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Guide to Bonuses and other New Player Incentives at online poker sites

Everyone loves to receive free money, whether it is the crisp $20 bill you used to get from your grandmother during birthdays and holidays, or cash you receive as a new player at an online poker site.

Let’s first get this fact out of the way. Online poker sites need a steady stream of new players for a healthy business. These sites also have a lot of competition, so they are constantly enticing new players by offering “cash” up front. And we are putting the word cash in quotation marks for a reason.

Almost all poker sites award new players with a Welcome Bonus as opposed to just putting cash directly in their account. That means players need to play a certain amount of real money poker before the bonus is cleared and converted to cash. Other new player incentives may also be added like Freerolls, free spins on casino slot machines and free bets in an online sportsbook. These turn a Welcome Bonus into a full Welcome Package.

We have put together a handy list of bonus terms and other incentives, so players can know what they should be looking for when it comes to Welcome Packages at an online poker site.

As always though, the devil is in the details and a player needs to make sure they have read all the terms and conditions on the poker website to see what they are actually getting. Or trust a third-party website to do the research for them.

We hope you find this article informative as it is part of a series regarding bonuses in the online poker industry and gaming sites in general. Please remember that choosing a poker site purely on a Welcome Bonus/Package is shortsighted. Site longevity, promotions, customer service, deposit and withdrawal options, and network reliability are just some of the other factors to consider.

Welcome Bonus

Online poker sites are always looking to attract new players and one of the most popular ways is through a Welcome Bonus. Most Welcome Bonuses are awarded once a player has decided to make a first deposit, although sometimes it is done as soon as a player signs up for a new account. We will have a lot more on the second option below.

We begin with the more traditional First Deposit Bonus. When a player goes to sign up at an online poker site, they might see, for example, an offer of a 100% first deposit bonus up to $500. That means if the player makes a first deposit of $100, they will receive a $100 bonus. If they make a $500 deposit, they will receive a $500 bonus, which is the maximum amount under this offer.

Since the competition among online poker sites is intense (as we mentioned above), players can shop around for better deal. For example, the Winning Poker Network, which has Americas Cardroom as their flagship site, offers a 100% First Deposit Bonus up to $1,000.. That means the maximum bonus a player can receive under their offer is a larger $1,000. Note that some sites require players to use a poker bonus code (also known as a poker promo code) to receive the bonus.

Americas Cardroom Offers 100% First Deposit Bonus

Other Welcome Bonuses

As a new player at an online poker site, you hold all the cards (pun intended) when it comes to the deposit bonus. While the typical First Deposit Bonus in the industry is a 100% match, there are cases where it can be significantly more.

Let’s go back to Americas Cardroom once again as an example. For a limited time, they’re offering a 200% First Deposit Bonus up to $1,000 when a player makes their deposit using a cryptocurrency. And to entice players even more, the US-facing poker site offers over 60 different crypto options, including the four most popular ones of Bitcoin, Ripple, Ethereum and Litecoin.

There are several reasons why an online poker site would decide to offer a bigger Welcome Bonus for first-time crypto depositors. For one, cryptos have lower fees for the poker operator, so they are essentially passing along the savings to the consumer. Also, crypto transactions are much less of a hassle for poker sites to process and they want players to get comfortable with this method for future Reload Bonuses (more on this below) as well as when they want to withdraw money from their account.

Earning a Welcome Bonus

In the famous words of Thomas Jefferson, “All men are created equal.” Unfortunately, for poker players, the fact is all Welcome Bonuses are definitely not created equal. For example, an online poker site could offer a new player a huge $5,000 Welcome Bonus, but if the terms are so onerous that most of the money can never be cleared, then what is the real value? The answer is almost nothing.

Let’s examine some of the factors that determine the relative benefits of a Welcome Bonus:

Clearance Rate: This is the rate that a bonus is paid out to a player in cash. For example, Americas Cardroom pays out $1 for every 27.5 Award Points earned. The Award Points are earned by playing in their real money cash games and tournaments.

Expiration Date: This is how long the player has to clear the bonus. For example, it could be two weeks or it could be two months (or more). Obviously, the longer period granted to clear the bonus, the more advantageous it is to the player.

Point Methodology: These are the formulas used to generate Award Points (in the example of Americas Cardroom) by playing real money cash games and tournaments. Other poker sites will have different formulas and typically a different name for the points earned. For example, cash games are usually calculated in one of three ways: Contributed Rake Method, Weighted Contributed Method and Dealt Rake Method. Weighted Contributed Method is considered the fairest and is the most prevalent.

You may be thinking that it is way too much work for you to compare all these Welcome Bonuses at different poker sites. In a large sense you are right, so there are a couple of points to consider. There are some websites out there that do the work for you, comparing the different Welcome Bonuses across online poker sites. Just make sure you choose one that is reputable and not just doing their rankings based on how much they’re paid.

The other common rule of thumb is that an online poker site that has been around a long time (10 years or more) and that has a large number of players, is going to almost always offer a fair Welcome Bonus. We say fair because it might not be the biggest, but it will be a tried-and-true formula designed to award the new player but also ensure the long-term financial stability of the site itself.

