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What Are Bonus Bets at FanDuel, BetMGM & Other Sportsbooks?

What Are Bonus Bets at FanDuel, BetMGM & Other Sportsbooks? article feature image
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Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images. Pictured: FanDuel logo

As pressure mounts from gaming regulators, sportsbooks are getting away from the word “free” pretty much across the board.

That’s because most of their offers don’t actually involve anything free. There’s usually some risk involved, or the “free” thing they’re offering isn’t actually free cash. It’s more like a credit that can be turned into cash with a winning bet.

Enter the term “bonus bets” instead of “free bets.” It’s the new naming convention for many sportsbooks for the same type of thing. FanDuel and BetMGM are both using this term now in all states.

Here’s how they work.

Bonus Bets, Explained

Let’s say I claim the bet $10, get $200 in bonus bets offer from BetMGM. I’ll get four, $50 bonus bets that can’t be split up any further than that. (At FanDuel, you can split them up as much as you want, down to $1).

I’ll take a $50 bonus bet and put it on the Chicago Blackhawks at +200 against the Vancouver Canucks in NHL action.

  • If the Blackhawks win, I’ll profit $100 ($50 x 2.0) but I don’t keep the $50 bonus bet. That just goes away. So now I’ll be left with whatever cash I deposited, plus $100 cash, plus the $150 remaining in bonus bets.
  • If the Blackhawks lose, the bonus bet goes away, and I’m left with my original cash plus $150 in remaining bonus bets.

That’s pretty much it! There’s something different called “site credit” which very few sportsbooks use anymore. With site credit, you would keep the bet amount if the bet wins, plus the profit.

How to Use Bonus Bets

We’ve already done a few in-depth guides on the optimal way to use your sportsbook bonuses and a complete guide to +EV betting, which incorporates a lot of what we’ll briefly cover below.

The best way to use bonus bets, because you don’t keep the bonus bet itself, is to wager at plus-money, ideally in the +300 to +500 range in tight markets. The tighter the market, the more confident a sportsbook is in its line.

Most people want to bet on big favorites to “lock in profits” with these bonus bets.

But there are two major flaws with this:

  • Many sportsbooks don’t let you bet huge favorites with bonus bets (often capped at -300 or so).
  • You’re actually getting less expected value with big favorites anyway.

The expected value (EV) is the probability of the bet winning multiplied by the amount you can expect to win. Expected value is the amount of money you’ll win or lose on that bet if it were placed an infinite number of times.

Take these three examples:

Odds Win Amount Probability EV
-250 $20 71.43% +$14.28
+250 $125 28.57% +$35.71
+500 $250 16.67% +$41.67

It’s mathematically impossible to get a better advantage over the sportsbook on a favorite than on an underdog with a free bet. The longer the odds, the more value you get.

The counterargument is that you only have so many free bets, so this theoretical value may not turn out to be real money if your 30-1 underdogs keep losing. That’s why +300 to +500 is a nice sweet spot between actually winning and getting maximum value.

You’ll lose a lot of these bonus bets. Over your sports betting life, you will get plenty of them if you continue to deposit and wager with these books.

You want to take underdogs.

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