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CASHABLE BONUSES

 

Introduction

Cashable bonuses are the most common and most simple variety of casino bonuses. After completing a wagering requirement, you are able to withdraw the bonus. For example, a casino might offer a 100% match bonus of $100 with a 20x bonus wagering requirement. After depositing $100, you are awarded the $100 bonus, increasing your balance to $200. You are not able to withdraw the bonus until having placed a total of $2000 worth of wagers in the casino.

 

Game Selection

I recommend always reading the terms & conditions before claiming a bonus. T&Cs often limit what games you can play to complete wagering. Games that allow simultaneous bets on winning and losing outcomes are rarely allowed with cashable bonuses. This includes Roulette, Baccarat, Craps, and Sic Bo. Blackjack is often not allowed as well for different reasons. Blackjack has a low house edge and a reasonable variance, making it the most desirable game in the casino to complete wagering requirements.

The table below lists house edge and standard deviation data for common game choices. House edge is defined as average loss per initial bet. For the purposes of bonus play, a more useful figure is average loss per unit wagered. Both of these house edge values are listed in the table. The two values will only differ for games with raises or doubles, where the final bet size may be larger than the initial bet.

The final two columns list the average gain and one standard deviation range of gains for the $100 bonus with 20xB wagering mentioned earlier. For the 1 SD range, bet size is assumed to be $5. In the n-play video pokers, this is the total initial bet summed over all hands, not the bet per each hand. For example with 100-play Jacks or Better, there is a $0.05 bet on each of the 100 hands, resulting in a total bet of $5. The standard deviations in the table are calculated with the same assumptions.

Game
House Edge
Standard Deviation
Average Gain With $100 20xB Bonus
1 SD With $100
20xB Bonus,
Using $5 Bets
Per Initial Bet
Per Unit Wagered
Per Initial Bet
Per Unit Wagered
Blackjack: Standard
~0.5%
~0.45%
1.14
1.07
$91
-$15 to +$200
Video Poker: Jacks or Better 100-play
0.46%
0.46%
1.46
1.46
$91
-$55 to +$235
Video Poker: Jacks or Better 10-play
0.46%
0.46%
1.93
1.93
$91
-$100 to +$285
Video Poker: Jacks or Better 4-play
0.46%
0.46%
2.52
2.52
$91
-$160 to +$345
Video Poker: Jacks or Better 1-play
0.46%
0.46%
4.42
4.42
$91
-$350 to +$535
Texas Hold'em Bonus
2.04%
0.53%
3.50
1.79
$89
-$90 to +$270
Casino Hold'em
2.16%
0.82%
2.61
1.61
$84
-$80 to +$240
3-Card Poker: Ante & Play
3.37%
2.01%
1.64
1.27
$60
-$65 to +$185
3-Card Poker: Pair Plus
2.32%
2.32%
2.91
2.91
$54
-$235 to +$345

Looking at the table, the best game choice is clearly Blackjack. Texas Hold'em Bonus, Casino Hold'em, and Jacks or Better Video Poker also have a high average gain, but have a higher variance. This results in a large 1 SD range of return, and a good chance of busting before completing wagering requirements. You may wish to reduce bet size to minimize this variance. If these four games are not available, I recommend 3-Card Poker: Ante & Play. Note that the 3-card poker pair plus bet has a lower house edge per initial bet than the ante & play bet, but a higher house edge per unit wagered. The house edge per unit wagered is the more useful figure when estimating loss over a wagering requirement.

 

Bet Size

Bet size controls the risk of deviating from the average return in the table above.  Using a small bet reduces the risk of busting before meeting the wagering requirement, but increases the number of hands to play and time involved. A larger bet increases the chance of a loss or gain well above the expected return. Selecting bet size is a balance between reducing the risk of a loss and reducing the time investment.

The table below lists the chance of making a gain and time required with a variety of bet sizes, playing blackjack in the $100 20xB wagering bonus example. See the Return & Variance Calculator for checking other bet sizes.

Bet Size
Hands
Hours*
Chance of Gain
1 Standard Deviation
1
~1800
3
97%
+45 to +140
2
~900
1.5
91%
+25 to +160
3
~600
1
87%
+10 to +175
5
~350
0.6
80%
-15 to +200
10
~175
0.3
73%
-60 to +245
*(Rate is play is estimated at 600 hands per hour. Maximum rate varies with software and skill.)

 

Advanced Strategy

The expected gain of a cashable (pre-wager) bonus can be expressed as bonus - average wagering * house edge (per unit wagered). Completing the wagering requirement with small blackjack bets in the $100 20xB bonus example above, the average gain is $100 - 2000 * 0.45% = ~$90. Note that I wrote "average wagering." You can reduce the average wagering by increasing your chance of busting early on in the wagering.

For example, if you bet your entire balance on a coin flip type game prior to completing wagering, then half the time you would bust and lose $100. The other half of the time, you would win the bet and begin with a balance of $400. After losing $10 over the course of the wagering, you are expected to end with a balance of $390. Half of the time you lose $100, and half of the time you gain $290, for an average gain of (-$100 + $290)/2 = ~$95.

Along the same lines, you could make large bets on blackjack until reaching a 2x bankroll target, then switch to smaller bets. Again, you'd roughly cut the average wagering in half and reduce expected loss during wagering by nearly half. You could also increase average gain by making large bets throughout the wagering (not reducing bet size after reaching a target) since average wagering is decreased with large bets of a fixed size, as well as with large bets until reaching a target gain.

There are many possible game choices besides blackjack. You could start playing through the bonus on a higher variance game like Video Poker or Texas Hold'em Bonus, then switch to a lower variance game after reaching a target gain. See the Two-Tier Betting Page for more detailed information on advanced strategies like these and more specific information about the degree of increase in average gain.

 

Post-wager Bonuses & Other Variations

Some casinos do not award cashable bonuses until after completing wagering. These bonuses are listed as "Post-wager" in some of the bonus lists. Obviously large or high variance betting will not increase EV, if you cannot bet the bonus. This rule changes the expected gain to bonus - wagering requirement * house edge (per unit wagered).

Some softwares allow you to cash out winnings from bonus play without completing wagering. This opens the door to alternative strategies.

 

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