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Playing for Bonuses
by Alan Au Yeung,
12 February, 2004

If you're going to Vegas hoping to beat the odds, you're in for a tough lesson. The land based casino business is a multi-billion dollar enterprise and they didn't get that way by letting people win. Eventually, you'll discover that gambling can be an exciting form of entertainment where luck can sometimes favor you in the short term but eventually, the house always wins.

You might think this is also true for Internet based casinos, but it's not. Although an online casino game would have the same house edge as a land based casino game, there are certain "features" of online casinos that can give players at a statistical advantage. One such feature is bonuses.

Casinos which offer match bonuses each month are the best source for bonus hunting. InterCasino, for example, proudly promotes $80 Every Player Every Month, and offers a 25X play-through before cash out. The play-through means you need to bet an aggregate sum of $2,000 before you can cash out. All casinos have some type of requirement, but play-through requirements are the most common and accepted.

There are three things to look for when playing for bonuses: the amount of the bonus, the house edge on qualifying games, and most importantly, the play-though requirements.

One of my favorite games is Blackjack at CryptoLogic based casinos such as Sands of the Caribbean, Omni Casino, and InterCasino. Most people agree that CryptoLogic's Blackjack is the most "fair" and as close to land based casinos as you can get. According to Michael Shackleford, the Wizard of Odds, CryptoLogic blackjack has a house edge of only 0.49% if you play using the basic blackjack strategy.

Statistically speaking, at 0.49% house edge, playing an aggregate sum of $2,000 should yield you a loss of $9.80 ($2,000 x 0.49% = $9.80) if luck wasn't a factor. Since you received a bonus of $80, you should be able to walk away with a $70.20 bonus + your deposit on average.

I'll be the first to admit that $70.20 each month isn't a lot of money. But nobody said you could only play at one casino. Virtually every online casino offers some sort of match bonus and you're free to take advantage of all of them (with some exeptions, always read a casino's Terms and Conditions). Doing so could net you a good sum of winnings every month.

Why the free money?

I'm sure you're skeptical. The math is simple and obvious, so why would a casino offer bonuses when it gives them a statistical DISADVANTAGE? The reason is simply: competition. Online casinos believe the best way to get a player into their casino is to offer them a match bonus. Since virtually every casino offers a bonus, it's very difficult to NOT do this.

The idea here is not to give out money frivolously, but to entice a potential player into trying a casino and hoping that player will enjoy their experience and come back to play more. For casinos, losing some bonus money is a small price to pay for the possibility of gaining a regular player.

Bonus Hunting vs. Bonus Abuse

Bonus abuse is most commonly the registration of multiple accounts at a single casino to take advantage to the bonus offer many times over. It could also be the signing up of as a new account to take advantage of a "New Player Bonus" when you already have an account and have already taken advantage of a one-time signup bonus.

Bonus abuse is unethical and I strongly suggest against doing it. Casinos have many ways to track users and if it's discovered that you've been abusing bonuses, casinos can and will often revoke bonuses, lock your account, and/or withhold your winnings. Bonus abusers hurt everyone and the online gambling community offers no sympathy for these people.

Bonus hunting on the other hand is completely legal and it's a loophole the industry is willing to accept. Bonus hunters play by the rules, they sign up for casinos where they've never played before, or stay at a casino to take advantage of a monthly bonus. They play these bonuses until they meet the requirements set up on the terms and conditions, and cash out.

Because gambling in the short term can be affected by luck, it's possible that you could lose your bonus and deposit at any casino. Bonus hunters play many casinos as a way to reduce the luck factor and focus on the statistical advantage; averaging wins and losses and coming out with the bonus money. If statistical advantages are good enough to build an industry around, you can be sure it's good enough for the bonus hunter.

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