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Free Bet vs. Risk-Free Bet vs. Deposit Match: What Does Each Sportsbook Bonus Mean?

Free Bet vs. Risk-Free Bet vs. Deposit Match: What Does Each Sportsbook Bonus Mean? article feature image
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Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images. Pictured: DraftKings logo.

Sportsbooks love to make it seem like you’re getting lots of free money when you sign up.

But what is this money, really? Is it real cash you can withdraw and spend in real life? Or is there some catch?

A little bit of both.

There are six main bonus types that sportsbooks offer, with most eventually ending up as free bets.

Some promos also have a rollover, which requires you to wager a certain amount at that sportsbook before being eligible to withdraw.

Always read the terms and conditions to understand what you’re getting into when you sign up. Fortunately, the terms are usually accessible with just a single click.

Also keep an eye on when free bets expire. They generally don’t last forever, and if you don’t use them, you’ll lose them.

6 Types of Sportsbook Bonuses

1. Free money

Free money is cash in your account you can bet or withdraw. This comes in smaller increments like $10 or $25 so if you do take it and run, the book isn’t losing much. Most books don’t give away free money.

If you see DraftKings offering a $500 deposit match plus $20 free, there’s a reason the “free” money is only $20 and the deposit match is $500. We’ll get to deposit matches in a bit.

2. Free bets

Free bets are what they sound like. You bet them, and if they win, they turn into cash in your account. You can often find them in your bet slip. Sometimes, you need to go to the promos tab at that sportsbook and opt in.

Sportsbooks give away free bets often, not just when you first sign up. Sometimes they put them right in your account as a reward for betting a bunch or as an incentive to come back.

Other times you need to opt into them, like this NHL promo at BetMGM.

Free bets are the lifeblood of bonuses because almost everything turns into a free bet eventually. If you win these free bets, they turn into cash, but you’ll lose a lot of them, too, and end up with nothing.

  • Risk-free bets, if they lose, get credited back to you in free bets
  • Deposit matches become free bets
  • Parlay insurance and similar promotions turn into free bets
  • Any “bet $5, win $200” promos are $200 in free bets

You can see in the screenshot below that PointsBet‘s risk-free promo all comes back in free bets.

pointsbet promo screenshot

3. Risk-free bet

A risk-free bet is only available on your first wager.

At FanDuel, you can make a bet anywhere from $1 to $1,000, and if it wins, it’s a winning bet. You keep the cash.

fanduel risk free bet

But if the bet loses, you get credited in free bets in the same amount you put in. This is advantageous for the sportsbook in two ways:

  • Most people don’t put in $1,000. So the sportsbook gets the marketing allure of a four-figure bonus but rarely has to match it.
  • If the bet loses, the money comes back in free bets. To turn those bets into cash, they need to win. If your free bets lose, you’re suddenly left with nothing.

4. Deposit match

A deposit match is when the sportsbook gives you free bets equal to the amount you deposit when you sign up.

Caesars has one of the biggest deposit matches in the industry at $1,001. If you deposit the full amount, you’ll get a $1,001 free bet. If you deposit $200, you’ll get a $200 free bet.

With any bonus (but deposit matches especially), just be cautious of rollover or “play-through” requirements.

DraftKings has a deposit match that’s difficult to meet the requirements of.

You get 20% of your deposit as a bonus, but you must wager 5x your deposit in 90 days to claim the full bonus. The bonus is released $1 at a time for every $25 you wager.

So if you put in $500, DK will give you an extra $100. But to get the full $100, you must wager $2,500 ($500 x 5) in 90 days.

That’s a lot of bets! If you’re a $20 bettor, it will take you 125 bets to hit that threshold.

To keep it simple, let’s say you bet $20 on those 125 bets, all on -110 point spreads. If you win 50% of them and go 63-62, you’ll lose $111. That’s more than the entire bonus!

Again, read the terms carefully! I’ve tried to outline general principles here, but the specific terms change frequently, so don’t rely on this article or any others for totally up-to-date bonus info for specific books. Check the book itself.

5. Site Credit

Site credit is like free bets, but there’s no pre-determined increments.

So if you get $100 in site credits, you can make one $100 wager or 50 $2 wagers. You have a little more flexibility than free bets.

6. Profit Boosts

Sportsbooks will often give new and existing users a profit boost on random events.

But they often come with certain stipulations, like you must bet a parlay with at least three legs to get the profit boost.

A 25% profit boost on any UFC parlay that originally paid $75 will now pay almost $94. If it wins, it’s real cash. But books will often try to guide you into less advantageous bets to take advantage of these profit boosts.

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