Anyone who has read any of my writings either on this site or on our sister site, WizardofVegas.com, knows that I am all about taking advantage of juicy online casino promotions as long as they can be played at an advantage. As everyone knows, in order to do this, one has to take a look at the bonuses that are being offered, the games that can be played with those bonuses, and after that it is a simple matter of determining whether there is a positive expectation for the player given some means of bet structuring, or perhaps, even playing the games straight up.
The number of online casinos that enable a player to play at an advantage straight up, by which I mean selecting the best possible game and flat betting or not altering one’s bets in a particular way to take advantage of bonus funds, has decreased substantially over the years. In order to take advantage of bonuses these days, many of them require making huge bets while using the bonus funds in an attempt to dramatically increase the player’s bankroll, and then grinding out the playthrough requirements. For instance, betting the maximum allowed on a single number in Roulette, while it will result in more frequent losses than wins, yields a positive expected value against several online casino promotions (if max betting is allowed) because the increase to the player’s bankroll is substantial and allows the player to grind out the wagering requirements on something with an even lower house edge.
Several years ago, it was even easier to take advantage of online casino promotions. For one thing, while the bonus percentages (the amount the casino effectively adds to your bankroll) were only slightly greater, the playthrough requirements were extremely low and could be played on games such as Blackjack. Naturally, this presented tremendous advantages to the savvy player who understood that the only real, ‘Strategy,’ that was required was to bet as little as the player could stand to minimize Variance. Strictly speaking, even that wasn’t necessary, as the expected value of the promotion was the same regardless of how much the player bet.
Even though online casinos still offered multiple table games at this time, Blackjack was a frequent target for players utilizing these bonuses because the basic strategy is fairly simple, and because blackjack is often the game with the lowest house edge. However, the promotions at this time were so juicy that it almost didn’t matter what game the player picked, the player could play at a substantial advantage.
The casinos eventually figured out that their promotions were getting killed on Blackjack, and they took countermeasures accordingly. The first thing that these casinos did was dramatically increasing the playthrough requirements, but in most cases, even those increases were not dramatic enough and the game of blackjack could still be played at a huge expected profit, even with the new playthrough requirements. Players also switched to other tactics and other table games since many of the other table games had reduced playthrough requirements as compared to blackjack. One tactic that players would frequently employ would be, ‘Two-Way Betting,’ on a game such as Roulette, Craps or Baccarat. The goal of two-way betting is simply to bet both sides of a proposition such as Red & Black at Roulette (possibly with a hedge on green) or the Pass Line and Don’t Pass Line at Craps. This method is virtually guaranteed to lose money if one places enough individual bets, for instance, the Pass Line bet will be lost on a Come Out roll of twelve on Craps even though the Don’t Pass bet is construed as a push. However, with the bonuses that were being offered and the low playthrough requirements, players were able to bet in this, ‘Guaranteed to lose,’ fashion with a positive expected value.
I might argue that this was an overly greedy and excessively obvious way of playing, so perhaps the casinos that had promotions with playthrough requirements that were way too low would have continued to do that longer had players never engaged in two-way betting. In that sense, advantage play is kind of a delicate balance, sometimes, of trying to maximize your profits while also trying to prevent what you’re doing from being exceedingly obvious. There are two schools of thought on that with the first being that a play that can possibly be preserved should be for as long as possible; while the second school of thought would suggest, ‘Burning out,’ a really good play by trying to maximize as much profit as possible in as short a period of time as possible.
Personally, I would have been more inclined just to play Craps straight up given that the mathematical advantage with the low playthrough requirements was so tremendous several years ago that it was virtually impossible to lose. Even in the extremely rare event that a player did lose on a play, there were so many other lucrative plays available that it would balance out in a hurry.
In any event, some players did not see things that way so they engaged in two-way, or opposite, betting. I suppose another thing that can be said for opposite betting is that it is quick, since a Craps player (for example) only wants to duck a twelve on the Come Out roll, and that only happens on 1/36 Come Out rolls, the player might be more aggressive in how much he/she is betting in order to get the playthrough requirements completed faster.
