Beating Bonuses Beating Bonuses




A "sticky" bonus is a bonus that can be bet, but can never be withdrawn. There are several different types of sticky bonuses: the common "phantom" sticky used by the larger software groups and the less common variations used by some of the smaller software groups.


"Phantom" Sticky Bonuses

The most common type of sticky is the "phantom" bonus. It is also known by other names, including sticky type I. The tables on this site list this type of bonus simply as "Sticky." Phantom sticky bonuses can be found at some Playtech, Real Time Gaming, and Microgaming casinos. The bonus is immediately added to your deposit. You can bet and play the bonus. If you make a withdrawal, the bonus is subtracted from your balance. For example, if you received a $100 sticky bonus on a $100 deposit, then you would begin with a balance of $200. If your ending balance was $250 and you made a withdrawal, you would receive $150 after the $100 bonus was removed.

At first this may not seem like a useful bonus. With no bankroll limitations, the average loss would be wagering * house edge (per unit wagered). The advantage comes from having bankroll limitations. During the times that you bust, you wager both the bonus and deposit, but you lose only the deposit. Or another way of looking at it... when you wager the bonus, you get to keep your winnings, and you don't have to pay your losses. This increases the average return by chance of bust * bonus, so the return becomes:

Average Gain = Bonus * Chance of Bust - Average Wagering * House Edge (per unit wagered)

Some examples will make this more clear. To keep things simple, I'll start with a single bet. Imagine that you have a $100 cash balance and a $100 bonus balance. If you bet all $200 on the numbers 1-18 in single-zero roulette, then 18/37 of the time you win and gain $200. And 19/37 of the time you lose your $100 deposit. This makes the expected gain 18/37*$200 - 19/37*100 = $45.90. The formula predicts the same average gain: $100 * 19/37 - $200 * 1/37 = $45.90 . Sticky bonuses typically have a wagering requirements. So for a more complete example, I'll include a 20xB wagering requirement. If you bet the full balance on the numbers 1-18, then complete wagering on blackjack, the expected gain is 18/37*($200 - $100*18*.005) - 19/37*$100 = $41.57 . The formula predicts: $100*19/37 - $200*1/37 - 18/37*$100*18*.005 = $41.57

You approach an average gain of the bonus size as you increase the chance of busting early on. If you had bet all $200 on a single number in roulette, rather than on 1-18, the average gain would be ~$92. The obvious downside is busting and losing your deposit nearly every time. Using such a strategy, you might never get a win. A less obvious downside is increasing the chance of the casino labeling you a bonus abuser to avoid paying a large win. This is a realistic concern, as some of the casinos offering "phantom" sticky bonuses have a history of labeling players bonus abusers and other such problems. See the IOG group warning for more information.

As an alternative to minimize risk of being flagged as a bonus abuser, you could begin playing through the bonus with larger bets on blackjack, continue until you either reach your desired target or bust, then switch to smaller bets after reaching your target. This method has the added advantage of greatly reducing the amount of time required to complete wagering requirements. In the $100 cash / $100 sticky bonus example above, you might start playing with $50 bets, the switch to smaller bets, if you reach a target of $400 (2x bankroll). The expected gain with this strategy is slightly higher than with a full-bankroll roulette/baccarat bet.

You can play many games besides blackjack and roulette. Full pay Jacks or Better (video poker) has a similar house edge to blackjack, but has a much higher variance. This allows you to use a smaller bet size and have a similar average gain. When selecting a game, be sure to read the restrictions listed in the T&C. Some games may not be allowed at all; and some games may be allowed, but not count towards wagering. To be on the safe side, I recommend getting written approval from support before playing a game that is allowed, but does not count towards wagering.

See the two-tier betting page for a more detailed discussion of strategies, game choices, and average gain with sticky bonuses.



Some of the smaller software providers including Grand Virtual, Chartwell, Parlay, and Wager21 use different varieties of sticky bonus. These variations usually involve one or both of the following rule differences:

1. The bonus is not removed from your account after a withdrawal. After completing the wagering requirement, you can cash in your winnings + deposit, then continue betting the bonus.

2. If your bonus balance drops due to losses, any wins on the remaining balance are immediately cashable. You do not need to exceed your original balance to make a cashout.

These rule changes make the bonus much more desirable. While technically a sticky bonus, average return and risk level can be comparable to a typical cashable bonus. Optimal strategy also differs from a "phantom" bonus. Given rule #1, obviously cash in your winnings and deposit after completing wagering, so only the bonus remains. Next (rule #2) play through the remaining bonus 1x, cashing out and withdrawing each win. You can then cancel your many withdrawals and combine them into one big withdrawal. Using this strategy, the average retention of the remaining bonus is Bonus * (1- house edge). If you had a $100 bonus and made ten $10 bets on player in baccarat, then the average gain would be $100 * (1 - .012) = ~$99. In this example, the average gain is $1 lower than a typical cashable bonus with equivalent wagering.


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