A lot is written about poker bonuses and how each offer is more fantastic than the last. Bonuses which offer real money for opening accounts with online poker sites are the hooks which attract players to open an account with online poker rooms and the way in which sites ensure there is always a fresh supply of liquidity coming to the virtual tables.
However, those initial welcome bonuses are only “headline offers”, and players looking to extract value from their poker experience should look beyond the headline to establish what actually has to be invested to redeem such a bonus, and what other benefits the site offers to make that investment worthwhile.
Clearing a Poker Bonus
There is no such thing as a free lunch and there is (rarely) no such thing as free poker money. The bonuses for opening accounts with online poker sites have to be “earned” by contributing to the amount each site deducts from a pot for hosting a game of poker (known as the “rake”) or by paying a fee to enter an online poker tournament.
Players are awarded “XYZ Player Points” (these have different names depending on the theme each site chooses to make their offers sexier) for paying rake or tournament entry fees, and portions of the real money poker bonuses are released into a player´s account each time they collect a pre-determined number of points.
How to Redeem a Poker Bonus
We are going to use 888 Poker as an example of how to redeem a poker bonus – not because they are better or worse than anybody else, but because they change their criteria for clearing real money poker bonuses less frequently than other Internet poker sites and there is a better chance that this page will still be in date next year!
In addition to any special promotion that may be running, 888 Poker offers a 100% “Double Your Money” bonus on first deposits up to $400.00. What this means is, if you were to make an initial deposit of $250.00 into your 888 account, you would receive a “pending” bonus of $250.00 which you would redeem by earning “Bonus Points” (original!).
- Bonus Points are “earned” at a rate of 2 for every $1.00 you personally contribute to the rake deducted from a pot or fee you pay to enter an online poker tournament.
- Each time you have collected 100 Bonus Points, $10.00 of your pending bonus is transferred to your 888 balance (you cannot withdraw it yet – see * below)
- Players have 90 days to earn the Bonus Points they need to redeem a poker bonus offered by 888 Poker (don´t believe any other figure published on out-of-date poker web sites – 90 days is quoted in 888.com´s “Bonus Policy”).
* 888Poker, along with most companies offering bonuses for opening accounts with online poker sites, will void any pending bonus if you make a withdrawal from your poker account before the full amount of the bonus is cleared. Even then there may be terms and conditions attached to withdrawing real money poker bonuses.
Redeeming a Bonus in Practice
So, off to the tables you go with your $250.00 and, if you were following “median” bankroll management, most players would head straight to the tables providing No Limit Texas Hold´em with a stake of $0.05/$0.10 and buy-in with the maximum $10.00 (before you do, read our tips on clearing real money poker bonuses below).
At $0.05/$0.10 tables the average pot size is $1.00 – from which 888 Poker will deduct $0.05 in rake and award 0.10 of a Bonus Point proportionately between the players who contributed to the pot. So, if you bet $0.50 into the pot (half of it), you will be credited with 0.05 of a Bonus Point and if you bet $0.20 into the pot and then folded your hand, you will receive 0.02 of a Bonus Point.
888 Poker does not deduct rake from a pot if the hand was concluded before the flop was dealt (most Internet poker sites have this “no-flop, no-drop” policy) and it is likely that you will be involved in no more than 25% of the 50 or so hands which attract rake and that are played in an hour. (If you are playing more than 25% of hands, you need to revise your opening hand selection)
This means that over the course of an hour you are likely to earn no more than 0.45 of a Bonus Point – which leaves quite a way to go if you have to earn 2,500 Bonus Points to clear a $250.00 poker bonus!
Tips on Clearing Real Money Poker Bonuses
Based on our example above, it might appear difficult to clear the full 888 Poker bonus with an initial deposit of $250.00, so we have compiled a few tips to reduce the time it takes for new players to clear real money poker bonuses at any of our featured real money Internet poker sites.
- Look beyond No Limit Texas Hold´em to clear a poker bonus.
Even using “median” bankroll management, games such as Fixed Limit Texas Hold´em, Omaha Hi/Lo and Stud Hi/Lo allow you to take more money to the tables and play at higher stakes.
- Earn Bonus Points quicker in games where more flops are seen.
These games invariably have more rake-able hands per hour with bigger pot values – resulting in more Bonus Points being awarded for each hand which enable you to redeem more of your poker bonus quicker.
- Multiply your Bonus Points by multitabling.
No Limit Texas Hold´em is one of the most boring games in the world and often referred to as “Fold´em”. Although you can multitable up to 8 tables at a time on 888 Poker, you would be better off multitabling 8 Omaha Hi Lo tables (@ $0.10/$0.25) or 8 Fixed Limit Texas Hold´em tables (@ $0.25/$0.50) to clear a poker bonus at 888 Poker.
A few notes about our tips – We acknowledged that many online poker sites do not have the traffic to enable multitabling 8 non-No Limit Texas Hold´em during off-peak times. If this happens on your chosen poker site, you might have to play some tables of No Limit Texas Hold´em to keep your bonus ticking over, but change back to playing alternative games whenever tables become available.
However, by playing 8 tables of $0.25/$0.50 Fixed Limit Hold´em (Average pot $3.00/ Rakeable hands per hour 80/ Player participation 40%) you should clear the 888 Poker bonus within 98 hours
By playing 8 tables of $0.10/$0.25 Pot Limit Omaha Hi Lo (Average pot $3.00/ Rakeable hands per hour 60/ Player participation 33%) you should clear the 888 Poker bonus within 125 hours
More Info about Bonuses for Opening Accounts with Poker Sites
Not every company offering bonuses for opening accounts with online poker sites operates in the same way. Some Internet poker sites calculate the distribution of XYZ Player Points by using the “dealt rake” method (you can read more about this in our article that explains the differences between Contributed and Dealt Rake) while others will offer “Happy Hours” during which the number of XYZ Player Points awarded per dollar is enhanced.
Often it is worth looking beyond the real money poker bonuses to see what you can do with your XYZ Player Points once you have cleared the headline offer, or how you can benefit from other promotions provided by the Internet poker sites. Don´t forget that skill counts, and it is always better to fold a losing hand than to get involved in a pot just because your want to redeem a poker bonus!