A free bet is a promotional offer by an online bookmaker. Free bet offers come in many shapes and sizes, but the essence of it is that you get to place a wager with the casino’s money. If you lose, you are out nothing, but if you win then you get the winnings (but not the sum that was wagered).
How Do You Get Free Bets
You can qualify for a free bet promotion in a number of different ways. Some bookmakers may offer a deal where if you bet a certain amount on a match then they will give you a free bet that you can use wherever you want.
Sometimes this is also used to promote a particular form of betting, like live play bets or bets on a given sport. Often there are some conditions attached to the qualifying bet, such as the odds must be a certain amount or greater.
Other times you might receive a free bet as part of a deposit bonus. In this case, you will have to deposit a certain amount of real money in order to receive your free bet or free bet credits (more on free bet credits later, but it is basically like cash that must be used for free bets).
Other bookmakers might offer no deposit free bets so you can check out their site. Usually these no deposit offers are quite limited in nature, maybe a $5 or $10 in free bets, with rollover requirements as well. Alternatively, a sportsbook might send these no deposit offers to old or existing customers, in order to get them to start using the site again or simply as a reward for their business over the years.
Another way to get free bet offers is to have a history at an online sportsbook, and then leave your account dormant with a zero balance for a while.
Since you have already demonstrated that you are willing to make a deposit, you are virtually guaranteed to receive promotional free bet offers in order to get your business back. And you don’t have to have bet a lot of money there either, just having made a small deposit and played for a while should be enough to qualify you for retention promotions.
Another similar type of promotion is the risk-free bet. How this works is you bet on a particular game or outcome, and if you lose, then the casino credits you with bonus funds equal to your loss. Usually, these promotions are limited in size, just as an incentive to get people to start using the sportsbook, but still, it is nice to have a bet that cannot really lose.
The great thing about a risk-free bet is you don’t even need to follow the sport in question because it really doesn’t matter if you win or lose. Well of course you would rather win since you get your bet back plus the winnings, but even if you lose at least you have the bonus funds to replace your losses.
This is a nice way to try out betting on different sports or to try a different style of betting like live play if you normally just bet on match outcomes before they begin.
When considering taking advantage of a risk-free bet, you want to see what happens with the bonus funds you get if you lose your bet. How much playthrough is required before you can cash them out? The more onerous the wagering requirements, the less attractive a free bet offer is.
Strategies for Free Bets
Ironically, the best strategy for a free bet is to pick a bet that loses most of the time. The more unlikely the outcome, the higher the expected value of the bet. This is because a free bet mimics a normal bet in every regard except that if you win you do not receive the amount you wagered back. Therefore, the best strategy is to win as infrequently as possible (assuming the same expected value for a normal bet).
For example, if you were to bet on a massive favourite, say a 5:1 favourite, with a $10 bet, you would get only $2 profit if you win, which you would 5 times out of 6. So your EV is a little less than $2. But if you were to bet on a 5:1 underdog, then 5 times out of 6 you would lose, and 1 time in 6 you would get $50. For an average return of $8.33.
So betting on the massive underdog, as opposed to the massive favourite, offers a greater than 400% better return. Neither of these bets take into account the “juice” or house edge, but the point is valid nonetheless.
Free Bet Restrictions
It is important to read the terms and conditions of any free bet offer. A lot of the time free bets are restricted to bets with certain odds or greater.
This is because the more of a longshot the bet is, the greater the expectation of the free bet, and also the larger the potential liability for the casino.
Even though longshot bets don’t hit often when they do hit they make a lot of money. Some free bets are restricted to certain sports or certain types of wagering.
Free Bet Credits
Instead of giving you a single free bet of a fixed amount, sometimes bookmakers might offer you free bet credits that you can use to wager on whatever you want.
This offers greater flexibility to the player since you can spread your bets around if you want or put it all on one game.
How to Use Your Free Bets
Using a free bet is as simple as filling out a bet slip. Once you select the game, there should be an option to use your free bet instead of placing real money at risk.
