Welcome to the roller coaster world of mobile sports betting! This article is not advice or a list of rules to follow. It is simply information passed around that might give you some foundational knowledge to make your own best decisions or simply to just give you something to read at your leisure. Should you be interested to learn more and receive our full product, you can sign up here.
If you’re celebrating your good fortune at being a resident of one of the states who have finally joined the ranks of legalized wagering, or finally given in to the avalanche of television ads for FanDuel or DraftKings (or both), it’s now time to heed Drew Brees’ advice and live your Bet Life (brought to you by PointsBet).
You’re eager to make your first deposit and dive right in, but with SO many ads, and SO many different promotions, where do you start? To find yourself confused, or even overwhelmed, is normal. Honestly, it’s probably the point. But by taking a few deep breaths and planning your first steps carefully, you can set yourself up for success in the sports betting arena.
Every sports book out there offers a welcome or sign-up bonus of some kind. This is the “hook” they use to get you in the door, but while the offers are legitimate, a healthy dose of skepticism is a useful tool against all the claims of “FREE MONEY”. These offers are ubiquitous for a reason: They WORK. Sports books are not in the business of losing money, so why would they give you all these freebies? Because the majority of casual bettors will simply turn around and give it right back to the books, along with most or all of their initial deposit. Here at Spari, we don’t want you to end up in that group.
Not all sports books are available in all states, so I’m not going to use this space to run down the welcome offers one platform at a time. But generally speaking, all of these offers fall into one of three categories, We’ll discuss each of them here, along with a few tips that you can use to make the most of the opportunity.
The Deposit Match
This is the most basic, and most straightforward welcome bonus. It’s generally available at most sportsbooks, although it often gets buried behind the “Risk Free Bet” offers (we’ll get to those later). If you’re not comfortable tackling the risk-free bet bonus, the new user deposit match is a good, safe promotion to jump on.
In short: You sign up and make your first deposit with the sports book, and they will match your deposit with additional funds. You deposit $50, they’ll give you $50. Deposit $200, they’ll give you $200. Double your money instantly! But of course, there’s still a catch.
First, you won’t be able to withdraw the matched funds, at least not right away. Typically, there will be a “play through” requirement where you need to place wagers in the amount of your bonus before it “unlocks” for withdrawal. If your match was $100, you’ll need to wager that $100, whether it’s a single $100 bet, or four $25 bets, or a hundred $1 bets. And of course, if you lose all those bets, then you’re left with just your initial deposit.
Always read through the terms of any promotion you’re taking advantage of, as the books will often throw in additional caveats. For example, your “play through” bets to unlock the deposit match may require odds of -200 or higher. So you can’t take your $100 deposit match and put it on a -850 Moneyline “lock” just to clear it. These terms aren’t consistent from one book to another, so the bottom line is: make sure you read and understand the terms before you take the plunge.
Most books will also require you to enter a specific bonus code when you make your first deposit in order to get the match. That will be outlined on the site’s promotions page or in the terms and conditions as well, so don’t forget to add that step in the process.
“Bet $1 to win $200”
This one is a favorite of DraftKings, but can also be found elsewhere. It plays well in TV spots and of all the standard promotions, sounds the most like “here, we’re just going to give you this money for nothing”. And honestly, that’s not far off from the truth. The majority of promotions along these lines are exactly that — Make a deposit, bet $1 or $5 on whatever event is required, and they’ll pay you out $200 (or whatever the promotion specifies). These are most commonly structured in a way to require almost zero risk: “Win $200 if Pat Mahomes completes one pass” or “Win $200 if the Knicks hit one 3-pointer”.
Simple and effective. In the past, some books would give this bonus as actual cash, with no play through requirement, but I confess I’m not sure if anybody still does. Mostly these are now redeemable as “free bets” (which may or may not have the ability to break into multiple smaller free bets). With that being the case, it’s worth noting when you use a Free Bet to place a future wager, the amount of the bet is not included in your winnings, so that makes them slightly less valuable.
As an example: If you place a $10 real money bet at +100 odds and win, you’ll get $20 back, which includes your original stake. If you use a $10 Free Bet at +100 odds and win, you’ll only get $10 back.
