The chance to bet on sports for free is an enticing one to an otherwise-hesitant gambler. Many sportsbooks, therefore, use free-to-play sports betting or free-to-play contests to ease the transition.
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There are several ways potential bettors can take a shot at free money with sports betting predictions. Pick’ems, trivia quizzes, and social gaming challenges can be a clever way for sports bettors to break the ice with a particular sportsbook or a few different sportsbooks.
If you’re curious about sports betting but nervous about putting your first few bucks on the line, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a handy guide to the types of free-to-play sports betting contests you can find online in the US.
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What is free-to-play sports betting?
Surf wheel of fortune. As its name implies, free-to-play sports bets are contests in which sportsbooks offer real money prize pools or specific bets for new or current customers to play without having to contribute any funds of their own.
Given that gambling operators are not known for their generosity, the idea that you could win actual prizes without risking anything may seem hard to believe. In general, the only thing that you will have to contribute is your contact information and the time required to establish an account with the sportsbook.
However, a sportsbook has two main goals in mind when it offers a free-to-play opportunity. The first objective is to expand its roster of player accounts, and the requirement that you sign up for an account makes such an event possible.
The other goal for the sportsbook is to show you how it does business. It hopes that, with any luck, you’ll like the format and feel of the book enough to invest some of your funds later. As it turns out, according to numerous sources, this strategy is fairly successful.
It isn’t nefarious for you, though. Nothing says that you have to play beyond the event itself, and you don’t even have to answer any of those marketing emails that you’re destined to receive. If you end up liking the sportsbook, anyway, then that’s fine.
Types of Free-to-Play Sports Bets
There are three main types of free-to-play sports bets that you may encounter. One of them — event-based contests — is a free-to-play option that you will find more often than any of the others. However, when there’s a possibility of free cash and prizes coming your way, it’s important to know what you might see.
Pick’ems, Predictions and Quiz Contests
Free-to-play contests revolving around major sporting events are quintessential offerings at online sportsbooks. They usually take the form of Pick’em or Survivor games that revolve around the outcomes of the games or player performances.
A classic example of an event-based, free-to-play contest is a March Madnessbracket. Many sportsbooks offer a big guaranteed prize pool to be split among anyone who registers and submits a free bracket.
Your picks compete against everyone’s else to see who picks the most games correctly. The players accruing the most points for picking games right split the prize pool.
DraftKings Sportsbook‘s free-to-play March Madness bracket, for example, had a $64,000 prize pool last year with no entry fee required. It was also open to players in all 50 states not just legal sports betting states.
Another popular free-to-play contest is the predictionquiz. In this type of game, you’re given a set amount of money you must bet on a series of yes or no propositions. At the end of the quiz you keep whatever winnings you have left.
Finally, there are also quiz contests that feature a series of questions that escalate in difficulty. Any wrong answer eliminates you from the competition. At the end of the series, any players who have successfully answered all the questions split a predetermined prize pool.
To be fair, the chance of winning any money in one of these contests can be low. There are always major elements of chance and uncertainty involved, and it takes quite a bit of luck to get things just right.
Because these contests qualify as sweepstakes, you will also be playing against a wider group of people. So, even if you live in a state with legal sports betting, you will have to defeat competition from most states in the country, irrespective of the legality of sports betting.
Free bet giveaways
Another type of free-to-play sports bet is the freebet. A sportsbook will often give away vouchers for free sports bets of a certain value if a player meets certain conditions.
In many cases, the condition for this type of giveaway is merely to register for an account, and perhaps enter a special free bet bonus code. This type of free-to-play sports bet is accurately described as a “no deposit bonus,” also.
A sportsbook may also give away free bets if you like and share a sportsbook’s post on your Facebook feed, for instance, or retweet and comment about them on your Twitter profile.
In any case, this free-to-play bet is a nontransferable voucher that you can only use on specific types of bets. Usually, the sportsbook will mandate that you place your wager on bets that are not enormous favorites to win.
You can’t cash out your free bet voucher. You have to use it for a bet, and if you happen to bet less than the full face value of the bonus, you will lose the remainder. So, there’s no reason to try to divide the amount of the free bet.
The most value you can hope to realize from a free bet will be the profit from a successful wager. You don’t get paid back the amount of the voucher. However, free bets are wonderful ways to build your bankroll for no risk at all. As stated earlier, they are also a great way to see how the sportsbook does business.
Free fantasy sports contests
A third common free-to-play promo is the free fantasy sports contest. While this type of betting is a blood relative with the pick’em contest, it tends to involve a regular group of matches or games, rather than a special event.
The platforms that host these kinds of contests tend to allow both public and private contests to run. So, you can can choose to play against the public at large or simply compete against a group of friends. In this regard, the free fantasy contest is much more along the lines of social gaming, rather than true sports betting.
However, some companies will set aside actual prizes for the winners of these contests so it is a form of free-to-play sports betting.
How to pick a free-to-play sports betting contest
At this point, you’re probably interested in checking out the possibilities for free money floating around these sportsbooks. Of course, not all free-to-play contests are created equally. Some of them might not be exactly free, so you need to follow these guidelines for having a good free-to-play experience:
1. The contest needs to be completely free
The first rule of thumb may seem obvious. However, before you commit to playing one of these games, you need to make sure that it is, in fact, completely free.
Though most sportsbooks are on the up and up, some might try to add language into the fine print that makes it difficult or impossible to collect on the prize money without making a purchase yourself. Nothing could be a nastier surprise than to come out on top of a contest only to find out that you have to come out of pocket yourself.
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In reality, very few sportsbooks would try something like this, as it would likely draw the ire of regulators to do so. Still, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry, and you need to read the terms and conditions carefully before you sign up.
2. Free-to-play sports contests can be hard to complete
Before you say yes to a free-to-play contest, look at what you have to do to play. If you have to log onto the site every day for a month, for instance, you need to make sure that you can do that.
The truth of the matter is that when a chance to win money is free, you can’t afford to let the competition gain an advantage over you. Even a single missed day could be fatal to your chances, so you need to be able to play the game to its fullest.
3. Don’t play at offshore sportsbooks
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You should also make sure to check out the licensing status of the sportsbook hosting the contest before you surrender your contact information. The last thing to do is supply a fly-by-night operator with your details.
4. The odds of winning free-to-play contests are high
The disappointing reality about free-to-play sports betting is that you can’t expect much when it comes to winning. These contests are promotional gimmicks that the sportsbooks use to build out their player lists and engender loyalty.
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The odds involved with most free-to-play contests are prohibitively high in most cases. Even savvy sports bettors have a hard time playing in a meaningful manner here.
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However, if you just want to have some fun or you find yourself a bit light in the wallet, there’s no harm in taking a shot at the big prize. After all, someone has to win it.