Most of the casinos eventually and inevitably figured out what was going on with this, and as a result, they took even more proactive countermeasures by adjusting the Terms & Conditions of their bonuses to ensure that they could not be exploited in this way again. For one thing, the casinos tended to, for the most part, increase the playthrough requirements yet again. Some other casinos still decided to completely disallow table games from being played, or, at least, certain table games such as ones upon which opposite betting can take place. Other casinos still will allow table games to be played with bonus money, except it doesn’t count at all towards the wagering requirements.
Once again, there are several promotions out there that can be beaten still today, but that number is growing fewer and fewer by conventional means. This is mainly because many online casinos have a policy in their Terms & Conditions that prohibits a player from, ‘Bet structuring,’ or some other similar verbiage. In fact, quite a few casinos specifically restrict how much a player’s maximum bet while playing a bonus can be in relation to his/her minimum bet, and if the player breaks those terms, the bonus and any winnings therefrom are forfeited. Another tactic that the casinos sometimes use is to allow the player to play with a bonus, but completely restrict the maximum bet (on any game) that a player can make while playing with the bonus funds or while meeting the playthrough requirements.
Even with that, though, there are ways of beating the casinos that I have just recently become aware of, and these means have to do with slot machine games:
While I have always suspected that some slot machines could be beatable whilst playing certain promotions, I never felt inclined to take the time to figure out what they are. That’s mainly because I am not a computer programmer, so I would be spending a good deal of time analyzing (by hand) the probabilities of certain results, the variance of the game and then trying to determine whether or not there is a way to structure betting in order to take advantage of the promotion in question. If there were an easier way of doing that readily available given my technological limitations, then I might be inclined, but to do it all one machine at a time would result in an advantage such that the $$$/hour I would be making doing that would be way too low to interest me. That also depends on the, ‘Play for fun,’ slot machine operating on the same reel assignments and return to player as the, ‘Play for real,’ version, which is usually a pretty safe assumption, but not always.
Anyway, if anyone out there were to have the computer know-how to do that more efficiently, as well as the desire, then I would normally say, ‘More power to him,’ except, one of the individuals who figured out how to gain an advantage at the slots based on the promotions set up perhaps the largest online gambling syndicate ever that has done things far shadier than merely beating the casinos.
The Terms and Conditions of online casinos almost invariably state that only one person per household can take advantage of a given promotion, and while I haven’t personally employed someone to play on my behalf, (or for me to use their computer) it really is not much of a stretch for me to think that many people have done such a thing. In fairness, that would be quite lucrative, an individual who happens upon a promotion with excellent expected value could first play it himself/herself, and then make someone else an authorized user on his/her credit card (it’s usually a different account number, so nobody would know the two accounts were linked) and could then pay the person a percentage of the winnings to also play the promotion.
In this sense, an individual player could effectively play the same promotion multiple times by employing friends and family to play on the person’s behalf, or alternatively, to at least let the person use their identities/computers in order to play all while giving them a cut of the money.
Naturally, there is definitely some gray area in there in terms of whether or not a player playing that way to take advantage of the same promotion multiple times is doing the right thing. Personally, as long as the person is playing with the permission of the friend or family member, I’m not entirely sure there is anything wrong with that. Of course, if the casino were to (somehow) find out it was effectively the same person playing the promotion all of these times, then the casino would also be justified in cancelling the bonus and not paying any monies won by way of the bonus.
Of course, we’re only talking about one person working with friends and family to take advantage of a promotion multiple times, so the casino would be unlikely to even suspect anything was going on. That is especially true if the player made sure to work with friends/family that have a different last name than the original player, and also, lived a little bit outside of the original player’s town.
Where we would cross into a distinctly black area is in a case of a person who fraudulently accesses the identification of another person and uses that to make it look as though separate people are playing, quite possibly without the permission of the individual person. Furthermore, I also tend to think that selling methods to beat online casinos and specifically targeting certain casinos crosses the line into actions that are decidedly black. While I have written about several promotions across our family of sites, this is not information I have ever sold, people are welcome to either use the information to play the promotion or not use it.
We have been given exclusive information regarding an online gambling syndicate that has crossed those lines into the black and every line in between, including even some lines that we are not going to mention. Unfortunately, the casino who was targeted and first discovered the syndicate has requested that their name not be published, furthermore, we are not going to publish the name of the syndicate because we would not want to be effectively advertising for them in any way.