No Deposit Bonus

A No Deposit Bonus (also known as an Instant No Deposit Bonus) is a bonus awarded to a new player just for signing up at an online poker site. This is of course more enticing on the surface to players, but the expression “you get what you pay for” comes to mind and it is important to read the fine print.

At times, poker sites make it nearly impossible to cash out a No Deposit Bonus Free Play Poker based on the amount you need to rake. For example, a player may be given several free tickets worth 50 cents each. A player then needs to cash in a 50-cent tournament and then use the money earned at the real money tables (cash, SNGs, MTTs) to even have a chance of earning a decent chunk of the No Deposit Bonus.

A player needs to examine whether it’s truly worth all the hoops needed to jump through in order to cash out this Free Signup Bonus. Many (if not most) players find it easier to just get a fair Welcome Bonus that includes a first deposit.

Freeroll tournaments

Freeroll Tournaments - Online Poker - Reload Bonus
Freeroll Tournaments - Online Poker - Reload Bonus

In addition to the Welcome Bonus, some online poker sites will offer additional incentives to a new player. A freeroll tournament is one example. A freeroll allows a player to play in a real money poker tournament at no cost. Throwing in a freeroll is one way an online poker site turns a Welcome Bonus into a Welcome Package. Players need to examine the entire package before deciding where to play.

Real Prize Games

Many online poker sites aren’t just about dealing cards. They also have online casinos and sportsbooks in their arsenals. An online poker site might offer additional incentives to new players in addition to the Welcome Bonus and Freeroll. This could include free spins on a casino slot machine or a match sports bet on a game of the player’s choice.

These free slot spins or sportsbook bets are very enticing, but the terms and conditions have to be examined. For example, a sportsbook might offer a 100% match free play but then put a rollover requirement of 5 times the deposit. That means if the player wins, they have to bet the original deposit 5 times before cashing out.

Just like with a freeroll, a new player needs to consider the entire Welcome Package before deciding where to sign-up and play.

Reload Bonuses

Since we mentioned Reload Bonuses above, we want to circle back to give some additional information. A Reload Bonus is an incentive at an online poker site for existing players to make a deposit (after their first deposit).

Reload Bonuses usually happen only a few times per year. However, it is an important tool for poker sites looking to keep players engaged and around in the long-term. Typically, a player will receive an email from the online poker site letting them know that a Reload Bonus offer is upcoming, with the terms and the timeframe.

Since the online poker site already has the player in the door as a customer, the Reload Bonus almost always provides less incentive than a Welcome Bonus. For example, a typical offer could be a 50% bonus up to $200, which is lower for both the percentage and the maximum amount that can be earned.

Please note that choosing an online poker site based on their Reload Bonus is not very common. It is also easier said than done. Poker sites usually advertise their Reload Bonus for a limited amount of time, so it’s hard to track for an apples-to-apples comparison. That’s why most players concentrate on the Welcome Bonus when deciding where to sign-up.

How do I get access to my poker bonus?

Players have a set amount of time (typically around 30 days) to release their Reload Bonus and turn it into cash. Players then earn points by playing real money cash games and tournaments. Every online poker site has its own formula to convert those points into cash.

Refer-a-Friend Bonus

This type of bonus is exactly what you would guess by the name. Companies are willing to compensate you simply for getting your friends to use their products and services. For example, you probably see these Refer-a-Friend offers all the time from credit card companies.

Online poker sites have also gotten into the action as they know this can be a very effective marketing tool. After all, if you as a player like a specific online poker site, then that recommendation will be considered very highly by your friends and family.

Players receive an award simply for referring a friend to an online poker site. Typically, the player who is referred has to do a certain amount of real money play before the bonus is issued. Also note that not all online poker sites offer a Refer-a-Friend Bonus. For example, Americas Cardroom does not have this in its arsenal right now.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bonuses and Other New Player Incentives

What is an online poker bonus?

A Reload Bonus is an incentive at an online poker site for existing players to make a deposit (after their first deposit). This is a way to build customer loyalty and keep players around long-term.

What is a Welcome Bonus?

A Welcome Bonus is an incentive for a new player at an online poker site. It is typically reserved only for players who are making their first deposit at the site.

What is a No Deposit Bonus?

A No Deposit Bonus is a (relatively rare) incentive for a new player at an online poker site. Typically, the player just needs to sign up for a new account to get the bonus, although several conditions are usually attached.

What is a Welcome Package?

A Welcome Package is all the incentives in entirety that online poker sites offer new players.

What is a Freeroll tournament?

A freeroll is a type of tournament where a player can win real money, but there is no monetary fee to enter. Online poker sites sometimes offer a freeroll to a new player in addition to the Welcome Bonus.

What other incentives can I get as a new player?

In addition to the Welcome Bonus and Freeroll, many online poker sites offer free spins on slot machines in their online casino (if they have one). Players can also sometimes get a free match bet in an online sportsbook.

What is a Reload Bonus?

A Reload Bonus is an incentive for an existing player to make a deposit at an online poker site. It typically has a lower percentage than a First Deposit Bonus and a lower total amount able to be earned.

What is a Refer-a-Friend Bonus?

A Refer-a-Friend Bonus is an incentive for an existing player to refer someone they know to an online poker site. Typically, the player who is referred needs to do a certain level of real money play before the bonus is awarded.