When you first start out matched betting, the majority of bookmaker offers you do will be ones such as 'Bet £10 & get a £10 Free Bet' or 'Bet £5 and get a £20 Free Bet'. Once you get the hang of them, they're pretty simple to do and the same method is used for most of them.
As you work your way through the offers, you'll come across bookmakers which offer bonuses rather than free bets. It's important that you understand that bonuses and free bets are not the same and the method for extracting a profit from them is different. If you're a member of one of the matched betting sites such as MatchedBets.com or ProfitSquad.co.uk, you'll notice that the bonus offers are generally further down the list. This isn't because bonus offers are nesessarily less profitable or difficult to do, but it's better that you gain some experience with free bets first so that when you do get to the bonus offers, you'll have a better understanding of matched betting in general and the difference between bonuses and free bets.
Free Bets vs bonuses - What's the difference?
The main difference between free bets and bonuses is that free bet stakes are not returned whereas bonuses are.
For example, if you received a £10 free bet and placed it on a bet with odds of 2/1, you'd receive £20 back if it won. However, if you placed a £10 bonus on a bet with odds of 2/1, you'd receive £30 back if it won as your initial stake is included in the winnings.
However, bonuses are not quite that simple. Usually there are rollover requirements attached to bonuses, meaning that you must wager your bonus a certain number of times before it and any winnings generated from using the bonus, can be withdrawn. Once you complete the wagering requirements, you can withdraw your bonus and any winnings.
what are rollover / wagering requirements?
Nearly all bonuses will have rollover requirements (also known as wagering requirements) which will vary between bonuses. The rollover requirement is the amount you must bet before being able to withdraw your bonus or winnings.
The purpose of rollover requirements is that bonuses are generally credited for just making a deposit. If there were no rollover requirements then players could simply deposit, collect the bonus and withdraw.
You generally have to place a bet to receive a free bet which eliminates the need for rollover requirements so it's either place a bet prior to receiving a free bet or place a bet after receiving a bonus.
Example: Deposit £20 and receive a £20 bonus with x3 rollover
In the example above we would receive a £20 bonus instantly after depositing £20. However, we can't withdraw the £20 bonus straight away and need to wager 3 x £20 first. This means that we must place £60 worth of bets. Once we have done so, we can withdraw our deposit + bonus + any winnings.
How to do bonus offers
Let's take a look at an example bonus offer...
Offer: Deposit £100 & Get a £50 bonus
Terms: Deposit + Bonus must be wagered x6 with minimum odds of 4/5 (1.8)
18+, new customers only, credit/debit card deposits only, bonus funds only released after wagering requirements met
Before accepting any bonus offer it is important to read and understand the terms of the bonus. Failure to do so may result in you not having enough available funds to complete the wagering in the specified amount of time. If you do not meet the wagering requirements, you could forfeit your bonus and any winnings generated from it.
Rollover/Wagering Requirements - The amount you must wager to be able to withdraw your bonus and any winnings generated from it.
Minimum odds - Only bets placed equal to or above the minimum odds will count towards rollover requirements.
Rollover time restrictions - You may only have a certain amount of time to complete your wagering. Make sure you are aware of this time frame and ensure you have enough available funds in your exchange account to do so.
Maximum wagering contributions - There may be a maximum amount that contributes to the rollover requirements per bet. For example, if the maximum is £50, then if you placed a £100 bet, only £50 would contribute towards the rollover requirements.
bonus offer strategy
Using the Mansionbet offer above, we need to deposit £100 in order to receive a £50 bonus. Once we have done so, we need to wager the deposit amount + bonus amount six times to be able to withdraw our bonus and any winnings. Therefore, the total amount of bets we must place to enable a withdrawal is £900.
The strategy to rollover a bonus is simply to back and lay bets until you have met the wagering requirements. As your bonus is eventually returned once you have met the wagering requirements, you will need to use the 'Stake Returned' option on a matched betting calculator, similar to when you place a qualifying bet.
what odds to choose
When rolling over your bonus, you have the option to choose low or high odds. Qualifying bets are generally placed at low odds to minimise losses whereas free bets are generally placed at higher odds to maximise profits. With bonuses, you can use either and both have their pros and cons.
Lower losses from backing and laying meaning more of the bonus is retained after completing wagering.
More likely to win your bet with the bookmaker meaning you're more likely to have to complete all wagering.
More likely to win at the exchange meaning you won't have to complete the full wagering.
Higher losses if your bet wins with the bookmaker and more funds required to lay bets.
method 1: the standard lay
There are two methods you can use when completing the wagering requirements of a bonus. The first is the standard lay method and involves backing and laying bets using 'Stake Not Returned' on a matched betting calculator just as you would when placing qualifying bets.
Looking at the calculator above, we have selected Normal/Stake Not Returned and from a £50 bet, we will make a loss of £1 whatever the outcome is.
We would then need to repeat the process until we have placed £900 worth of bets or our bookmaker balance is zero, in which case our profit will be in our betting exchange account.
If we were to place £900 worth of bets using the odds and stakes above, we would have to place 8 x £50 bets which would give us a loss of 8 x £1 = £8. As our bonus amount was £50, this would give us an overall profit after completing the wagering of £42!
method 2: underlay
Another option we have is to underlay our bets. All matched betting calculators should have an underlay option so they are just as easy to do as standard lays and just require a different lay stake which the calculator will show us.
The advantage of using the underlay method is that if your bet wins with the bookmaker, you retain the full bonus and do not incur any losses. You will make a greater loss should your bet win with the exchange but if this happens, you have less funds tied up in your bookmaker account and if you lose all your bookmaker funds, you are done with the offer with all of your funds and profit in your exchange account meaning you do not have to finish completing the rollover requirements.
Above, we have selected the underlay option on the matched betting calculator. As you can see, if our bet wins with the bookmaker, we incur no loss. However, if our bet wins with the exchange, we make a loss of £1.96 which is greater than the loss incurred using the standard lay method. Many favour this method as they are prepared to take a slightly higher loss in order to have more funds in their betting exchange account rather than tied up with the bookmaker.
The strategy for profiting from bonus bets is different to profiting from free bets but they are still relatively simple to do and can return high profits. There are a lot of bonus bagging offers available from various bookmakers and the majority can return a profit after wagering.
It's important to read and understand the terms of the bonus as highlighted in the 'Key Terms' section above. Understanding the significant terms of the bonus will allow you to determine the value of the bonus after all wagering has been completed and whether or not the bonus is worth claiming. Some bonuses have high rollover requirements and are not worth doing. However, many are so it is simply a case of working out which ones will return a profit before committing to them.
You have the option to use the standard lay or the underlay method when wagering your bonus. Both have their advantages and disadvantages so it is up to you which you choose.