Don’t waste your bonus bets on short-priced favourites

The bigger the better for bonus bets? Rod investigates:

It’s quite a unique time in the Australian gambling scene right now. Over the past few years, a flood of overseas bookies have entered the market and they are all competing for your betting dollar. And one of the ways they try to win that battle is by offering money back and bonus bet promotions.

So what’s the best way to use a bonus bet?

In theory, the longer the odds you spend your bonus bets on, the better the long-term return. It’s all to do with that fact that when your bonus bet wins, you do not get the stake back, just the profit. For example, if you had a $100 bonus bet on a $4 chance and it won, you would return $300 on a bonus bet (not the usual $400 you would with a real money bet).

Bonus bets on even-money chances:
With this knowledge in hand, let’s say you had 10 x $100 bonus bets and every bet was on a $2 chance. Each time you win, you collect $100 (i.e. the profit, not the stake).

You would expect 5 out of 10 (50%) winners on average* at that price, so you will collect 5 x $100 = $500. Therefore, for each $100 bonus bet @ $2 you would expect in the long-term to win $500/10 = $50.
*to keep it simple we will ignore the bookies/tote market percentage, which means that horses at $2 will in fact win slightly less than 50% of races.

Bonus bets at odds of $5:
Now let’s say you had 10 x $100 bonus bets @ odds of $5. On average, you’d expect 2 out of 10 (20%) will win. Each winner will return $400, so you will collect $800 overall. On average, for each $100 bonus bet @ $5 you would expect to win $800/10 = $80.

Bonus bets at odds of $10:
10 x $100 bonus bets @ $10. 1 out of 10 win and that winner will earn you $900. 10 x $100 bonus bets @ $10 = $900/10 = $90.

You can see the pattern:
Odds       Expected return @ $100 bonus bet
$2             $50
$5             $80
$10           $90

So the simple (albeit surprising for some) rule is that the longer the price, the better the long-term return on your bonus bets. Which means in theory that every bonus bet should be on 100-1 shots, right?

Well, wrong actually and the problem is obvious – they do not win very often. Even if a 100-1 shot was a genuine 1 in a 100 chance (which in fact they are not due to the favourite-longshot bias), we would have to wait a long time to collect any winnings from our bonus bets. So in the real word of betting you don’t want to go too long between collects, even with bonus bets.

Most bookies also have a rule that you need to turn over winnings from bonus bets at least once before you can withdraw the winnings. That is a problem if you get a big winner on a bonus bet. If for example, you placed a $100 bonus bet on a 20-1 shot and it won, you would collect $1900 (great) but you would need to turn over another $1900 worth of bets before you could withdraw it. It takes much less effort to turnover a few hundred dollars on a $5 winner.

So taking all of that into account you want to find the sweet spot between price and strike-rate when playing a bonus bet. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule by any means, but focusing on odds around the $5 to $6 mark is a good balance and if anything, lean on the longer side (past $6). You’ll need to wait a little longer for your collects, but that’s ok because they’re free bets any way and you have the confidence of knowing the maths are in your favour.


Rod is the brain (and the maths) behind our consistently profitable High Low service.

By focusing on the best specials he runs a package that has exceptionally low volatility. The High Low covers both racing and sports and is one of our most popular memberships.

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