A question that comes up often is how a player should bet their free play. Some think since it’s not cash, you should push and bet higher than you would your normal bankroll. Others look for very specific types of games to try to make the most of the freeplay with the hopes of getting more cash out.
While there’s no one right way to play your free play (like your gambling budget, it’s a personal decision), I have a few thoughts on what I personally do. This post will focus on bet sizes, and we’ll have other posts around other things that can impact this.
A Reminder About Casino Math
I’ve written before about the casino math that drives offers. In a nut shell, casino offers are generated based on your previous play, amount gambled, bet size, sometimes the amount lost/won, etc. When they send you an offer, there’s an expectation you’re going to not just bet through it once, like they require, but you’ll probably keep playing.
The first time you bet through free play, 99 times out of 100 you’ll earn nothing for this – this is promo play and so you’re not wagering any actual cash. Once you’ve bet through the free play once, what you have left is actual cash – and if you keep betting, the counter will begin to increment showing how much to your next tier credit, comp dollar, etc. Many players use this to identify when the free play bets have been completed.
But you’re still gambling with the cash that resulted from the casino’s free play. Technically, at that moment, if you started with free play, you’re up! So the casinos know this will be the case and expect it as part of what drives the offer. They know your free play will earn you some comps. They’re OK with this because they have plenty of math to figure out how much they want to spend to get you in the casino again and have another shot at your money.
Betting Beyond Your Bankroll: Free Play Edition
So what happens if you get some free play and think, hey, I normally don’t play high limit. But let’s go into the high limit room, play a few spins, and hope for the best? Well, you’re increasing your volatility quickly on a higher limit machine, and with only a few spins to try to make something happen, you’ll either win massively, get your bet back a couple of times and basically break even, or a few dead spins will eat up your free play.
Mathematically, that last option will happen most often. And now you can’t use your free play to drive some additional comp dollars, tier credits, etc. You have to dip into your bankroll for that. So you’re actually harming your ability to collect some additional comps and maintain your offers by betting out of character for your normal play. This is not unlike people who make the mistake of overbetting compared to their overall bankroll – some treat free play like a mini bankroll and overbet the heck out of it trying to get a jackpot.
So how do you avoid this? It’s simple – treat it like your cash bankroll.
Free Play as a Part of Your Bankroll
Let’s say you have a $50 free play offer and you’re going to the casino with $200. Congratulations – you’ve just augmented your bankroll by $50! Now you’ve got $250. Now, you can consider the options based on this revised bankroll:
- Maybe you’ll bet a touch higher because you have 25% more than you would have bet anyways.
- Maybe you stay the same level and play longer.
- Perhaps, with a bit of luck/success, you walk before you even have a chance to touch your cash bankroll, after playing for your normal amount of time!
If you went into the high limit room and did a handful of $5 or $10 bets, you haven’t taken enough spins to smooth out any volatility. On any slot machine, betting a few times and that’s it is a swing for the fences strategy. You could certainly see success, but the way slot machine payouts are designed, you’ll probably have a lot more misses than wins.
However, if you’re betting, say, $1 a spin, now you’re talking 50 spins – that’s more spins to potentially trigger a bonus, a great line hit, or even some small hits that keep you in the game. The key is to bet the freeplay like you would any other money.
Generally offers will equal some percentage of your historical losses or betting, and should give you a reasonable shot at something if bet at your normal pace. If your freeplay offer is bigger than normal, think of it as a way to play longer or up your bet amount a touch, but remember they’re probably trying to entice more play from you overall, and if you don’t deliver, your offers will go down.