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Using Risk-Free Bets

Natalie Abele

by Natalie Abele

Updated Nov 6, 2023 · 8:30 AM PST

Risk-free bet promotions are all the rage in the US sports betting industry. Top sportsbooks such as FanDuel offer up to $1,000 in risk-free bet credits for new customers, while some books offer smaller amounts within ongoing or seasonal promotions.

This guide clarifies what risk-free bets are and explains how you can make the most of them.

NOTE: Sportsbooks have moved away from ‘risk-free bet language’ in favor of terms like ‘no sweat bets’ or ‘first bet offers’ as part of responsible gambling initiatives.

What Are Risk-Free Bets and How Do They Work?

The basic premise of risk-free bet offers is simple. With a risk-free bet promotion, your sportsbook will refund the wager up to a certain dollar amount if you lose the first real-money qualifying wager you place. The refunds typically come in the form of site credit or a free bet.

Here comes your first warning to read the terms and conditions. Why? Because each sportsbook issues refunds and bonus credits differently.

Some sportsbook promo codes treat bonus bets like cash, meaning you’ll keep both the stake and the profit if your subsequent bet wins. Others will only pay out the winnings, not the stake. Furthermore, some books won’t allow you to break down the bonus bet amount into a series of smaller wagers – you’ll only get a one-shot deal.

The table below displays some key information about risk-free bet offers to illustrate how terms and conditions may vary.

Sportsbook First Bet Offer Minimum Odds Losing 1st Bet Credited As Single or Multiple Extra Bets Successful Extra Bet Payout
FanDuel Up to $1,000 -200 Site credit Up to you Stake and winnings
BetMGM Up to $1,500 None Free bets Multiple (denominations of 20%) Winnings only
Unibet Up to $500 None Cash Single bet Stake and winnings

Disclaimer: Promotions change frequently. Always read the fine print before laying down your hard-earned cash!

Are Risk-Free Bets Truly Risk-Free?

The most important thing to understand about risk-free bets is they are not truly risk-free. When you put down your own money, there’s always a chance you won’t get it back.

Let’s say you want to take advantage of the FanDuel $1,000 risk-free bet sign-up promotion. You deposit $1,000 in your new account and place it all on a qualifying bet, like an NFL moneyline wager. If you win the bet, congratulations! That’s the end of the story, and you can cash out right away. If you lose that initial bet, that’s when the promotion kicks in.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a risk-free bet means you’ll get your money back if you lose.

Rather than protect you from losing, what a so-called risk-free bet promotion does is give you a second chance at winning.

A second chance is a wonderful thing. But of course, there’s also the possibility that you lose both your first bet and your bonus bet, which means you’ve now lost your initial stake. That’s why you should never bet any money you can’t afford to lose.

There’s another important caveat to be aware of. At some sportsbooks, you could end up with a net loss even if you win your second chance bet. Watch out for sportsbooks that only pay out the winnings on bonus bets, not the stake. In that circumstance, winning a bonus bet on a favorite would result in a net loss on your first deposit. So, if you lose your first wager, you’d need to hit on odds longer than +100 with your next bet just to end up with a profit.

Again, risk-free bet promotions are not entirely risk-free. The only truly risk-free sportsbook bonus is a no-deposit bonus.

Who are Risk-Free Bets Geared Towards?

Risk-free bets are commonly presented as a sign-up bonus and are therefore used to attract new customers.

Sportsbooks offer eye-catching dollar amounts in risk-free bet promotions and market them heavily. That’s because there is next to no risk for the sportsbook itself. The house always has a built-in edge!

Understanding the Terms & Conditions

It is crucial to understand the terms and conditions attached to your risk-free bet bonus before laying down any money.

Terms will vary from sportsbook to sportsbook, but common bonus terms to watch out for include:

  • Odds restrictions
  • Rollover requirements
  • Time limits

Understanding how your sportsbook treats payouts on bonus bets or site credit is paramount when considering risk-free bet promotions. In most cases, only the winnings from the bonus bet are returned to your account. You won’t get back the bonus bet stake, which will equal the amount you originally wagered with your own money. Therefore, bet within your comfort zone and never risk any cash you can’t afford to lose!

Rest assured, most bonuses are easy to understand once you grasp the basic rules. For more information, check out our detailed guide on how sports betting bonuses work.

Are Risk-Free Bets Worth It?

Risk-free bets are an excellent opportunity to make a selection at longer odds than you might otherwise consider. If you lose the first time, you’ll get a second chance. Mathematically, your probability of winning one of two bets is higher than your likelihood of winning a single bet.

