You’d be forgiven for simply thinking you get free money when you sign up with a sportsbook and make a deposit. After all, they make it sound as if they’re giving stuff away, and some European countries are notably restricting the use of word “free” when it comes to advertising gambling offers. So, if you found sportsbook bonuses such as the ones found on Stave, how to actually claim the bonus, knowing what you’re doing the whole time?
First of all, calculate the expected value of the bonus. House edge differs among sportsbooks but you’d be fine using 5 per cent as the most common value. Look at the terms and conditions of the bonus and see how much money do you have to wager before you can cash out whatever you have left in your account. If you have to wager $5,000 and the bookie vig is 5%, you’re expected to lose 5% of $10,000 – which is $250. Bonus better be $300!
Once you are able to calculate the expected value of the bonus, you’ll also be able to keep clear of bad bonuses that have a negative expected value, and you’ll only be playing with those sportsbooks that offer bonuses with a positive expected value. Any positive value is good, even $5, because that means you can play like a fool and still win money. If you know the exact vigorish of some sportsbook (or a specific bet market you’re usually betting on), use that and you’ll have a more precise calculation.
Let’s just use Bovada’s 50% up to $250 bonus as an example. This is actually a free bet so you don’t get to keep the $250 but will be able to use it to place a bet and keep the winnings. In any case, since the rollover is 5x you’ll have to wager $3750. If we assume the vig is 5% you stand to lose $187.50. If you got to keep the $250 this would be an excellent proposal, but sadly the only way you’ll see $250 is to place a bet with your free $250 bet on even odds and win. If you lose, you played for nothing. Now this is pretty vital information, and will help you make better judgements.
Mind the variance
While it may be tempting to go all in and place a huge bet to quickly progress through the rollover requirements, in most cases it would be much wiser to place lots of smaller bets. The ultimate goal here is to only lose what you’d lose from house edge, and avoid a situation in which you’re losing two or three bets in a row at all costs. Or, if you must lose two or three bets in a row, make it meaningless by placing small $5 or $10 bets that won’t matter much in the grand scheme of things.
It’s perfectly possible to place a very good bet – one you should win – but then lose it because of pure randomness inherent in sport. And it’s perfectly possible for that to happen several times in a row. That’s why we need to reduce our risk by placing smaller bets.
Your goal is winning
However, if we constantly placed small bets and ended up losing exactly the amount our expected value calculation says we should lose, we’d never win more than a few bucks on every bonus we claim. Just like in NFL, if you don’t attempt that deep risky pass you’ll never actually score, and you’ll dink-and-dunk your way to defeat. Same can be said about betting. Use your chances when they come along, place big bets when you feel the time is right, and above all – try to win money from the sportsbook. The math of the bonus will help you make better decisions, but in the end ultimately it’s about your ability to beat the sportsbook. And we hope our little math lesson made it less likely that the sportsbook will beat you. Good luck!