As promised in our previous Introduction to Online Gambling Article, we are now going to begin looking at some of the promotions available on these very Forums through out online casino affiliates and determine whether or not they are beatable. For the first installment in this vein, we will look at the (up to) $3,000 sign-up Bonus for Bovada.
*****PLEASE SEE ADDED NOTE AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE
As many of you may know, Bovada was, for a long time, the exclusive advertiser for both the WizardofOdds and WizardofVegas websites. While we now have other online casino affiliates, that does nothing to diminish the trust that we have in Bovada, its fairness, or its adherence to the offers that they make to players.
I'm confused as to why Bovada refers to this Bonus as a $3,000 Welcome Bonus because there is a slot bonus of 100% up to $500 that can be redeemed up to four times, and that would be a $2,000 Bonus. There is also a, "Other Games Bonus," that is a 100% deposit match up to $250 that can be redeemed four times and would be a $1,000 Bonus...I suppose a player could theoretically use both, then, and there's your $3,000 Bonus.
Without knowing the probabilities and the pays for the Slot Games, the only information that I really have is that there is a 50x playthrough requirement before any winnings can be withdrawn. Therefore, a player taking a $500 Bonus ($1,000 total) would have to wager $50,000 in order to be able to cash out the bonus. In terms of expectation, then, the player would only be able to lose $500 on $50,000 bet to be at a break-even proposition. In other words, the player could only be bucking an expected loss of 1% to be expected to break even.
Ultimately, the only advice that I can give that might give the player a better chance to beat this promotion is to bet really high in the early going, as much as possible, and assuming whatever the player wants to for the House Edge, significantly reduce betting to grind through the rest of the playthrough requirements (after a big hit) to attempt to grind out a profit.
Is there an advantage? Don't know. What is the advantage? Don't know. Again, without knowing the probabilities and pays, nothing can be assumed. However, using the, "Practice Play," mode a really determined player could attempt to analyze what game or combination of games would yield the highest probability of success, however, such would be a long and arduous process that may not be worth it. Besides, it's still possible that the player would not find anything.
I might actually be able to provide some useful information on this one. The Other Games Bonus consists of being able to deposit up to $250 and getting a 100% Bonus on that deposit up to $250 making the player's balance a total of $500. This can be done up to four times.
I have called Bovada and spoken to a customer service representative to determine that this is, indeed, a cashable Bonus. What that means is that after you meet the 80x playthrough requirement ($40,000 in total bets) whatever remains on your account balance could be cashed out and the Bonus of $250 would not be subtracted from your balance.
What me must look at here is how this promotion can be beaten. As we know from the previous article, we might be able to beat this Bonus straight-up by playing a low House Edge game if the expected loss is less than $250. Unfortunately, that would require a game with a House Edge of 0.625%, which may limit our available games significantly, if not entirely.
The reason is that we must play games that count towards the wagering requirements and single & double deck Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Baccarat, Blackjack and Sic Bo do not.*****PLEASE SEE NOTE AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE
In terms of Table Games that count towards the Wagering Requirements, we are limited to Tri-Card Poker (Three Card Poker-thinly veiled), Let 'Em Ride (Let it Ride), Caribbean Stud, Vegas Three Card Rummy, Pai-Gow Poker, and Caribbean Hold 'Em Poker. These games are offered by RealTime Gaming, and a review can be found here:
The two games available with the lowest House Edges are Caribbean Hold 'Em at 2.16% and Pai-Gow Poker at 2.86%, however, Caribbean Hold 'Em will subject the player to more Variance than either Caribbean Hold 'Em or Tri-Card Poker with a House Edge of 3.373%. Vegas Three Card Rummy also carries an Element of Risk under 2.00%, and a relatively simply strategy.
Optimal Strategies for these games are available at WizardofOdds.com, and I think that after completing the first step, any of these games could be reasonably good selections. I would personally choose Pai-Gow Poker because the House Edge is the second-lowest of the available games, and I thoroughly enjoy the game. The Expected Loss given the House Edge of .0286 is $1,144 on $40,000 bet.
However, Pai-Gow Poker is a fairly difficult game to play Optimally, even using the advice from the WizardofOdds.com site can be a difficult process for those who do not even have a passing familiarity with the game. For them, I might recommend playing the ridiculously simple Tri-Card Poker, eating the House Edge of 3.373% and having an expected loss of $1349.20 on $40,000 bet.
You may recall that big list of games up there that DO NOT CONTRIBUTE TO THE WAGERING REQUIREMENTS, while these games may not contribute to the playthrough amount, Bovada does not seem to disallow you from PLAYING them, and that's precisely what you want to do in the beginning.
In this case, my goal would be (assuming the player is attempting to overcome the Expected Loss of $1,349.20 on Tri-Card Poker) to improve my total bankroll from $500 to $3600 and how I propose to do that is to bet $100 on five straight numbers on European Roulette. At this point, I will lose an expected $1,349.20 on Three Card Poker and less my original $250, I would finish with a profit of $2000.80 if I were successful.
