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February-19-2003,
In Defense of Bonus Whores...By The Philosopher

To what extent is it ethical to exploit sportsbooks when they provide you an opportunity to play with the edge in your favor?

My views on this matter have evolved considerably. Before I started betting seriously, I don.t know that I was aware of any ethical limitations on winning what you were capable of winning. I assume this is typical of squares. I mean, be honest. When you see a .Twilight Zone. episode where bettors have access to tomorrow.s newspaper, is your first thought, .Oh, but if I were in that position, I would never bet, because I would have an unfair edge over the bookie!.? Probably not. You fantasize about being able to bet sure things like that; you don.t sweat the ethics of it.

Largely as a result, though, of spending time on these forums, I came to see things differently. I came to look down on those customers who are motivated primarily by bonuses, those who bet .bad lines,. those who beard into a shop through another person after they have been kicked out, etc.

But I now believe that because these boards are heavily influenced by sportsbook advertising and sportsbook posting, what has happened is a lot of us have been subconsciously co-opted to have more sympathy for the sportsbooks and their bottom line than we would otherwise have. We have internalized a certain set of conventions that are somewhat one-sided.

I have been thinking about this lately, trying to kind of step back and consider the situation as objectively as I can, and I find myself drifting toward a compromise position somewhere in between the one extreme of .anything goes. in one.s attempt to win money from the books, versus the opposite extreme of putting excessive constraints on one.s betting to where any edge you might gain over a book is somehow ethically suspect.

I do not have a complete theoretical foundation worked out for an .ethical theory. of sportsbetting, but at least I have developed a general approach that somewhat guides my assessment of individual issues. That is to say, I not only have a fair idea of where I want to draw certain ethical lines, but at least the beginnings of a more general theoretical justification for drawing them there.

. . . . . . . . . .

The first question I would ask, in order to provide some context for the ensuing discussion, is what is the nature of the relationship between the customer and the book?

Some conceive this relationship as a straight-forwardly adversarial one, whereas others see it as more of a cooperative relationship. In the latter view, the winning player.s true adversary is the other players, not the book. Indeed, the book is a partner of sorts of the winning player in that they divide up the money of the losing players.the winning player wins the bets, and the book pockets the vig.

I think the partnership view has some plausibility, especially in the case of unconventional bookmaking methods such as pari-mutuel wagering and bet exchanges, but on the whole the adversarial view is closer to my own conception.

Bottom line is the book is trying to get the customers. money, and the customers are trying to get the book.s money. Granted, the book does not need to get every customer.s money to be successful. It can be quite content with keeping the vig and letting the customers bash each other.s heads in, with some winning over the long run and most losing. But it still needs its customers, collectively, to lose if it is to succeed in business.

Winning players are, at most, to be tolerated. They are allowed to play and win if the actions necessary to get rid of them or to beat them are too costly in terms of driving away the losing players. But they aren.t partners. If the book could wave a magic wand and have no player ever again place a bet with a positive expectation, while having no effect whatsoever on any other wagers, then of course it would do so.

So when I sign up with a book, I know it is trying to separate me from my money. I don.t complain about it. I don.t resent it. I acknowledge it as in the very nature of our relationship. Similarly, I.m trying to take their money. Maybe some of their .recreational. customers enjoy the rush of the gambling itself and are willing to pay for that with their losses, but I.m not going to lie and say I.m one of those customers. I play to win.

Now, when I say the relationship is an adversarial one, that doesn.t imply that it is a relationship of ill will, of disrespect. It doesn.t imply that winning is all that matters, regardless of how you achieve it. It doesn.t imply that I root for the book to fare poorly in its other adversarial relationships, say with its other customers. In short, it doesn.t imply that the book is my .enemy..

We can be adversaries in the way that Warren Sapp and Brett Favre are adversaries. We are competitors trying our darnedest to defeat each other, but that.s perfectly compatible with our refraining from cheating, our liking each other, our respecting each other, or our wanting to go out for a beer together after the wagering day is over.

But let.s say a little more about that cheating point. Fair and honest competitors try to get an edge against each other, but they don.t cheat to get an edge. If I.m a boxer, I.m trying to punch my opponent into unconsciousness, and there.s nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong with slipping knockout drops into his water bottle. If I.m a poker player, I.m using my card playing skills to try to win more and bigger pots and take my opponents. money, and there.s nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong with my buying in for counterfeit money, and then cashing in my chips at the end of the night for real money.

