To the uninitiated, nothing sounds more appealing than a risk-free bet. Sportsbooks love to throw around these buzzwords and phrases to attract as many bettors as possible.
But what really is a risk-free bet? Is it practically free money going into your account? Is there really zero risk?
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about risk-free betting and how it works — and the best strategies to take advantage of them.
What is a Risk-Free Bet?
Risk-free bets are bets where if the outcome is a loss, you get something back in return. Sportsbooks often run promotions like this to attract new customers by giving them risk-free bets for their first gambles on the website.
However, it’s not always crystal clear what you’re getting back in return. Sometimes your refund comes in credit for the gambling platform, while other times it’s a free bet where you only get your winnings back but not the stake if you win the bet.
For customers, risk-free bets are better than free bets because you can win the initial stake as well as the winnings of the bet, while free bets only give you the winnings, but not the stake.
For example, if you use a $100 free bet on a +200 money line bet, you will only get $200. However, if you have site credit or a risk-free bet, you can bet $100 on the same line and receive your $200 winnings plus your $100 stake back.
How Do Risk-Free Bets Work?
Most sportsbooks that promote risk-free first bets have a limit that you can bet. For popular sportsbooks, it’s usually around $1,000.
Let’s take a look at an example.
Let’s say someone makes a deposit of $1,000 in a sportsbook. By doing this, they can get the most out of the promotion. Once they do this, they earn a $1,000 risk-free bet.
The bettor goes on to place all $1,000 on the Rams to cover the spread in an NFL game at -110 odds.
If the Rams cover the spread, the bettor wins his free bet. He risked $1,000 to win $909.09. Since the bettor won, he now has $1,909.09 in his account.
If he loses, he’ll be refunded $1,000 in site credit to his account. Because it is credit, he won’t be able to withdraw it immediately until he bets through the full $1,000.
Do You Always Get Your Stake Back?
Short answer: it depends.
It gets a little bit more complicated if the return is in the form of a free bet rather than site credits. In the last example, they get the stake back plus their winnings ($1,000 + $909.09).
However, if you’re refunded a free bet rather than a risk-free return, you don’t get your stake back.
So let’s continue our last example — let’s say the Rams don’t cover. You are then given a $1,000 free bet. You proceed to bet that on the Lakers covering the spread at -110 odds.
If the Lakers cover, you win the bet — a payout of $909.09. However, you won’t get your stake back in this situation.
So after you lose the initial bet, and win the secondary free bet, you’ll have a total of $909.09. This is less than the original $1,000 you deposited to get the “risk-free bet” in the first place.
Worst case scenario, if you lose both the risk-free bet and the free bet, you’re down $1,000 — even though it was supposed to be a “risk-free” promotion.
This is why it’s always important to thoroughly understand the promotion and what the details are about your risk-free bet.
Common Terms and Conditions for Risk-Free Bets
Now that you understand that risk-free bets can actually be…quite risky, it’s important to take a look at the terms and conditions for your risk-free bet. Here are five questions to ask about your risk-free promotion.
1. How Is the Refund Issued?
Sometimes it will just be a free bet. In this case, the sportsbook will stake you the amount of your loss which you can use on other bets. If you lose, you won’t lose a dime. But if you win, you have to return the stake to the house.
2. How Is the Risk-Free Bet Distributed?
It’s important to understand how you’ll be able to use your refund. If you get site credit, you’ll have a lot of freedom with how you use it.
However, if it’s a free bet, you’ll be forced to risk the whole amount in a single bet — which actually makes the risk-free bet quite risky.
3. How Much Should I Bet?
In an ideal situation, you should bet the maximum that the sportsbook is willing to refund. If the promotion goes up to $1,000, it’s best to bet $1,000. However, this might not be the best option if you only have $1,000 in your bankroll.
If you plan on taking advantage of lower promotions, make sure you’re aware of the minimum requirements for eligibility.
Also, do not assume that if you deposit $1,000 and lose 10 $100 bets, you are refunded the full amount by the sportsbook. Depending on the book, they may only refund your first wager.
4. What Can I Bet On?
Although it’s not common for books to limit what type of bets players can make with the promotion, you should still be aware if there are any such rules.
However, it might be more common for a book to only accept bets at minimum odds, such as -200 or longer. This means you can make bets on anything like -200, -100, +100, +1,000 — but not on -250.
5. How Long Do I Have?
Make sure you pay attention to any time limits that the book may have for the promotion. As soon as you make the first deposit, the timer may begin. It could be anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, but understand that most free bets have expiration dates.
Make sure to read the fine print so you don’t miss out on your free bet.
Strategies for Risk-Free Betting
There are different ways you can apply a risk-free bet strategy to your arsenal to take advantage of the situation. Here are a couple of tips and strategies that you can use to get the most out of the promotions.
Maximize Your Risk
As long as your bankroll allows it, you should always maximize the allowable risk-free amount and then put it on an underdog. This means if the sportsbook allows a $2,000 maximum risk-free bet, make sure to use the full $2,000.
If you use that $2,000 on an underdog and the underdog loses, you get a free bet. But if they win, you’ll get a higher profit and you will have maximized the amount you can make from the promotion.
Use a Different Platform to Hedge Your Bet
Another common strategy for risk-free betting is by hedging your bet with a different app or platform, otherwise known as arbitrage.
In the terms and conditions of risk-free bets, they will probably stop you from betting on all outcomes of a game. However, if you use a different gambling platform to bet on the other outcomes of a bet, you can guarantee a profit without anyone knowing.
For example, let’s say the Grizzlies are playing the Sixers. You think the Grizzlies will cover a -5.5 spread, so you bet your $200 risk-free bet on the Sixers. On a different platform, you bet $200 on the Grizzlies. If the Grizzlies cover the spread, you lose $18.18 but get a $200 free bet. If the Magic cover, you’ll then win off your risk-free bet.
Although this is a great strategy for the risk-averse, you are limiting your potential winnings by betting this way.
Are There Other Similar Promotions?
Besides risk-free bets and free bets, there are a few other similar promotional sportsbook terms that you should be aware of:
Free Money: This is money that is actually deposited into your account that you can bet or withdraw. It’s not very common for sportsbooks to give away free money.
Deposit Match: This is when a sportsbook gives you free bets equal to the amount you deposit when you sign up. For example, if you deposit $500, the sportsbook will give you a $500 free bet. These terms are different from book to book, so make sure to read them carefully.
Site Credit: This is like a free bet, but there are no pre-determined increments. For example, if you get $50 in site credits, you can make five different $10 bets, as opposed to one $50 bet. It is a bit more flexible than a free bet.
Profit Boosts: A profit boost is a random promotion that sportsbooks will give to increase the amount you can win. For example, if there’s a 25% profit boost on a parlay that originally paid $75, you’ll receive almost $94.
Start Taking Advantage of Those Risk-Free Bets
In the end, a risk-free bet is actually a lot more complicated than it sounds. If you don’t fully understand the terms and conditions of the bet, you could end up with less money than you started with (which means it’s quite risky).
But once you understand how to bet risk-free on a certain platform, it can be a great tool to take advantage of when signing up for new sportsbooks.
If you’re ready to start making the most intelligent picks through reliable sports betting models and strategies, enroll in our free course to get the inside track today!