Building a gambling bankroll is better than depositing for obvious reasons. Most importantly, building a bankroll from scratch allows you to play higher stakes and win more money without having to deposit your own money.
It is not easy to build a bankroll through online gambling, but it is possible. It requires hard work, research and a little luck. I can’t promise that you’ll be successful, but I can tell you that this guide will give you the best possible chance of building a big bankroll.
Overcoming the House Advantage with Bonuses
The house advantage is the single greatest obstacle to building a gambling bankroll. All casino games have an inherent house advantage that you cannot beat. If you play these games straight up, you will lose money over the long term. This is obviously not conducive to amassing a stockpile of cash.
The key to overcoming the house advantage is to find deposit bonuses that give you a leg-up over the house advantage. This is not easy though, because casino operators are not too keen on giving out free money. The majority of deposit bonuses have clearing requirements that make it difficult to squeeze out a profit.
A bonus must have three key features to be profitable and therefore useful in building a bankroll.
1. Bonuses must be clearable with blackjack
If you sign up at any random casino and get one of those big deposit bonuses, you’ll have a lot of bonus money but there’s a catch: the bonus comes with clearing requirements. In many cases, the bonus terms and conditions state that you can only play slots, keno and other high-house-advantage games to clear the bonus.
This causes problems because in most cases, the act of clearing the bonus exposes you to more house advantage than what the bonus can overcome.
Several years ago, people used to build bankrolls by clearing big bonuses with blackjack. These people would play blackjack, use perfect blackjack strategy and release the bonus with minimal risk. Casinos caught on and have since restricted blackjack from being used to clear most bonuses.
The good news is that some casino bonuses still allow you to play blackjack and other low house advantage games to meet the wagering requirements. But there’s another catch: bonuses that can be cleared with blackjack aren’t necessarily profitable bonuses. That’s OK. We’re not done yet.
2. They Must Be Cashable Bonuses
All casino bonuses can be arranged into one of two categories: cashable and sticky. Most deposit bonuses are “sticky” bonuses. That means these bonuses cannot be withdrawn. They can only be used for placing wagers at the casino. When you make a withdrawal, the bonus money is removed from your account.
Sticky bonuses aren’t necessarily a bad deal, but they don’t offer much help in building a bankroll. What you need are “cashable” bonuses.
Cashable bonuses, as the name suggests, can be cashed out after the clearing requirements have been met. These bonuses are much better for our purposes because the bonus money itself can be added to your bankroll. Get a couple of good cashable bonuses and you’ll be well on your way to building a respectable gambling bankroll.
3. They must be +EV cashable bonuses
The final key to finding good bonuses for your bankroll is getting bonuses that show a positive expected value. The expected value of a bonus is a mathematical expression that shows how much money you can expect to earn after claiming and clearing a cashable bonus.
The EV calculation for cashable bonuses is pretty easy to perform. All you have to do is multiply the house advantage by the total wagering requirements and then subtract that value from the bonus. Let’s use the Bovada table games bonus as an example.
Bovada Casino has a 100% deposit bonus for up to $250. It has a rollover of 80 times the deposit amount. So if you deposit $100, you’ll have to wager a total of $8,000 before you can withdraw the bonus. Now, we multiply that $8,000 times the house advantage of blackjack. We’ll assume that with perfect strategy, you can get the house advantage down to 0.65%:
8,000 x 0.0065 = $52 (expected loss)
So, you can expect to lose $52 over the course of clearing this bonus. But – you still get the $100 in bonus money. So we subtract that $52 from the bonus amount and end up with $48. That final number, $48, is the expected value of this bonus. That means you can expect to earn $48 (on average) for taking advantage of this bonus.
The main takeaway here is that the bonus amount is greater than the expected losses caused by the wagering requirements. Any time you end up with a positive number for the expected value, you have a good bonus.
One other thing to keep in mind is that expected value is only a calculation that shows what you could expect to earn over many, many trials. Your actual results will vary because you can only get this bonus once. But the fact remains: this is a profitable bonus situation.
To recap, you can calculate the expected value of any cashable bonus with the following formula:
Total bonus amount – (Total wagering requirements x house advantage)
If you plug the numbers in to the above formula and end up with a positive number, it is a good bonus for building your bankroll. Read more here.
4. Summary So Far
So far, we’ve covered what to look for in clearing bonuses. There’s a lot of text here, but the process is fairly simple:
- Find bonuses that you can clear with blackjack
- Make sure these are “cashable” bonuses
- Make sure the expected value of clearing these bonuses is positive
Note: It’s actually not even necessary that you can clear these bonuses with blackjack. Any low-house advantage game will do. Just make sure that you use the above EV formula and plug in the corresponding house advantage of the game you want to use.
