Poker Bonuses - A Complete Guide

This page is going to teach you all about poker bonuses. If you are a new Internet poker player, all these $XXX and $X,XXX sign up offers must be extremely confusing, and probably sound enticing. Although poker bonuses definitely can help out a player's bottom line, they are not as "free" as you may think.

This page is going to discuss the different types of poker bonuses, bonus "clearing requirements", and will recommend a few of the best poker bonuses online.

Types of Online Poker Bonuses

There are two main types of online poker bonuses: sign up bonuses and reload bonuses.

Sign Up Bonuses

The main type of poker bonus is the sign up bonus, also known as the first deposit bonus. Every poker site online offers some type of sign up bonus, and to redeem a sign up bonus, players have to sign up at the poker site and make a real money deposit. Sign up bonuses only apply to a player's first deposit at the poker site.

Most sign up bonuses come in the form of a percentage match up to a total bonus size. A common sign up bonus is a 100% up to $500 match, meaning that every dollar you deposit (up to $500) will be matched with a bonus dollar.

Wait! So couldn't you just deposit $500, then cash out $1,000 to realize an instant $500 profit!? Well, no. That is why clearing requirements are in place. More on that later.

After you make your first deposit you usually have sixty to ninety days to clear the bonus, and if you choose to withdraw before clearing the entire bonus, you will forfeit any uncleared bonus dollars.

Reload Bonuses

The other type of poker bonus is the reload bonus. Reload bonuses work the same as sign up bonuses, except you can redeem them on any deposit - not just your first deposit.

Very few poker rooms offer running reload bonuses - you usually have to redeem them by playing a lot at the poker room, or during special promotions at the holidays.

Poker Bonus Clearing Requirements

Now that you have a general understanding of what poker bonuses are, let's get into the "catch", which is that you have to "clear" any bonus before you can wager or withdraw the bonus money.

There are three types of clearing requirements - requirements that are based on total rake, requirements that are based on contributed rake, and requirements that are based on raked hands played.

Total Rake

Most poker sites use total rake clearing requirements. As you play real money poker you generate rake, and as you generate rake you earn "Frequent Player Points". Every time you earn a fixed amount of Frequent Player Points (FPPs) you release a portion of your bonus money, which you can then wager or withdraw.

At cash tables, you earn a certain amount of FPPs for every dollar that is raked at your table. For example, at Full Tilt Poker players receive one Full Tilt Point for every dollar raked from their table, regardless if they saw the flop or not. This is called the "total rake" system, because the poker room awards points equally based on the table's total rake.

Contributed Rake

Some poker sites use a "contributed rake" system that measures exactly how much rake each player paid, as opposed to awarding all players points every time a hand is raked. PKR Poker is one poker site that uses a contributed rake system.

Total rake and contributed rake clearing requirements both base their bonus requirements on FPP accumulation - they just calculate FPPs differently.

Also, both the total rake and contributed rake systems award points for playing sit and gos and multi table tournaments. Players earn points based on the amount of money they pay in tournament fees. For example, Full Tilt awards players seven Full Tilt Points for every dollar they pay in tournament fees. So, if you entered a $30+$3 tournament at Full Tilt Poker, you would earn twenty-one FTPs.

Raked Hands Played

The other type of clearing requirement out there is the raked hands system. Ladbrokes Poker is one poker site that uses this system. Instead of calculating rake and awarding FPPs, the poker rooms tell you you have to play a certain number of raked hands before you receive your bonus.

For example, at Ladbrokes you have to play 10,000 raked hands before you can receive the $1,000 sign up bonus. A raked hand is any hand you were dealt into where rake was taken from the pot. Unfortunately, most poker sites that utilize the raked hands system don't take into account the tournament fees you pay in SNGs and MTTs.

It is always a smart idea to look into the clearing requirements for any bonus before you deposit, because tough clearing requirements can turn a good-looking bonus into a losing proposition. Smaller poker bonuses with easy requirements are much better than enormous poker bonuses with unrealistic requirements.

Now that you know about poker bonuses, learn about:

Playing Poker on a Windows PC - OR - Playing Poker on a Macintosh