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How to evaluate slots bonuses
How to use slots bonuses to increase your odds - Feature article, by Mark Cesley

Despite what you may read or hear, there is no secret strategy that will help you beat the casino playing slot machines. The house always has an edge. However, there is another parameter that can influence your odds and that is the bonuses you use.

Online casino industry is extremely competitive and casinos will do everything in their power to attract players. It's almost impossible to find an online casino that doesn't offer various promotions to new and existing players. The irony is, that most of these bonuses only look attractive, while in reality they serve as a trap and increase the house edge. Nevertheless, there are bonuses that are beneficial to players, you just need to know how to find them. In this article we will share some tips on how to evaluate slots bonuses, so you could use them to increase your winnings odds.

Basic Casino Bonus Terms

Before we get into details, we need to go over the main parameters that define casino bonuses. If you are familiar with terms such as WR, phantom, cashable, etc - feel free to skip to the next paragraph.

1. Bonus percentage: the amount of $ you will get for each $ that you deposit. For example on 100% match bonus the casino will give you $1 for each dollar that you deposit. This number can go up to 500% and even higher. As we will explain below, higher % doesn't necessary increase your odds. However, if you are looking to increase your playtime, you should take it under consideration.

2. Bonus amount: each offer has a certain maximum bonus amount, which varies from $1 and up to thousands of dollars/euros/pounds. The max amount has no effect on your odds, but it directly effects the playtime and the bottom line. 5% edge on a $10 bonus doesn't worth much. However the same 5% on $1000 can become quite substantial. In any case, it is recommended not to deposit above the maximum bonus amount, otherwise you will lower your bonus percentage. For example: if you redeem a 100% bonus up to $100, you shouldn't deposit above $100.

3. Wagering requirements or playthrough: This is one of the most important parameters while evaluating the bonus. WR defines the total amount of bets that you will need to place in order to clear the bonus. We are looking for the lowest WR we can get.

There are 2 common ways to state the WR: either as the number of times you need to wager the bonus amount or the number of times you need to wager the bonus + deposit amounts. For example, let's say that you made a $100 deposit with a 100% bonus.

1. If the WR are x20 the bonus, you will need to bet $2000 to clear the bonus: $100 bonus x 20 = $2,000.
2. If the WR are x20 bonus + deposit, you will need to place bets worth $4,000 to clear the bonus: ($100 deposit + $100 bonus) x 20 = $4,000.

As you can see, the difference is huge. Therefore it is very important that you check the exact details of the WR.

4. Cashable vs. Non Cashable: This parameter has the most crucial effect on your odds. Ironically, many tend to ignore this aspect. What's the difference between the two? We will explain.

95% of casino bonuses are non-cashable (also referred as phantom or sticky bonuses). Meaning that the bonus is given only for wagering purposes. When you complete the WR and request to withdraw your winnings, the original bonus is deducted from your balance. Cashable bonus, as the name implies, is the one that you can withdraw after completing the WR. As you will see below, the difference is huge!

Bonus Comparison

After we explained the basic terms, we can get to the main part and that is how to use bonuses to increase your odds.

Let's take 4 different bonuses as our example. To stress our point, we will use rather similar promotions.

1. 100% bonus. Cashable. Wagering requirements: x15 bonus + deposit
2. 100% bonus. Non Cashable. Wagering requirements: x15 bonus + deposit
3. 100% bonus. Cashable. Wagering requirements: x25 bonus + deposit
4. 200% bonus. Non Cashable. Wagering requirements: x15 bonus + deposit

To keep it simple, let's say that we deposited $100 and played slots with 97% return. Needless to say that slots, and all casino games for that matter, are games of luck, and there is no way to know if you will win or lose on a certain spin or on a certain day. The calculations below are based on long term statistics and not on a single event.

1. First, let's calculate the WR: (100+100)x 15 = 3000. Now we check how much it will "cost" us to complete the WR with 97% RTP: 3000x97%= 2910. 3000-2910= 90. Meaning that it will cost us $90 to clear the bonus. Consequently, after placing bets worth 3000 we will end up with: $110, which is not bad.
2. The amount we will need to wager is similar to the previous one and we will end up with $110. However this is a non -cashable bonus and we need to subtract the original $100 we were given, ending up with $10. Not something to go home with.
3. The playtrhough requirements here are higher - we will need to place $5000 worth of bets. Let's see how much it will cost: 5000x97%= 4850. 5000-4850=150. We had $200 to start with, minus $150, we will end up with $50. Conclusion: despite having much higher WR than the previous bonus, we were compensated by the fact that this bonus is cashable, ending up with $50 vs. $10.
4. Last, let's see what effect higher % bonus has on our odds. The amount we will need to wager here is ($100 deposit + $200 bonus) x 15 = $6000. With 97% RTP it will "cost" us $180 to complete the WR (6000x97%= 5820. 6000-5820=180), which means that we will end up with $120. So far, this is the highest number of all 4, but unfortunately, the bonus is non-cashable. Therefore we need to deduct the original bonus amount of $200, ending up with -$80, which means that we would end up with $0 balance. Bottom line: higher non-cashable bonus increased your playtime, but on the other hand, it has significantly decreased your winning odds.


As you can see from the examples above, even minor differences in bonus terms have tremendous effect on your odds. Don't forget, online casino bonuses have much wider range than what we used in our examples. They can vary from 100% cashable bonus with WR of x15 which will increase your odds and to 500% non-cashable bonus with WR of x50, that doesn't leave you a chance to get your money back. Not to mention, winning.

To summarize things up, here are few tips on how to pick casino bonus:

1. Make sure that you understand the exact terms: cashable vs. non cashable, WR on bonus or on bonus +deposit, etc.
2. Don't get destructed by high %. These are not necessary beneficial.
3. If possible, stick to cashable bonuses.
4. Look for the lowest WR possible.
5. Compare few different bonuses before depositing. There is no need to calculate every single bonus available online. It's enough to compare one bonus to another to see which one gives you better odds. You can try calculating the bonus odds 3-4 times. You will see that after that you will develop a sense on what the odds are.

Last but not least: it is recommended that you try to increase your odds at the casino, but you should never play casino games to make money. All casino games are based on luck and should be played for fun only.

About the author:

Mark Cesley is a vivid slot player and the owner of Slot Machines Online, a site that provides tips, reviews and the latest news for online slots fans worldwide.

[Article submitted January 2015]

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