The Site That Looks Like a Joke:
The ball started rolling on this syndicate, perhaps, innocently enough. The individual who heads the syndicate managed to develop a computer program that is a calculator/simulator that understands the probabilities of several online slot machine games, and if given a choice of games and bonus information, (initial deposit, bonus percentage, bonus amount, bet amount and wagering requirements) the program can then spit out an optimal way to structure one’s betting so as to take advantage of the bonus. The program also informs the player what his/her advantage is and how much money the player can expect to make.
Normally, this would be where I smirk and say, ‘Nice!’ However, having the ability to beat online casino promotions with slot games wasn’t enough for this individual, instead, he decided that he needed to profit to an even greater degree from it by selling access to his simulator via a subscription service to his website.
Perhaps ironically, the sites run by this person (there are several) all look like a joke. They are pretty crudely designed and look like the sorts of websites that would tout illegitimate gambling systems or sports betting picks services. If I were to come across one of these sites, I would probably just chuckle to myself and move on. However, the information being sold via the membership is accurate, and information isn’t the only thing this guy is selling.
In addition to the information, this syndicate has also been found to engage in exchanging copies of passports and other identifications which are used by someone entirely different. It is difficult to say whether or not all of these passports and identifications were freely given away to be used for this purpose, or perhaps they were garnered illicitly. Unfortunately, the online casino, as of right now, has no information in that regard.
The Play Was Too Similar:
There were a number of factors that contributed to the syndicate eventually being figured out by BETAT Casino, and the first trigger was identical playing patterns by a serious number of new players who signed up and took the welcome bonus.
In and of itself, it is hardly unusual for a new player to sign up for a welcome bonus when trying out an online casino at which the player has never previously played. In fact, one might argue that such behavior is to be expected. However, this particular casino had a flood of new member sign-ups like nothing they had ever previously experienced, many times more than the most new member signups they had experienced in one day prior to these events. By itself, just that might indicate that something was up, but then there were other suspicious aspects linking all of these new players.
In addition to the fact that they all signed up within a period of a few days, and that all of them took the welcome bonus, most of these players were not directed via an affiliate site link, (for instance, if you come to a new casino and sign-up via an LCB link, the casino knows that) and a cursory examination of these accounts turned up that NOT ONE was directed to the site by way of a Google referral link.
Due to the fact that this casino operates in the United Kingdom, they are perfectly free to advertise their services via terrestrial (non-Internet) means, however, there were no advertising campaigns going on at the time that all of these sign-ups came to the casino, so that had nothing to do with it either. There were also no major online advertising campaigns going on via sites that do not normally act as online casino affiliates.
In other words, there was a ton of traffic coming in and signing up for the welcome bonus at an online casino with that traffic seemingly appearing out of nowhere. Normally, a casino would have reason to become excited about this sort of development, after all, there’s nothing better than getting customers without having to pay an affiliate for advertising...but then the players all started winning in surprisingly similar ways.
The only other way to explain that sort of traffic would be by word-of-mouth or by the casino being heavily promoted via a social media platform, despite the fact that the casino had not engaged in a massive social media campaign. As it turns out, it was, technically, a social media platform that brought all of the traffic.
The first common thread, as mentioned, was that every player took the welcome bonus upon signing up at the casino. Of course, that doesn’t tend to prove anything as it would be more unusual for a player NOT to take the welcome bonus than it would be for a player to take it. It might be unusual for every single new sign-up to the casino within a short period of time to decide to take it, (some people actually prefer playing without a bonus, presumably because they can request a withdrawal immediately if they hit something decent with no playthrough requirements) but that in itself doesn’t prove anything.
The second unusual connection that all of these players had was that they all deposited the same amount, so effectively, they all maxed out on the bonus. Once again, while it is not necessarily out of the realm of possibility for all of the players to be taking advantage of the new member bonus, it is quite unusual for all of the players to deposit, not just the same amount, but to deposit the largest amount possible. I tend to deposit the largest amount possible if I am playing at an online casino with a promotion, but that tends to only be because I have the advantage. Were all of these new sign-ups working with some sort of advantage?
