INTRODUCTION TO SPORTSBOOK BONUSES
Many sportsbooks offer sign-up bonuses and/or reload bonuses. Bonuses may be cashable with a wagering requirement, a free bet, or several other formats. Sportsbooks bonuses can be profitable, often with less risk than casino bonuses.
There are thousands of online sportsbooks. In many cases, they are connected to online casinos. Some groups allow players to claim a sign-up bonus at both their sportsbook and casino. Some groups permit only one sign-up bonus -- either the sportsbook or the casino. Online sportsbooks offer bets on many different sports and even non-sport events, such as election outcomes. One can back an overall win, a particular score, a half-time lead, or many other results. A partial description of bet types that may be available is below:
Game Outcome -- Betting on the game outcome of an event, or leader at a point in the game
Point Spread & Handicaps -- Betting on whether a favorite will win by a certain number of points
Total Points & Over / Under -- Betting on the combined total points scored by both teams
Lay Bets -- Betting that a result will not occur, basically taking the role of the bookmaker. Lay bets are available with several betting exchanges.
Accumulator / Parlay / Multi-way -- Betting on multiple linked wagers. The bet only pays if all of the wagers win. This is generally a high variance bet with a high risk of a loss and a chance of a large win in relation to the initial bet.
Teaser -- A Parlay with modified point spreads to increase chance of a win.
Proposition Bets -- Betting on a very specific result in the game, such as the exact number of goals scored by both teams
Futures -- Betting on the winner of a championship match or other future major accomplishment by the team
Spread Betting -- Betting with a variable payout depending on the accuracy of the bet. Spread betting often gives the opportunity to win or lose much more than your initial bet.
Sportsbooks may express odds of an event in decimal, fractional, or American format. Decimal odds refer to the full amount that is paid out on a win, including the stake. Decimal odds of 3.00 means a £100 bet pays out a total of £300 -- the £100 stake and £200 in winnings. Fractional odds refer to the size of the winnings, without the stake. Fractional odds of 2/1 means a £100 bet returns £200 in winnings. Bookmakers may also offer American odds. American odds may be either positive or negative. When positive they refer to the winnings on a 100 unit bet. American odds of +200 means a £100 bet returns £200. When negative, American odds are the bet required to receive 100 in winnings. Odds of -200 means a £200 bet would return £100 in winnings. Bookmakers often allow you to convert the listed odds from one format to another. So American odds of -200 are equivalent to fractional odds of 1/2 and decimal odds of 1.50.
Bookmakers often allow you to convert the listed odds from one format to another. I recommend choosing decimal odds. You can use the matched betting calculator to convert odds. Enter the odds in any format, then select the button that corresponds the desired new format.
Some sportsbooks offer cashable bonuses, which are similar to cashable bonuses in casinos. The player cannot withdraw the bonus until completing a wagering requirement in the sportsbook. For example, a sportsbook might offer a 100% match up to €50 with a wagering requirement of 3x (bonus + deposit). After wagering 3x €100 = €300, in the sportsbook, the player can withdraw the €50 bonus. Wagering requirements for sportsbooks bonuses are generally smaller than casino bonuses. A good number of sportsbooks offer low percentage match bonuses, which can make wagering requirements sound lower than they actually are. A 3x(B+D) wagering requirement at 10% is equivalent to 33xB wagering. Completing a wagering requirement through sports betting is often quite slow. You may need to wait hours or even days for a bet to complete. However, you can place many bets at once (on different games) and simultaneously wait for all of those bets to complete. This reduces variance, as well as time required.
One popular strategy for decreasing variance over a wagering requirements is matched betting. Matched betting may also decrease EV significantly, depending on the specific odds of the bets and commissions. However, if you find rare bets with higher back odds than lay odds, then EV may also increase. So the EV of cashable bonuses varies tremendously depending on the specific bets and odds, commissions, and whether the bets are matched. See the matched betting page for a more detailed summary.
As stated above, one way to increase the EV of cashable bonuses is to match bets with low lay odds in comparison with the back odds. An alternative way to increase EV is to start out by betting the full bankroll on a rare event with high odds. This is equivalent to "stickying up" a casino bonus. Note that "stickying up" only increases EV significantly, if you are expected to lose a good amount of the bonus value during the wagering.
A sticky bonus is a bonus that can be bet, but cannot be withdrawn. Many sportsbooks have non-withdrawable free bets, but sportsbooks rarely have sticky bonuses that are not part of a free bet.
Like sticky casino bonuses, you can increase EV dramatically by setting a high target and increasing bust risk. With sports bets, a high target corresponds to high odds. A key downside of choosing high odds is rarely ever winning and making a cashout. One solution to this problem is matched betting. By using matched betting, you can retain a net profit when the high odds bet loses, as well as when it wins. However, matched betting is not without risk, especially when dealing with high odds and large lay liabilities. See the matched betting page for a more detailed summary.
Some sportsbooks offer free bets to new players. If the bet pays, you receive winnings. If the bet loses, you do not have to pay losses. This is obviously a great deal. Free bets may be given without a wagering requirement, or free bets may require wagering without a bonus. Free bets may restrict play to particular odds (often 2.0 or greater) or particular games. Be sure to read the full T&C before claiming a bonus. The two most common variations are stakes returned (SR) and stakes not returned (SNR).
Staked Returned (SR) free bets return the stake as well as the winnings on the stake. For example, a sportsbook might offer a £50 free bet with stakes returned. If you make a 1:1 bet (2.0 decimal odds), the bet would return £100 on a win. Assuming no loss to odds and commissions, the EV would be 50% * £100 + 50% * £0 = £50... the size of the bonus. SR free bets often have an average bonus retention of nearly 100%!
Staked Not Returned (SNR) free bets only return winnings on the stake. They do not return the initial stake. In the £50 free bet example above, a SNR bet would only return £50, decreasing EV to 50% * £50 + 50% * £0 = £25. This is only a 50% bonus retention. Like sticky bonuses, you can increase EV by setting a high target and increasing bust risk. If you bet the £50 on a 4:1 bet (5.0 decimal odds), then the EV of the bet would increase to 20% * £200 + 80% * £0 = £40... an 80% bonus retention. Without a lay bet or commission, the EV of a free bet with stakes not returned is free bet size * (odds - 1) / odds , when odds is expressed in decimal. Like sticky bonuses, matched betting can be used to increase the chance of a cashout when dealing with high odds. See the matched betting page for a more detailed summary.
Sportsbooks may offer various other unique bonuses including refer a friend bonuses, cashback bonuses, and bonuses based on the outcome of special events.
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