5. A short list of +EV cashable blackjack bonuses
I’ve done the above calculations on my own and found a few +EV bonuses that you can use to help build your gambling bankroll. This list only includes bonuses at gambling sites that I know and trust. Speaking of which, the safety of the casino offering the bonus should also be considered. You won’t build a bankroll very quickly if you make it a habit of playing at sketchy casinos.
Here are a couple of bonuses that I recommend:
(The following EV numbers are calculated assuming a 0.65% house advantage for blackjack.)
1. Bovada “Other Casino Games” Bonus – USA Friendly
Bovada allows new players to choose between two different bonuses. Ignore the slots bonus and get the other games bonus by using the coupon code GAMES250 when you make a deposit. This one will give you a 100% match bonus for up to $250. You can use standard blackjack to clear this bonus, but you cannot use single deck or double deck blackjack.
EV on a $250 deposit: +$120
You can get this bonus on your first four deposits at Bovada for a total of $480 in expected value.
2. Sun Palace Welcome Bonus – USA Friendly
Sun Palace Casino has a 150% deposit worth up to $3,000 that you can clear with blackjack and withdraw. The clearing requirements are 50 times the bonus plus deposit amount.
EV on a $500 deposit: +$343.75
3. SlotsPlus Table Games Bonus – USA Friendly
SlotsPlus also has two different bonuses you can choose from. Ignore the slots bonus and get the table games bonus with the promo code IDB125. This code will give you a $125 bonus on the first $100 of your deposit plus 25% on anything more than $100.
EV on a $100 deposit: +$51.87
Ok, that’s all I have for now. That’s a total of six different +EV cashable bonuses that work with blackjack. These bonuses should get you off to a great start. Your luck will vary greatly in the short term, but this is the best route to take to maximize your chances of building a bankroll.
I also recommend signing up for an account at Lucky Red Casino and watching your e-mail for their frequent no-rollover bonuses. About once every week or two, Lucky Red hosts reload bonuses that come with little or no wagering requirements. These are sticky bonuses, but the rollover is so low that they are still worth checking out.
When you finish all these bonuses, you can look to Google and online discussion forums to find more. Use the EV calculation described above and search for cashable casino bonuses at safe gambling sites.
Use an E-Wallet if You Can
E-wallets are money transfer services that allow you to store money online and move it between gambling sites. The advantage here is that withdrawals are processed quickly and that makes it easy for you to move money from one casino to the next. With an e-wallet, you don’t have to wait for a paper check or a money transfer that sends the money all the way back to your bank account.
Secondly, e-wallets help keep your gambling money segregated from the rest of your money. This makes it easier to keep track of your progress and it removes the temptation to spend your bankroll money on other things. There is no mixing of funds.
E-wallets such as Neteller and Skrill are perfect for building a bankroll. Most gambling sites process withdrawals in hours. You can get a bonus in the morning, clear it and then move on the next gambling site that afternoon.
Gamblers from the United States can’t take advantage of e-wallets right now. The legal situation has left US gamblers with paper checks, electronic transfers and cash transfers as withdrawal methods. But if you live outside the US, I recommend using an e-wallet service.
Keep It Realistic
Remember that we are talking about gambling here. Whenever you play a gambling game, you are fighting an uphill battle. The house will always have the advantage over the long term. Very few people are able to make a living gambling. Even the best blackjack card counters will tell you that it is very difficult these days.
Cashable bonuses will get you off to a good start, but they can only take you so far. Eventually, you’ll run out of new player bonuses and your progress will slow down to a crawl. At that point, you’ll have to decide if it’s worth continuing.
Do not lose sight of the big picture. Gambling is a leisure activity like watching movies or going out to eat. It is fun, but it costs money. Look at your bankroll building expedition as a fun challenge. Nothing is guaranteed. Even with the best bonuses, Lady Luck works in funny ways. Sometimes it will go in your favor, sometimes not.
Don’t Forget About Online Poker
Online poker is my favorite methods to build a bankroll. Although poker technically isn’t “gambling,” several gambling sites (such as Bovada) offer real money poker in addition to their casino games. Poker is a good method for bankroll building because the game is played against other players and not against the casino.
The house has no stake in the outcome of poker. Poker sites make money off the rake regardless of who wins. This is important to note because it means you can actually gain an advantage in poker – you’re not fighting against any built-in house advantage.
Poker sites also host their own cashable bonuses. If you can implement a poker strategy that is good enough to keep you at break-even or better, you can quickly build a bankroll with the help of bonuses. If you get good enough at poker, you can win money without any bonuses at all.