As we examine the book-customer relationship in more detail, we.ll want to think about where the analogous ethical lines between fair competition and cheating should be drawn, and why.

The next point to note is that the relationship between the book and its customer is not symmetrical. Although on rare occasions a player and book might negotiate some individualized arrangement as equal bargainers, typically the book establishes the conditions of the wagering, and the player then plays or passes.

Think of the book.s policies, lines, fees, bonuses, etc. as a complex offer, or set of offers. When I.m shopping for a book, to me each one is saying, .We think that with this set of conditions that we have established, we can get your money. You will have a negative expectation playing with us. If you disagree, then accept our challenge and try to prove us wrong. And may the better man win..

If they miscalculate and offer me something that enables me to beat them, then so be it. They have no cause to complain; they are the ones who offered it. If I miscalculate and bet with the edge against me and I lose, then I have no cause to complain, as I freely accepted their challenge. If what they offer doesn.t appeal to me and I choose to pass them by, then that.s fine too. They are not obligated to offer me something I think I can beat them at, and I am not obligated to accept an offer that I believe puts me at a disadvantage.

Now, for the purpose of simplification, I.ve worded it as if the offer and the relationship are between the book and the customer as an individual. Certainly in most cases it would be more accurate to think of it as more of a collective offer. In effect, the book is implying that by offering a certain deal to the general public, it will come out ahead in the long run. By accepting it, I am not necessarily implying that they are mistaken. I may well believe that they will indeed end up ahead of their customers collectively with this offer, while also believing that they won.t end up ahead of me individually.

Looked at in that context, it.s the book.s job to arrange things so as to tempt me to bet unwisely. It.s my job to have the self-discipline not to fall for it.

So the book calculates that if it offers me a certain bonus, with certain rollover requirements, that I.ll post up more money than I otherwise might have, I.ll make at least some of my wagers with a negative expectation, and I.ll be too lazy to pull my money out and move onto the next book and its bonus offer before they.ve made a profit off me. Or it calculates that if it offers 24 hour wagering, wagering on a wide array of sports, a lot of different bet types, etc., that I.m bound to overbet, to lose discipline and make some plays I really shouldn.t, just because the opportunity is there and I crave the action. Or it calculates that having scantily clad curvaceous women on their website will subconsciously compel me to use their site more often, and maybe place bets with them that I could have placed more advantageously elsewhere, or should not have placed at all. Or it calculates that by charging a certain level of vig, that even though I get to pick and choose which games I want to play and which side I want to take, I won.t be able to overcome that built-in house advantage.

They.re not morally wrong in so trying to separate me from my money. It.s the nature of the game. It.s precisely what they.re supposed to try to do. They aren.t somehow victimizing the customer by setting things up in a way designed for him to lose (assuming we.re not talking about a customer who is a child or mentally ill or something like that).

But similarly, I.m under no obligation to cooperate in their efforts to take my money. Indeed, if I take up their challenge and sign up with their book, I.m going to strain every muscle to prove that they.re mistaken in thinking the rules and conditions they have created will defeat me. If I withdraw all my money as soon as I.ve met the bonus requirement, if I refrain from making unwise bets just because they.re readily available, if I have the self-discipline not to let the hot babes on their site influence my wagering, if I can project the outcomes of sporting events sufficiently better than their linesmaker to overcome whatever vig they are charging, then that.s just tough shit for them.

You.re the one who established all the rules we.d be playing under and offered what you offered. I accepted it, played according to those rules.your rules.and beat you. Deal with it.

Set things up however you please, and I.ll pass or play. But understand that if I play, it.s because I think I can do so in such a way that I have an edge, and I.m going to exploit that advantage to win money from you. I don.t hate you, I don.t disrespect you, I.m not looking to cheat you nor will I accept being cheated by you. But I.m trying to get your money and you.re trying to get mine. That.s my attitude in a nutshell.

Now, let.s build a bit on that framework and return to the question I raised earlier. What constitutes fair competition in this adversarial relationship, and what constitutes cheating?

There are at least three broad categories of customer behavior that arguably cross the line into unethical and unfair dealing. I will contend that two do indeed cross that line, and one does not.

. . . . . . . . . .

Number one is out and out fraud. Hopefully we can all agree that wherever we.re going to draw the ethical lines, this stuff should fall on the wrong side.