It is recommended to bet on a significant underdog, to get the maximum value out of your free bet. If you are concerned about the volatility of such a wager, you can always hedge on another sportsbook, but this is only recommended when you have a large free bet since it does come with some cost of expected value.
If it is just a small free bet we are talking about, it is better to just accept the swings and try to maximize your EV.
Why Do Casinos Offer Free Bets
The point of a free bet is for an online bookmaker to get players to start using their sportsbook. The biggest struggle when it comes to customer acquisition is to get their foot in the door. And the promotional offers are pretty small relative to the potential money to be made off a sports betting customer.
Most of the expenses that come with an online sportsbook are fixed costs. That means that the profit margin for each new customer is pretty big since most of the processes involved with online sports betting are automated.
From the player’s perspective, these free bets are essentially free money. Even if you have to place a bet to get the free bet, the expected loss on the initial bet is seldom anywhere near as big as the expected gain from the free bet.
So to the smart bettor, these offers are just free money. That is because they are really designed to attract heavy bettors who just love the action and aren’t that concerned about expected value. Since an online sportsbook is making 5% on every wager, a single sports betting whale can make them a ton of money.
Free bets, especially no deposit free bets, can come with wagering requirements. It is important to read the terms and conditions to understand exactly how a particular online sportsbook’s free bets work.
Sometimes the money you win with the free bet is cash and becomes part of your real balance. Other times there might be some rollover associated with the bonus funds, so you will have to bet them a few times with qualifying odds or greater before you can cash out.
This is also frequently the case with risk-free bets. The money you get when you lose the bet is not cash, but actually a bonus that needs to be wagered multiple times before you cash out.
So frequently there are “catches” associated with these promotional offerings, but if you read the terms and conditions associated with any promotion then you will not be caught unaware. And it is not like having to make a few extra bets is the end of the world, who knows you could get lucky and win them after all.
Free Bet Expiration Dates
Usually, free bet offers are only good for a certain amount of time, so you will want to be sure to make use of your free bet immediately so that you don’t forget.
There is nothing worse than letting a free bet go to waste simply because you forgot about it. Free bet offers also usually come with a limited validity duration, so it pays to be vigilant to check your email for promotional offerings if you want to take advantage of them.
Free Bets vs Deposit Matches
Another type of sportsbook promotion is deposit matches. The way this works is, if you deposit $500, you get another $500 (or whatever % of your deposit the promotion offers) immediately to play with. Sounds pretty good right? But the key is that you need to play through the bonus and the deposit a number of times, maybe 5 or 10 times, before you can cash out.
So while you get an extra $500 to play with right away, you might have to bet $10,000 in total bets before you can cash out. And the house edge on all that action is usually around 5%, which means an expected loss of $500. So while it seems like you are getting free money, in reality, you are breaking even with a lot of variances.
That being said, deposit matches come in all shapes and sizes. If you get one with more modest wagering requirements, then you might have a long-term profitable expectation. And if you are interested in making a lot of sports bets anyway, because you enjoy the action, then this is certainly a better deal than just placing $10,000 in bets over a period of time without any bonus.
Free bets generally favour the smaller bettor. You are going to have a higher expectation with the free bet bonus, but it is usually going to be a small free bet that you get. So if you just like to make some small bets on the game to make it more interesting, then the free bet is the better option. Whereas if you are a heavy hitter and like to make big sports bets and try to make some real money, then a deposit bonus might be more up your alley.
Also consider taking a deposit match for less than the maximum, even if you are a reasonably large bettor. If you just do say a $100 match, on a $100 deposit, even if you want to bet say $200 a game, then you can do it and just go all in right away.
If you lose, you don’t have to worry about the wagering requirements, and if you win you have $400 to work with off a $100 deposit, so the rollover needed before you can cash out isn’t that extreme. After all, you can always hit up another sportsbook once you cash out and get a new bonus.
Make sure to shop around for the best offers with the lowest rollover, and always consider the reputation of the sportsbook in question. A lot of sites offer sportsbook reviews and there are forums where you can find out more information about various sites as wel.