Free Bets – how to maximise your returns

Understanding some basic maths can help you maximise your returns from free bets on offer for new customers at online bookmakers.

One of the first pieces of advice that any bettor should take on board is the value of having accounts with different bookmakers, in order to maximise the potential return on any one bet. It may seem like a lot of work for the sake of perhaps nabbing 11/2 instead of a generally available 5/1, however if you are the type of punter who places two £10 bets per week at that kind of price and you generally break even, then by the end of the year getting that extra tick onto each bet will have been worth approximately £85. Those are rough numbers of course, but you’ll generally get one winner every three weeks, and each tick is worth an extra fiver. That’s seventeen fivers in the year, which would add up to an 8% differential in terms of your overall profit. When we’re dealing in a world where most online bookies make a margin of between 4% and 6%, that’s the difference between being a winning punter or a losing punter right there.

Of course one of the positive side effects of setting up new accounts is all the special offers that can be exploited. Some offers are better than others and we won’t insult your intelligence by going into whether a £20 free bet is better than a £50 free bet, but sometimes the correct use of these bets is worth pointing out since you have to act counter to human nature.

Human psychology plays a big part here, and the bookmaking community know this. A lot of people, when offered a free bet, love the idea of something for nothing – so they look for a short odds bet in order to maximise their chances of getting a return. However since the stake usually isn’t returned on a free bet, the bookie is actually very happy with this.

Very simply, let’s compare two bets – a toss of a coin handicap, where the true odds are 50/50 but you’re betting at 10/11, or a first goalscorer bet, where the true odds might be 9/1 but you bet at 7/1 – the bookie has a 25% profit here. Normally, we’d advise the handicap play since the bookie is getting a lot less juice.

Notionally, let’s say our free bet is for £25 – the return on the 10/11 shot is £22.73 with no stake to be returned, while the goalscorer bet returns £175. The expected value of the handicap bet is £22.73 x 50% = £11.36, while the expected value of the long shot is £175 x 10% = £17.50. So much for depriving the bookie of his juice!

The return works out even better if you’re able to identify a value selection, i.e. one where the true odds are better than the price. Let’s assume for a moment that your 10/11 bet should actually be 5/6, or that it has a 55% chance of occurring. The true value of this bet is now £12.50. You are 10% better off than in the coin flip situation. However lets assume that your 7/1 shot should be 6/1, as it’s genuinely a 14% possibility. Suddenly this bet is now worth £24.50, meaning that you’re better off to the tune of 40%.

It can be hard to get over the psychological hump of placing a free bet on something that probably won’t happen, and of course the principles of value are always worth taking into account, but this is one instance where you’d actually be better off taking a punt on a big price even if you’ve put in little or no research, as opposed to studying hard and coming up with a cracking odds on punt.

* Our Free Bets page offers over £600 to new customers

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