Most people are content to gamble for entertainment. Sitting and playing your favorite slot or table game can be a welcome retreat from the grind of the work week. However, there are a very small number of gamblers for whom the turn of the cards is their work. These professional gamblers play many different games and use many different techniques to ply their trade. But one of the things they have in common is that many of them play online.

The fish steal the bait

In the parlance of professional gamblers, an unskilled gambler who loses money over the long term is referred to as a fish. Like any good fisherman, online casinos use bait to attract their targets so that they can reel them in and hook them to their addictive product. With online casinos, this bait takes the form of casino promotions and, in particular, the sign up bonus.

The basics of sign up bonuses have been covered elsewhere. Today, we want to delve into the nuts and bolts of the strategies that professionals use to turn big bonuses into big profits. We’ll take a look at one of the most common bonus types, the sticky bonus.

Hit ’em with their own blackjack

When wagering a bonus, it’s always best to choose the game with the lowest house edge. In the case of most online casinos, this will usually be blackjack. With favorable rules, blackjack can often have a house edge of less than .5%. The difference between this and, for example, French Roulette, with its house edge of just 1.5%, may not seem like anything worth mentioning. However, today’s modern casino bonuses often have very high wagering requirements. The difference between a house edge of 1.5% and .5% can mean the difference between a profitable situation and a losing one.

Let’s say we have a sticky bonus of 100% up to $200. Let’s further say that blackjack is allowed for the wagering and that the wagering requirement is 50x the bonus amount. How should we go about playing this bonus so as to maximize our winnings? First, we should set a target amount. What we’ll be doing is betting very aggressively until we either hit our target or bust out, that is, lose all of the money in our account. Because this is a sticky bonus and cannot be withdrawn, we need to set a high target so that it’s very likely that we use the bonus amount to its full potential. If we were to deposit $200, receive $200 and only bet $1 per hand, it would be unlikely that we would ever use the bonus to produce a win because we would be wagering our own funds first.

We need to do a little math, but this is how it will work out. We will deposit $200 and receive a $200 bonus on top of that. We will then wager the entire amount on one hand of blackjack. If we win, we will then wager the entire amount again. We will keep playing this way until we reach a balance of $1600 or bust out. Since 25% of the time we will win $1200 because we’re essentially flipping a coin twice in a row, which has a 25% chance of occurring, and 75% of the time we’ll lose $200, our expected pre-wagering return is .25*1200-.75*200=150. This means we just captured 75% of the value of a bonus we can never withdraw!

In general, a sticky bonus will be worth the face value times the chance of busting out. For a 4x target balance, the chance of busting out is generally 75%. This is a good target and one that pros often use. But, unfortunately, we’re not completely done yet because we still have to wager the bonus 50x. Luckily, we’re able to play blackjack so we only expect to lose ($200*50)*1.005=$50. This is because the house edge for blackjack is just .5%, or 1.005. But that’s not the complete picture. Because we will bust out 75% of the time we’ll only be wagering roughly one fourth of that amount. This means we expect to lose only $12.50 while wagering, on average. Thus, we will realize $137.50 in profits on a $200 bonus that we can’t even withdraw!