What I have in mind here would be such things as depositing with a stolen credit card and pulling the money back out before you.re caught; initiating a Western Union deposit, betting on credit in effect while it.s in transit, and then canceling the wire if the wager loses; bribing a sportsbook employee to enter certain wagers after post, etc.

Here it.s not a matter of winning and losing, but of stealing. The fraudulent customer has not accepted the sportsbook.s challenge as described above and met it; he has bypassed the very rules, policies, fees, betting lines, etc. that make up that challenge. He has not discovered a way to make money within the conditions established by the book; he has discovered a way to get money from the book without ever putting himself under those conditions.

A shoplifter is not an informed consumer or a skilled bargain hunter or negotiator. He is not a person who has found a way to advantageously accept the market exchanges offered by the store. He is helping himself to the store.s goods in spite of not accepting and fulfilling his end of the proposed bargain (by paying).

Whether a fraudulent sportsbook customer or a shoplifter, a thief is a thief. His behavior is not .part of the game. of either sportsbetting or the marketplace.

....

Number two is importantly different. These are cases where the .offer. was unintentional.

To start with non-sportsbetting analogies, consider an advertisement from an automobile dealership that contains a printer error. It lists a popular new luxury car as on sale for $4,900 (where, given what the vehicle typically sells for elsewhere, clearly $49,000 was intended.) Or consider a store where right next to where the semi-literate teen employee was just affixing 99 cent price tags to a shelf full of pocket combs, a bottle of imported French perfume that normally sells for over $100 also has affixed to it such a 99 cent tag.

If a person attempts to purchase these items for the stated price, typically a court will not enforce the resulting .contract.. The reason being that there really was no legitimate deal struck. The automobile dealer never intended to offer the car for $4,900. It looks as though he did (looks that way to someone with no common sense or pretending to have no common sense, that is), but in fact the advertisement was a botched effort to offer the car for $49,000, not a successful effort to offer it for $4,900.

Clearly what this most closely corresponds to in the context of sportsbetting is the .bad line. rule. This is the rule that most sportsbooks have that says that in the event that human error or some technical foul-up results in their taking bets on a line that they obviously did not intend to hang, then they may cancel those bets.

Now, there are a lot of important nuances to specific .bad line. cases, such as how long the bad line was up, how much time passed between when a given bet was placed and when it was cancelled, etc., but most of that I.m going to leave aside for another time, as I don.t want to get sidetracked into an endless discussion of bad lines. I just want to focus on the fundamental issue of whether bad line rules in general are justified, and why or why not.

My opinion is that it is quite fair and reasonable for a sportsbook to cancel bets made on obviously bad lines. The reason being that the line that was purportedly offered was not intentionally offered. That is to say.at least for the only cases I think the bad line rule justifiably applies to.the book clearly intended to offer a different line from what the bettor bet into, so there really was no .meeting of the minds,. no legitimate agreement on a wager.

For instance, a sportsbook intends to make Duke a 17 point favorite, but the person entering in the lines makes a typing error and reverses the .-. and the .+,. thereby making Duke a 17 point underdog. Before the book catches the error, a customer comes along and takes Duke +17. Is the book obligated to honor the bet?

No, because it never intentionally offered Duke as a 17 point underdog. It offered Duke as a 17 point favorite and simply typed it wrong. The conventional way of conveying that Duke is a 17 point favorite is .Duke .17;. they inadvertently expressed it as .Duke +17.. Duke was never, in fact, their underdog. They committed a communication error, not a bookmaking error.

It would be the same thing if a harried phone clerk giving a rundown misread .Georgia Tech plus 17 at Duke. as .Georgia Tech minus 17 at Duke.. A customer is not entitled to play .Gotcha!. when a sportsbook mis-speaks or mis-types.

As I.ve said, it.s up to the sportsbook to make the offer (rules, conditions, lines, vig, etc.) and up to the customer to pass or play. But on rare occasions.like the bad line cases.you cannot simply assume a literal interpretation of the offer. Sometimes, alas, +17 does not mean +17, for human beings do make mistakes. So there was never a genuine offer of +17, and thus nothing for the customer to accept.

. . . . . . . . . .

Number three would be cases where there was an offer, the offer was intentional, but the customer found a way to thwart its purpose to his benefit.perhaps by abiding by the .letter. of the rules, but violating their .spirit..

