Most online casinos offer their potential customers a bonus for signing up. These offers, at first glance, can appear too good to be true. After all, why would a casino just hand someone $200 for free? You may have guessed, correctly, that the face value of these bonuses is rarely what they are actually worth. But it turns out that almost all sign-up bonuses have at least some value, and the best ones have a ton of value.

We’ll survey the best deposit bonus types and see how much a typical one within the various categories is worth. We’ll also try to develop some hard-and-fast rules for quickly determining if a casinos bonus provides real value or just a gimmick to get you to deposit.

What is a casino match bonus?

A casino match bonus is a casino deposit bonus where the casino will match your deposit amount at a given percentage rate, up to a maximum amount. For example, if you see a 100% match deposit bonus of up to $100, it means that if you deposit $100, the casino will also provide you with $100 in bonus funds. Match amounts can typically range anywhere from 25 percent all the way up to 500 percent or higher.

Almost always, the higher the matching percentage is, the more the bonus will be worth to the player in terms of return on investment. In gambling, the return on investment is referred to as the percentage edge or just edge, for short. Bonuses that match deposits at rates of 400 percent or higher can generate truly spectacular edges for knowledgeable players. Keep in mind, when we’re talking about positive edges or, in other contexts, positive expected value, this means that the odds have been reversed. It’s now the player who has the mathematical edge and expects to win over the long run. As soon as the bonus play is over, the player will, of course, lose his edge and go back to being the underdog. But while the bonus play is in effect, a bonus that gives the player the edge will result in that player winning more than he loses over the long term. The best online deposit bonuses will produce very large player edges so that if the player restricted himself to only playing with bonuses, he would make a great deal of money over a long time span.

That said, there are two main types of casino deposit bonus. The first are cashable bonuses, the second, sticky bonuses.

What is a cashable bonus?

A cashable bonus is a bonus which, as its name implies, can be cashed out. Usually, there will be a series of actions that the player must complete prior to being able to cash out the bonus. These required actions are called the wagering requirement.

In the old days, it was often possible to find cashable bonuses with low wagering requirements that could be completed on low-house-edge games such as Vegas rules blackjack or Texas Hold’em Bonus. Those easy bonuses quickly began being serially exploited by professional gamblers that the casinos referred to as bonus abusers, people who only played while granted bonuses for the purpose of making money, not gambling. The wagering requirements have gotten much more stringent for cashable bonuses over the last decade. But they are still often extremely profitable. All else being equal, a cashable bonus will be worth considerably more than a sticky bonus.

What is a sticky bonus?

A sticky bonus is one in which the bonus money cannot be cashed out. You may ask, “how could the bonus be worth anything if I could never cash it out?” And that’s precisely the conclusion the casinos would like you to draw. They want players who use the bonus money primarily to play, not as a means for profit.

Without delving into the rather complex math, it turns out that sticky bonuses are equivalent to loss rebates, which can have tremendous value. Using aggressive betting, even sticky bonuses with high wagering requirements on poor games can have great value.

Unfortunately, the strategic details of how to maximally exploit sticky bonuses are simply too numerous for a short article. However, if you just take our word on the math, we can provide an example.

Say we see a 100 percent match bonus up to $100. It’s sticky. It has a 20 times wagering requirement on slots, which we estimate as having a 5 percent house edge. Using a 4 times target betting strategy, this bonus will be worth $35. That’s a rate of return on our money of 35 percent!