Online Poker Bonuses: A Bluffer’s Guide

Sign up to any online poker site in 2016 and you’ll be bombarded by a tempting welcome bonus offer available only to new players: 100% up to $400, 100% up to $600, 200% up to $1,000! Deposit bonuses are great ways for poker rooms to attract new customers in a competitive market, and more importantly, keep them playing there.

For regular players, deposit bonuses can be a good way of earning some free cash. But while they may sound great at first glance, it pays to know what you’re getting into before committing.

Why Are Online Poker Bonuses Good?

No-one likes paying fees or rake, and that’s why bonuses are great – they let the solid, hard-working online players make the sites give them something back for a change. Loyal players will also be offered ongoing bonuses too over time and be awarded all sorts of VIP privileges like extra cash and trips. Also, who doesn’t like a bunch of free cash?

How Do Bonuses Work?

Whatever the offer, online poker bonuses work in pretty much the same way as each other: download the software, sign up for a real-money account, and start playing. The more you play, the more ‘points’ you will earn, and the more points you earn, the faster you will unlock that juicy bonus cash.

The workings of a bonus varies from site to site, and it’s worth checking the fine details before whipping out the credit card, but a good example would run like this:

Let’s say you’re an online cash game player. You’ve signed up to a site offering 100% cash up to $400 on first deposits (not forgetting to enter the exclusive bonus code when signing up) and make the full deposit - $400. Now all you have to do is start playing.

Mobile Poker

You will be set a player point requirement to reach, usually 20-30 times the value of your first deposit. So, in our example you would have to earn around 20x400 = 8,000 player points. So, if you ‘play through’ the set amount in time, you’ll receive 100% - or $400 – absolutely free.

For every raked cash hand you play you will earn player points based on the rake and your contribution to the pot. Those player points will then be added to your total, and if you clear the required amount within a timeframe (usually a month or two) your bonus cash will be released to you, normally in increments. (or a tournament/Sit ‘n’ Go, if that’s your preferred discipline)

So, let’s say you’re playing a $0.50/$1.00 Hold’em cash game, and there’s a big hand where you’ve contributed a lot to the pot, and the rake is fairly large. The site awards 20 player points per $1.00 in rake taken, and $2.00 rake has been taken in the hand. Therefore you would be awarded 40 player points plus points based on your contribution (let’s say, 10 points). Those 50 go towards your bonus points total. Make your points target in the allotted timeframe and your bonus cash will be unlocked and released to you, usually in increments.

Online Poker Bonuses: Top 5 Tips

  1. Pick Your Playing Limit
    It’s worth remembering that player points are rewarded based on either the entry fee of an online tournament you’re playing in or the size of the rake in a cash game hand. So, obviously, the higher the buy-ins of the tournaments you’re playing in, and the higher the cash game limits, the more fees and rake you will generate, and the more player points you will earn. Therefore, if you’re serious about targeting an online bonus, set about playing in the highest limits your bankroll – and skill level – can cope with.
  2. It Pays To Shop Around
    Not all sites offer the same level of bonus, so it pays to shop around. Some sites offer a low maximum amount (say, $300) while others go up to $2,000, and you can often earn 200% of your initial deposit too. However, some sites are notoriously stingy with the player points they award for frequent play, and others have wildly differing activation times.
    For example, while one site may require you to “play through” your hand requirement within four months, some may demand them to be played within just 90 days – that can make a real difference. Wherever you choose to play, make sure you fully read the room’s terms and conditions before you join up.
  3. Choose The Right Banking Method
    Are you making a first deposit to kick off a bonus period, then planning to top up your deposit bonus whilst it’s active? In that case, make sure you choose the right deposit method. You need to be picking a fast banking method like credit or debit cards that carry low fees and fast deposit times so you can get your cash into your poker account fast. The faster your money is there, the quicker you can start activating that bonus. And of course, choosing the most convenient banking method means quicker cash-outs when you get round to withdrawing your bonus!
  4. Make Your Deposits High
    It’s important to deposit the maximum amount so you can take advantage of a site’s bonus offer, especially if you’re confident of triggering it in time. First-time deposit bonuses can often be just that – for first-timers only – so if you can, load up with as much cash as you can.
  5. Get The Volume In
    Unlocking a poker bonus online is all about getting the hand requirement in, so pick a game in which you can clock up some serious volume (making sure the discipline you choose qualifies for the bonus first).

In 2016, some of the most popular forms of poker online are the new fast-fold formats that all major sites now boast. These cash games (and in some cases, tournaments) see you moved to a new table every time you fold. It keeps you away from players tracking you while also enabling you to play tons more hands per hour. And if you’re playing a lot more hands per hour, you’re generating way more rake than you would do on conventional tables.

One other thing to consider is if the site you’ve chosen has enough players to enable you to get the amount of cash games or tournaments in on time. For example, if you are a Sit ‘n’ Go grinder looking to earn points for every SNG you play in, it’s no good if it’s taking an age just to fill up one table.