Clearplay Casino Bonus SystemBy: Nolan, Sunday July 13th 2008
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Quicklinks to Clearplay Online Casino Bonus System Info:
Most Microgaming casinos use the Clearplay bonus system, also known as the eZ or Flexi bonus system. Under the Clearplay bonus system, your account is split into a separate cash balance and bonus balance. As you wager in the casino, the bonus balance is converted to the cash balance in 10 credit increments. All games are allowed, but games are weighted at different percentages. High house edge games like slots count 100% towards the wagering, while low house edge games like blackjack and video poker contribute less towards the wagering. Under traditional implementation of the Clearplay bonus system, you can withdraw your cash balance and bonus winnings at any time, whether you have completed wagering or not. Unfortunately, many casino groups use a modified form of the bonus where you must complete the full wagering before making a withdrawal.
Many players avoid bonuses because they do not want to be locked into a wagering requirement that they are unlikely to complete. In 2006 some Microgaming casinos developed a unique solution to this problem -- the Clearplay bonus system. The bonus would never be a disadvantage because players could withdraw winnings at any time, forfeiting whatever portion of the bonus had not yet been converted. The bonus system quickly became popular with players, as well as Microgaming casino groups.
Many casinos offered generous sign-up and reload bonuses, such as 400% bonuses up to $/€/£200. Players soon learned that they could gain a large edge with these bonuses by betting their full balance (both bonus and cash balance) on a single bet, then cashing out or completing wagering using Microgaming autoplay. As more and more players used this type of strategy, something had to give. Some casino groups took drastic measures. For example, the Fortune Lounge group banned thousands of players from their casinos in March 2007. All of the casino groups that offered a Clearplay bonus in 2006 eventually modified the bonus rules in some way.
A popular modification was requiring that players complete the full wagering before making a cashout on the sign-up bonus. Game weightings were often worsened, particularly on the game French roulette. Several groups restricted players to one sign-up bonus among their group of casinos. Several groups stopped offering high percentages of more than 100%. Fortunately, some of the groups that started using the bonus system in the past year have not made such modifications and still offer the bonus in it's traditional form.
Different casino groups use a variety of different game weightings. The traditional implementation of the clearplay bonus system is to require 30x playthrough with the games weighted as listed in the table below. If you played only slots, you would need to wager the bonus 30x before it became cashable. If you played only table poker games, you'd need to wager the bonus 60x before it became cashable. If you played only video poker, you'd need to wager the bonus 300x before it became cashable.
Traditional Game Weightings
The traditional game weightings were designed so that the player is expected to lose the bonus faster than it is converted to cash. For example, most Microgaming slots have a 4-5% house edge. 30x wagering at a 4% house edge results in expected loss of 120% of the bonus during the wagering. There are only two games that are weighted such that you are expected to make a gain during playthrough -- All Aces video poker and French roulette. Completing a wagering requirement on All Aces is not practical for many players because of the high wagering without autohold/autoplay. However, French roulette is certainly practical. Because of this player edge, many casino groups have chosen to modify the traditional game weightings for French roulette. An example of the modified game weightings used by the Casino Rewards group is below. Note that weightings are reduced drastically for both French Roulette and All Aces.
Casino Rewards Group Game Weightings
A summary of game weightings by group is in the table below. Globet, Intertops, Jackpot Factory, Palace Group, and Roxy / Splendido use the traditional game weightings; and the other groups use worsened game weightings. The Early Withdrawal column indicates, if the casino permits early withdrawal of the winnings before completing the full wagering on the sign-up bonus. Some of the groups that restrict early withdrawal on the sign-up bonus permit early withdrawal on reload bonuses.
Sign-up Bonus Rules Summary
If you are playing at a casino that permits early withdrawal before completing wagering, then I recommend going for a big win and cashing out after that big win. You can start out with high-variance betting such that you either get a bet a big win or bust quickly, before losing much of the bonus to the house edge. You might choose a high-variance slot with a high paying bonus round like Thunderstruck. Or you could make large bets on a low-variance game like blackjack. Continue playing until you reach a target gain or bust. Alternatively, you could simply continue to play in your usual style. The bonus will only help you since you can cash out winnings at any point and are not locked into a wagering requirement.
If the bonus is cashed out early before playing enough to convert the first 10 credits of the bonus to cash, the average win/loss is equal to Bonus * Chance of Bust - Average Wagering * House Edge. It is not a misprint that average gain increases as chance of bust increases. The chance of bust corresponds to the degree of risk. The greater the risk, the greater the reward.
As an example, consider a 100% match bonus up to $100, using the hypothetical strategy of making a betting your entire $200 balance on a single number in roulette, then cashing out if you win. To make the math simple, I'll assume the roulette wheel has no 0 or 00, so there is no house edge. The chance of winning the bet is 1/36, and the chance of losing is 35/36. If you win, your balance increases to $7200, and you have $7000 in winnings after cashing out (bonus removed on cashout). If you lose the bet, you lose your $100 deposit. This makes the average gain $7000*(1/36) - $100*(35/36) = $97.22 . The formula predicts the same average gain of $100*(35/36) = $97.22 . If you repeat the math for bets with more numbers and a smaller chance of bust, you can see that average gain decreases as chance of bust decreases. Note that this is hypothetical example, not a recommended strategy. Betting your entire balance on a single number in roulette is probably not possible due to table limits. If it was possible, this type of odd strategy could result in you being flagged as a so called "bonus abuser".
If early withdrawal of the bonus is not allowed, then the bonus is less desirable. The bonus is similar to a typical cashable bonus, like the kind offered by several other casino softwares. One key difference from a typical cashable is the unique game weightings.
One strategy option is to start out with high variance bets, like the ones described the early withdrawal section, then switch to lower variance bets after reaching your target, to reduce the chance of losing your winnings during the required wagering. The recommended game choice, depends on the game weightings. The expected bonus retention with a variety of game choices is listed in the table below. If you choose to play slots, I recommend lower variance ones.
Bonus Retention During Playthrough with Traditional Game Weightings
As stated earlier, many casinos reduce weighting of French roulette to well under 50% because of the expected gain during wagering. Under the Casino Reward weightings, the bonus retention changes to the values listed in the table below. Obviously French Roulette and All Aces are no longer an option with these weightings. Blackjack is also probably not practical with such a high wagering and no autoplay allowed (The Casino Rewards group restricts use of Autoplay). Instead you could choose 3-card poker, war, or low variance slots.
Bonus Retention During Playthrough with Casino Rewards Weightings
The average gain/loss with this type of required wagering bonus is simply bonus - average wagering * house edge (per wager). By making high variance bets early on, you are decreasing average wagering since you don't have to complete wagering during the times that you bust. This results in a higher average gain. Consider the hypothetical roulette example discussed in the previous section. Recall that there was a 1/36 chance winning the bet and gaining $7000 and a 35/36 of losing $100. If we played through the wagering on War with a -0.3xB expected bonus retention, then the average gain on a win decreases to $7000 - $100 * 0.3 = $6970. So the average gain is $6970 * (1/36) - $100 * (35/36) = $96.39. The formula predicts the same $100 - 1.3xB * (1/36) = $96.39. Again, this is hypothetical example. Betting your entire balance on a single number in roulette is not possible under the default table limits and is not recommended, if it was possible.
Alternatively you could play whatever game you like to play and continue with your usual style of play. The bonus will help you, if you were going to wager 30xB in the casino at some point anyway. And if you like to play high-variance games or make large bets, the bonus may be especially beneficial.
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