How Should I Use Free Bets from Sportsbooks? A Futures Portfolio

How Should I Use Free Bets from Sportsbooks? A Futures Portfolio article feature image

Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: The Larry O’Brien Trophy at STAPLES Center.

With the rise in states coming online in the legalized sports betting space, there are more and more sportsbooks looking to grab your attention.

If you're new to betting on sports, you might have noticed some of the enticing promotional deals and offers. These sportsbooks are piling on the incentives, from free bets, to deposit matches, to “risk-free” promos, to free merchandise in the hopes to make you a loyal customer and choose their book over all others when you first go to place a bet.

This has created opportunities for old and new bettors alike, and the free market for sportsbooks has given us the ability to line shop (be sure to use the Action App to find the best lines!), but also to find the best promotions.

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One of the most common promotions I’ve come across is receiving free bets for signing up yourself, for referring your friends, or as a refund for a “risk-free” bet or some other promotion.

I’m a firm believer that credits are better than free bets because they are generally more flexible and function more similarly to cash; often times you receive the stake back, which differs from most free bets (always be sure to read the terms and conditions for each sportsbook).

Looking at the terms from DraftKings for example, “When you win a bet for which you have used a Free Bet, only the prize amount of that bet will be returned to your wallet. Any Free Bet values used are not included in settlement returns.”

In simpler terms, if you wager a $100 free bet on a the New YorkKnicks -8 (-110) and they cover the spread, you’re only going to return the winnings of $90.91. If you had wagered this with cash, it would have returned $190.91 — the amount you wagered plus your winnings.

We all bet different amounts for different things, and it’s critical to be mindful of wagering within your means. Often times, these free bets will not correlate with our traditional unit size whether that’s $10, $100, or even $1000 (we don’t unit shame) and it can lead to some internal debate about how to spend it.

Maybe it’s significantly smaller, and you don’t really care how it’s used or it’s significantly larger and you almost feel uncomfortable betting it on one event.

So what do you use it on? A spread bet? A moneyline wager? A crazy parlay?

I'd suggest another alternative: Use free bets to create a portfolio of futures.

Why futures? For one, (aside from win totals or season long prop totals) they are often plus-money opportunities, so you are not wagering a free bet on something that would return less than what the free bet was worth.

The second reason, and what I think is more important, is that it allows you to take advantage of better numbers without tying up cash or a significant part of your bankroll.

Do I want to tie up $100 in October on the Lakers (+400) to win the NBA Finals and potentially wait until June to cash that ticket? Absolutely not.

But if I have a free bet, I don’t mind since I can't withdraw that from my account anyway. I take that ticket and I log it (preferably into the Action App) and use it to start forming a portfolio of futures bets.

If I get another free bet, I’ll likely use it on the Milwaukee Bucks (+900) or maybe even the Denver Nuggets (+2500).

Okay, but Joe, I have this $10 free bet, what’s the point?

Well in a few states, BetMGM has a promotion called the Money Monday Club where as long as you opt in and place $50 worth of qualifying wagers throughout the week, they will credit your account with a $10 free bet that must be used within a seven-day time frame.

I almost always use this free $10 bet as essentially a recurring buy into the futures market. If you secure this promotion every week, that’s 52 $10 free bets that you could use to enter into a futures bet at varying odds — it’s almost like investing. You could keep wagering it on the same outcome, or you could spread them around, it’s entirely up to you.

Additionally, if you spread these free bets around to different outcomes, it may give you the ability to hedge to secure a profit. Some people do not believe in hedging because it may be negative expected value (-EV), but in the case of a free bet, it was never cash to begin with — you can create a situation where you secure a profit without initially risking cash.

This can feel like found money after waiting for weeks or even months for the bet to cash. Creating a portfolio of futures based on free bets gives you the opportunity to not only secure a winner, but to enjoy the season.

That leads me to my final point: I think futures bets are fun. I want something I can root for over the course of the entire season and I want it to give me a return that’s worth having my money tied up for an extended period of time — a full season sweat.

So, whether you’re a casual bettor who is not sure how to maximize the value of a free bet, or even a seasoned bettor who tends to use their free bets for straight bets or crazy parlays (I’ll admit, those can be fun too), don't overlook the option of using free bets on futures.

Create a portfolio, continue to add to your positions, and at the end of the season, you may be able to watch the NBA Finals knowing you’ve secured a profit no matter who takes home the Larry O’Brien trophy.

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