May 2009
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Next time remind me to take the fiver

It’s time for another randomly-generated-by-computer-using-a-secret-magic-formula virtual game from Sporting Index, which I’m only playing because they promised to refund up £50 of my losses.

To qualify for the refund, I have to place 10 or more bets at a minimum 20p per point stake.  After grinding through the first 9, I was £5.43 up.  Reasonable, but not enough to make it worth quitting just yet when I was in a situation where I could place a bet worth up to £55.43 and have it cost me no more than £5.43.

I don’t actually know where I should draw the line here.  Free money in the bank is good, but the chance of a better return for almost no risk is obviously attractive.  I think if I’d won £20 before qualifying for the refund, I’d probably be bottling it and taking their money even though it’s almost certainly in my favour to keep playing.

If I knew how the game worked, I could make an informed decision on how best to play this bonus through, but when the game is themed to look like a real world event, yet the outcomes are calculated in a way that you’re not meant to understand, you just have to trust that it’s not completely rigged.

I’m pretty confident that Sporting Index would not be associated with an outright scam, and although the game is surely very juicy for them, I’m assuming that it has a house edge somewhat smaller than 90%.  In which case letting my fiver ride is a good play.

The game in question is a random number generator painted to look a bit like the stock market.  You get to pick from three made up currency exchanges, each with its own degree of simulated volatility.

Then you can bet on one or more of the following markets.  I’ve condensed the display down after selecting a direction for each one to show the best and worst case scenario for each bet.

There are two distinct types of bets here: ones with a small downside and a large potential upside, and those where the swings are roughly the same size in either direction.

Of course, to win big money from any spread bet you need an extremely unusual event to occur.  Usually the result will be fairly close to the spread itself, resulting in a (relatively) small win or a small loss.

This is not great for exploiting a net loss refund offer.  Ideally we want to take one shot where we either lose the maximum (in this case lose £55.43, ending up with a net loss of £50, which will be refunded in full) or win something significant.

To play out the promotion, I decided to take the highest price bet.  Lowest price or even swing would have pretty much the same effect, but it just felt right to be cheering for the imaginary graph to be rise upwards rather than downwards.

With a stake of £2.21 per point (maximum risk: £55.25, maximum win: £828.75) and buying the market at 5025 here’s what happened:

Yeah I couldn’t work it out either.  It’s the blue line that matters, but even so… I had to let it tell me the result and trust that it was right.  Apparently I lost £30.94.

Looking at this chart a little bit closer, it was almost impossible to pick a winner this time.  The swing on the green line may have just got there, but I don’t think any of these graphs moved enough to cover the spread in either direction.  From the house’s point of view, it’s almost as good as a roulette wheel throwing up a zero.

It’s not all over though.  I could still have another £24.49 of losses refunded, so although the chances of getting back into the black were slim there was nothing to lose by taking another shot.

Same bet, slightly cheaper.  Buying the blue line for 98p per point: maximum risk £24.50, maximum win £367.50.

Awesome.  Lost another £17.64.

It’s not actually the extent of the downward plummet that’s bad for this bet, it’s that the graph never went much above its starting value. But the extreme downswing does rub it in a little, and it means that if I’d put money on either lowest price or swing – the two other candidates for this bet – I’d have been back in the game.

So, one more last, desperate effort.  Could I climb out of a £43.15 hole with just £6.85 left to play with?

Maximum loss: £6.75, actual loss £6.48.  That would be a no then.