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Online Gaming - Bonus Offers

I found (and played at) two casinos that offer free cash for creating a real account. There is no purchase required. The two I found were 7 Sultans ($10) and Geisha Lounge. Are there any others like this?

Jay S. from Columbia, U.S.

I have seen several free money offers like these. Two that come to mind are the Colosseum Casino and the Grand Opry Casino. Both of these offer $20 for free. Personally, I don't get too excited over these offers. It isn't worth the fuss of downloading the software and the hard disk space it takes up for only $20. However, I have played at the two casinos I mentioned because they also had a deposit bonus in addition to the free money.

What other options are open to an online casino player if they are dissatisfied with an online casinos response to a problem? My particular gripes are removal of a bonus for inactivity and requiring a copy of a credit card statement to cash out winnings.

Rod from Newburgh, U.S.

There is not much you can do in the way of complaining to a higher authority. Some of the better jurisdictions have a government body to oversee the online casinos. However, if you ever bring a specific complaint to their attention, then they seem to either do nothing or side with the casino. It is much more effective to raise a stink on Internet bulletin boards. Even if it doesn't work, at least other players will be warned.

A promotion from an on-line casino lets the customer select various options. The options range from a 10% bonus requiring wagering 2X the deposit, up to a 100% bonus requiring wagering 10X the deposit. How would you determine which option to take assuming you are willing to take a 5% chance of going broke & assume a 0.5% house edge in their 2-deck blackjack game?

Harvey from Kansas City, Missouri

I would wager 10X for the 100% bonus. If you make the bet size small enough you can still stay under a 5% chance of going broke. I don't have the exact number, but if each bet were 1% of the total deposit, then I doubt the probability of going broke would be more than 5%, even betting ten times the bankroll.

How do online casinos work out their promotions? What is the best sort of promotion to play, money bonus on sign-up or cash back on games? I ask because I have just received a promotion offering 5% of total stake back on any one of five games (keno, slots, sic-bo, video poker and roulette) and wonder if it's worth playing.

Steve from Lyon, France

There is no simple answer to which is better, a deposit bonus or cash back based on total money bet. You have to consider the percentages offered, the amount of play required, and the house edge of the games in question. This 5% cash back promotion sounds great for any game with a house edge of less than five percent. The house edge on the small and big bets in sic bo have a house edge of only 2.78%. Video poker may be even lower depending on the pay table. I would be interested to know who is offering this.

Thank you for all the excellent information that you provide. My question concerns your recent answer to the question about gambling for a living. Specifically, making a living from internet casino bonuses. Do you think that this is still possible? Back in 2000, I made a good deal of money from Internet bonuses. If I had worked on it full time, I probably could have quit my job. However in 2001, I only made about 4 grand all year from Internet bonuses. The reason for that is the fact that casinos have gotten so stingy with their bonuses. Many of them require a player to play a deposit five or more times before withdrawing. This of course cuts down a player’s advantage and also makes a streak of bad luck a decent possibility. Even with a 100k bankroll, it does not seem that this could work. Am I wrong? Is there something else I don’t know about?

Tim from Chicago, USA

The days when it was easy to make good money gambling on the Internet are over. Players can still make $50 here and $100 all over the place but the $500 or more bonuses are hard to come by any more. It isn’t the play requirements that are ruining bonus hunting, it is caps on the size of bonuses. To give an example, consider a 20% bonus with a 5 times play requirement, up to a $100 bonus. If you deposit $500 then the expected loss of $2500 in action playing basic strategy blackjack is only $10, assuming an 0.4% house edge. Even if you play ten times through the deposit the expected loss is still only $20, which is much less than the $100 bonus. The problem, in my opinion, is that it isn’t worth the fuss for only $80.

I just received the e-mail bonus offer for Casino Grand Bay and downloaded their software. I was not able to locate their bonus requirement information but according to bet2gamble.com they require a player to bet 1x deposit to receive the bonus and then the player must bet 7x bonus before withdrawing the bonus. Assuming this is correct it sounds like a decent offer. However, it was also stated that Blackjack play does not qualify for the bonus requirement. Therefore, what game, if any, should be played to limit the risk of losing the bonus/deposit?