All that said, there are still caveats, and as always, read the fine print. This type of bonus can take many different forms, and they’re not always tied to a no-doubter lock of an outcome. Variations include:
- Bet $5 on any team’s spread and if they cover you’ll get $200
- Bet $5 on Steph Curry to hit one 3-pointer to win $200
In both of those cases, the offers are really just glorified odds boosts. There is still some risk attached (even if it’s low), and in the case of the first one (betting on the spread), you actually have to make a roughly 50-50 call on a particular game. For the Curry example, sure it’s *almost* a guarantee, but what if he has a really cold night shooting? Or gets hurt in the first few minutes of the game? Maybe the books pay you out anyway as a courtesy … but maybe not.
If you go down this bonus route, do take the time to make sure you understand the parameters of what you have to wager on to get the bonus. The narrower the requirement, the higher the risk involved. And whether the bonus is awarded as cash in your account or in the form of free bets does make a difference in terms of expected value. Most of these offers are no-brainers, but the books have been known to shake things up and tweak the rules every now and then.
The Risk-Free Bet
The older, cooler cousin of “Bet $5 to win $280”, these offers typically take the form of “Your first bet is risk-free, up to $1000!” or something similar. Again, it sounds like a great offer (and typically is), but it’s rarely as straightforward as it seems. Generally, it works like this:
Sign up with a sports book and make your first deposit (make sure you include your promo code if necessary). With the money in your account, place your first bet in any amount. If that bet loses, the book will “refund” your stake, up to $1000. “Up to” does a fair amount of work here, so note that you’re only getting $1000 back if you actually wager $1000 in the first place. If your first bet is for $50, the promo will only return that $50. And if you’re a newer, casual sports bettor, chances are you’re not putting a whole grand on the table right out of the gate. Don’t deposit and wager $1000 on the basis of “it’s risk-free!” if you can’t afford to lose it.
Most sports books will give you your refund only if you lose your first bet, which makes sense, but it also makes it noteworthy that Caesars sports book will actually match your first bet whether you win or lose, which makes their bonus especially attractive.
So you’ve made your first bet, and lost (or won, if you’re at Caesars). Now you get your money “back” … but as with the previous types of offers, it will almost always come in the form of a free bet. You can use that free bet on any other wager you want, but choose carefully, because if you lose that bet too, then you’re effectively down your entire first deposit (or first wager). There are usually some limited requirements on how you can use your free bet (eg. -200 odds or higher), but other than that, the main caveat is that, like above, you won’t get the free bet amount back as part of your winnings — you only get the profit.
The only exception I’ve come across to the “free bet” payout is Barstool, who will refund you the entire amount of your first bet (if it loses) up to $1000, but they’ll give it to you in the form of “bonus” cash, which sits in your account and looks like cash, but can’t be withdrawn until you play through the full amount once. This offers you a little more flexible approach to working off the bonus — where a free bet can only be used once, with Barstool you can break that up into smaller, safer bets until you’ve wagered the full amount.
Now, smarter people than I have already gone to great lengths to do the math and outline the most +EV (positive expected value) approach to taking advantage of these types of offers. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your level of risk tolerance, but broadly speaking, it’s almost always worth taking a long-shot of sorts on your first bet — something in the +500 to +800 range (straight or parlay). If it hits, then you’re off to the races with a beefed up bankroll and if it loses, you still have your free bet with which to play it a little safer.
New customer bonuses are great, and offer plenty of opportunity to boost your bankroll if you’re smart about it. But there are so many different options across so many different books (and many places will offer variations on any or all of these promotions) that it is absolutely worth your time to read up on your options before signing up. Make sure you know how the bonus is structured, any limitations on how you can wager with them, and always make sure you choose the offer that’s right for you. You only get once chance to be a “new” customer, and once you’ve taken advantage of a company’s offer, you won’t get another one like it. Feel free to ask any questions of the Spari staff in Discord, and we’ll be happy to walk you through the options. Happy betting!
This article is not advice or a list of rules to follow. It is simply information passed around that might give you some foundational knowledge to make your own best decisions or simply to just give you something to read at your leisure. Should you be interested to learn more and receive our full product, you can sign up here.