In these cases, I will argue, unlike the first two types, typically the player ought not be blamed for finding an edge.

When I speak of thwarting the purpose of a sportsbook offer, what I have in mind is something like this: It.s reasonable to say that the purpose of a sign-up bonus is to attract new customers who will give the book a realistic opportunity of earning their long term business. As a customer, I could act contrary to this purpose in many ways. For example, I could make my deposit, collect my bonus, and bet the whole thing on one play, perhaps doing the same at another book on the opposite side of the same game, trying to give the book as little action as I can get away with, and never having any intention of playing with the book long term.

Or, consider the .referral bonus.. Presumably a book.s purpose in giving such a bonus to one of its existing customers is to encourage him to bring it new customers who, again, will give the book a realistic opportunity of earning their long term business. I thwart this purpose if I refer a bunch of friends and relatives who have no interest whatsoever in even betting sports, and I explain to them how to play the minimum requirement and then pull out all their money, with at most a slightly negative expected return which is more than offset by the sign-up and referral bonuses we.ll now divvy up.

Now, thwarting the book.s purpose like this is not to be confused with actually breaking the rules governing bonuses. A book, for instance, might offer bonuses only to new customers. If an existing customer were to sign up again under a pseudonym to get a bonus, this would be fraudulent. Or a book might specify that bonuses are not available to players who bet primarily syndicate or steam plays. If a customer agrees to this condition and takes a bonus, and then proceeds to bet precisely that way after all, then he is not entitled to the bonus, since he violated one of the conditions.

No, we are talking not about breaking the rules, but of acting contrary to the spirit of the promotion. Is it wrong to be a .bonus whore. in that sense? Does a customer have an ethical obligation to act in a way that is consistent with the reasons the sportsbook offers its customers certain enticements?

I say no. It.s tempting to think otherwise, but once you start down that slippery slope, there.s no logical reason to stop until the sportsbook has all your money. So best not to start down it at all.

Here.s what I mean: I get a bonus, fulfill the minimum requirements for it, and leave. You tell me, that.s not fair to the book. I say, why? I followed the rules and did what I was obligated to do. You say, that.s not enough. You have to think about the intent behind the bonus. The book offers the bonus so that new customers will check them out and give them a fair shot at their business. They don.t offer it so folks like you can scalp it out with another book and make a few dollars risk free.

Ah, but why do they want me to check them out and give them consideration for my long term business? Surely that.s not the ultimate goal. Surely there is yet another intention behind that. For if customers signed up, gave them honest consideration for their future wagering, but then declined, that wouldn.t do them any good. They don.t just want to attract customers who are available to bet at a book long term. They want to attract customers who do in fact choose to bet at this book long term.

So perhaps my obligation is not just to go in with an open mind about playing there long term, but to actually play there long term. Otherwise I.m thwarting the goal of the promotion just as any bonus whore would be.

But that too is not enough, for there is obviously yet another intention lurking. Does the book just want me to stick around and keep playing after the bonus requirement is fulfilled, or does it want me to do that for some further reason? Clearly there is a further reason. Their goal is for me to lose my money to them. The bonus promotion is surely not intended to bring in customers who will beat the book. So if my duty is not just to abide by the letter of the bonus rules, but also to abide by the spirit by cooperating with the intent behind offering the bonus at all, then I am obligated to stick around, play, and lose.

As I say, better not to start down that slippery slope at all.

In deciding what behavior crosses the line into unethical bonus whoredom, I don.t ask, .What is the book.s intent in offering me this promotion?. I don.t ask, because I already know the answer.to separate me from my money. And that.s a goal with which I have no intention of cooperating.

I understand that sportsbooks issue their bonuses and other incentives to get a very different kind of customer from me.namely one who will bet with them with a negative expected return. I understand it; I just don.t care. I don.t think it morally obligates me.

I also understand that advertisers pay big bucks to sponsor television shows and keep network TV free to the viewer, and that they do so with the expectation that consumers will watch the commercials and buy what is being advertised. Yet I routinely change channels to avoid commercials, and I can honestly say I don.t feel the slightest pang of conscience when I do so.

These parties are well within their rights to try to get my money in these ways. I am well within my rights to take what they have voluntarily given me without altering my behavior in the ways that they would like.

It.s true that if everyone were like me, it would eliminate the grounds for these incentives and they would soon fade away, but that.s fine too. I.m not entitled to sportsbook bonuses or free network TV. If the people who provide these things decide tomorrow that it is no longer in their self-interest to do so, I have no justification to complain.

