Name one aspect of casino gambling which is often misunderstood and can catch out even the most savvy of us, and there’a a fair chance it’ll be casino bonuses that springs to mind.
At the same time designed to give you more money to play with, let you play more games for more time, encourage you to spend more, and sometimes prevent you from getting money you’ve won, bonuses are a conundrum that you just have to get your head around.
In fact, they sit alongside games, strategies, and bankroll management as the four key aspects of casino gaming any player needs to understand.
Essentially free money to increase your playing cash, they come with a number of benefits and some hidden drawbacks.
Free money? It’s a no brainer, right? Who’s not going to want an easy way to get extra ‘free’ money in their casino account that increases playing time and gives more winning chances.
Not so fast though!
Bonuses can be valuable. But there are catches you’ll need to know about before you wade in and fill your boots.
On this page we’ll take a look at their potential value, the different types, exactly what a casino bonus gives you, whether it’s always the right option to take, and what those hidden catches are.
Before we start, and if you already know how bonuses work in casino gaming, here are a selection of handpicked high value offers that we think are worth taking advantage of……
OK, let’s start looking at our subject in depth. This video is a good starting point. It’s specifically focused on casino bonuses and will give some high level appreciation of what’s involved.
So What Is A Casino Bonus?
We said it before. Taking advantage of bonus offers essentially gives you free money – either in the form of free or additional cash in your account, or sometimes free spins on a slots machine.
There are a number of different types which we’ll cover in a minute.
If you’ve visited websites other than GamblersFever, you’ll already know that they’re one of the most talked about subjects in casino gambling.
In fact, there are hundreds of websites set up just to talk about the different bonus types, with a number of them being highly valuable.
But of course you won’t need any other sites – this ‘Fever’ resource page will develop into one which caters for anyone on the lookout for new offers.
Why Do Bonuses Exist?
Quite simply, bonuses exist as a marketing ploy. They’re offered either to attract you to visit a new casino you haven’t played at before, or encourage you to keep on playing at a regular trusted casino rather than stop or look elsewhere.
Pros & Cons
I hear you thinking ‘ free money can only be good, right?”
Unfortunately that’s not the case. There’s good and bad.
First, the good.
In the vast majority of cases there are no reasons why you would not want to hunt around for the best bonus deals, or accept a bonus offer. They’ll:
• Increase your bankroll,and the number of bets you can have
• Give you more your playing time, and entertainment for your money
• Get you more chances of winning
• Give you more chances to learn and practice
All pretty obvious stuff, and the benefits don’t need further explanation.
We do need to explain some of the drawbacks though….
Whenever something seems to be too good to be true, it often is. Something many casino fans who’ve taken a big bonus amount find out after they’ve started playing (and in some cases after winning a sizeable amount).
So the biggest drawback is that there is (in 99% of cases) what’s know as the playthrough rule, and it’s often hidden in the small print.
This takes a number of different forms and varies from casino to casino, but effectively it prevents you from withdrawing any money until you have played through (wagered) your bonus and/or deposit multiple times.
Overcoming it – and actually being able to withdraw money you’ve won – is termed ‘clearing a bonus’.
The Playthrough Rule Explained
For an example of this rule in action let’s use a popular bonus format – Deposit $50 and get $100 Bonus Free.
So you make a deposit of $50, and end up with $150.
So far so good….but now the playthrough rule comes into force…
You can’t withdraw your $150. It’s not really yours until you’ve met the playthrough requirements.
And a check of the small print will tell you, for example, that you need to wager 10 times the value of the bonus before you can class it as yours. That’s $1500 worth of bets.
In sports betting, or any gambling where some form of skill determines the outcome, this might be reasonably achievable. But in a casino where luck is firmly at play, it’s not hard to see that almost certainly you’re not going to make it.
Of course, it works great (for you) if one of your first dozen wagers nets you a big win, giving plenty of chances of placing bets with the rest of your bonus and coming out ahead at the end.
That’s a rare situation though.
If you think about it, all the casino is doing here is protecting their profits. All clever stuff on their part. Plus you can’t even consider just playing on those games where there’s a low house edge…because those types of games are often (but not always) excluded from the playthrough criteria. Blackjack is often a good example of this.
How Do I Clear A Bonus?
There’s a simple answer, but it’s not so straightforward to actually do it.
Basically you clear bonuses by playing games and making bets. The more you play or bet, the faster you meet the requirements for reaching the limit at which you’re able to cash out.
Of course, the converse works against you. The more you bet in a casino, the more likely you are to lose.
