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Make sure you take advantage of special offers, not vice versa

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

“Will you walk into my parlor? Said the spider to the fly …”

Though that widely recognized snippet is from a poem published almost 200 years ago, it accurately captures how many sportsbooks try to lure recreational bettors into their web. 

A fine line has always existed in the industry between offering a good gamble at beatable odds and just trying to devour the innocent like the plant in “Little Shop of Horrors.” Sportsbooks survive (or thrive) on the losses of recreational bettors.

This is important to keep in mind with March Madness just around the corner. Sportsbooks time their marketing blitzes with major events. You saw a slew of great offers before the Super Bowl. They’ll be coming again soon for the Big Dance, and then again in late summer before new college and pro football seasons. 

You’ve probably heard the warning: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That’s not necessarily the case with all offers you’ll be hearing about. Deposit bonuses are legitimate, though they do have some strings attached. Boosted odds will be paid off if you win, but stores will make sure you’re doing more than just popping in and out for the perk. Refunds on futures prices may be offered as a “bad beat” gesture, and that money spends just as well as what’s in your pocket. 

Here are some pitfalls to avoid:

— Futures prices that don’t pay anywhere near true odds. More categories are being created than ever because sportsbooks realized they generate cheap publicity through mainstream sports media. 

— Props for teams or individual players that don’t pay anywhere near true odds. You likely saw some of that if you were betting during the college and pro football playoffs. 

— In-game betting, especially if you are new to it, which separates money from recreational bettors at a much faster pace. 

— Casino games like blackjack, roulette or video poker that have much higher holds than realized and race by at high speed. 

The most predatory spots are seductively trying to eat you, some in one gulp. Even the most player-friendly sites will offer propositions that should be avoided. 

Betting smart means playing with an edge. Be wary of special offers unless you have the discipline to avoid casino games (you’re always taking the worst of it), props and futures (you’re usually taking the worst of it unless you’ve done great handicapping) and in-game betting (unless you know a particular team’s tendencies very well). 

Discipline will keep you from being somebody’s dinner. 

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