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What's the Deal with Online Poker Bonuses?
Online poker sites began offering poker bonuses at almost the exact same time the poker boom occurred in the early 2000s.
At that time, the race was on to attract new players and competition was fierce between the hundreds of new online poker sites trying to gain a foothold in the industry.
The end result is the now-standard "poker bonus," which offers players real cash in their poker accounts and some serious incentive to sign up for a particular poker site.
In many ways the online poker bonus is the equivalent of "player rewards" or "comps" that brick-and-mortar casinos offer their loyal players who spend time gambling in their casino.
If you pick the right one, a good poker bonus can be a huge boost to get your poker bankroll started and give you a chance to move up to some decent stakes online for much less risk.
As one of the longest-standing online poker guides, Poker Junkie prides itself on acquiring the very best bonuses for our players - including some as high as $2,000 - and we offer exclusive poker bonuses at some of the best online poker sites in the world.
How Do I Know I'm Getting the Best Online Poker Bonus?
It's not hard to find an online poker bonus.
Poker bonuses are listed on virtually every poker web site, and you can even usually find poker bonus codes advertised and posted in major offline poker magazines.
A lot of the time, these offers are for potentially large amounts - some as high as $1,000 or $2,000.
But before settling on a poker bonus, you should ask yourself a couple of questions.
The first is, How much of this sign-up bonus am I actually goIng to get?
The second is, How do I know this is the highest poker bonus available to me?
The answer to the second is easy. As one the the oldest online poker guides, Poker Junkie can often offer its players exclusive bonus deals and freerolls at major online poker sites.
All of these bonuses are higher than the normal bonus you would get from the online poker site itself.
Our editors also scour the Web relentlessly, so any of our non-exclusive bonuses you can be assured are listed at the highest bonus rate available.
How Often Do Poker Bonuses Change?
In the toplist above, our editors have ranked and listed the top poker bonus deals currently available online.
Because it's such a competitive industry, though, that list can and does change frequently so it's worth it to check back regularly for new deals.
In an effort to bring in new players, a poker site can, in the short term, boost its bonus offer up considerably - up to $2,000 or more even at times, so it's worth your while to take advantage when the deal arises.
And when one poker site jacks up its bonus offer, it's virtually guaranteed other sites will try and keep pace and at least match the increase, if not try and beat it substantially.
Players constantly on the lookout for new bonuses can often jump on an opportunity other players might miss.
For experienced poker players, it's also a great opportunity to take advantage of the influx of new players a big poker bonus provides
What Makes for a Top Poker Bonus Deal?
The top poker bonus deal isn't necessarily the one with the biggest cash payout.
A high bonus match percentage, for example, can be just as important - if not more important.
For example, a poker bonus where you deposit $50 and receive $500 could be more attractive than one where you deposit $500 and receive $1000.
It really depends on your playing preferences, expected playing schedule and your preferred stakes to determine which poker bonus is optimal for you.
Another factor that could potentially push a bonus onto the toplist is the overall clearing requirements.
A smaller overall poker bonus that is really easy to clear could place higher than a larger overall bonus with more advanced clearing requirements.
How Do I Clear My Online Poker Bonus?
Signing up for a poker bonus is generally very easy, but actually earning the bonus can be a more challenging task.
A standard online poker bonus is usually offered at "100% match," which means you will be eligible to receive an amount equal to your deposit.
So for example if you deposit $100, you will be eligible for an extra $100 on top of that.
What many players don’t understand, however, is that the cash will not usually be immediately credited to your online poker account.
Online poker sites want to make sure that players who sign up actually stick around and play on their software for a while, so they keep track of how many real-money hands you actually play and pay your bonus out accordingly.
To get your bonus cash, you'll have to play a set number of real-money poker hands on site.
This isn't really a big deal for most online poker players, as that's what they signed up at the poker site to do anyway - play poker.
Players who signed up hoping to fool around on the play-money tables for awhile and take the money and run will of course leave disappointed.
