Wednesday, September 06, 2006

How to Cash in on Sportsbook Bonuses

This Mansion free bet promo is a pretty good segue into a general post on how you can profit from sportsbook bonuses. And, unlike casino bonuses and poker bonuses, it's pretty much risk-free. Yes, indeedy, that's correct. So, with no further ado, here is yet anoter epic screed from me, detailing how to profit from sportsbook bonuses.

How to Cash in on Sportsbook Bonuses

Taking advantage of sportsbook bonuses are a bit different than casino bonuses and poker bonuses, and take a different approach. If you’re going to go after these as an advantage player, you have to accept a few principles:

1) You aren’t gambling at all.
2) You need a fairly large bankroll to do these, and your money can be tied up for quite awhile.
3) It is a very boring and unsexy way to make money.

If you like sportsbetting, there’s nothing wrong with just depositing, getting a bonus, and picking teams that you think will win. That’s gambling, obviously, and some people make lots of money doing it. What I’m about to describe is very different, and doesn’t involve picking the team you think you’ll win, analyzing stats, or anything like that. It’s just a mechanism to take advantage of bonus offers by making risk-free bets.

This strategy is an offshoot of arbitrage trading, which is not only used in the world of sportsbook, but also in the larger world of investing. Arbitrage trading is essentially taking advantage of inequalities in the prices of commodities on trading exchanges. If you're diligent and know what to look for, you can find situations where you can lock in a guaranteed profit, by both simultaneously buying and selling a commodity. Say you're on the bus and the guy to your left offers to sell you his watch for $50, and, at the same time, the guy to your right says "If you buy it, I'll give you $50.25 for it." You buy the watch, hand it to the guy on your right, and profit .25 for doing absolutely nothing. Which is just a quarter, obviously, but if you do it over and over and over, the quarters add up.

As far as the specific strategy for sportsbook bonuses, at first it's a little counter-intuitive. Let’s walk through a quick hypothetical example:

You deposit $1,000 at CanBet and get a $200 bonus, with a WR of 5x deposit + bonus. So you start with $1,200 and you have to wager a total of $6,000 before you can withdraw.

You also deposit $1,000 at LinesMaker and get a $150 bonus, with a WR of 2x bonus + deposit. So you start with $1,150 and have to wager a total of $2,300 before you can withdraw.

So now you have two different accounts at two different sportsbooks, each with their own bonus money and WR requirements. What you’re looking for are offsetting lines, so that you can make what is essentially a risk-free wager, betting both sides of the same game.

Let’s say you find the following NFL lines:

Houston vs. Tampa Bay
CanBet Houston -2.5 +105
LinesMaker Tampa Bay +2.5 -105

This is exactly the situation you’re looking for. Both the point spreads and the lines match up so that you can make a risk-free wager on this game. You make the following wagers:

At CanBet you bet $100 on Houston; if Houston pays off, this bet pays $105.
At LinesMaker you bet $105 on Tampa Bay to win; if Tampa pays off, this bet pays $100

Total wagers: $205
Total payout (regardless of actual outcome): $205
Net gain/loss: $0

Which looks dumb, on the surface, as you can never profit from the actual bets. But what you have to keep in mind is that you’re not trying to profit, you’re simply trying to clear the WR so that you can withdraw the bonus money.

You can also simply bet offsetting money lines, too, which are straight-up bets that don't incorporate spreads.

Keep in mind, too, that the lines don't exactly have to offset perfectly, as far as it being a 0 risk wager. If you find a line that results in a loss of $10 from betting both sides, that's pretty decent, as usually you'll be clearing large bonuses ($300-$500 range), so it's okay to sacrifice a few bucks here and there, if you can't find lines that offset perfectly.

If you have a shot at completely busting out one of the accounts, you can even take worse lines. Let's say that you bet the following line:

Houston -2.5 +100
Tampa Bay +2.5 -105

but instead you bet your entire LinesMaker initial balance of $1,150 on Houston, wagering $1,150 to win $1,150.

You then also bet $1,150 at CanBet on the Tampa Bay side, wagering $1,150 to win $1,095.

Total wagered: $2,300
Balance if Houston wins: $2,300
Balance if Tampa Bay wins: $2,245

On the surface, again, that looks very dumb. At best you break even, and if Tampa wins you actually lose $55. Dumb, right?

Not so much. +EV, actually. If Tampa wins, you do indeed lose $55 on that wager, but you've also busted out the LinesMaker account, so that the balance is $0. That means you're done there and have no more WR to clear. While you lost $55 on that wager, you got a signup bonus of $150, so your net profit is +$95.

You've also cleared a good chunk of the WR on the CanBet side, too. You can simply sign up at another one of the many sportsbooks offering nice signup bonuses and continue the process, making offsetting bets between that book and the balance at CanBet.

Most people clear these on football and baseball wagers, but it can be used on other sporting events, too, as long as you can find outcomes that you can cover in offsetting sportsbooks and the appropriate spreads and lines to make it a zero risk (or close to zero risk) bet.

