To attract new customers, online bookmakers often give a bonus on your first deposit if you open an account. It could for example be that they give a 100% bonus on your first deposit up to $200. That means if you deposit $200, the bookmaker will add $200, so that you have $400 on your account.
If you could just withdraw this money immediately, a lot of people would, and the bookmakers would lose money. Most often, bookmakers therefore have some kind of playthrough requirement. This means that you have to bet the bonus amount and possibly your deposit a certain number of times within a time limit to be able to withdraw the money. It could be that you have to place bets for the amount of five times the amount of the bonus within thirty days before you can make a withdrawal. This way, the bookmakers hope that although they lose money on giving you the money, you will get hooked by playing through the bonus so you will keep playing and lose money to them after you are able to withdraw the money.
Other kinds of promotions the bookmakers have often involves a playthrough requirement.
Because you want to get the most out of deposit bonuses and promotions, the problem is: How do you play through a bonus to secure the most money?
Place Profitable Bets
The best way to play through a bonus is of course to place profitable bets. Then you don’t lose anything on the playthrough requirements; you only place bets you would have placed anyway.
The disadvantage of this method is that it requires handicapping skills, and that handicapping can be quite time consuming.
Another way to not lose money on a playthrough requirement is arbitrage betting. This is to use multiple bookmakers and find events where they disagree on the odds so much that it’s possible to bet on both/all outcomes profitably. This happens when the implied probabilities add up to less than one.
An example is the game between England and Slovakia in the European championship in soccer where at one point the odds of England winning at one bookmaker where 3.20, the odds of a draw at another bookmaker was 2.00, and the odds of Slovakia winning was 5.75. The sum of the implied probabilities then was 1/3.2 + 1/2 + 1/5.75 = 0.3125 + 0.5 + 0.1739 = 0.9864. This means that if you bet X divided by the odds of the outcome on each outcome (X/odds), you will have a profit of X - 0.9864X no matter the outcome of the event.
An advantage of this method is that no handicapping skills are required. You know that at least one of the bets has to be profitable in itself, but you don’t need to figure out which one(s). Another advantage is that it involves no variance, so you can bet the whole bonus at once.
The disadvantages of the method are that arbitrage bets are very time consuming to find, involves using multiple bookmakers, and that there are several risks involved, especially because bookmakers usually don’t like that people are making arbitrage bets.
How to Lose as Little as Possible on Playthrough Requirements
The methods for not losing money are difficult and time consuming to use. Because people that do not have the skills or time to use these methods also can earn some easy earned money on deposits bonuses and other promotions, I will explain which methods you should use to lose as little as possible on playing through bonuses.
Small losing bets on the favorite in big games in big sports
If you’re not using multiple bookmakers or aren't afraid of variance, the best way to play through a bonus is to make small bets on the favorite in big games in big sports.
The reason why you should make small bets is because it reduces the variance. If you make a lot of bets, most of the time some will win and some will lose, so that you lose about the same amount on the playthrough requirement each time. If you instead make a few big bets, you will sometimes win a lot, and sometimes lose it all.
This is also the reason why you should bet on the favorites. The variance is a lot smaller when betting on favorites, because the chance of losing a lot more often than the odds implies is lower when you bet on an alternative that often wins.
That you should bet on the favorites also means that you should bet on the outcome of games, not on other kinds of bets. This is because the bookmakers’ cut is generally smaller when betting on the outcome of a game. An example is the soccer game between PSG and Barcelona where the Bet365's odds on the outcome were 3.50 (PSG wins), 3.50 (draw) and 2.10 (Barcelona wins). The bookmakers cut then were 1/3.50 + 1/3.50 + 1/2.10 - 1 = 4.8%. The bookmakers cut on the over/under 3.5 goals, however, were 1/2.75 + 1/1.40 - 1 = 8.8%. By making bets where the bookmakers cut is smaller, you lose less on the playthrough requirement.
The reason why you should bet on big games in big sports is also to find bets where the bookmakers cut is smaller, so that you lose less on the playthrough requirement. While the cut on the quite big game between PSG and Barcelona in Champions league was 4.8%, the cut in the smaller game between Fredrikstad and Sandnes Ulf in the second highest soccer division in Norway was 1/2.75 + 1/3.5 + 1/2.4 - 1 = 6.6%. The cut on the huge game between Germany and France in the FIFA World Cup, on the other hand, was just 1/2.95 + 1/3.05 + 1/2.80 - 1 = 2.4%.
All these games were in soccer, the biggest sport in the world, where a lot of bets are made. In smaller sports, the bookmakers cut is bigger. An example is a table tennis game between France Kojic and Krisztian Nagy were the cut were 1/1.37 + 1/2.85 - 1 = 8.1%.
Betting on all outcomes
If you use multiple bookmakers and want to avoid variance, you can use the different bookmakers to bet on all possible outcomes of the game. You then bet X/Odds on each outcome to win the same amount no matter who wins. While this eliminates the variance, it costs you money (except if you are playing through a bonus on all the bookmakers). You will not only make losing bets on the bookmaker where you are playing through a bonus, but also on the other bookmaker(s).
If you are willing to do some line shopping, you should look for bookmakers that have different odds on the game than the bookmaker where you are playing through a bonus. Even when you don't find an opportunity for arbitrage betting, you will find good opportunities for losing as little as possible by taking advantage of the different odds. If you don't find bookmakers that disagree on the odds, you should bet on the favorite at the bookmaker where you are playing through a bonus, and the underdog (and draw) at the other(s). This is because X/(a low number) is higher than X/(a big number).
Also when betting on all the outcomes, you should bet on the outcome of big games in big sports to give as little of your money to the bookmaker as possible.
How you reach the playthrough requirement decides how much you earn on bonuses from online bookmakers. Even if you don't manage to find profitable bets, there are ways to lose as little as possible on the requirements. Betting on the outcome of big games in big sports, and some line shopping can take you a long way.