Let.s go back to how I started this essay, sketching out the adversarial relationship between a bettor and a sportsbook.

The sportsbook offers a certain set of rules, conditions, incentives, lines, etc. to its prospective customers. It intends to make money by doing so. The bettor accepts or passes this offer. If he accepts, he does so with the intent to make money (although for .recreational. players, this may not be the sole or primary goal). Once the offer is made and accepted, time will tell which party is right.

Bonuses, low vig promotions, obscure sports, etc. are simply parts of this offer. If players make use of these things in such a way that the book is worse off than if it had never made them part of the package it offered, whose fault is that? Certainly not the players. They.re doing exactly what they.re supposed to be doing.finding a way to profit under the conditions voluntarily created and offered by the book.

It.s the book.s job to see to it that the bonuses and other incentives it offers players render the package as a whole profitable for the book. That.s not the players. job.

If your present bonus structure is a loser, change it. Lower the percentage or increase the rollover. If you cannot do so profitably because your customers will leave you for the shops offering higher bonuses, try some other incentive instead.like lower vig, rebates on action, rebates on losses, etc. If these would cost you more money than you could make off them, then offer no such incentives at all, and concentrate on good customer service, a top quality website, a wide range of sports and bet types, putting customer funds in verifiable escrow, locating in a jurisdiction with meaningful sportsbook regulation, etc.

If that doesn.t work either, and you find yourself back in the dilemma of whether to go broke because you.re giving away too much in bonuses, or to go broke because no one will sign up with you because of your absence of generous bonuses, then maybe you.re in the wrong line of work.

Because there is no God-given right to make a profit bookmaking. If you can do it, more power to you. If you cannot, don.t look for somebody to blame. In certain market conditions, it is comparatively easy to make money in this profession; in others it is very difficult. In fact, it is entirely conceivable that market conditions could exist that make it impossible. So be it.

When I call out at the bar, .I.ve got $100 says the Broncos win tonight! Who wants the other side?. there is no guarantee I.ll succeed in negotiating a wager that has a positive expected return for me. Maybe no one will want to take me up on my offer. Maybe they only will if I sweeten the deal by offering points and/or buying the next round of drinks, and maybe my doing so would render it a negative expected return wager for me.

By going into the business of booking bets, a sportsbook is calling out a similar challenge to my proposed bet at the bar. And it is similarly an open question if they can come up with something that will both get takers and make them a profit.

So I do not have an ethical problem with someone finding an edge by playing the minimum necessary to receive a bonus, scalping, betting line moves at a slow moving book, betting obscure sports or bet types where he has a better line than the book, buying in both directions off the .3. at Aces Gold to create a middle, etc. If the book is disadvantaged by these things, then it is up to the book to change their rules or bookmaking practices accordingly. If they do not have the ability to close these windows of opportunity, or if they deem that doing so will hurt them more than it helps by costing them other business, then that isn.t the players. problem.

Again, the book makes the offer, establishes the rules and conditions under which it will accept business. If it is unable to do so in a profitable way unless its players voluntarily refrain from certain behavior that the rules allow but that give a bettor an edge, then its principals really need to find some other profession for which they are more qualified.

. . . . . . . . . .

Now, an astute reader may well believe that there is an inconsistency lurking in my treatment of the second and third types of cases. Why is it, he might ask, that the book.s intent is relevant in the bad line and analogous cases, yet somehow the intent behind offering bonuses and various other incentives is not relevant?

Why is .The book never intended to offer Duke as a 17 point underdog. a valid point, but .The book never intended that a customer sign up and exclusively scalp obscure props. is not?

My response would be that the distinction lies in the fact that something can be done intentionally and still fail to achieve its broader purpose or goal.

A sportsbook that intends to type .Duke .17. and inadvertently types .Duke +17. has not, in my opinion, genuinely offered Duke as a 17 point underdog to its customers. However, what if a book that made no such mistake and posted .Duke .17. were to say, .We intended to post a line that would bring approximately balanced action on the Duke game. The line we posted did not in fact do this. Thus the .Duke .17. line was not intentional. So we are not obligated to honor bets made on it..?

Clearly this would be silly. But let.s clarify why.