The straw that broke the camel’s back, in terms of effectively proving that something greater was going on, is that all of the players in question played the same games and bet in the same exact way on those games. It was pretty clear that this was a highly coordinate strike against the casino, the only thing that remained was to actually prove it.
In this sense, BETAT Casino should get a tremendous amount of credit. The easiest thing for them to do, given the tremendous circumstantial evidence against all of these accounts, would be just to refuse to pay out and get on with their lives. However, the casino decided that they would need to have actual proof before refusing to pay anything, and also, that exposing whatever group was leading all of these people to their casino (to other casinos) would help protect the industry from such coordinated attacks, as a whole.
Fortunately, the casinos have tremendous technological resources at their disposal, and not all of those resources are devoted only to providing the games and keeping player and chat logs. The casino had a computer program that would enable them to scour social media, and Google, using the names of the players to try to get some information on them, at least those who used their real names.
What they found was a number of websites at which a person could sign up and effectively join the online gambling syndicate. For a fee, players would be given access to the website, which is actually conducted via Facebook, and on which the information for how to beat the casinos, what casinos to beat, and what games to play is housed. The links to these websites were discovered by doing searches for the players, and their Facebook posts, and it uncovered a huge syndicate of players coordinating attacks against online casino promotions.
For those of you who may think that this was some small scale operation, the Facebook Group upon which the group coordinates their activities (which is a hidden and invitation-only group) has over 7,000 people on it. The way it works is that a player will sign up at one of the websites owned by the syndicate, and at that point, the player will be E-Mailed a message directing them to sign up for Facebook (if they are not already) and adding a specific individual (who works for the head of the syndicate) as a friend. After this person is added, the syndicate will vet both the E-Mail and the Facebook account to ensure their authenticity and, if satisfied, the person will receive an invitation to join the group. If the website is not satisfied with the vetting process, then both the Facebook account and the E-Mail address will be reported to their respective websites as being fraudulent accounts.
The casino actually found this out the hard way as, first, the website was not satisfied with the IP Address because it came from Gibraltar, which is where many regulatory bodies for online gambling are located. The second time around, the website determined that the Facebook accounts and E-Mail were illegitimate and reported them as such. The casino did successfully become members of the syndicate the third time around.
In addition to access to the information on which casinos are beatable, other information is exchanged and shared by the syndicate, including copies of passports and other forms of identification so that a single player can take advantage of the same promotion multiple times, essentially via possible identity theft. They also shared logins for various online casinos, as some of the players were low-bankroll players and pooled their resources together to exploit the promotions.
In the early stages of the casino’s investigation, they had singled out one player for questioning as a result of multiple mistakes that the player had made. The player made statements about his accounts (note the plural) on his Facebook page related to deposits, bonus information, live chat logs and other things even though the account in his actual name had not yet been approved. How could the player have withdrawals pending when he had not even started playing yet? Furthermore, he had also made the mistake of logging into accounts that were actually in the names of other people, supposedly in other residences, while using the same IP address. When questioned by the casino, of course, the player denied any wrongdoing.
Upon the casino beginning its investigation of all of these new accounts who played this way, and the delayed payouts that came as a result of the casino realizing it had been attacked, en masse, by a gambling syndicate, there came about some dissention in the ranks of the group. One individual, for example, pointed out that the group of online casinos that had been targeted was pretty small, so they would normally only have a handful of people per day sign up for the casino, compared to the torrent of players that had signed up upon the head of the syndicate suggesting that they do so. This person was right, of course, as it was having so many new signups at once, all playing the same way and taking the same bonuses for the same amounts, no less, that triggered the investigation to begin with.
The owner of the syndicate defended his methods in the Facebook Group directly stating that, out of perhaps 100 casinos that had been hit by the syndicate, these were the only two casinos with whom they had ever experienced any problems.
For its part, the casino has decided to terminate the accounts of anyone who is a member of the Facebook Group, and furthermore, will have to investigate any other accounts thoroughly to ensure their legitimacy. Naturally, it will probably turn out that very few of those accounts are legitimate, but that can often be difficult to prove. Once again, the casino seems unwilling to take adverse action against any of their players without definitive proof, so they should be applauded for that.