Joe from Ramona, USA

If only blackjack were excluded I would say craps. However many Internet casinos exclude craps to prevent players from betting on the pass and don’t pass at the same time, thus earning the bonus without risking much. Next I would consider video poker. Casino Grand Bay is a Microgaming casino which offers Jacks or Better video poker. Following the optimal strategy the return is 99.54%. If you use my intermediate strategy, which has a return of 99.54%. So I would go with that. Had this been another casino with stingy video poker I would have played baccarat, always betting on the banker.

Most online casinos offer bonus offers but do not allow wagers on games like roulette, craps and baccarat to be part of the necessary wagering requirements. I am wondering about the exact reason for this. They usually state that no risk wagering is not allowed and a player’s account would be audited before any payout so it wouldn’t make sense to do this anyway. Are they trying to stop players playing games which offer close to even money options then? It seems to me unfair to stop new players to a casino playing such popular games such as these after offering a bonus.

Also you answered a previous question about player abuse by saying you should play 100% more than the minimum requirement to cash out the bonus. As I see it if the casino lays down the rules for minimum wagering then that is all that is required by the player and if he can wager 8x the bonus without losing it then he deserves to be able to cash it out without being labeled a player abuser! Thanks for your time Wizard.

Chris from Palmerston north, New Zealand

The reason they do this is that before they implemented this rule some players would bet equal amounts on red and black in roulette, or the pass and don't pass in craps. This would allow them to earn a bonus without putting much money at risk. So the online casinos added this rule in an effort to keep these bonus players out. Casino on Net does allow play on any game but reserves the right to refuse the bonus if the player bets on opposites, which I think is a more reasonable solution.

You are absolutely right that a casino should honor a bonus even if the player bets exactly the player requirement and not $1 more. Unfortunately many Internet casinos owners don't think they have to abide by their own rules and make them and break them as they go. Two years ago the Golden Palace rounded up all the players they considered to be not be giving enough free play and locked them out of their accounts. I know this because I had one of the accounts. After a lengthy audit they reopened some accounts but seized the funds of others and donated them to charity. This was despite the fact that the players followed every rule. It just goes to show that there is no credible regulation of Internet gambling and that appearances are very important. That is why I advise players to not even look like they are only after a bonus and to provide plenty of extra play.

I read your review of casinos and want to try Club Dice. Regarding the terms on their website, they mention bonus will be deduct from the account once you make the cash-in even you fulfill the wager requirement. I wonder then what is the meaning of this bonus?

"Anonymous" .

This is what is called a "sticky bonus" and is not confined to Internet casinos. When I went to Germany I had to pay 20 Duetchmarks to get in. However if purchased 100 Duetchmarks in chips they gave me a free 20 in sticky chips. A sticky bonus or sticky chip is one that can never be cashed out. However if you bet it and win the winnings are real money. They way to get rid of sticky chips is to keep betting them until you lose them. In the case of Internet casinos you will need to keep cashing out winnings and always leave the sticky bonus in your account, then go back and play again.

I have encountered an unusual kind of bonus at Aqua Online casinos. If you deposit $100 they will lend you $200. However if you have any money left when you cash out they will deduct the $200 your borrowed. What is your advice on how to maximize the value of this bonus?

"Anonymous" .

My advice is to try to achieve a very large win or go bust trying. The greater your winning goal is, up to a point, the greater your expected return. Personally I would try to get to about $2000. It is paradoxical but the only way to realize the value of the bonus is to lose everything. So you want a high probability of ruin. Hopefully that won’t happen and you will have a very nice windfall.

In practical terms, does the casino make more money on a bet with a high standard deviation, than a bet with a low standard deviation, even if the two bets have the same edge? Basically, I figure the probability of player bankruptcy is higher with a higher standard deviation. If the house already has all my money, I can’t play the next hand that might be a winner.

"Anonymous" .

Assuming the player plays the same number of hands regardless of results then the casino would make the same amount of money either way, over the long run. Yet if the player will quit early if he reaches a certain loss point then he will play less on average and consequently the casino will make less money. It sounds paradoxical but if you quit playing when you go broke then you will lose more at a low volatility game, because there is a smaller chance of ruin and thus the house edge will grind you down longer. So by increasing your probability of ruin your expected loss actually goes down. For example if player A bets his entire $100 bankroll by betting on red in one spin of roulette then his expected loss is only $5.26. If player B bets $1 at a time for 8 hours on red in roulette his expected loss is 60*8*5.26% = $25.26 (assuming 60 bets per hour). So although player A has a much higher probability of ruin his expected loss is much less. This lesson is especially applicable to Internet bonus playing. If you get the bonus up front I recommend betting everything in one hand to start. By sometimes going broke before completing the play requirement you expose yourself to the house edge less and thus save time and lose less playing over the long run.

