October 2007
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A whoring we will go

Although Party Poker’s reload bonuses are useless these days, there’s still value to be had at Empire Poker.  The two sites are the same, it’s the same players at the same tables, the only things that are different are the colour schemes and the loyalty point schemes.  So becuse Empire doesn’t have Party Points, the bonuses still are awarded based on you having to play a specific number of raked hands.

This weekend’s bonus was $100, with 1000 raked hands required to release.  Or, I noticed, the alternative was to cycle $1000 through blackjack.  Quite a difference from the last Party bonus I was offered, which would have required $120,000 in action!  As there’s still very few full ring limit tables to grind this out on, using blackjack to collect my free money was an easy decision.

I’ve actually been playing a lot of blackjack lately, as I’ve rekindled my interest in exploiting casino welcome bonuses.  The last time I did this on any great scale was over six years ago, at a time where the play requirements were much less strict and you could often deposit, play and cash out a reasonable bonus in under an hour.

My strategy was to just blitz as many different casinos as possible, banking whatever small profit was forthcoming and moving onto the next casino.  It was very effective, and I even wrote a foolproof beat-the-casino system based on it.  It sold a handful of copies –  maybe as many as five…

Back then, it only felt right to take my ill-gotten gains to Las Vegas and give them back to the casino industry, which I happily did.  This time I still intend to take the money to Vegas, but my mission doesn’t involve blowing a chunk of cash – instead I’m going to earn enough to pay for the house rental for next summer, which will be $2000-3000.  My incentive for doing well is to ensure we can get a place with a pool again!

Today, the play requirements on casino bonuses are much tougher, with many casinos excluding some or all forms of blackjack from the promotion entirely.  If you have to wager thousands on slots for your bonus, you’re probably not going to come out a winner.  But if you can clock up the play using blackjack, even with a 20x or higher release restriction, you still have a big edge on that game.

To find the house edge, you can plug the exact rules into the Wizard of Odds House Edge Calculator.  In the Empire game (8 decks, dealer hits soft 17, double after split, double on any two cards, split pairs up to 4 hands, cannot resplit aces, cannot hit split aces, dealer checks for blackjack, late surrender available) the house edge with optimal play is 0.57%, and with realistic play 0.66%.

Therefore after $1000 in play, the house should expect to win $6.60, leaving you with $93.40 of your $100 bonus for yourself.  Even if there was a 20x or 30x play through required, there’d still be plenty of bonus left over.  10x is very generous indeed.

The last time I played a Party Poker bonus for the same amount, it took up six hours of my life playing 4-6 tables of poker and I paid about $35 in rake, so effectively they paid me about $11/hr to be there before any wins or losses are taken into account.

Playing the bonus on blackjack took me just 2.5 hours to churn through 1000 hands at $1 each, for a theoretical hourly rate of $37.  In fact, for the results oriented, I also won $27 on top of the $100 bonus!

Blackjack has its advantages over poker when it comes to racking up bonus play.  The game is available around the clock without you having to contend with a waiting list, or wait for enough players to fill a new table.  To find 4-6 tables of limit running, you can only play at peak times.

It also doesn’t really matter whether you play $1/$2 or $5/10 or higher, you’ll only earn slightly more raked hands as you increase stakes.  The only way to clear the bonus faster is to open up more tables.  With blackjack, however, if you want to get through your bonus quicker, you can just bet more per hand.  You trade a higher chance of wiping out for the higher hourly rate, but your expectation on the bonus remains the same as long as you’re prepared to deposit more money to finish it off if necessary.

Most importantly, you absolutely don’t have to put your life on hold to play casino bonuses.  Take a break whenever you like, there’s no panic if the doorbell rings in the middle of a hand, and no need to wait for the blinds to come round on every table if you need a dump.  I even managed to run through this bonus while I was four-tabling poker for another site’s bonus at the same time… multiple whorage!

The only thing I’m missing with blackjack is the four colour deck… why won’t somebody make that an option?