Bonus Bagging, also referred to as “Bonus Hunting”, is an advantage play technique used to generate a profit from online casino promotions. The aim is to play an optimal strategy in order to “bag” as much of the bonus amount as possible, without breaching (notoriously strict) terms & conditions.
Do the rewards of Bonus Bagging make the risks worthwhile?
Casino Bonus Bagging — An Overview
A small percentage of Matched Bettors graduate onto Casino Bonus Bagging. If you’re considering making this move yourself, then there’s a lot you need to know beforehand.
At this stage you might consider subscribing to EV Maximiser, a specialist Bonus Bagging course put together by Mike Cruickshank. Check out my Betting Mastermind review to learn more about EV Maximiser.
To Make a Casino Bonus Profitable, You need to Shift the Odds In Your Favour
Many years ago online Casinos offered extremely generous bonuses to entice new customers to sign up. They gave so much value that you didn’t need to play an advanced strategy for it to become profitable.
Successful Bonus Baggers usually achieve their edge using a two-tier staking strategy. This involves betting big to begin with in order to reach a “target”, followed by reducing the bet size to coast out the remainder of the wagering requirement. I’ll get onto this strategy in more detail later on.
When trying to profit from Casino bonuses, you’ll bust out of your balance the majority of the time. But, theoretically at least, your winnings will outweigh your losses in the long-run. So you can’t count on earning immediate profits from Bonus Bagging.
Bonus Bagging requires risk tolerance. It’s not a risk-free strategy — like sports arbitrage. In some ways, it’s more like value betting’. With the right strategy it’s plus EV, but variance plays a huge part in your actual results.
You Have to Adhere to Very Strict Terms & Conditions During the Playthrough
The biggest problem with Casino bonuses are their strict, complex terms & conditions. It’s the cause of countless disputes.
The terms & conditions of a promotion dictate elements such as:
- Which Casino games you’re allowed to play
- How much money needs to be wagered before a withdrawal is allowed
- The weighting each games counts towards the wagering requirement
- The maximum stake you’re allowed to place in one bet
- The order of the games you play
There’s usually also some other highly ambiguous terms, which state that the Casino is allowed to identify bonus abuse “at their discretion”. These terms don’t always stand up in disputes. They’re still a hindrance, though.
Furthermore, the Casino software itself doesn’t stop players from making ‘mistakes’. It doesn’t enforce the restrictions laid out by the Casino. It’s down to the player to check their every move against the terms & conditions.
I fail to see how a genuine customer could enjoy playing under restrictive Casino bonus schemes. An average gambler flits between their favourites games without giving it much thought. Yet it’s those same players who stand to be caught out in so many ways.
I can only assume that, despite the complications and disputes bonuses bring, they help to generate a lot of profitable player acquisitions for online Casinos.
If You Complete the Playthrough Requirement, You May Withdraw
Those that manage to complete the wagering requirement without breaching any terms (and busting out) will be able to withdraw their funds.
Each bonus type is dealt with differently upon withdrawal. here’s the three main types:
- Non Withdrawable. The bonus value is subtracted from your withdrawal, and removed from your account. Only winnings from your bonus remain.
- Withdrawable. It’s included in the cashout. This is more profitable, of course.
- Sticky. The bonus amount is non-withdrawable, but it remains in your betting account. You may be to produce additional withdrawable winnings using the bonus (until you inevitably bust it out).
With Casino Bonus Bagging you expect withdrawals to be a substantial size. This is due to the betting strategies used. I’ll get on this later.
Analysing Bonus Terms & Conditions
The way you play your Bonus Bagging strategy is determined by the wagering requirements, and various other terms & conditions attached to the bonus. Here’s a typical example of a Casino promotion you would find online:
After your first deposit, the total account balance would be $400.
I’ve picked out and summarised the main terms & conditions that might apply to a typical bonus like this. It takes some work to dig through the fine print, but it’s absolutely necessary.
- Bonus eligibility: 7 days from the date the new account was opened
- Minimum deposit: $10
- Wagering requirement: 50x bonus
- Games which don’t count towards the wagering requirement: Roulette, Sic Bo, Craps, Baccarat, Table Poker, Casino War & Red Dog
- Games which do count towards the wagering requirement:
- 100% All Slots, Keno & Scratch Card games
- 8% All table pokers, all roulettes, all video/power Pokers, all blackjacks (excluding Classic Blackjack), and Casino War
- 2% Classic Blackjacks, All Aces video pokers, all Jacks or Better video pokers
- 0% all baccarats, all craps, Red Dog, Sic Bo, bets using the gamble feature & wagers placed using the gamble feature.
