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The Can’t-Lose Betting Strategy That’s Taking the Gamble Out of Sports Gambling

Caesars, DraftKings, FanDuel, and others have been handing out untold millions in sign-up bonuses. Coupon-clipping types are playing them against each other to make risk-free bets.

Illustration: Baptiste Virot for Bloomberg Businessweek

Dave is a 34-year-old high school guidance counselor from Buffalo, but his true calling is hunting deals. He and his wife started out as extreme couponers, buying up massive supplies of shampoo and paper towels for a fraction of their usual cost. From there they moved on to credit card sign-up bonuses and, between the two of them, opened more than 100 accounts. In July the couple paid for their six-week, 13-country honeymoon almost entirely with points and miles. But Dave had never considered applying his deal-hunting skills to gambling until he attended a talk at ZorkFest, a conference in Las Vegas that promises to help patrons wring every last dollar out of corporate promotional offers. There, a presenter explained how people in Colorado had used a system called matched betting to make tens of thousands of dollars harvesting intro bonuses and free bets from online sportsbooks.

It was simple, the man said. Use a promo offer to bet on one team to win a game, and then hedge the bet by wagering a mathematically precise amount of cash on the other team. This system, he claimed, could guarantee a predictable, risk-free profit, no matter which team won. And you could keep at it for as long as sportsbooks continued to offer more giveaways.