March 2007
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Mad as a March Bonus [Part 2]

Last weekend, Sporting Index threw a bonus deal at me because I hadn’t given them any action for atout 2 years.  It was effectively free money.  I had to deposit to play, but they would refund any losses up to £50 over the course of the weekend.  This was a refund of net losess, not on a single bet.  As they offer spread betting not fixed odds, taking full advantage of their generosity is a little trickier.

I hadn’t planned it that well last weekend and ran out of time before I could get one more bet before the deadline in whilst I’d still not lost the full £50.  In fact, on my last bet I committed a cardinal sin – I had ended up with a winning bet, but the only result of that was that I won back some of the money they were going to repay me anyway – not enough to take home a profit!  With this kind of promotion, the last bet you place should always make you busto (within the limits of the refund value) or guarantee a profit.  With sports spread betting, I found this tricky to anticipate with my hurriedly placed total goals and corners bets.

The key would be to find a bet that has a limited downside so you can’t lose more than £50, but also has the chance of hitting it big.  A total goals bet on soccer, buying at 2.5 goals for £20 per goal cannot lose more than £50 (for a 0-0 draw) but a three goal match only wins you £10 – you need to find a real goalfest to win a significant amount.

This weekend’s promotion is available to everyone, and is in a similar vein – a £30 net refund from your weekend’s bets, but for their virtual games rather than sports spread betting.  These games are gimmicky rubbish, allowing you to bet on fake horseracing, fake poker games, fake dice, fake slots and fake roulette as well as some really silly novelty games like a cartoon tank that fires footballs with random numbers into the air.

However I liked the look of the roulette game in order to play through this offer fairly easily so I had a go.  It’s a single zero game and you create your own market by placing chips as you would in a casino, and then betting higher or lower than an expected win amount that the system generates for you.

To keep things simple, I only looked at single unit bets and for every type of bet the market was set at 0.94-1.00.  In other words, when you buy the market at 1.00, the amount you win is exactly the same as you would win on a regular roulette table.  A single number still wins 36 times your stake and a red/black bet wins even money.  The house edge for each bet comes only from the zero on the wheel – 1 in 37, or just over 2.7% – just as it does in a casino.

The 0.94 figure is for when you want to bet against the spin producing a winner for whatever bet you placed on the roulette layout.  When you sell this market, you can win 0.94 times your stake but you risk the amount of the roulette payoff multiplied by your stake.  Betting against a single number, you could win 94p or lose £36 for a £1 stake whereas on an even money bet, you are laying £1 to win 94p.  The zero on the wheel works in your favour – you win 19 times out of 37, but the payoff is reduced.

If my calculations are correct, the edge on selling bet is very small.  For a red/black bet at £1, every 37 spins you will lose (18 x 100) and win (19 x 94), a net loss of 14p.  That’s a house edge of 0.38%!  I’d love someone (if only I knew a maths teacher, for instance…) to correct me here – that seems far too small, and I wish I’d noticed this before I actually started playing out this bonus!

I had also assumed that I would have to buy in any market in order to hit a big payoff.  Now I realise this is also not true.  I would have been able to cover multiple bets on the layout (e.g. two separate dozens) and sell that market for odds of roughly 2-1.  Effectively I’d be betting the other dozen as well as the zero, and this might have been a better bet than doing the bet the "normal" way round.

There was a five bet play requirement and although no minimum risk was stated I thought it was wise to at least make sure the £30 freebie was wagered in full.  I began with five £6 bets on red, intending to move on to a bigger bet after these five bets were complete.  Things didn’t start well: 22, 36, 26, 2, 6

Down to £12.  I’d need a 2-1 payoff to get back to be only £6 into profit.  It would have to be a 5-1 shot or longer to make it worthwhile.  I decided to play it a different way – try to gamble back up to the free £30 and then go for one win for that full amount on a 2-1, aiming for a £60 profit.

I put the remaining £12 on red.  21.  Hooray.  £6 more to get back even, so I played red one more time.  18.  Home and dry – almost.  Now just the small matter of trying to win something…

I bet the first dozen for £30.  If I win, it’s £60 profit and I’m cashing out.  If I lose, I get my £30 back on Monday.  A great position to be in.

Click here to watch the spin and retrospectively sweat it with me.  Remember, we’re looking for any number between 1 and 12…