While we don’t put nearly as much weight into deposit bonuses as we do poker rewards and VIP programs, the truth is, bonuses are still pretty darn important.
There are several reasons why.
For starters, sign-up bonuses pad your bankroll. They can give you an extra $100, $500, $1,000+ to play with.
And sure, you need to “earn” that bonus before you get to keep it.
But, if you play with basic strategy – or, better yet – you’re already a winning player, then sign-up bonuses are 100% profit.
Of course, sometimes you’re going to lose. It happens to the best of us. But in those cases, your sign-up bonus serves as a variance buster – it soaks up your losses and smooths out the sharp declines in your Poker Tracker graph.
The bottom line – whenever you join a poker room for the first time, you should strongly consider claiming their sign-up bonus.
If you’re ready to do that, we’ve listed our top picks in the list below. Click the link to create your account now, or you can learn more about each one by reading our reviews.
|Rank||Poker Site||Deposit Bonus||Get Started|
|100% Up To $1,000||Visit Site|
|100% Up To $2,500||Visit Site|
|100% Up To $1,000||Visit Site|
As for everyone else – we’re going to talk more about sign-up bonuses below. That includes an explanation of what these bonuses are, how they work, and more.
Let’s get started.
Let’s get the uninitiated up to speed.
A sign-up bonus (also called a deposit bonus) is a sum of money offered to first-time customers to incentivize them into making their first deposit. The most common offer is a match bonus.
The best way to explain a match bonus is through an example. Say you want to join PokerStars – right now they’re offering a 100% match bonus up to $600.
The max you can receive from PokerStars is $600 – deposit $600 and you’ll have $1,200 to play with.
You won’t get all this money at once, though. We’ll explain why and more about how bonuses work in the next section.
Now, sometimes poker rooms offer other kinds of bonuses – sometimes these are standalone offers, while other times they’re in addition to the match bonus.
The offer most used outside the match bonus is the no-deposit bonus.
A no-deposit bonus is a small amount given to players who create their (real money) account for the first time. These are usually smaller than match bonuses — around $5-$50 – and are play bonuses only – you can’t cash these out.
Sometimes poker sites will offer both, while at others only one or the other is available.
Other than these two offers, poker rooms may offer something like a free spins bonus for one of their slot machines, or a free bet you can use in their sportsbook.
But those are more the exception than the rule. The match and no-deposit bonus are the most common offers you’ll find, so those are what we’ll focus on for the rest of this article.
Bonuses are pretty easy to wrap your head around. But there are a few things that aren’t so obvious that you MUST know before claiming one.
Let’s start at the beginning, though.
When you make a deposit, most rooms will give you the bonus automatically. However, some do require that you input a sign-up or bonus code. You’ll know if you need one if you read one of our reviews, or if read the offer summary and terms (which you should) before you create an account and make your deposit.
One VERY important thing to keep in mind is that you’ll usually only get one chance to claim a sign-up bonus.
So, you’ll want to make sure that you have all the money you can get your hands on to claim as much of the offer as possible (if budget is even an issue).
Once you make your deposit the bonus, funds will be added to a bonus account. However, it won’t be added to your balance until you ‘earn’ it first.
You earn bonus money by playing real money cash games and tournaments. In doing so, you’ll pay rake (fees), and in turn, you’ll receive points.
From here, every 1,500 poker points you earn will be worth $1 of your bonus. Many poker rooms pay bonuses out in $5 increments, which means that in this example you’d need to earn 7,500 points for every $5 of your bonus you want to earn.
From here you’ll keep on going until you’ve earned the entire bonus, or until the bonus expires. Most poker rooms put a 30-180-day expiration date on their offers. Any amount not earned in that time frame will expire.
That, in a nutshell, is how sign-up bonuses work. The details – things like what points are called, how many you need to earn, expiration dates, match percentages, and on and on – will vary from site to site. We usually cover those kinds of details in our poker room reviews.
But the basics of how sign-up bonuses work – what we explained above – will always be the same.
Let’s now talk about how to find the best sign-up bonus for you. You’ve probably heard us say this a bunch of times in other articles and reviews, but the best depends on the site and person.
That said, the variables each person should use to find the best bonus are the same – only they lead to different answers.
Anyway, let’s look at those variables now.
The reason why your bankroll matters is because if we’re just comparing sign-up bonuses, some sites will offer much better deals for, say, players on a budget than high rollers.