The bad line rule cannot be an excuse to simply undo any action the sportsbook now regrets. And a player betting into the .Duke .17. line, even if he believes it to be a .weak. line that the sportsbook will likely lose money on, is not doing anything unethical.

What we need to ask is .What did the sportsbook intend to offer?. not .What did the sportsbook intend to achieve by offering it?. If it did not intend to offer .Duke +17,. then a binding wager is not created by the customer taking .Duke +17,. even if a sportsbook employee accidentally typed that. That it also intended to offer .A line that would solicit approximately balanced action. or .A line that would result in its winning more money than it lost. or .A line that moves as little as possible between now and the start of the game. is no doubt true, but it.s irrelevant. Putting up a line that brings grossly unbalanced action is not something a sportsbook does intentionally, and so it is indeed an error of a sort, but it.s not the kind of error that is relevant to the bad line rule.

We want to know .When you posted Duke +17, was that in fact your intention?. Only if the answer to that is clearly no is there an ethical problem with trying to hold the book to bets accepted on that line. That this was or was not a wise line to post.in terms of achieving the book.s ultimate purpose of defeating its customers.doesn.t enter into it.

Sportsbook bonuses and other incentives that turn out to provide openings from which shrewd customers can benefit are not analogous to the typographical error type of bad line. They are analogous to the weak number type of bad line. (An example of something that would indeed be analogous to genuine bad line cases would be if a book sent out a mass mailing about its 15% sign-up bonuses, but the printer inadvertently added a zero and made them 150% bonuses. I would not regard the sportsbook as obligated to pay 150% bonuses.)

Just as I think a customer is under zero obligation to avoid exploiting a line that is not ideally suited to achieve its purposes, I also believe that a customer is under zero obligation to avoid exploiting a bonus or other promotion that is not ideally suited to achieve its purposes.

.Was the offer intentional?. and .Will the offer achieve its intended goals?. are not identical questions. A typographical error or an error of speech.assuming the evidence makes it obvious that this is what they are.are unintentional and do not create genuine offers, and thus are things that an honorable customer ought not exploit. Unwise bookmaking or unwise marketing, on the other hand, are intentional and do create genuine offers; they just aren.t efficient means to the book.s end of separating its customers from their money. Thus, an honorable customer may fire at will on these.

. . . . . . . . . .

It is worth noting, though, that.as with so much in life.one needs to look not only at the right and wrong of one.s behavior, but also at the pragmatic implications of how it is perceived by others.

That is to say, since--all else being equal--a player will be better off staying on the good side of the books, it is worthwhile to ascertain what their attitudes are toward certain practices, and to incorporate this as a factor in one.s decisions.

For example, awhile back Reality made the point that many books believe scalpers are undesirable vultures but do not have the same derogatory opinion of middlers. Reno, among others, contends that this is a silly distinction, that fundamentally scalpers and middlers are doing the same thing just with betting lines expressed in different styles, and that thus there are no grounds for resenting the one and not the other.

Now, let.s say you agree with Reno on the substance of the matter. Let.s say further that what Reality is saying is accurate.that many books (wrongly) believe that scalpers are doing something more sleazy or unfair than middlers. Finally, let.s say that you could make approximately the same amount of money for the same devotion of time scalping as middling.

I would think that in that case, you would be better off middling. Sure, by hypothesis they.re the same ethically.one is no more cheating than the other one is. But even if these books are wrong in believing what they believe, in my opinion the very fact that they believe it should be relevant to your choice of behavior. If you can piss them off by scalping, or you can remain on their good side by middling, and you.ll make the same profit either way, then middle by all means.

So regardless of the ethics of being a bonus whore, you should be aware of how books perceive it. Many books don.t think that the bonus money you receive is .yours. in as strong a sense as is the money you win directly through your wagers. To me that.s outrageously false, but that.s what they believe, and their behavior reflects this.

For instance, a book decides you.re not the kind of customer they can make money off of because you.re consistently betting steam. So they decide to kick you out, and are inclined to .punish. you as well. (For the sake of this example, I.m talking about cases where there were no explicit conditions laid out in advance for what would happen if the player bets steam.) Very few of them feel entitled to have this punishment take the form of voiding actual won bets. That.s your money, and they.ll give it to you as they show you the door. But more of them do feel entitled to have this punishment take the form of retroactively reversing bonuses. They.ll give you your money, but with the bonuses and transaction fees deducted from it.