- Time limit to complete wagering: 2 months
- Playing on any 0% games may void winnings, at the Casino’s discretion.
- Before any withdrawals are processed, your play will be reviewed for any irregular playing patterns[…]
- Other examples of irregular game play include but are not limited to, placing single bets equal to or in excess of 30% or more of the value of the bonus credited to your account […]
- The Casino reserves the right to decide in its sole discretion which activities constitute “irregular play” and to withhold any withdrawals where irregular play has occurred to meet playthrough Requirements.
- In the event that the Casino believes you are abusing or attempting to abuse a bonus or other promotion, or you are likely to benefit through abuse or lack of good faith from a gambling policy, the Casino may at its sole discretion, deny, withhold or withdraw from you any bonus or promotion, or rescind any policy either temporarily or permanently, or terminate your access to the Services and/or block your account.
Ambiguous terms are the root of many player/casino disputes. I don’t think they should be allowed by the gambling regulators. Yet even the most reputable Casinos include terms like these as standard.
Bonus Bagging Services
A Bonus Hunter has to somehow get through this promotion without being accused of breaching any of the terms. I highly recommend signing up to a reputable service that hand picks bonuses, fully analyses the terms & conditions, and details the exact strategy to use.
The top two Bonus Bagging services are:
Both these services will save you valuable time and effort. They have helpful staff and large member communities that’ll give you pointers along the way. This heavily reduces the chance of making a simple mistake, or miscalculation.
Read my full review: Top Matched Betting Services
Two Tier Betting Strategy For Bonus Bagging
Two tier betting is the secret ingredient that enables punters to maximise what they earn from complex Casino bonuses. This is what tilts the expected value in the player’s favour.
Note: not all Casino promotions require a two tier strategy. Each bonus has to be assessed on an individual basis.
Selecting the Right Games
Your game choice depends on the house edge and playthrough requirement. You have to work out what’s most economical.
The 50x bonus wagering requirement can be completed using the Slots, Keno and Scratchcard games — which all count 100% towards the wagering requirement. This means that on a $200 bonus, a total of $10,000 must be rolled over for the player to be eligible for a withdrawal.
The alternative is to use another category — such as ‘table games’, which offers games with a much lower house edge (e.g. Blackjack, or French Roulette). The trade-off is that the wagering requirement is enormous, as these games only count 8%. You’d need to rollover $125,000 to make a withdrawal.
There’s a simplified (slightly crude) way of calculating the best game to play. You multiply a game’s house edge by the wagering requirement. This gives you an approximate expected loss after wagering through the bonus.
Slots vs Table Games
- Slots have very high house edge (~2-15%). This means your expected loss during the rollover will be high.
- Table games have a low house edge (~0.5%). This means your expected loss during the roller is relatively low.
Suppose a Blackjack table game has a house edge of 0.5%, and a Slot game has a house edge of 5%. Here’s the comparison:
- Slots: 5% x $10,000 = -$500 expected loss
- Blackjack: 0.5% x $125,000 = -$625 expected loss
Despite the higher house edge, the slots game has the lower expected loss, thanks to the (much lower) $10,000 wagering requirement. Therefore this is the better option, mathematically speaking. Other comparisons can be made between any eligible Casino games.
Every Casino game needs to be assessed independently. Not all Slots, or types of Blackjack (for example) have the same house edge on every Casino platform. Game rules vary, too.
Two Tiering Example
By now you’ve probably realised that the expected loss of the example bonus is very high. So high, in fact, it’s barely in a player’s interest to take this bonus.
How can Bonus Bagging possibly be profitable?
Set A Target balance
The way to make the bonus valuable is to place high variance (usually large) bets until reaching a target gain. Then switch to normal variance bets to complete the remaining wagering requirement. This strategy increases EV. The higher your target, the more you “bag” from the bonus.
Suppose you set a 4x target — which is fairly reasonable. It’s neither too high that it rarely ever comes off, or too low that it offers no value.