Types Of Casino Bonus
There are a number of different types of bonuses you’re likely to come across, with sub-variations in each.
The No Deposit Bonus
As it implies, the no deposit bonus is one you’ll get without having to deposit anything. They’re purely promotional offers made by casinos to get you to sign up, and mainly come in the form of free bets, free chips, or free spins on a slot.
Free is clearly the operative word, and if you see one of these offers there are no reasons why not to take advantage with both hands.
The usual playthrough requirements will still stand, and you’re unlikely to actually win anything although you won’t be losing either.
They’re great for trying out games and practising. They can also give you options for trying out the same types of games but with different operators and software – a great way to see how the graphics of gaming software differs between operators.
The First Deposit Bonus
With the first deposit bonus you’ll be getting an extra amount of cash on top of your first deposit. It’s normally defined as a percentage but with a limit on the amount.
For example, 100% bonus up to $300 means that if you deposited the full limit of $300, you’d get $300 extra as a bonus ($900). You’ll be playing with a bank roll of $1200.
• Always remember that play through requirements mean you’d have to wager a number of times before you could withdraw.
• It’s rare, but in some casinos the bonus is released in stages, and not necessarily all at the time of deposit.
Note that in this example, if you deposited $400 you’d still only get the maximum bonus allowed of $300. Likewise if you only deposited $100, you’d see an additional $100 only.
For our 3rd bonus example, it starts to get a little more complicated. The reload version is much loved by high rollers and general casino regulars as it gives you additional chips every time you make a subsequent deposit after your first. You’re effectively reloading your account.
Sometimes these reload offers can be for the same as the original, sometimes for slightly less, and mainly there will be a limit on how many you’ll get.
Valued Member Bonuses
These are often great to receive and sometimes seem similar to reloads, but they’re of a more random nature and are awarded to regulars who play consistently.
It’s good that the casinos do recognise your value if you fit into this category, and does the job well of showing how valuable your continued customer is. Kind of like VIP benefits, but with less formality.
If you play with Bet365, you’ll most likely find they’re particularly good for this. Certainly for sports betting they regularly send an extra £5 or £10 to consistent punters, and it’s unlikely to be much different in their casino games.
Some Casinos offer free slots spins rather than hard cash. Most often you’ll see these on offer from casino operators that focus on slots games, but they’re also used as promotion type offers when a casino is promoting a brand new slots title (or trying to revive interest in a flagging one!).
They’ll normally be seen as no deposit offers to encourage new players to registers, but also can take the form of part cash/part free spins deals on new deposit deals or even reloads.
Other variations include time-restricted offers (where there is a time limit by which you must have played your bonus amount).
High Roller Bonuses
Designed to supplement your account with some often huge amounts, high roller deals can be found which will add sometimes thousands of chips to your bankroll. If playing for big stakes and big wins is your style, these are for you.
In addition, you’ll often see special bonuses offered at holiday times of the year – Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving – plus many operators will make special offers available at times of major sporting events like the football World Cup and the Olympics.
What Are Betting Bonus Codes?
You’ve seen those codes you get emailed from clothing websites that get you a discount percentage off the full price? Well you’ll occasionally see the same from the casinos, and you’ll need to enter the code at the time of registration to get your extra money.
Keep an eye open on the terms and conditions if you see one of these, as some codes can increase or release the bonus while others might make the playthrough easier to meet.
The best way to find bonus codes to use (if you’ve not been sent one in an email) is by using one of the specialist bonuses websites. These sites often work out special deals with the casinos that allow them to pass on enhanced offers to players that register through links on their sites.
When Not To Take The Bonus
Even with the catch from the playthrough, you’d be forgiven for thinking there wouldn’t ever be a situation where you wouldn’t want to accept one.
Sadly, it’s likely take you a few times before you’ll realise that on your own, so this section should help.
Let’s take an example.
You wake up one morning with the conviction that today is your day. It’s all going to fall into place, and everything you do will have a great result.
You’re a gambler, so having a bet is high on the list, so you decide to make a deposit and play. One bet for a big amount, and walk away smiling with your wallet bulging.
So you find a casino you’ve never played at before, and take out your card to make a deposit.
It’s offering a $500 bonus for new account holders.
But you’re not going to take it right?
As we’ve seen, if you do and win your one off bet, you won’t be able to take your money and will be forced into playing on to overcome the playthrough. You’ll most likely lose the lot.
And that forms part of a big lesson. Bonuses are great for increasing playing time and getting practice. They’re not particularly good news for withdrawable bankroll!
