Online betting sites have taken up the habit of awarding free bets to new and loyal customers alike in an effort to keep the punters happy and out of the competition’s hands. If you bet online for any significant length of time, you can be sure you’ll run across more than a few free bet offers. Today, I’m going to give you the full rundown on how they work and what you need to know before you take advantage.
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How Free Bets Work
Free bet offers come in all different shapes and sizes but the general theme is that your account is credited with a little free cash that you can use to bet on any upcoming sporting event. This bet essentially acts as a freeroll for you. If you place the bet and lose, you’re no worse off than you were before you got the free bet. If the bet wins, you get to keep the winnings and cash them out when you’re ready.
In most cases, free bets are awarded to customers in return for taking some specific action that the betting site likes to see. The most common example of this would be the new player free bet promos that sites like to offer to everyone who signs up for an account and makes a real money deposit. You sign up and make a deposit, and then get a little something extra that you can use to place a risk-free bet.
Free bets are only slightly different than regular deposit bonuses. The cash in either case usually cannot be withdrawn; it may only be used to place real money bets and win money that can be withdrawn. The only real difference is that a free bet must often be used all at once or in specifically-sized chunks. For example, a £20 free bet might come with the stipulation that it be used to place exactly 2 £10 bets.
The most important think you should know about free bets is that they usually come with “rollover” or “clearing” requirements. Look through the terms and conditions and you will often see a line that say something like “this bonus must be played through 3 times the bonus amount before winnings from the bonus may be withdrawn.”
What the site is saying there is that you need to place a certain value of bets before you can cash in on that free bet. In this example, a £20 free bet with a 3x rollover would require you to place a total sum of £60 worth of wagers before you can withdraw anything that you win with the free bet money.
Rollovers exist because for two reasons. First and most importantly, forcing people to place additional wagers ensures that they are actually there to bet on sports. If it were possible to simply deposit, place free bets and withdraw everything, people could just freeroll the house over and over again until the book goes broke.
Secondly, the rollover helps the bookmaker recoup some of the cost of giving away all those free bonuses. By forcing additional bets, the betting site exposes you to the juice (the built-in house advantage) and offsets some of the value of the bonus.
Many free bets come with one additional stipulation: the bet can only be used to win so much money. In other words, there is a cap on your maximum winnings. Make sure you always read the terms and conditions before you accept any offer so you can see if there is any such condition.
The max win amount is enforced in a rather simple manner. If you try to place the bet at odds that would result in winning too much, your betting site will not accept the bet. For example, you may find yourself unable to place an outright bet on some low level football team winning the World Cup at 1500/1 odds.
Do I have to deposit to earn a free play?
Not all gambling sties require a deposit to earn a free play, but most do. It varies from one site to another. But even if you don’t need to make a deposit to earn a free play, you will usually have to deposit before you can withdraw any winnings. In other words, a deposit is required at some point with 99% of free bet offers.
So are free bets a good deal?
Yes. Usually. Free bet offers from reputable bookmakers are almost always a good deal. It’s true that the rollover requirements reduce the value somewhat, but you still come out ahead as long as you were planning on betting anyways. In that case, the rollover shouldn’t be a problem.
Free sports bets are not a good deal if you want to make easy money or are 100% sure you’re only going to place one bet in your life. It’s not cash that you can just turn around and withdraw; it’s cash that you can only use to place additional bets. Thus, free bets are only useful for punters who are there to place more than 1 or 2 bets.
Free Bankrolls for Poker Players
Poker site also have their own version of free bets that come in the form of free bankrolls or “bankroll builders.” The basic idea is that if you sign up at some poker site, you’ll start with a little money in your account before you even make your first deposit.
This cash also comes with its own rollover requirements. However, a deposit isn’t always necessary. If you can meet the rollover requirements without depositing, you may be able to withdraw everything without ever making a deposit. This isn’t always the case, but it does work out that way fairly frequently.
Poker sites can afford to give out free bankrolls without forcing a deposit because they earn money off of the rake (which just a percentage of every pot or tournament entry) you generate in real money games. If you manage to win more than you pay in rake, you will grow your bankroll while simultaneously meeting the rollover.
For example, a poker site may offer you a £50 free bankroll that requires you to generate £100 in rake before you withdraw anything. So, you go and play poker like normal and generate a bunch of rake at the low level cash games. If you play smart and win a bunch of money, you’ll be ahead after everything is said and done.
Related: Poker Deposit Bonuses
Free Cash Offers at Online Casinos
Online casinos very frequently offer their own free bet bonuses to new and existing players. The basic idea is the same as free sports bets. You sign up for an account and the casino drops a little money in your account to get you started. Without even making a deposit, you can start placing bets and winning real, withdraw-able cash.
The catch is that you will be asked to meet a rollover in the casino just like you would at an online sportsbook. However, the casino rollover is often up in the 10x-20x range. Meeting the rollover exposes you to the house advantage and there is a good chance you end up losing everything before you place enough bets to initate a withdrawal.
Sounds like a rip-off, right? Well, it’s not that bad. No-deposit casino bonuses are still helpful for people who were planning on playing with their own money at some point anyways. If you’re going to be playing a couple hundred hands of blackjack, you might as well get a free bet while you’re at it.
Related: Casino Deposit Bonuses