Hi, I’ve been playing in two online casinos for about one month. I have been lucky and I have won about $1500 so far. I want to ask how much do you think that is save for me to win in 1 online casino a day so I wouldn’t be labeled like an advantage player or casino wouldn’t just closed my account because of my luck. I am worried that if I would win let say $50-$100 a day in one casino they would find the reason to close my account. I don’t use any robot I am just lucky. Please help me.

"Anonymous" .

Much like trying to identify card counters it isn’t how much you win, it is how you play. The biggest red flag that a player is a bonus abuser is that he stops playing shortly after completing the terms of a bonus. It also doesn’t help if the player is flat betting and playing low house edge games. You didn’t mention bonuses at all so if you didn’t get one then you should be fine. If you did get a bonus but gave the casino at least 50% more play than required then you should also be okay. Anyone in the gambling business with any sense would see the big picture, that in the short run there will be some winners, losing days, and maybe even losing months, but in the long run the house edge will prevail and the casino will win.

Didn’t Kiss Casino used to use Boss Media? If so what are the odds that I could get their welcome bonus again with their current software?

"Anonymous" .

Yes, Kiss used to be a Boss casino. I’d say your odds are quite good of getting the welcome bonus again. I’ve pretended to be a new player when a casino changed software a few times and it has always worked for me.

I think the seller of blackjackwealth.com should be blacklisted. I told him that on your page I could get the same information, given in his "system", for free. Furthermore the seller denies me a refund, which according to my experience is very rare among serious sellers, although he WOULD give me a refund, provided I show him some gaming log thus proving that I have lost money following his "guidelines". He even mocks me in his emails, when I've been asking for refunds. Check out the system that I got access to for almost $20 and see for yourself. Is that a good system? Is it worth the money?

"Anonymous" .

Thank you for giving me the login to read this guide, but of course I can't repeat it here. This product basically says to go from Internet casino to casino milking new player bonuses playing blackjack basic strategy. The basic strategy chart was obviously stolen from my site. There is some value in his list of bonus offers, which you don't have to pay for, but that is about it. Milking Internet casinos for bonuses is a common knowledge advantage play. Back in 2000 or earlier it was very lucrative but today it is a tough grind due to smaller bonuses and increased play requirements. I don't have a blacklist for this type of thing but am thinking of adding one. Sorry you wasted your $20 but I hope this warning will give you some justice.

What is the ’statistical’ dollar value of a phantom bonus? Say I deposit $100 and get another $100 in phantom bonus. If my goal is to win $100 (total balance of $300), how much approximate value is the phantom bonus worth to me?

"Anonymous" .

Ignoring the house edge, the probability of reaching your goal is 2/3 and the expected value of the phantom bonus is $33.33. For a phantom bonus of b, cashable chips of c, and a winning goal of g the probability of reaching your goal is (c+b)/g and the expected value of the phantom bonus is ((c+b)/g)*(g-b)-c. In general, the higher the winning goal the greater the expected value of the phantom bonus.

I have a friend that put $100 into a casino web site. He got a $300 bonus for a total of $400. He had to wager $8,000 to clear the bonus. I have done the math and I know that the casino advantage is not in excess of the bonus and that the player has an advantage up until he clears. He kept going for a week. He is up to over $5,500 in winnings. I have never heard of this. What are the chances? I don’t get it. It seems almost impossible, like winning the lottery. What do you think?

Jeffrey L. from Auburn, Maine

If you’re not afraid of losing, a good way to get out of the wagering requirement is to bet aggressively early, either going for a big win or go bust trying. If you make the big win then grind out required play more conservatively. However, that isn’t what you were asking. The probability of turning $400 into $5,900 ($5,500 in winnings), assuming no house edge, is 400/5,900 = 6.78%. Of course there usually is a house edge but if you’re smart you can keep it very low. So 6.78% would be an upper bound on the probability.