Or when NAB was on its way down, .Bill. announced that he.d work out payment plans to get people their money, but he stated explicitly that any portion of the customer balances that were from past bonuses were excluded. Only what was deposited and what was won or lost wagering counted; the bonuses did not really belong to the players.

Or CRIS decided to renege on its .Loyalty Points. bonus plan for certain players who had clearly fulfilled the conditions of the plan. But there is no evidence that they stiff people on actual bets, so clearly they don.t categorize the two the same. Whereas for me, theft is theft, for others, .It.s not like it was really ever the players. money. We.re talking about bonuses here after all...

So be alert to how books perceive these things. Do they react differently to different ways of winning money from them within their rules? If seven players make the identical profit from them, but by seven different avenues.accumulating sign-up and referral bonuses, middling, betting steam, scalping, betting their reduced vig promotion, betting in $500 increments, betting in $5,000 increments.are they regarded the same, or are some perceived to have cheated and to not be quite as entitled to the money in their accounts as the others? How they perceive certain things and how they react clearly has a pragmatic relevance to how you ought proceed.

Again, I.m just talking pragmatically. I.m not affirming these book perceptions by any means. I think all the aforementioned methods of profiting are fair and square. I don.t have a problem with any of them. But a book might, and that can affect your bottom line.

To me, it.s the same as a superstitious bookie who is convinced he is at a severe disadvantage if his players place bets on Friday the 13th. If I know that, maybe I.ll avoid playing with him that day, and just put my plays in elsewhere. Of course his opinion is bunk, but why piss him off? Regardless of how silly it is, if I beat him on Friday the 13th, he.ll think I took unfair advantage of him. I don.t need to be creating an enemy.

There are a lot of gray areas that arise in this business where something will come down to the book.s discretion, and you.ll be glad you have maintained a reasonably civil relationship with your books. In part this means not cheating them. Unfortunately it can also mean not doing things that they (falsely) believe constitute cheating them.

. . . . . . . . . .

In discussing the relationship between the sportsbook and the customer, I have chosen to focus this essay on customer behavior that does or does not cross an ethical line. I have argued that when a book and a customer freely enter into a business arrangement.freely exchange an offer and acceptance.the customer is not ethically entitled to profit by fraudulently bypassing this arrangement, and the customer is not ethically entitled to profit by interpreting literally something erroneous that was clearly not intended to be a part of the book.s offer. But the customer is ethically entitled to profit through whatever means he chooses within the bounds of what was intentionally offered and accepted, regardless of whether it turns out the book was wise in its bookmaking and marketing to offer it.

Not only could much more be said about customer behavior in this context, but there are also all important questions about book behavior. What would the general ethical framework I have sketched out have to say about the rules, procedures, etc. that make up the sportsbook.s offer or challenge to its customers? Is it pretty much .anything goes. since the customer always has the option of passing? Is a book under some obligation to offer the identical things to every customer, or may it offer different limits, different lines, etc. to different customers, or even choose not to do business with some people at all? Is a book doing something wrong by offering something less favorable to the player (say, a 20 cent baseball line) than happens to be available at other books (say, a 10 cent baseball line)?

These are matters that can perhaps be looked at in a future essay.

. . . . . . . . . .

Personal disclosure: I am not much of a bonus whore myself. Sign-up bonuses rank fairly low on my list of priorities when choosing a book. Even when I get a bonus it.s typically at a place I intend to play over the long haul anyway, so rarely have I not given substantially more action than whatever the minimum rollover specified. I doubt I.ve gotten more than a half dozen referral bonuses in all my years of betting offshore, and most of those were in the last few months.

I also have never gotten into betting steam, and have done little scalping or middling, though I.m open to doing more in the future.

I do, though, proudly proclaim myself to be a low vig whore. I will happily adjust my betting (phone versus online, one day of the week or time of day versus another, straight bets versus combining those same plays into parlays, etc.) to whatever the books steer me toward by offering different levels of vig. I don.t doubt that a good portion of the profit I have made over the years betting sports is attributable to precisely this factor.

. . . . . . . . . .

But in any case, however you make your money, don.t let the books make you feel ashamed about it. You are absolutely not obligated to adjust your behavior so as to facilitate their achieving their goal of separating you from your money. If they object to something you are doing, they are free to change their promotions and rules and such. But as a player, just keep looking for that edge, regardless of what a .whore. this supposedly makes you.



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