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Bonus Introduction and Overview

Pay close attention to this section, because we are about to discuss perhaps one of the most exciting and profitable aspects of sports arbitrage trading:

The means by which an arbitrage trader is able to place arbs using money they don't even have.

A good friend of mine once said, "Arbitrage traders absolutely love bonuses - they're like free money!" and indeed, it is hugely important for both new and experienced arbitrage traders to at least keep a finger on the pulse of what kind of sign-up bonuses are available on the market and know what's on offer.

It is neither difficult, nor is it particularly complicated to claim and use bonus money however doing so allows an arbitrage trader to bolster profits significantly. It also makes it easier for those with a lower bankroll to generate larger profits earlier on. It does however require a relatively good understanding and familiarity with bookmakers rules in practise, so we would recommend that until you are at least lightly experienced with arbing, or at least particularly versed in paper trading, that it may be best to bookmark this page for a later point at which you feel more confident.

What is a Bonus or 'Freebet'?

Bonuses, intrinsically, are something as easy to understanding as arbing itself! In fact, it's all right there in the name: Bonuses or freebets are bookmaker-issued bonus money granted on registration, or upon meeting certain conditions as stipulated by the bookmaker. They are given by bookmakers as incentives to use their services, and to encourage you to play with that bookie.

There are a few situations in which freebet bonuses are granted to players:

  • Sign-up and first deposit bonuses
  • Top-up bonuses
  • 'Refer a friend' bonuses

For the purposes of this site, we focus on which bookmaker sites offer sign-up and first deposit bonuses as these are by far the most popular and simplest to redeem. Bonuses available under other terms are most certainly available, and if you plan to use them you should definitely take notice.

Stake Not Returned or Stake Returned?

Bonuses come in two distinct flavours:

Stake Not Returned (SNR)

Stake Not Returned bonuses are often called 'freebets' and are provided as literally that... You are effectively given a 'betting token' and you are free to place that betting token on any bet within the terms of the freebet.

If your bet loses you get nothing, just like normal, but if your bet wins you get the winnings minus the original stake (hence the SNR name) because the original stake was just a freebet – it has no real value.

Stake Returned (SR)

Stake Returned bonuses are usually added to your normal account balance and there is no way to really differentiate between the real money in your account and your bonus money. When you place a bet with your bonus money, it acts exactly like your real money.

The consequences of receiving SR bonus money is that any attempt to withdraw from your betting account before your bonus conditions have been met, will result in the original bonus amount being removed from your balance before the withdrawal is processed.

SR bonuses having been dying out for some time, as bookmakers will tend to prefer to offer SNR bonuses mostly these days.

Rollover Requirements and Turnover Requirements

In order to convert your free bet money to 'real' money, you need to place a certain cumulative amount of bets.

A typical sign-up bonus to consider as an example looks something like this:

50% up to $500 with a 5x (deposit + bonus) rollover requirement.

Broken down, this means:

The bonus money issued to you is 50% of your deposit.
deposit $500 and receive a bonus of $250, likewise a deposit of $1000 would get you the full $500 bonus.

Up to a maximum bonus amount of $500.
though you can still of course deposit more than what is is required to redeem the full bonus.

The amount of the deposit plus the amount of the bonus must be played through 5 times.
if you deposited $500, to claim a $250 bonus, you would need to play through 5x ($500 + $250) = $3,750.
if you deposited $1000, to claim the full $500 bonus, you would need to play through 5x ($1,000 + $500) = $7,500.

Bonuses can have rollover requirements of various factors, or combinations of factors like the bonus, the deposit and/or any generated winnings.

Where the rollover requirement is a description of the factors involved in describing the bonus terms, like 6x (deposit) or 4x (deposit + bonus) the total amount of bet money that must be played through is the referred to as the turnover requirement of the bonus.

Know the Despair!

Many traditional gamblers, as opposed to arbers, become disillusioned with the notion of actually claiming freebet offer money, and it's easy to see why!

The bettor must win successfully almost as many times as the rollover, in order to make favourable use of the bonus.

This is by no means at all impossible, though it is still quite unlikely to turn over several times without a loss so as to actually get to keep the money as your prize. And I've seen some bonuses with up to an unbelievable 20x rollover requirement! Worse yet still, the issue is compounded by the fact that while some bookmakers allow withdrawal prior to meeting rollover requirements (typically with forfeiture of the bonus) others will not allow withdrawal until you meet the rollover requirements entirely!

Bonus details provided live by SureBetBookies - the only arbitrage traders database.

In our next chapter, we will explore exactly how to play free bonus money in such a way that profit is guaranteed.

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