Online casinos, poker rooms, and sportsbooks always have somewhat of an edge over the player. The house edge is where the casino makes its profits.
However, the player can turn that around and get a large edge over the house by taking advantage of the online bonuses and promotions that are offered by that casino.
Online Poker Bonuses
Online poker is a bit different from the online casinos and sports books, as you are playing against other players and it’s considered more of a skill game. You typically pay a portion of the “rake” (house fee) in the poker hands that you participate in and contribute to the pot. The rake is usually less than 5% of the pot. Poker bonuses give you an opportunity to get some of those fees refunded back to you.
Typically, you will earn poker points whenever you play real money poker, and those poker points will convert into cash back into your account – this is regardless of whether you are a winning or losing poker player, these bonuses act as a type of refund or “rakeback”, partially paying you back for the rake and fees you’ve paid.
The poker bonuses vary in quality depending on how easy it is to earn those poker refunds. Some online poker rooms require a lot of poker points, while others are more generous with their rebates. Read our article about the Poker Bonus Release Rate here to learn more and find the easiest online poker bonuses.
In the end, the poker bonus makes playing online poker cheaper, or PROFITABLE for the break-even player!
Online Casino Bonuses
Online casino bonuses are much different than online poker bonuses because they provide instant value and expected profits. Casino bonuses are often dependent on the amount of your first deposit. For example, a typical casino bonus may be 100% of your deposit, up to a maximum of $100 free. What this means is that if you deposit $50, the casino will give you an extra $50 in chips, so you can start out with $100 to play with! With these bonuses, it is best to maximize the amount if possible, so in this case it would be ideal to deposit $100 to receive an additional $100 in bonus chips.
There are several types of casino bonuses.
The first, and best, type of casino bonus is the CASHABLE bonus. This term means that you may actually withdraw the bonus chips and pocket the cash, AFTER you’ve met the casino’s specific wagering requirements. An example of a casino wagering requirement would be something like – “before you can process a withdrawal, you must wager the sum of the deposit and bonus amounts twenty times over (20x).”
In our example above, if we deposited $100 and received $100, we would have to wager a total amount of $4,000 (20 * $200) before we could withdraw our cash and bonus money. You don’t have to lose that amount, you just have to play that amount.
That may sound like a lot of money to play with, but it isn’t. Let’s say in this example that the casino ALLOWS us to play blackjack to help meet the wagering requirements (the online casinos have different rules on which games you may actually play when meeting the wagering requirements).
Typical online blackjack has a house edge of only 0.50% (one-half of 1%), so if we wagered a sum of $4,000 at blackjack, we could expect to lose $20 (.50% * $4,000). Since we started with a bankroll of $200, we would end up with $180 and could now withdraw our funds.
We just profited $80 after depositing only $100! That’s an 80% return on our money!
This is an example of a cashable bonus (which allows blackjack in the wagering requirements).
A more common casino bonus is the “sticky” bonus or non-cashable bonus. The sticky bonus is often presented similarly to the cashable bonus, such as a 100% initial deposit bonus for up to $100, with a 20x wagering requirement. But in this case, the bonus amount of $100 can never be withdrawn, only played with. You would still start with a bankroll of $200, but the first $100 played will be your deposited money. If you lose that amount, you will then be playing with the $100 of bonus money. This bonus money acts as a type of free loan, allowing you a chance to make back your deposit money or even more.
With this type of bonus, I think you’re better off going for a bigger score. Since you cannot withdraw the bonus amount, but you CAN withdraw any winnings made from the bonus chips, you will want to risk the bonus money hoping to earn a profit.
For example, if we played all $200 on a single hand of blackjack, and had a 49.5% chance of winning, we would either end up with $0 (50.5% of the time) or $400 (49.5% of the time).
Assuming we have the same wagering requirement of $4,000 and therefore the expected loss of $20, we would end up with $380 (49.5% of the time) – this is a $180 profit (49.5% of the time).
Our “Expected Value” with this example strategy yields EV = (-100 * .505) + (180 * .495) = $38.60, or in other words, on average we would expect to earn a profit of $38.60 following this hypothetical!
But as you can see, our cashable bonus had an expected return of $80 with much less risk or variance, where our sticky bonus example sees an expected return of $38.60 with much more variance. Both are clearly profitable, but the cashable bonus is better!
There are even better strategies to maximize the expected value on the sticky bonus, but that’s an entirely different discussion.
No Deposit Bonus
The no deposit bonus is an awesome deal, basically giving you a small sum of free money just to register an account and try out the real money games! The rules for such bonuses are varied depending on the casino, but the amounts typically range from £5 to £25, have some sort of wagering requirements, and the bonuses themselves can sometimes be withdrawn and sometimes not.
There is absolutely no risk for these bonuses as they are given to you before you even make a deposit!
Check out our recommended no deposit bonus offers here.
Sports Betting Free Bet Bonuses
Our final category of bonuses apply to sports bettors. The sports betting bonuses are almost always an incredible deal and they are always worth pursuing. They typically provide new players a free bet, ranging from £10 to £50 free.
How it works is that you must be new to the sports book – either a brand new customer, or a customer who has just never tried the sports betting service. Then you must place your first bet. Regardless of winning or losing that first bet, you will then get rewarded with a matching free bet, up to a maximum amount of £25 or £50 (or whatever the offer is).
You can then place this free bet, risk free, on any sports wager you’d like. If you win, you get to keep the proceeds, but not the original wager amount. If you lose, well you just played with the house’s money so there was no risk!
As a new customer joining a gaming site that offers casino, poker, and sports betting products, sometimes you must choose which welcome bonus to accept. Other sites may allow you a welcome bonus from all their products. Be sure to look into your options and contact the operator’s customer support if you have any questions. If you like betting on sports, typically the sports welcome bonus or free bet offer is the simplest and provides the most value, followed by the casino bonus, and then the poker bonus.
Hope that helps describe the typical bonus structures that are commonly promoted! Be sure to read our strategy articles regarding the best places and ways to profit from these bonus offers!