So you’d basically just repeat the above process, finding offsetting or close to offsetting lines on different books, until you’ve cleared the WR and can withdraw or have busted out your balance at the book. It also doesn’t matter if by chance one of your accounts wins much more than the other, as you have to keep in mind the cumulative balance and bonuses. Whatever you lose in one account, you’re gaining in the other, as you’re betting both sides.

That’s the basic theory, in a nutshell. Find sportsbooks that offer good bonuses with low WRs, deposit, then wait until you can find situations where you make risk-free bets on both sides of the same game on different books. You’ll almost never profit from any of your bets, but that’s not your goal. Your goal is to clear the WR and withdraw the bonus money or to quickly bust out one account entirely.

One thing to note, along those lines, is that some books will limit how much you can wager, so that it's not possible to bet enough to bust out an account on one wager. You'll also encounter spots where you churn money back and forth between books, losing a bit on each wager but never managing to completely bust out one account. If you're taking lines that don't perfectly offset, you can potentially lose $25-$50/wager, and if you keep churning money back and forth without busting one account, those small losses can add up and eat a big chunk (or all of it) out of the bonus money. This is just one of those things that happens that you really can't do much about.

Like anything, there are risks and complications involved. You have to be really carefully when picking the games, and make sure that you select the correct team at the correct book, so that it’s a risk-free (or close to risk-free) wager. It sounds dumb but it’s very easy to get confused by the + and – lines, and to accidentally pick the wrong bet, or to simply forget and select the same team to win twice.

You also have to pick the right sportsbooks to play at, as some have better bonuses than others. Some also will stop granting you future bonuses if you’ve cashed out with a profit, so you may not be eligible for future reloads if your account is in the positive. So you need to do some legwork scoping out books and getting savvy on typical bonuses, restrictions, etc., as well as the cashout policy (does the money have to remain in the account a certain period of time, how many free withdrawals a month do you get, etc.)

In order to maximize your chances to find the offsetting lines you’re looking for, you’ll want to have multiple accounts, all of which you get the max bonus at when you deposit. People who do this stuff seriously often have multiple tens of thousands of dollars spread around different books, so it takes a pretty large bankroll to maximize your earning potential. You can do it with smaller bankrolls, but you're limited in your options, often just working two books at a time and not maximizing the signup bonuses when you initially deposit.

You also have to be patient and wait for the right lines. Unlike other bonuses, you’re at the whim of the sportsbooks, so you can’t just sit down and grind out a bonus and withdraw your money. You'll have to invest some time scanning the books for offsetting lines, which can be fairly time intensive.

You also need to be aware of the difference between cash bonuses and free bet bonuses. Free bet bonuses are a different beast and need to be played slightly differently, as they're a free bet, true, but they disappear after you use them, so if you use a free bet bonus and win, you just get the winnings added to your account, and the free bet bonus you staked disappears and isn't returned to your balance as a normal cash bonus would be.

Occasionally you'll encounter a situation where you have both offsetting bets ready to go, click "submit" on both books, and one goes through fine, but the other has changed their line (which usually gives you an alert before the bet is confirmed, letting you know the line has changed). So you're stuck with a big bet on one side, but the nice juicy offsetting line you'd found is gone. This sucks, but it's not the end of the world. If you shop around, you'll find a decent line somewhere. It may not perfectly offset, and you might have to absorb a smallish loss, but it's not the end of the world, as the bonus money always makes up for the occasional blips like this, which usually only potentially cost you $5-$10 in bonus money.

You’ll need to keep good records of your bets, and where you stand on each sportsbook as far as WR completed. Since many of them offer different sized bonuses with different WRs, you won’t finish up the WR at exactly the same team, plus you’ll often be making different sized bets at different books. It takes some getting used to, especially at first, so be careful and methodical and make sure you're locking in the bets correctly, etc.

Another slightly annoying thing is that you’ll have to get used to the difference between books that use American odds (expressed as numbers like +105, -110, -120), UK odds (expressed as fractions such as 3/1) and European decimal odds (4.0). Google searches on “odds conversion charts” should produce handy examples that will give you quick conversions between all three systems.

As far as good sportsbooks, below are many of the better, reputable ones that offer regular bonuses. Your mileage may vary, however, and you should always check the terms and conditions for WR, restrictions, etc. Note, too, that many sportsbooks are owned by the same ultimate parent, and some will close multiple accounts you try to open within the same family of sportsbooks. Some European sportsbooks won’t allow US players, either, so keep that in mind as well.

All that said, it can be pretty profitable to grind out these bonuses. If you have a decent-sized bankroll, you might as well put it to work, and you can pretty consistently clear $1K-$2K/month simply moving money back and forth between books, making offsetting bets as outlined above.

Below is a list of reputable sportsbooks that offer nice bonuses of some sort, as far as a jumping off point to get you started:

5 Dimes
Las Palmas
Players Only
ABC Islands


Klopzi said...

Good to know. I'm still a little leery of sportsbook whoring, but I'll give this a try if my poker game goes south...

Will Palango said...

wow, you've truly takin whoring to a new level, and I love it

Unknown said...

Great post, I might have to do some sportsbook whoring now. Any reason why you don't list the World Sports Exchange? I have bet there and it seems like a reasonable site with a 20% bonus. The WSEX site supports the rake free sister poker site, so I am all about supporting WSEX.