Most online poker sites will release the cash in $10-$100 increments as you play, and it's usually very easy to reach the first installment requirement - often less than 100 hands.
In some cases you will have to play well over 1,000 hands to clear a $100 bonus, but most are relatively easy to unlock.
Some sites also pay out a lump sum of your total bonus after you’ve completed your required hands instead of in increments.
Before signing up for a poker bonus, it’s important to figure out how many hands you’re looking to play and if you’ll actually be able to clear your bonus.
More Notes on Clearing Your Online Poker Bonus
It's also worth noting that your bonus clearing may also be under a time constraint.
Most poker sites offer a very reasonable amount of time to clear your bonus (typically around 90 days), but it's always good to check your account to see how much time you have to clear the bonus.
If you are running out of time, you may want to play more quickly or on more tables, even if you play at lower limits.
If you fail to clear the bonus in the time allotment, you could forfeit either some or all of the bonus money you've earned.
Also remember that even the best online poker bonus is only good for play ay the site that offers it.
Once you have cleared the bonus, you can withdraw that money and move it to another site if you are so inclined.
You can also earn credits towards your bonus by playing real-money poker tournaments.
If you're a tournament player, it's a good idea to check and make sure the poker site you choose has plenty of tournament options at your chosen stakes so you can be sure you get enough action in to clear your bonus.
Poker Bonuses Can Make All the Difference
There are winners and losers in the game of poker. That’s just the way it is.
There are players, however, who are what are called "break-even" players - meaning they don't necessarily turn a profit, but they're good enough players to not lose money.
If you’re one of those chosen few, a good sign up bonus can mean the difference between making a profit and simply treading water.
Getting a good sign up bonus can also help lessen the impact of rake, since most online poker sites take 3-5% from pots that reach a flop so that they can turn a profit.
For some players, the rake is the only thing that keeps them from being winning players, and a decent sign up bonus can actually go a long way to putting a break-even player in the black.
Finally, a solid sign-up bonus can give you time to get your feet wet with real-money play and reach the point of making a profit at your chosen stakes without actually risking your own cash.
How to Avoid Bad Poker Bonuses
Although every poker bonus sounds great (free cash!), there are some factors you should consider before signing up for any poker site.
First of all, there are some poker sites that offer massive poker bonuses but require playing so many raked hands they are nearly impossible to unlock.
This is the exception rather than the rule, but it's still something to keep in mind.
If a massive poker bonus sounds "too good to be true," it usually is.
Second, a good poker bonus on a bad poker site is still a bad bonus. Make sure the room you’re signing up is secure, reliable and offers the games you are looking for.
As mentioned, if you’re a tournament nut then you’re going to want events starting all the time to make sure you can get enough action to clear your bonus.
Cash-game players typically have more options, but if you’re looking for high-stakes cash games to clear your bonus quickly, you may be limited to a select few sites.
Finally, at its very base, the poker bonus is a marketing tool for poker sites. Keep this in mind as you’re signing up, as it will help you avoid mistakes that beginners usually make.
For the skilled poker player, a good poker bonus just means more cash in his or her bankroll.
A FInal Word on Poker Bonuses
A good online poker bonus alone won’t make you a winning player.
But it can most certainly help you reach the point where you become a long-term winning player.
For the beginner, a decent poker sign-up poker can pay for some of the mistakes all new players make and keep them from having to make another deposit before reaching a level where they can consistently make a profit.
For the skilled poker player, a good sign-up bonus simply becomes another tool to add extra money to their bankrolls and to take advantage of lucrative opportunities when they arise.
Why Should I Bother With a Poker Bonus?
A great online poker bonus won’t make you a winning player, but it can definitely help you along the way. When you make a first deposit at a poker site, you can (almost) always clear a poker bonus – sometimes quite a sizable one even.
These bonuses are perfect for building your first poker bankroll. That bonus can cover up for a lot of simple mistakes new players make, or it can just be extra cash on top of your winnings. Either way, if you play online poker and choose not to clear your poker bonus, you're missing out on a lot of money.