The simplest way to illustrate how this works is to imagine placing the whole balance ($400) on a 25% shot. For example, covering 1/4 of the numbers on a French Roulette table (discounting the chance of spinning 0). That would get you to the target in one hit.
Note: You aren't allowed place the whole balance on Roulette for this promotion. But it's a lot easier for me to explain the logic with a simple example that you can visualise.
Win or Bust
Assuming you’ll wagering using slots after reaching your target, there’s two scenarios:
- You bust out: -$400 (-$200 of your own)
- You reached the target: $1,600 (+$800 of your own)
- After wagering on slots: $1,600 (balance) – $500 (expected loss) – $200 (deposit)= +$900
Therefore, you either lose $200 of your own deposit, OR wager through and land yourself with a profit of $900 ($1,100 total balance) to withdraw. On average, anyway.
So is this value?
If you could quadruple your balance in one hit like above, then yes. Here’s the expected results if you were to claim this same kind of bonus 4 times (for example):
You could win them all, or lose them all. It’s all part of the game.
The above results reveal that the bonus equates to approximately: (-$200 -$200 -$200 +$900) / 4 = $75 expected value (EV).
With a lower target, the EV goes down. Be warned that for most of today’s Casino promotions a 2x target isn’t enough.
Points to Consider
- Hardly any bonus terms will enable you to bet your whole balance in one hit. Bet restrictions apply at almost every Casino.
- The higher your target, the higher the EV. But the more chance there is of busting out.
- Whilst meeting your target balance, you’ll notch off some of the wagering requirement. That’s a good thing, which I did not factor in.
- Whilst you try to reach the target, you’re betting against the house edge. So this also cuts into the profit, too. Hence why you want to bust, or hit the target, in as few bets as possible.
- Many Casinos stipulate that you cannot drop your average bet size by a certain percentage. So you won’t always be able to reduce the variance to within your comfort zone.
So in practice, the only way to make the example bonus profitable (EV-wise), and mimic (similar) results to what I’ve shown, is to reach that target in a series of wagers. Without going above the 30% ($60) maximum bet size.
You must therefore select a high variance game that’s capable of shooting the balance to (or beyond) your target. The last thing you want is to grind down your balance with a steady, low variance game. And finding the right game is yet another challenge; it requires research.
If you successfully reach your target balance and complete the wagering requirements, you’re not necessarily done yet…
Post-wagering Issues (Held Withdrawals)
Remember those ambiguous terms?
Players that use the two tier approach (or any other recognised strategy) still need to successfully withdraw their money. They’ll have to pass the stringent checks made by the Casino, to realise a profit. This leaves them at the mercy of the Casino.
There’s a vast amount of disputes which arise from players being accused of using “betting patterns”. Many Casinos (particularly those outside of the UK), do their utmost to avoid paying customers at the best of times. Problems are extrapolated when a bonus is involved.
Delaying tactics, unreasonable identification requests, unfair accusations, and account locks/closures are commonplace. Many players are forced to take legal action.
Is Bonus Bagging Really Worth All The Hassle?
It’s Profitable… With a Bit of Struggle
Bonus Bagging is mathematically sound. Plus there’s also more than one type of Casino bonus — and some are a little more generous than the one my example.
Furthermore, I’m aware that there’s pro gamblers who have found other, more imaginative (usually higher variance) ways to circumvent strict Casino bonus wagering systems.
Bonus Bagging is, however, burdened by obstacles. Casinos evidently do their utmost to reduce Bonus abuse.
Bookmakers, on the other hand, aren’t anywhere near as defensive as Casinos. This is largely because they consistently manage their risk by adjusting their prices, balancing their books, and maintaining a market overround. The small percentage of value bettors barely impacts their profits.
Should I Invest My Time & Money into Bonus Bagging?
On one hand it’s time consuming, tedious, and quite risky; one failed withdrawal could wipe out a lot of winnings. Yet you can still earn from Bonus Bagging.
I’d focus on Sports Matched Betting to begin with, and venture into the simple, entry-level Casino bonuses listed on the premium versions of ProfitAccumulator or OddsMonkey. Beyond that — proceed with caution.
There’s certainly easier, less risky, and more fulfilling ways to earn from betting than Casino Bonus Bagging.
Originally posted on 19th December 2016.
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