(2000.8 * 5/37) - (250 * 32/37) = 54.1621621622
As we can see, this method yields an expected profit of $54.16, which, given our initial deposit of $250 is an expected profit in excess of 20% of the starting amount, 21.66%, to be more precise.
It may seem like the 5/37 probability of one of the numbers hitting is a bit of a long shot, but that's by necessity. We can see that if we bet $50 per number for 10 numbers to achieve a bankroll of $1800, less the $1,349.20 expected loss on Tri-Card Poker and less the original $250, we would only be expected to profit $200.80 10/37 times vs. a loss of $250 27/37 times, so it's quite obvious why that is a bad decision.
There are going to be different amounts that can be bet in-between the $50-$100, and $100 seems to be the Max allowed on a single number, at least, in "Play for Fun," but I assume real mode is the same.
Anyway, this method combines the, "Long-Shot," effect with a low house edge on the initial play. Given the $100 Max Bet in Craps, you could do the same thing with a bet on a long shot such as Midnight or Snake Eyes, but the House Edge on the initial play is going to be higher. Is that enough to overcome the greater House Edge? Let's find out:
We're going to go with a straight bet on Midnight which pays 30:1, so an initial success would improve our bankroll to $3600, then $3500, $3400, $3300 and $3,200. The probability of failing five times in a row is represented as (35/36)^5, thus, our Expected loss on the initial $250 is:
(35/36)^5 * 250 = 217.15394653
All of the other amounts would be represented by the new bankroll, less our expected loss of $1,349.20 on Tri-Card Poker, less our original $250, so:
(2000.8 * 1/36) + (1900.8 * 35/36 * 1/36) + (1800.8 * 35/36 * 35/36 * 1/36) + (1700.8 * 35/36 * 35/36 * 35/36 * 1/36) + (1600.8 * 35/36 * 35/36 * 35/36 * 35/36 * 1/36) = 237.336679614
The Expected Profit is just over $20, in this case, which is less than 10% of the initial cash outlay. Our Roulette success rate was 13.51351% compared to our overall Craps success rate of 13.13842%, so while it is a slightly longer shot, the increase to the House Edge on our Craps play makes it a poor play.
The $500 Max Bet on Baccarat makes attempting to Reverse Martingale our way to success on either Player or Banker unfeasible, although the Tie Bet paying 9:1 presents an interesting possibility:
Betting $500, the overall bankroll will improve to $5,000 upon a successful tie bet, with this being the case, our Expected Profit on such a result would be an astounding $3,400.80 after accounting for the Expected Loss on the Tri-Card Poker wagering requirements and subtracting the initial outlay of $250. If we take into account the probability of losing $250:
(3400.8 * 0.095156) - (250 * (1-.095156)) = 97.3955248
That's an out of this world expected profit of $97.3955248 on an initial $250 outlay which would make the overall advantage roughly 38.9582%!!!
I think the correct play is obvious, with nearly double the profit expectation and a success rate that is only 4% lower, we want our initial bet to be the Tie Bet on Baccarat. After that, we want to play Tri-Card Poker (if the player wants to do this the easy way) for as small an amount as the player can stand until the wagering requirements are met.
Finally, I would strongly encourage every player to get documentation to the effect that the cash amount and bonus amount can be played on these games prior to making a deposit or playing, you want to have confirmation (from any online casino) that you can play what you like with your bonuses even if it won't count towards the wagering requirements. I strongly suggest sending an E-Mail and getting a response that way, but if you prefer to do it over the phone, I would certainly encourage, at a minimum, the player get the name of the representative to whom he spoke as well as having the date and time of the call recorded. Making an audio recording of the call would also be helpful.
While I appreciate that Bovada is a stand-up Wizard of Odds Approved casino, this type of record-keeping is a good habit to get into with any on-line casino, especially online casinos in which you intend to attempt to beat bonuses.
Also, don't expect to win every time; just because you lost doesn't mean the casino cheated. In the case of the Baccarat Tie Bet, you can use this Bonus up to four times, so your probability of losing $250, cash, on all four attempts is just over 67% as you need at least one of four of your $500 Tie Bets to win.
And, of course, could luck!
*****FORUM MEMBER TEDDYS REPORTS TO ME THAT SIX-DECK BLACKJACK CAN BE PLAYED ON THIS PROMOTION. ACCORDING TO THE CURRENT TERMS & CONDITIONS, ONLY SINGLE AND DOUBLE-DECK ARE EXCLUDED, HOWEVER, IT USED TO SAY BLACKJACK AFTER THAT, AS WELL. IT NO LONGER SIMPLY SAYS BLACKJACK, SO BLACKJACK IS, BY FAR, THE BEST GRIND BACK GAME. YOU ARE EXPECTED TO LOSE OVER $1100 LESS GRINDING IT BACK ON SIX-DECK BLACKJACK COMPARED TO TRI-CARD POKER.
IN FACT, THE SIX DECK BLACKJACK COULD BE PLAYED AT A SLIGHT ADVANTAGE STRAIGHT UP, SINCE THIS IS A CASHABLE BONUS.