As a general rule of thumb, any promotion is better than no promotion. It’s called a bonus for a reason. However, we must again caution that risk-free bets are not entirely risk-free. Further, risk-free bet offers don’t net you anything if you win the initial qualifying bet.

Experienced bettors who want the highest potential gain from a promotion should look towards deposit match bonuses or matched free bets, as these offer value whether your first bet wins or loses. New customers who just want to give sports betting a try without the risk of losing their own money should seek a no deposit bonus.

For more advice on choosing the best sportsbook bonus for you, check out our in-depth guide.

How to Make the Most of Your Bet Credits

The first step to taking full advantage of risk-free bet promotions is depositing the maximum amount. If your sportsbook offers up to $500 risk-free with their welcome bonus, deposit $500.

Then, make sure you know which betting markets are available and note any odds restrictions or other terms and conditions. Being aware of this eligibility information is key to ensuring your first bet qualifies for the promotion. Note also that if you make multiple selections on your bet slip, it will be the first selection you make that qualifies for the bonus offer.

Determining the best strategy for using bet credits ironically depends on your appetite for risk. Even when you have something like an ESPN BET promo code at your disposal, there still remains a level of risk when utilizing these bonuses.

You could swing for the fences on a long underdog with the comfort of knowing that you’ll get a second chance if your bet loses. Or, you can play it safe by finding the shortest odds allowable, typically -200 or -250. Hopefully, your bet wins, and you can take the payout straight to the bank.

If your first bet loses, you’ll get another shot at picking a winner. At most sportsbooks, you’ll only get to keep the winnings from this second bet, not the stake. Before placing your free bet, you’ll have to decide to either cut your losses or aim for a net gain. This decision effectively determines whether your second bet should be on a favorite or an underdog.

The table below shows your overall profit/loss if you started with an unsuccessful $500 first bet then won your second bet of the same amount. The table assumes you will not get the stake back on your free bet.

Odds Winnings on $500 Free Bet Profit/Loss on Original $500 Deposit
-200 $250 -$250
-150 $335 -$165
-110 $455 -$45
+100 $500 $0
+150 $750 $250
+200 $1000 $500
+250 $1250 $750

The only way to guarantee yourself an actual risk-free profit is to find an arbitrage situation. Doing so involves betting on both sides of a wager at competing sportsbooks to ensure you come out ahead. Arbitrage betting is a more advanced strategy that requires time to master and is frowned upon by most sportsbooks. We do not recommend it for those new to gambling.

Best Risk-Free Bet Offers

Several top US sportsbooks currently offer free bet promotions. The best part is you do not need risk-free bet promo codes to activate these. New sports bettors in the following states should be able to access one or more of these offers:

Here’s a quick look at the top risk-free bet sign up bonuses as of January 2021.

FanDuel Sportsbook $1,000 Offer

FanDuel offers new bettors a $1,000 risk-free bet to get them started with the betting app and online sportsbook. This offer has one of the highest dollar figures we’ve seen, and we like that FanDuel lets you use site credit like cash. You won’t have to bet it all on a single game, and payouts include both the stake and the winnings. This is easily the best risk-free bet promotion around. There are also plenty of FanDuel promo codes regularly available to use for various events and boosted bets.

BetMGM $1,000 Sign Up Bonus

The BetMGM promotions include your first bet with BetMGM that will be refunded in free bets to a maximum of $1,000 if it loses. If you wagered over $50, BetMGM would distribute your free bets in 20 percent chunks. So, if your $1,000 wager was unsuccessful, you’ll receive five $200 free bets. Note that any winnings will not include the value of your free bet(s).

Unibet $500 Risk-Free Bet

Unibet offers new customers in Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia a risk-free bet worth up to $500. Refunds are issued as bonus funds (instead of free bets) and there are no minimum odds. Overall, this is a very competitive welcome offer.

Caesars Sportsbook Up to $1,000

The Caesars Sportsbook promo code that’s of use to all new bettors right now is their $1,000 first bet offer. With Caesars Sportsbook giving users more than standard $1,000 risk-free offer, it’s very attractive to high stakes bettors.

The Bottom Line

Risk-free bet promotions are not completely risk-free – this is gambling, after all – but getting a second chance is better than not getting one. Just remember that as with any sportsbook bonus, it’s essential to pay attention to the terms and conditions before committing your money.

Sports Betting Dime is here to help you make informed choices and find an online sports betting site that’s right for you. Check out our extensive set of guides to sportsbook bonuses to grow your bankroll.

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