the new season approached. I spent so much time spent arguing the toss with their customer services that could have been better used elsewhere.
Thankfully, I’d seen it coming and been honing the more advanced tricks that don’t need the offers. Yet with the bookies tightening their belts further and offers getting harder to find, I got the sense the writing is on the wall in regards to matched betting so it was time for a change of tactics.
“That Index thing” was still going well, so I looked to pay it a bit more attention. I’d joined a couple of different groups on Twitter with experienced people and realised how much I could be learning from them.
A new online community “IndexGain” also started picking up momentum. Lots of like-minded people talking football and sharing hints, tips, strategies and ideas.
As the bookies were taking the piss more and more, it made sense to invest heavier into Football Index. I found myself watching leagues, teams and players that I’d never even heard of before despite thinking I was pretty clued up on football. The more I watched the more I learnt, the more learnt the more money I made. The more money I made, the closer I was to the holiday.
The platform had really started to boom and I was getting a real sense this could be a major player in the gambling world.
I’m now making more monthly than during my matched betting days and most crucially, I’m spending a fraction of the time focusing on it, with far less stress, and feel like I’ve got my life back again. If I take a break, the index can still provide me with a passive income, something that matched betting can never do.
I’m no longer arguing with Customer Services about a free bet they won’t give me, having my account closed down, scrutinising T&CS, fighting the wagering, or constantly ignoring my family just to make a few quid.
Each month brings new innovations from FI HQ and there is always something on the horizon which gives me confidence that it’s serious long term. The community is growing, people are putting more and more time into the data tools available and IndexGain’s features are going from strength to strength along with the number of users.
All of a sudden the actual football matters again as well – I even follow teams from other leagues and it’s put the fun back into it.
I realised I had fallen out of love with the sport I grew up playing and watching religiously.
Matched Betting was profitable but in hindsight it wasn’t fun. And I wasn’t fun.
Now, whether my teams and players win or lose, I don’t lose my stake. There’s always another game in a couple of days, always another news article around the corner, always a new narrative to navigate.
In late Jan 2019 I withdrew my last bit balance from the bookmakers and put it all into the Index. Now, as we hurtle towards Jan 2020, I have more than doubled that money which was built up over those two years of Matched Betting.
Make no mistake, it’s not all rosy all the time and not at all ‘risk free’. But I firmly believe that we are still at the start of a game-changer in the betting world, and the surface of what it’s capable of has yet to be scratched.
As a relative newcomer Football Index has some real heavyweight links like NASDAQ, Sky Sports, Nottingham Forest and the mighty voice of John Motson. It’s a long overdue disruptor to bookies that have long been rinsing customers and taking them for granted.
In mine and many other’s cases, Football Index has made us more (tax free) money than we could dream of and I’m reaching targets ahead of timeframes I never felt possible.
The community – and it does feel like a community – is going from strength to strength as it gets under peoples skin. It’s given me solid friends on Twitter and IndexGain that I’ve shared many a pint and banter with up and down the country.
More than anything it’s given me back my life.
Untold hours that I hadn’t realised Matched Betting had taken from me and, ultimately, it’s made football fun again.
I still owe the missus a holiday, though.