Online poker bonuses.
Online poker and different sign-up or loyalty bonuses go hand in hand these days. On one hand, they’re a great marketing option for the poker rooms trying to reach out to as many players as they can, on the other hand, no poker room can ever hope to be competitive on a market dominated by outrageous bonus and rakeback deals, and God knows how many types of interesting, unique, and not to mention extremely enticing promotions without offering some type of bonus.
There are poker rooms out there (mainly smaller ones) to which giving their players generous bonuses is by far not the soundest marketing option, yet they are forced to do just that because the circumstances call for it.
This is one of the reasons why poker bonuses will not always be what they appear to be at first glance. While some poker rooms aim to provide real value through them, for others its just a mere marketing tool, which doesn’t really give players any advantages whatsoever.
In order to be able to spot bogus bonuses, you need to know what you have to be on the lookout for.
If you’re looking to find out more about rakeback, check out our rakeback articles section or our rakeback faq. Rake back is basically a percentage of the rake you pay which is paid back to you in order to keep you active and loyal. Rake rebate offers players a never expiring motivation to play.
First of all, the amount advertised as bonus is rarely relevant. The poker room may have "$600 free!” slapped onto its homepage, but interestingly, that doesn’t mean you will get $600 for free. It means something like: we’ll match your bonus up to a $600 maximum. The percentage they match your bonus with is far more important than the maximum, which counts too, but it’s one of the least relevant factors. Whether they mach your first deposit 25, 50, 100 or 200% is something that weighs in much heavier in the balance.
Another thing that is rarely advertised about bonuses is the fact that they all require some kind of redemption. That’s right, there are no exceptions to this rule. There are poker rooms offering free money with supposedly no obligations whatsoever on the part of the player, (they call these free poker bankrolls), but in reality players need to overturn that money several times before they cash out, so basically they need to unlock it just like they need to unlock regular bonuses.
That makes it clear: you must unlock your bonus. The factor that makes a huge difference in this respect is the way you are supposed to unlock it, and the requirements involved. Different poker rooms have different requirements for releasing bonuses, and while some make it reasonably easy for players to unlock their bonus, others look like they’ve especially crafted their requirements so that it becomes humanly impossible to actually have it unlocked.
You need to be able to spot the differences between the two above mentioned types of requirements, because this is where the poker room lets its true colors show.
Furthermore, some poker bonuses do not have a set validity, others however expire after a set number of days (60 or 90). Once expired, you lose your bonus.
Some poker rooms will release your bonus in smaller chunks of $10, 20 or 50, while others will only let you have it in one lump sum. Certainly, there’s no need to iterate which of these options is more profitable. By getting small amounts of your bonus released all the time, you’ll get your hands on at least some of it before it vanishes. The one lump sum deal is riskier, and if it comes coupled with a short validity plus a big play-through requirement, it loses value altogether.
In conclusion, I’d say that the play-through requirement is the single most important factor which fundamentally defines the quality of a bonus. This is exactly why it is imperative that you understand the mechanisms behind it as thoroughly as possible.
Since online poker rooms make their money via the rake generated in real money play, it makes perfect sense that they tie the bonus release to the player MGR somehow. Most often, the bonus requires a set amount of poker points/dollar to be released. Poker Points (aka FPP- Frequent Player Points or AP- Action points) are directly dependant on the rake you generate. In conclusion, the bonus release is also directly dependant on the rake.
This is where the last (but certainly not the least important bonus-defining factor) comes into play: the method used by the poker room to calculate player MGR.
Poker rooms use several different methods in this respect.
1. The dealt rake method
At the end of the hand, when the pot is raked, all players who got dealt in, are considered equal contributors. How does this impact your bonus release rate? If you’re a player who plays in many hands (loose) and bets a lot (aggressive) than you get the short end of the straw here. You contribute much more to the pot than a tight-passive guy, thus you contribute a lot more in rake. The rake you generate gets divided up between all players at the table, thus you end up generating rake for others, and implicitly unlocking their bonuses for them.
It you’re a tight-aggressive guy, dealt rake tables are the right choice for you, for exactly the above-named reasons. You’ll be able to “ride” a maniac and have him do a lot of your dirty work for you.
2. The active player dealt rake method
Only players who have been dealt hole cards and actively take part in the hand are considered. This method is a bit more accurate than the first one, thus the advantages enjoyed before by tight-passive players diminish, while the disadvantages of being a loose cannon become less noticeable
3. The contributed rake method
This one accurately weighs in the contribution of different players to the pot, and decides their MGR based on their individual contribution. At such tables, you’ll get full credit for being loose-aggressive, on the other hand, if you happen to be a rock, you’ll have an awful hard time unlocking your bonus.
The contributed rake method only allots MGR to players who actually put money into the pot. This way, only these active players will receive rakeback, and they will not generate any rakeback for the rocks. Still, the simple contributed poker rake method will have more aggressive players generate rakeback for their active but less aggressive counterparts.
Believe it or not, the software options that the online poker client comes equipped with, will also have a word to say in how you unlock your bonus. If it allows multi-tabling, you’ll be at advantage, if it doesn’t or if it makes it difficult, you’re not.
Whenever you intend to unlock a bonus by playing small limits/stakes, you’ll need to multi-table to have a realistic chance of achieving your goal.