Meaning, why waste the opportunity to claim a larger bonus if you don’t have the funds to do so? Save that for when you’ve built your bankroll up.
We really recommend you view bonuses through that lens so that you maximize every bonus you claim. And it’s for that reason you REALLY need to read the next tip.
The same thinking from the last tip applies here. We want to find the bonus that offers the most leverage as possible so that we get as much mileage as we can from our bankroll.
The reason is simple – with the 200% match offer you’ll collect $80 for your $50 deposit for a total bankroll of $130. That’s far better than a collecting $50 for a total bankroll of $100 with the other offer.
You get more mileage out of your deposit.
And not only that but if you run/play well, you can build up your bankroll and then full take advantage of the 100%/$100 offer later on (or anything else that comes up in the meantime).
This works the other way, too.
Say, for example, you have $1,000 to deposit. In this case, I’d recommend avoiding an offer like 300% up to $500 and instead claim a 100% match up to $1,000 bonus.
And, of course, there’s nothing saying you can’t go back and clear that smaller offer some other time, either.
This isn’t as simple as deciding if you’re going to play 10nl hold’em ring games or PLO. There are several smaller variables to consider within this larger variable.
The first one is a biggie for cash game players. Some rooms calculate their rake using the dealt method, while others use a contributed method.
The former will take their rake based on the total in the pot. In these games, everyone will earn points, no matter if they played or folded their hand.
The latter takes rake based on who played and how much they paid into the pot. As such, they’re given points based on the amount they put on the pot.
The dealt method is better for players who are tighter and don’t play many hands. The contribution method is better for looser players.
Beyond that, you want to take all this information and weigh it against the bonus terms. Is it possible to clear the bonus playing the games/stakes you want? And, is it possible to do it before the offer expires?
This sort of overlaps with the last point. But it’s important enough to talk about by itself.
You need to think about and decide whether you can put in enough volume to earn your bonus. That might mean you need to play XX tournaments in a 30-90-day timeframe for SNG/MTT players, or so many hands for cash players.
There’s no rules I know of that say you have to choose one or the other (tourneys or cash games). I recommend playing whatever you can play the most volume in while still maintaining a breakeven/positive win-rate.
You also need to consider whether the games you want to play have enough volume at the poker site you plan to join, or if not, if there are similar games you can play instead.
This is important to figure out so that you give yourself the best chance at clearing the entire bonus.
Something else to think about is the number of tables you can play. Not only that, but you might do the math to see if dropping down a level or two (stake-wise) might make sense. You might not have the same ROI or win-rate per game/hand, but maybe you can put in more volume to make up for it, while also ensuring you can clear the entire bonus.
Play with the figures and see what makes sense for you.
If you’re a winning player – and the poker room’s legit – we recommend you maximize the bonus to the best of your ability. Because if you’re already +EV, any bonus you can claim is easy profits.
Losing players are a little different, though.
It’s very possible that you bust your bankroll before you fulfill the playthrough requirements and earn the entire bonus. You need to ask yourself if you’ll be able to redeposit in order to continue clearing your bonus.
If not, you might consider finding a smaller bonus (or claiming a smaller amount of a larger bonus) so you can leave a little behind in case that happens. That way you can redeposit and give clearing the bonus another attempt.
Additional perks aren’t mandatory, but we wouldn’t complain if the poker room wanted to give us more free stuff on top of the bonus money.
Additional perks that are a good value include:
We wouldn’t base our entire decision on additional perks, but you can use them as a tiebreaker between two or more rooms you’re thinking about joining.
And Don’t Forget…
These variables mentioned above are all important. But make sure you don’t choose a poker room based on their bonus offer at the expense of reputation, safety, banking options, and so on. Sign up bonuses are icing on the cake, not the cake itself – make sure you treat them as such.
For winning players, any extra money provides additional profit. Or a cushion – a variance buster to smooth out the losses.
For losing players, it gives you a little insurance. You might lose some money now, but play enough and you’ll get a little extra to play with. Bonus money won’t ever keep a losing player from going broke, but it gives them more chances to learn from their mistakes, get better and (re)build their bankroll.
So, there you have it. You know what bonuses are, how they work and why they’re important to poker players.
The next step is to use our recommendations above to find yourself a top-notch poker room with an equally top-notch sign-up bonus.
You can thank us later.