The world of online poker is a competitive one – not just in terms of the players that you’ll come up against, but between the different sites themselves. With so many competing for players, all rely on the tried and trusted benefits of promotions to help them stand out. Some of these aim to attract new players, others to retain existing ones. All of them can make a real difference to a player’s bankroll, especially if they’re handled in the right way.
Promotions can also have other roles to play for online poker sites. For example, the more generous the offer the wider the publicity will be, and this will help to build the brand’s image and profile. In some cases, this will involve giving exclusive opportunities to enter “live” tournaments and winning branded merchandise to spread the word. In others, it will simply mean be a case of standing out on any of the many affiliate sites that help poker players choose exactly where they’re going to play.
So, hopefully, this brief guide will give you a good idea of the types of promotions that you’re likely to come across and help you to choose which ones are the best for you.
This is probably the most widely used bonus of all. As the name suggests, it’s to welcome new players and the way that it works is simple. When you make your first deposit then the online poker site will also put a percentage of it into your bankroll. To use the leading site 888 poker as an example, they will match 100% of your deposit up to $400. That means that if you deposit $400 you will actually have $800 to play with.
Free Cash/No Deposit Bonus
Used as well as (or instead of) the match bonus, in this case you will receive free cash to play with. That means that you won’t need to deposit any cash of your own to start playing as the site will simply credit your account with the specified amount. Sometimes this can also take the form of free entry into one or more of their online tournaments that normally need players to buy in to them. So, if you’re a keen tournament player then this could well be an option to look out for.
The Reload Bonus is a popular way for online poker sites to instil some loyalty into their players as it’s generally made after you’ve been playing on a site for some time. Sometimes they’re positioned as being a reward for loyalty but equally often they are offered if you’ve registered but haven’t played for some time.
If you’re a regular player, then you should definitely think about working towards enrolment in a VIP Program. Just like the equivalent in land-based poker rooms, this involves receiving special incentives and rewards in exchange for gaining a certain number of loyalty points. The rewards can be many and varied from being able to unlock part of your bonuses to gaining entry to exclusive tournaments and cash games. There are also often several tiers to VIP programs and the more you play, the higher you’ll climb.
There’s considerable crossover between the online game and live tournament play. So one of the very well established ways in which poker sites leverage this is by offering entry into so called satellite online tournaments. Win one of these and it could be your ticket to a live tournament in an exotic location with buy-in, travel and accommodation all taken care of by the site. Freeroll tournament entry is also another common incentive for new players – these are games closed off to the general public and generally there’s no buy-in required.
Leader boards and happy hours
Two other very popular forms of promotion are the leader board and the happy hour. In the former you are matched against other participating players within a fixed period of time. At the end of the period the player who has amassed the highest number of points – which may be awarded for winning hands, games played, or amount of money won – generally is awarded a cash prize.
Happy hours, on the other hand, are fixed periods during which you earn double the normal amount of loyalty points which go towards your VIP status.
So which bonuses to choose?
The simple answer is that you should go for all the ones that you can. But some suit certain players more than others. If you like tournament play then these are the obvious ones to go for and satellite tournaments can be especially rewarding – they could even lead you to the biggest poker prize of all.
For more casual players then the short-term bonuses would be the ones to choose but for regulars there are real advantages to climbing up the VIP programs.
A couple of catches
Naturally, there are some limitations to bonuses. The first is that on many sites you will only be able to “unlock” them once you’ve earned a certain number of loyalty points, and the ways these are earned vary greatly.
Secondly, there is also often a time limit on how long the bonuses are valid for.
But as long as you’re a regular player these are both easy to overcome – and they also open up all the possibilities that the generous bonuses can bring.