What’s The Difference Between Bonuses And Promotions?
Bonuses are a form of promotion of course, and probably the most well known. We already mentioned that they exist to attract paying Customers.
But when we speak about promotions in casinos, the term covers a much wider range than just our extra money offers. Promotions can be found in the form of special contest entries like freeroll tournaments or prize draws, with prizes like holidays, electronic goods, and even cash on offer.
Many betting operators also run VIP schemes as part of their core site promotion. With these programmes you’ll get VIP points awarded in your VIP account as you place bets. Each bet of a specified value will get you a number of predefined points.
VIP points can be exchanged for a range of benefits such as:
· Tournament entries
· One on one Customer Support
· Exclusive high value bonuses
· Invitations to sporting events
· Plus other promotions that are reserved for VIP players at a certain level
Strategies For Bonus Management
Clearly the major strategy you’ll need to apply to clear a bonus playthrough is to aim to make as many successful bets as possible.
That’s easier said than done!
You’ll obviously need to be aware of what games do count towards the playthrough figure, and aim to play those among the allowed list that 1) You enjoy the most and 2) Ideally give you some sort of chance of winning against the house. Baccarat and Pai Gow Poker, along with 3 Card Poker. You’ll need to be playing optimal strategy with any of them.
Aside from this, the best strategy is not to take an offer in the first place. If you have, just do your best, enjoy it, and keep stakes low.
What Is Bonus Hunting or Whoring?
Pretty much every online casino offers bonuses, which opens up some opportunities which may not be immediately obvious. After all, if you find a casino you like and trust, why change?
This is where hunting comes in (also known as whoring).
Purely and simply, it means hunting around for different offers, and gradually taking them up one by one. It could be classed as another strategy, but in fact some players have turned it into more of an art form.
If luck is on your side – and you can clear bonuses successfully on a regular basis – you could build up multiple bankrolls with a number of different operators.
If you want to follow this route, here are some tips that will help:
• Start your search with high quality, well known casinos. As a matter of course these will often be larger ones, well known, and longest running sites.
• Find those offers with a no deposit element attached in addition to the regular deposit bonus. You may as well take advantage in as many ways as possible.
Find the casinos with the highest payout rates. You should be on the lookout for somewhere that returns over 90%. This will give you a greater chance of keeping your bank afloat.
• Make small bets whenever you can. Try to avoid any lengthy losing streaks. It’s normally best practice to avoid increasing your stake after losses.
• Fully understand the playthrough requirements.
• Follow the tips in the strategy section above. Careful,focused play is the way to go.
• If your luck doesn’t play out before you’ve managed to clear a bonus think carefully before piling in on another offer straight away. There will always be bigger and better options in waiting.
• Always read the terms and conditions before accepting any offer. You need to know what you’re getting into.
• Check that there are no maximum withdrawal limits, and you can safely get out whatever cash you have actually won after the playthrough.
• If you do manage to get ahead, be even more cautious with your staking. Preserve that bankroll at all costs!
• If you think you’ll be making a number of deposits at the same casino, look out for one which has a good reload bonus scheme.
With some careful attention to selecting the best offers – and by paying particular attention to all of the tips above – there are possibilities to use casino bonuses to maybe make some small long term profits and avoid risking using your own cash as far as possible.
Valuable Additional Resources
We said earlier that the subject of casino bonuses is one which has been heavily covered on the internet. The result is that there are dozens of valuable sites which list the best offers.
In general these are sites you can trust to be accurate and up to date, but you should always make your own checks to find out if offers are still current, and if the terms and conditions have been fully noted.
There’s no catch with these sites, they are simply acting as either a bonus information resource (as is this page), or as intermediary affiliate sites between themselves and the casinos to show you the best and latest offers available. They’ll get some affiliate income if you sign up through their links – but this has absolutely no effect on the amount of cash you receive.
For a good example try this site at BonusGeek.com, while GamingSupermarket.com is a valuable resource if you want to compare bonus offers.
For one of the biggest databases I’ve found anywhere, try out Keytocasino.com. At the last look they had over 2000 bonuses listed.
All in all, the subject of bonuses is a perfect one to illustrate why you should treat casino gambling as an entertainment medium rather than one with which to win money.
The rules of all types of gambling apply. Only play with what you can safely afford to lose. If it hurts to lose, stop and get out. Read the responsible gambling page before you do anything.
Bonuses can offer great value and give you plenty of entertainment time. Fill your boots carefully and enjoy!