Online poker bonuses are the perfect way to entice players to the tables. After all, you're getting something for nothing - or at least something for doing something you probably would have done for nothing.
What is an online poker bonus?
In essence, an online poker bonus is just like any perk or comp at a live casino that entices and rewards player presence and loyalty. Some of these bonuses are given for signing up and making a first deposit and others are given for making additional deposits. The sign up bonus is by far the most common.
How do they work?
Online poker bonuses usually work by offering you an extra percentage of your deposit as bonus money you can use to play. For example, if an online poker bonus offers 50% up to $200 (which is a fairly standard offer), you would get a $200 kickback if you made a deposit of $400. Even if you deposited $600, you would only get the stipulated $200 max back.
Of course there's a catch. The vast majority of poker rooms require that you play a certain number of hands and/or accumulate a certain number of player points before they fork over your bonus. This is because they need to make giving you money worth their while, and they do this by making you play for your pay. Playing will generate rake, which is their piece of the proverbial pie – or pot, as it were.
But, hey - who can begrudge them? Online poker rooms have to eat too. Besides we are effectively getting a rebate on that initial rake we give to the site. In some cases the rate can be very high, even 100% when a site has favorable bonus clearing terms.
The Pay Off
It's definitely worth taking advantage of online poker bonuses. As I said, you’re still getting something for something you would have done for nothing. Yes, if you were on the fence about whether to join a certain online poker room, an attractive bonus can certainly tip the scales in their favour, but let's face it: you were going to play somewhere, regardless.
Tips for Finding the Best Online Poker Bonuses
Tip 1: Not all online poker bonuses are created equal. Be sure to read the terms and conditions that outline the bonus details to suss out the best options for you. Look to the specifics about player points. Practically every online poker room or casino has their version of player points, which accumulate based on how much you pay in rake. The more you rake, the more points you rake in.
Remember, you want to find the online poker bonus that's best for you. If you play lower stakes and infrequently, then the smaller bonuses are best for you since they usually take less time to clear since you don't have to reach the same rake requirements. The reverse can also hold true: if you play often and high-stakes, then the bigger bonuses will work best for you. However, this does not always hold true.
Consider this: poker room X offers an online poker bonus that requires you to play 15 raked hands to gain $1 of the advertised $150 bonus. Poker room Z offers a $1,000 bonus, but you have to clear 50 raked hands to score $1. In this case, the smaller bonus actually gives you more. This is why it is so important to read the terms and conditions about the bonus details thoroughly.
Which leads me to another point: sometimes you don't want to get the maximum bonus (unless it pays out in parts) since some rooms will say that if you don't clear the bonus before expiry date, then you see none of it. You want to set up a bonus that you can realistically clear, or in the best case is paid out in parts (like the Pokerstars VIP rewards recurring bonus, which begins accruing automatically from your first hand regardless of your deposit amount).
Tip 2: Get around. Play multiple tables to clear the rake requirements faster. You don't have to go crazy and lose control of your game, but even playing just two tables at a time will double your amount of raked hands. Of course, you have to be a skilled enough player to be able to play multi-tables, or it's not worth it. You'll just lose more than you stand to win.
Tip 3: Go big. Playing for higher stakes is also another great way to clear your online poker bonuses more quickly. Again, it works because you’re increasing your rake contribution. However, I must again mention that you don't want to play beyond your abilities; if you don't have the skill and experience to play high stakes, don't.
The same goes for tournaments; higher stakes means higher rake and that means more points coming off your bonus per game. That being said, keep in mind you want your average buy-in to reflect your current comfort level, and you should never disrespect that rule just for a bonus. It's your money, respect it.
Being able to determine what works best for you and your skill level is what is going to make these perks work. They are almost always worth signing up for, as long as you know what you’re getting into and have the goods to back it up. Same holds true for anything in poker – and anything in life, really. Look before you leap.
Check out my recommendations for the sites with the best online poker bonuses for new users.