While some might say, ‘Good for them,’ about the syndicate for taking advantage of casinos in this way, what people should realize is that this sort of behavior is harmful to the entire industry on both the sides of the players and of the casinos. The first thing that happens is that the casinos might have to become even more restrictive of their promotions in order to ensure that they are not eminently beatable. The second thing that may happen as a result of this is increased vetting of players who are playing with a bonus and attempt to withdraw their winnings to ensure that each individual is playing legitimately. Both of these things create more work for the casinos, make promotions less playable for casual players and advantage players (who are playing fairly) alike, and can delay withdrawal processes even more which doesn’t make anyone happy.
For one thing, prior to processing withdrawals, casinos often have independent agencies whose job it is to attempt to ensure the legitimacy of the player, in terms of his personal information being accurate and that it was actually that person doing the playing. I do not know that this is always effective, and I’m not sure how that entire process works, but it is certainly going to take longer if casinos are unable to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. This is already the reason why players often have to send copies of identifications and multiple documents in order to prove their identities, and it is possible that those processes become even more strenuous.
Casinos may even take greater efforts to look more deeply into players that are playing games the same way. For example, I have disseminated information in several of my articles on these sites with respect to juicy promotions, and how they should be played. However, while I don’t think that we are there yet, we might reach a point where individuals playing in a manner consistent with my advice (or the advice of others) are accused of cooperating in a structured syndicate intended to effectively defraud the casinos. It is important to note that I am not running a syndicate of any kind when I do these writings, much less than charging 100 pounds a year for access to my writings, I am offering my opinions of these promotions for free.
In fact, there was even a casino who specifically requested that I write an Editorial about one of their promotions if I found it advantageous, because they wanted people to know! Certainly, the Promotion did not end up being huge positive expected value for players playing it, even though it was a positive play, and the casino wasn’t terribly worried about it because it was a drawing based promotion in which the casino was going to be giving out a fixed sum of money.
Even more importantly, let us not forget that the motivations of the head of this syndicate were not at all altruistic and he could not have cared less about helping other players, unless he stood to profit from it. This person charged a substantial amount of money for subscriptions to his website, in fact, if each of those 7,000 people on that Facebook Group paid for the one year membership, the head of this syndicate will have made nearly a million US Dollars off of subscriptions alone.
The damage didn’t end with monies lost by the casino, they may have also suffered significant unwarranted damage to their reputation as a result of the actions of this syndicate. While the syndicate was undoubtedly engaged in actions that had crossed into the black, and the casino was performing a legitimate investigation into the matter, players in the syndicate were encouraged to publicly complain about delayed withdrawal tactics and no-pays by the casino in order to put pressure on them to pay out faster. Players were directed to do this, obviously, because the head of the syndicate knew that the sky was falling, so to speak, at least with respect to these two casinos.
It would be nothing short of hypocritical of me to condemn anyone for taking advantage of legitimate forms of advantage play against online casinos. Not only is it something that I have done myself, but I also encourage it for players who are interested and have written about a number of opportunities out there for players to take advantage of. Furthermore, if an individual can design a calculator/simulator that can actually use promotions to beat slot machines, I would be lying if I were to say that I don’t tip my hat to that person.
What crosses the line is using that information for profit, engaging in possible identity theft, directly violating the Terms & Conditions that were agreed to by the player, making a coordinate strike against and attempting to damage the reputation of an online casino after being found out. When it comes to advantage play, there is white, black and gray, and I have certainly had both of my feet firmly planted in the gray on multiple occasions. What this syndicate, and the individual who runs it have done, however, is cross that gray firmly into the black. They have done that in a way that has compromised the integrity of the entire online gambling industry, compromised the reputation of several casinos, compromised the ability of those same casinos to offer potentially lucrative promotions and have compromised the ability of players to be paid in a timely manner so that they are not accused of things that they did not do or subject to delayed withdrawals.
Once again, it is also possible that legitimate bonafide identity theft has taken place as a result of the actions of this syndicate, and while we don’t know that for sure, this is definitely a story we will follow closely for further developments.