Sportsbook Free Play vs. Cash Bonus: Which is better?

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A Sportsbook Review reader has asked if he should take a 50% free play bonus with an 8X rollover, or a 20% cash bonus with a 10X rollover.

This is a common question. With so many bonus incentives to choose from --- cash, free play, free bet, match bet --- it is hard for players to keep up, especially with different fine-print and regulations associated with each offer.

It can be taxing both mentally and financially to go in blind, accepting the biggest offer out there, without understanding the nuances of bonuses and how to optimize EV (expected value) to position your bankroll best per your individual playing style.

If you intend to move your funds around between sportsbooks throughout the course of a season, accepting a giant rollover requirement is probably not the best idea. And if you intend to stay put in one shop for the first few NFL months, your only concern would be getting the most bang for your buck.

Fortunately for players, it is an easy concept to learn, and is detailed at length in the sportsbook bonus directory.

Enter the True Bonus, fear not!
When SBR launched an update to the sportsbook bonus directory last fall, a new category emerged known as the "True Bonus". Put simply, the true bonus measures the actual value associated with each bonus perk.

Formula: For cash bonuses, divide the bonus percentage by the rollover (%/rollover). To use the SBR reader's question as an example, a 20% cash bonus gets divided by a rollover of 10X, resulting in 2% true bonus funds. This is 3% lower than the industry average for signup bonuses.

With free play bonuses, all that changes with the formula is that you divide the bonus percentage in half before dividing it by the rollover. This is because free plays are generally worth about 50% the value of a cash bonus. Unlike cash bonuses, free plays are not added to your balance once used. A 50% free play bonus with an 8X rollover is thus worth 3.125% true bonus (50% reduced to 25% divided by 8).

A 50% free play bonus with an 8X rollover is 1.25% more valuable than a 20% cash bonus with a 10X rollover.

Players can measure sportsbook bonus offers from websites rated C or higher by double-clicking the true bonus category on the bonus page. By default, the sportsbooks are displayed by the highest true bonus value.

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