*General Casino Game Strategies
Which bonuses and games are worth playing?
No Deposit bonuses
Two Tier Betting
100% cashback on losses
Cashback on Losses and Value Betting
WARNING: Unless you are allowed to play a specific no risk strategy with a fixed return, such as covering all the numbers on roulette, all casino bonus strategies carry some risk of loss of funds. The maths behind casino bonus bagging is based on probability, not certainty, and individual bonuses can lose all of your deposit (or more) even on a relatively “low risk” game like Blackjack.
There is a list of definitions of casino terms and bonus types and an explanation of how to calculate EV here.
Which bonuses and games are worth playing?
Some casino bonuses give you no choice – the offer is for a specific game only. The only decision you then need to make is whether or not it is worth doing. Other bonuses give a choice of games, in which case you need to decide which will give you the best chance of making a profit.
The chances of you winning on a particular game are directly dependent on the house edge, variance, wager requirement and size of bonus in relation to bet size. The amount you can lose is critically dependent on whether you can play with the bonus (and bust out) or it is post wager, where you may need to keep depositing or forfeit the bonus. The safest bonuses are those which are available to play up front or after wagering the deposit once, as the size of your deposit then acts like a stop loss.
Given a choice of games, the best option is to choose the game with the lowest house edge and variance, although this may be negated if you have to play a much bigger WR with that game, or if the minimum bet size is large compared to the size of the bonus. The games list below aims to give you information to help you choose which game to play, or if indeed the bonus is worth doing at all. You may wish to decide on a minimum chance of gain that you are prepared to tolerate (bearing in mind that this does not guarantee this level of success), and stick to it. Everyone is different, and this will depend a lot on your attitude to risk, for example one person may decide only to tackle the best bonuses and go for a minimum chance of gain of 90%, whereas another may choose 75% and another 65%.
Choosing a minimum chance of gain of 90% will rule out almost anything except risk free roulette, plus blackjack and baccarat when they count 100% towards the WR. 75% will give you more scope for variety and larger wager requirements, and maybe the odd offer where blackjack counts 25%, but will still rule out the offers on things like video poker and slots. 65% will allow you to tackle some offers with blackjack counting 20% and some which allow video poker at 100% when blackjack is restricted. Remember that 50% chance of gain is the point at which the EV is 0 and anything below 50% is -EV and you are likely to make an overall loss over a large sample.
If you wish to calculate the chance of gain for a particular bonus there is a calculator here
No Deposit Bonuses
Some casinos offer small “no deposit bonuses” which you can use in the casino and usually have a WR attached. Often these are non-withdrawable, but you can withdraw any profit after the WR. Almost always you will have to deposit into the casino before you can withdraw your winnings. You should check carefully for the following:
Does the deposit trigger a first deposit bonus, and if so, are you going to be allowed to withdraw and forfeit it without playing it? (some casinos will not let you withdraw before the WR is complete).
Is there a minimum withdrawal amount?
Do you have to play through any deposit once before withdrawing it? Some casinos may charge a fee if you do not play with money between deposit and withdrawal.
The two tier strategy below (if allowed) works well with this sort of bonus, since the only risk is losing the free money.
Two Tier Betting Strategy
This is a method of increasing the EV of slots games or other games such as bingo that have a high house edge, but carries serious risk warnings. The idea is that you start off by betting large bets (typically the whole of your deposit + bonus) with the intention of either increasing your bank or busting out immediately. This works best with sticky bonuses with no WR, since you are using the bonus to double your winnings if you do win, and you can then immediately withdraw.
A similar strategy can be used with a bonus with a WR, and in this case it is often better to start with a game with a lower house edge (eg blackjack) to double or bust on the first few hands. (If using blackjack for the high stake bets, use half your available money, not all of it, so that you can still double or split if required, otherwise the house edge is much larger). This can be done even if the low house edge game doesn’t count towards the WR, but always check that this does not void the bonus, as in some casinos it does. Once you have achieved the target amount, you can then reduce the bet size to reduce the variance and play out the WR on games that count. This all sounds good, but you can still lose everything on the blackjack and you may still find that the slots game has such a high house edge and variance that you lose all your money anyway.
Both of these strategies increase the EV of slots offers, but not by a huge amount once you factor in the risk of busting out. There is a very high risk of losing all of your deposit and bonus money. Another serious risk with the two tier strategy is that casinos recognize this as a method of increasing EV, and they may ban you for bonus abuse. This is why there is a maximum bet size in some casino bonus t&cs.
There is an example of a 2-tier strategy suggestion for a Jackpot Joy bonus below.
Some bookies and casinos have a “live dealer” section which may have a bonus. The thing to remember with these is that the play is extremely slow, so anything with a WR of any size is going to take forever. As well as having to wait for other players to play (choose a table with as few players as possible) there are also breaks while cards are shuffled and dealers changed.
The choice of game is similar to ordinary casinos – choose a low house edge game like blackjack or baccarat if allowed.
This technique involves increasing your hand on a winning run. For example if you are playing £1 hands you might double every 2nd winning hand and then fall back to £1 after losing one:
1,1,2,2,4,4,8,8,16,16,… until you lose.
There are variations, such as increasing every 3 bets, or just increasing by 1 instead of doubling up.
The method is supposed to take advantage of casinos where there seem to be long winning or losing streaks. The thing that I dislike about this system is that it guarantees that your biggest bets are losers.
I have no evidence to prove it, but I consider flat level stakes to be the safest option.
Cashback on Losses and Value Betting
Various casino and games offers come in the form of cashback on losses.
100% cashback offers are fairly low risk – all you need to do is complete the WR on the lowest possible house edge game. There is some risk of losing more than the cashback unless the WR is very small, but overall these offers are worth doing because sometimes you will win, and the winnings will more than pay for the times when you lose more than the cashback. Since it is only your losses that are refunded, if you are on a loss after completing the WR it makes sense to carry on betting until you have either lost the maximum refund amount or made a profit. You may decide to increase your stake to do this, making sure that you never stand to lose more than the refund. Sporting Index used to do 100% refunds on their spread games which were very profitable when treated in this way. If, as with the Sporting Index ones, you can complete the WR without having to risk more than the cashback amount, these offers become risk free.
Cashback offers which are less than 100% can also be worth doing, but clearly there is much more risk with these, since if you do make a loss you cannot recover all your money from the refund. This sort of offer is only suitable for people who can accept some risk and you should be aware that there will be times when you lose a large amount of money. A real example is outlined below:
The offer concerned was a 20% refund on losses upto £100 on blackjack , roulette and video poker at Paddy Power.
By treating this as a value bet you can in effect give yourself a 75% chance at winning on a 50 / 50 shot. You also have a 25% chance of losing.
For example, Roulette.
£100 on Red
Red wins, +£100, happy days, stop; Black wins, -£100, so play again with £200 on Red
Red wins, +£100, happy days; Black wins, -£260 after 20% cashback
If Red / Black is a 50/50 shot (its actually 48.6:51.4 because of the presence of 0), the only outcome we can lose on is Black (or zero) coming up in the first and second spins, which is a 50% of 50% = 25% chance, so we have a 75% chance of making a profit which is value on a 50/50 shot.
The average return on this particular offer over a large number of attempts would be a bit less than £10 a go. The risks of a bad run losing a large amount of money seem high for such a small return.
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