What do you consider bonus abuse? Almost every online casino has conditions that are vague when it comes to bonus abuse, which makes me leery. As an example, recently I took an offer of 100% match on a $300 deposit with a 20X rollover and 60 day requirement. I went bust trying for a big hit, so they made another similar offer with the same results and have now made a third offer. My concern is that should I make a big hit now, they could argue that since I didn’t make a "normal" deposit, I would be considered a bonus abuser. Should I be concerned?

Kevin from Van Nuys, CA

Good question. The industry has added so many rules to bonuses that often it is like navigating a minefield to stay in compliance. Break just one rule and not only can they take back the bonus but winnings as well. It is acceptable for a casino to seize a bonus if the terms aren’t met but it is not fair for them to seize winnings as well. Even if the player doesn’t break any rules most casinos may still seize a player’s winnings for any reason it wishes under the "management discretion" clause found buried in most terms and conditions. As an example look at one of the most respected casinos in the industry, King Neptune’s, as discussed at Casino Meister. They seized £8000 from a player for playing the wrong game, which was added to a list of excluded games the day before the player played.

I regret that it has come to this but terms and conditions in the industry have become so complicated and change so frequently that as a general rule I advise recreational gamblers to not accept bonuses. Only bonus hunters experienced at parsing the fine print should take the risk. Ironically, these are the same gamblers the casinos are trying to protect themselves from, and are the only ones they are going to be left with if the true gamblers get scared off by the minefield.

So, yes, you should be concerned. However that is also a good bonus. I would read the rules very carefully. Then be aggressive and go for a big win early or go bust trying.

Update (May 31, 2006): Within hours of the publication of this column I received a response from Micki representing Trident Entertainment Group, of which King Neptunes Casino is a part. I originally incorrectly stated that the player played the bonus the same day as the rules were changed. In fact the player played the following day, based on server time. So I apologize for that misunderstanding. The letter also details other points arguing the casino’s point of view. In the interests of expressing both versions I present the following message from Micki.

Hello Michael

I would just like to correct your statement regarding the issue with the player at King Neptune’s. I know you are ethical and accurate and therefore find it strange that your information is incorrect.

Our Terms & Conditions state very clearly the month they are valid for. This is a sign-up bonus, so who would we inform that we are changing any clauses. The Terms and Conditions also state that they apply from the date the bonus is claimed. This player claims to have read the T & C’s when they stated March 1-31. She did not however register or deposit to play until April 1 9:36pm Server time. They April 1-31 T & C’s were actually loaded soon after 10:00pm on March 31, over 21 hours before she registered, deposited and claimed her bonus. It should also be noted that this player used her bonus money to play on the excluded game. No clause in our T & C’s is buried, everything is in the same font with the Excluded Game list highlighted for the benefit of the player. Had she not used Bonus money to play on the excluded game she would have been paid. Never the less we still left her account with 400 in it, so she could start again. The funds are still there and still available to her.

I thought you should be aware of the facts.

Regards

Micki

At sites like BoDog you get bonuses for each deposit. Once I make a deposit, and play enough time to be able to withdraw it, is it proper etiquette to withdraw the entire balance and shortly thereafter re-deposit the money to earn another bonus?

Mark from Merrick

Reload bonuses are intended for players who blew everything the last deposit, although this usually is not a direct requirement. It doesn’t look good to make a partial withdrawal and then quickly deposit again, just to get a reload bonus. Completely withdrawing will raise less red flags, but still won’t look good. To avoid suspicion it looks good to completely withdraw and allow time until the next deposit, the more time the better. I would suggest at least a couple months.

What was the greatest bonus promotion in online gambling history?

kengam77

My initial answer was the Golden Palace 20% monthly bonuses, up to bonuses of $2,000, in 1999 and 2000. There were no restricted games and the play requirement was the amount of the bonus only. That came to a sudden stop, unfortunately.

However, after some discussion on my forum, I think that the award has to go to the Casino on Net single-zero roulette promotion, in which they paid 70 to 1 for bets on 0 and 7. That has a player advantage of 92%! I’m told that the casino lost $4 million on that two-hour promotion but paid everybody.

This question was raised and discussed in the forum of my companion site Wizard of Vegas.