What’s the Best Way to Use Free Play?

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Max bet vs. play button

If you get a generous helping of free play from the casino, what’s the best approach? Here’s a scenario asked by one of our readers:

If you/I received free play for $2000.  Should I try a $500 bet and pray… or bet as usual?

Andrew R.

It can be tempting to take a big swing with free play, but our recommendation is actually to play it as you would any of your original bankroll you visit the casino with. If you’re a $5/spin player, stick to that. If you’re a 50 cent a spin player, stick to that.

Why? Why not swing for the fences with free play? Well, the casino factors in your offer in how they expect you to play. When they give you free play, they are assuming a percentage of that will be turned into cash. And they also anticipate you’ll then keep playing and do some amount of play off that cash you won.

When you do a handful of big spins on the free play, one of two things will happen:

  1. You’ll spend it all fast, and have little to nothing to show for it. This is the most likely possibility by far.
  2. You manage some sort of big win on it. This will be a small minority of outcomes.

If you want to tease the idea out, you can do various experiments. Do four $1 spins on a slot machine. How often do you at least win the $4 back? Slots can often go 20, 50 or 100 spins without giving you as much to work with, as often much of the money can be found in bonuses and features, which aren’t designed to trigger that often.

So in your scenario, you do four $500 spins, that’s just a much higher bet level equivalent of doing four $1 spins. It’ll still be tough to make much happen, and more often than not you’ll be kicking yourself for squandering $2,000 in free play on a four spin gamble. 

By comparison, even doing 100 $20 spins heavily increases the chances something will happen – the payout compared to a $500 spin if you get a bonus may not be as high, but you get a lot more chances to get those payouts.

Free play is traditionally calculated based on your previous play – how much per spin, how long you played, and the house advantage on the game. Playing your free play in the same way you earned it is generally one of the best ways to guarantee some cash back from your free play that can let you play for awhile.

Alternatively, if you happen to know how to play video poker, and your casino allows it, playing a low volatility game like Jacks or Better can be another way to accomplish this, as the expectation is that you’ll get a portion of your play back in cash, which can be used to continue to play at the casino. 

Not all casinos allow this, however, so it will depend on where you are. Also, if you’re not familiar with video poker, because skill is involved, it’s not recommended to play unless you have enough familiarity with the strategy.

Have a question? Submit yours here!


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4 Replies to “What’s the Best Way to Use Free Play?”

  • Vicki Davis says:

    I never thought about using my freeplay for video poker. Thanks Brian for the great idea

    • FlipTheSwitch.com says:

      Happy to provide the suggestion, Vicki! Some of us on the team love using video poker as a way to play free play and have some cash at the other end of it.

  • Sandra says:

    I only get out to a casino a couple times a year and normally play with low bets. But I have found that the casinos take away any points I have earned before I have won enough to have any free play. What do you suggest I can do to keep any points earned? During the pandemic I didn’t visit casinos like San Manuel. But when they change their name to Yamava I lost everything all my points and perks. Seems unfair to me. Suggestions?

    • FlipTheSwitch.com says:

      Hey Sandra – one thing to review is the points expiration policy. Casinos will tend to state in their rewards programs how many months of inactivity will lead to points being taken away. For some it’s six months; for others it’s a year. It can also vary by tier (with lower tiers having shorter windows). That may help guide when you visit – if a casino has a six month policy, perhaps you time a visit so it’s just before the six month end so you have the ability to accrue the points at a pace that lets you use them.

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