Monday, December 20, 2004

Beating Sticky Bonuses (Or, You Know, Getting Beaten By Them)

Gotta post the bad with the good, I suppose, as them's the rules. So I ground out many, many poker hands today towards assorted bonuses and was a little burnt out. As well as a little frisky, what with my casino successes lately. So I decided to give the USA Casino signup offer a go. (I'm not even going to link it, as you don't want to go there. Heh.)

The USA bonus is an extra $555 if you deposit $300 or more, with a wager requirement (WR) of just 8 times the bonus plus deposit. So you deposit $300 and get $555, starting with $855. Sounds great, right? Not so fast, partner. It's a sticky casino bonus, which means that when you cashout, it's subtracted from your first withdrawal and it disappears for forever.

So you get the full bonus and play for awhile, have fun, and do relatively well, only losing $25 when you meet the wager requirements. You've got $830 when it's all said and done. Which would normally be sweet, if it wasn't a sticky bonus. Because it's a sticky, the casino subtracts $555 when you cashout, so you only get back $275.

In a nutshell, that's how most sticky bonuses work. They seem great on the surface but it's hard to make a profit from them if you wager normally, betting $5 or $10 a hand, etc. You get a lot of money to bet with but it's basically cotton candy money, as it all goes poof and disappears when you try to get your grubby paws on it.

That said, sticky casino bonuses can be very profitable (but not for the faint of heart or ye of limited bankrolls or limited discipline). If you're willing to make very large bets (and, more importantly, willing to keep pursuing more sticky bonuses), sticky bonuses are +EV. Highly +EV. They give you so much extra money overlay that when you bet big and win, you more than make up for the times when you completely bust out. For each one you set a target goal that, if reached, makes you play across multiple sticky bonuses very profitable.

Let's say you play 10 sticky bonuses, all at different casinos, all which give you a $200 bonus on a $100 deposit, with a 4x deposit plus bonus wager requirement. You start with $300 but keep in mind that $200 will be removed when you cashout. Your goal is $600 for each bonus, which, if you hit it, will give you a profit of $300 after the sticky bonus is subtracted. Once you hit $600 (as long as you've met the WR) you'll cashout. You play until you hit the goal or bust. Your goal has to be high enough to make up for the other inevitable washouts you'll have pursuing similar sticky bonuses. While you could cashout when you're $25 ahead, even after the bonus is removed, this doesn't help you in the long run of chasing bonuses and is actually -EV, despite the fact that it appears to be booking a profit.

Let's say you completely bust out 7 times. The maths say you'll bust out ess than this but let's be pessimistic. That's -$700 total ($100 deposits for each of the 7 casinos). But the other three times you hit your goal of $600 and cashout, which nets you a profit of $300 per casino, for a total of +$900. So overall you make $200, for maybe an hour or two of clicking buttons (remember, you're making very big bets so you either meet the WR and hit your goal or bust out really quickly).

That's the basic theory behind chasing sticky casino bonuses. As far as what "betting big" means, there are a few different schools of thought. Some people say put it all down on one hand of blackjack, betting the entire $300. Others say to bet half your balance on one hand so that you can double or split if need be. Lately there's more support for betting sizable but smaller wagers, something in the range of $50-$100 per hand, just to give yourself a little wriggle room and to clear the WR in a more efficient fashion.

All of which is a long-winded circuitous way of introducing my USA Casino debacle today. I deposited my $300, got the $555 bonus, and started betting $75 a hand, shooting for a goal of $1,600. (Keeping in mind that the $555 sticky bonus gets ultimately subtracted and that I'd like to pursue other sticky bonuses that require a $300 deposit which might completely go down the drain if I bust out there.)

Things don't go so well, then get a little better. Some nice assists from the blackjack gods and ten minutes later I'm sitting at $1,400. This is, ironically, where sticky casino bonuses get really hard. Because I can stop making big bets and play off the rest of the WR at small bets and cashout, booking a profit of $745. Which isn't bad, for ten or fifteen minutes of work.

But that's a -EV play, in the grander scheme of things. You have to maximize the value of the bonuses that come through for you and not punk out, as sticky bonuses are only +EV overall if you max out the winning sessions.

So I bet $200, just needing one hand to come through to get to my goal. Drew to 20, dealer whips out a 5 card 21. Bet $200 again, get smacked down. Then I scale it back to $50 bets, tread water for awhile, then get smacked down again and again and again. At $500 I go back to $200 bets, tread water for a bit, then bust out completely. Nothing. Nada. No soup for you.

Which stings, obviously. There's nothing quite like seeing a +$700 profit turn into a $300 gaping hole in your Neteller account in the span of fifteen minutes or so. But them's the breaks, and, like suffering a horrible beat in a huge pot, it's all one long session, and you'll come out ahead in the end if all your individual plays are +EV.

Which leaves me about to turn the computating device off for the day and watch some football and eat some Kung Pao chicken and pretend this day never occured. La la la la. Nothing to see here. Move along.

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