Online poker rooms are in a constant battle with each other to attract and retain loyal customers. This is great news for players, as this competition has created a ton of extra value in the form of bonuses and loyalty rewards. Many players built their bankrolls and even their livelihoods starting with poker bonus offers.
Here you can discover the different bonuses which online poker sites offer in 2015. To start with Welcome Bonuses are covered – typically very generous offers which all players can take quick advantage of. After that loyalty schemes and rakeback deals are examined, along with extras like tournament entries and the more elaborate bonus schemes involving missions and challenges.
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Welcome Bonuses at Online Poker Sites
Whenever you sign up to a poker room, you will be invited to take advantage of their welcome bonus. These are the big bonuses which are clearly displayed on their websites. You can usually expect a good welcome bonus to match your first deposit by 100% or more, often with extras like tournament tokens as an added incentive.
You will usually be given a set number of days to unlock (or ‘clear’) this bonus by playing real money games. These can be either cash games or tournaments, and your bonus will be released based on how much you pay in rake at cash game tables, or in tournament fees. In order to make this easy for you to track, your bonus progress is often shown in how many loyalty points you have accumulated. Those same points will also contribute towards separate loyalty reward schemes.
Many welcome bonuses are released in increments of $5 or $10, however there are some which wait until the full value is cleared before they pay out. Especially for smaller stakes players, it is important to get an understanding of how much play will be required to clear your bonus. If the conditions (in terms of rake / fees required to earn enough points) are too strict, you might run out of time before you receive the full benefits. It can be worth comparing the clearance rates between sites, as some bonuses can be in your account a lot faster than others.
Closely related to welcome bonuses are ‘reloads’. These work in a similar way, rewarding you for new deposits. Often the percentage is lower than the initial bonus amount (for example 25% or 50%) – though the play-through criteria are not usually too strict.
VIP Clubs and Loyalty Rewards
VIP Clubs have become an import aspect of online poker rooms, both for recreational and experienced players. These are ongoing rewards, based upon the loyalty points which you gain as you pay rake and tournament fees in real money games. These points build up in your account and then can later be traded for cash bonuses, tournament entries and sometimes merchandise from special points stores.
The VIP programs are generally tiered. As you gain more points you climb up to a new level, and each level makes it easier to gain future points, while unlocking larger rewards. This creates a ‘virtuous circle’ where you hit ever higher levels. You will also find online poker rooms running exclusive tournaments for VIP players of different levels, providing a bit more extra value.
Keep in mind that ongoing rewards, and especially a site’s loyalty scheme, will often make a bigger difference to your bankroll over time than the welcome bonus. A good scheme is one that gives rewards for all types of players, and does not focus exclusively on the top tier players.
Rakeback was the rewards model for many sites during the ‘post poker boom’ years between 2006 and 2011. This has largely fallen out of favor as it tends to fill tables with multi-tabling ‘grinders’ who strangle the games. You can still find some rakeback deals available – which repay a percentage (up to around 30%) of the rake you pay to the site. These offers have now being widely replaced with promotions geared toward recreational players, or merged into the various VIP Clubs.
As rakeback was familiar to so many players for so long, it is now mainly used to describe the value of other bonuses. So, if your welcome bonus is worth a third of the rake you need to pay to unlock it, it may be referred to as being ‘worth’ 33% rakeback.
Freerolls / Tournament Entries
When you first deposit, in addition to your bonus, online poker sites such as Americas Cardroom and Titan Poker will provide you with tickets to the weekly freerolls with other first time depositors. You will find that all poker rooms also hold regular freerolls, and many give away entry tickets to other exclusive tournaments with a prize-pool provided by the site.
While some players ignore these tournaments, put off by the large fields and relatively low payouts, many online poker pros created a bankroll from nothing playing this type of game when they first started out. Not only do provide a great source of practice, the fields are the softest as you can find anywhere – your only investment is time.
Unique Experiences, Missions and Live Events
With more and more sites looking to attract recreational players, poker bonus offers are branching out from the simple cash and tournament deals. You can now find innovative schemes like ‘Titan Treasures’ where you will be awarded gold coins for completing challenges. Other sites are offering tickets to major sporting or music events – in addition to offering you the chance to win packages to live tournaments like the World Series or EPT.
The Importance of Poker Bonuses
No matter what your experience is in poker, when signing up to a new site you should be taking advantage of the best bonus deals for you. This generally starts at getting a good welcome bonus. You should always make sure you know how much to play in order to unlock your rewards.
While the main focus of many players is the welcome bonus, you should keep in mind that the ongoing rewards will usually make a bigger difference to your bankroll over time. A generous loyalty scheme, plenty of reloads or a long list of one-off and special promotions can all contribute to keeping your poker bankroll moving in the right direction for many years to come!