Whenever players start playing poker online, there are several different factors that can influence their choice of poker site. Word of mouth is probably the most influential factor, followed by the marketing efforts of the poker sites themselves and the affiliates that support them.
The aim of poker site marketing is to attract new players to the site. In order to achieve their aims, the sites offer “free poker money” in the form of poker bonuses. But what does an online poker bonus mean? Is it really “free poker money”, and – if so – how do you determine which is the best online poker bonus?
This article looks at poker bonuses, investigates what has to be done in order to benefit from the offer of “free poker money”, and highlights some of the considerations that should be taken into account to determine which the best online poker bonus is for each individual type of player.
What is an Online Poker Bonus?
An online poker bonus is an amount of money that a poker site will offer you to register an account and make a real money deposit. When you have opened your account and made your deposit, the full amount of the bonus is not given to you straight away, but released in increments as you play.
The frequency and the amounts of the increments vary from site to site, and most sites insist that you pay a certain amount of rake or tournament entry fees before releasing the online poker bonus to you. For example, you may have to pay $5.00 in rake/fees for each $1.00 of the bonus you receive.
Rather than indicate the rate per dollar your online poker bonus will be released at, most poker sites use a points system. Points are awarded according to the rake/fees you have paid, and then an increment of the online poker bonus is released when you reach a certain number of points.
In this respect, poker bonuses cannot be described as “free poker money”, but simply as incentives to attract your custom. They can be a welcome addition to your bankroll when you start playing poker online, but should not be the only factor you consider when choosing which site to play at.
Bonus Factors to Consider
Before we start looking at the other benefits offered by poker sites, there are several factors to consider regarding the bonus itself. Naturally the value of the online poker bonus will be the most eye-catching factor, but what needs to be achieved in order to clear the highest value poker bonuses and how long do you have to clear them?
The amount you have to pay in rake and tournament entry fees to release the online poker bonus is also an important factor. Obviously you will be getting better value for money if you are paying $4.00 in rake/fees for each $1.00 of your online poker bonus than you will if you have to pay $6.00 to release each $1.00 of the bonus.
The level of traffic at the site should also be considered. If you calculate that you need to spend “x number of hours” playing at “x number of tables” to clear the bonus – but a low level of traffic means that there are not enough players to open “x number of tables” – you may be unable to clear the maximum bonus available in the time allowed.
Assuming that you have checked out that your intended poker site is reputable and your money will be safe, how much money you deposit into your poker account can also effect the viability of an online poker bonus. For example, if a poker site is offering you a 100% bonus on deposits up to $500.00, you are not limited to depositing $500.00. You could – if you can comfortably afford it – deposit more than the bonus amount, so that you can play at tables with higher stakes and clear the bonus quicker.
Other Factors to Consider
First deposit poker bonuses often form part of a “Welcome Package”. These packages can include anything from entry in a freeroll tournament to exclusive time-limited, free-to-enter promotions that new players have access to during their first ninety days playing at the site. Poker sites with sports betting and casino facilities may also offer new players “crossover” promotions to try out other opportunities.
Beyond the welcome package, most poker sites have some form of loyalty program. Loyalty programs reward players for their continued action at the site by allowing them to exchange the points awarded during the bonus clearance period – and any points awarded afterwards – for cash, tournament entries or goodies from the poker site´s online store.
Some of these loyalty programs can be as lucrative as the online poker bonus itself – if not more so. Most loyalty programs have a rising scale of statuses according to how many points are awarded during the course of a month or a year. Players who put in a high level of action will rise up through the statuses and qualify for a higher level of reward.
Finally, have a look at the promotions that are being offered by the site to see if they are appropriate to you. Sites that are top-heavy with rake races will be no good to a player who can only put in a couple of hours action at the weekend, nor will qualifiers into live poker events in the Caribbean if you have a fear of flying. Some sites balance their promotions to appeal to both full-time players and recreational players. If these sites have an easy-to-clear online poker bonus, and a generous loyalty program, these may well be the sites you ought to be considering more than any other.