Why free bets are not free

When looking to join a betting site, one of the criteria that inexperienced bettors often use to guide their choice is the sign-up incentive. Free bets may seem like a good reason to choose a bookmaker, but what is the true value of these sign up incentives?


The first thing to pay attention to with any sign-up incentive is that pesky little asterisk accompanied by the phrase “€˜terms and conditions apply”€™ -€“ usually in very small text. These four words are very important, as the devil is always in the detail.

Bookmakers who offer this kind of promotion use creative language to disguise the actual meaning of these incentives, making them seem better value than they actually are.

Free Bets usually require you to bet on unfavourable outcomes, while matching it with your own cash

Here are three misleading phrases that “€œfree bet”€ bookmakers use to entice punters, and a list of their true meanings:

Promo Cash

“€œPromo cash”€ is a bookmaker’€™s term for cash that never really exists. The bookmakers’€™ give you an amount to bet with it, but your stake isn’€™t returned if you win -€“ just your winnings. There are also restrictions on what you can bet on.

  • You don’€™t actually get to keep any of your “€œpromo cash”
  • You can only use the promo cash as a stake -€“ it’€™s deducted from any winnings
  • It can also be part of the “€œFree Bet”€ (see below), giving you even less chance to see your promo cash in your wallet.

Free Bet

“€œFree bets”€ are advertised as a way of placing a bet without using your own money. Instead, you get a “€œfree bet”€ from the bookies. In truth, however, the bets usually require you to bet on unfavourable outcomes, and you have to match the free bet with your own cash.

  • Free Bets usually require you to match the bookmaker’s investment with your own
  • Bookmakers steer you into less profitable or losing markets
  • To make a withdrawal, you need to make even more bets

Risk-Free Bet

“Risk-Free Bets”€ claim to let you place a bet and reclaim your money if you lose. That’€™s true, but you have to risk your own money on an additional bet to qualify, usually multiple times.

  • A Risk-Free Bet actually requires you to additionally risk your own money, which is then refunded by the bookmaker if you lose
  • You have to bet multiple times before you can withdraw your refunded cash from the Risk-Free bet, creating even greater risk

Pinnacle -€“ The Alternative

Unlike promotional bookies, Pinnacle attracts its customers by offering the best odds online, with the slimmest margins.

Rather than drawing customers in with misleading offers, Pinnacle’s€™ philosophy is simple: if you want to maximise your winnings, you need the best odds. And if you want the best odds, you need a Pinnacle account.

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Source: pinnacle.com