As online poker market grows rapidly, the poker room companies are forced to compete between themselves for every new player. And to achieve that, poker rooms offer various promotions and bonuses for their customers in order to keep them playing in the right room, which basically means that you get additional money for free. When choosing an online poker room it is essencial to keep track of what bonuses they are offering and choose the right combination of promotions and bonuses in order to maximize the profit.
The most obvious and easy-to-notice bonus is the "sign-up" bonus which you earn when you deposit the first amount of money after you join the poker room. The sign-up bonus is usually the procentile amount of your deposited money – for example, if the bonus says "get $200 at 25% match!", it means that you must deposit $800 in order to get the maximum amount of free money offered, which is usually transfered to your game account after you deposit the money. In the example, you get $200 for free, and after the $800 deposit your final balance will be $1000... after a while.
The thing is, that you need to accumulate a number of raked hands before you receive the bonus. And to get the amount of anticipated bonus you will have to play well or you will have to deposit again and again to release the "free money". Furthermore, the bonus is paid in smaller amounts, usually $5 to $10 at a time. However, some poker rooms may pay you the whole bonus at once or pay out the smaller amounts depending on the time you have played rather than the amount of raked hands.
A raked hand is a hand where the player has been dealt cards and a certain amount of rake taken from the pot. The player does not necessarily have to put any wager into the pot, just get dealt cards. However, you won't qualify for the raked hand amount if you play low- and micro-limit games, as there is a $1 rake requirement that means hardly any pots will qualify and the bonus deal is useless. for example, if the rake is 5%, the minimum pot for a raked hand to qualify would be $20, which is hardly possible if you play at low-limit tables.
When choosing the bonus, it is important to calculate the percentile match of the deposited money and the minimum amount of raked hands for the bonus to be eligible. The best bonus combitation would be that of the highest percent and the lowest raked hands number requirement. An example of a good bonus would be a 50% sign-up and 5-8 raked hands per bonus dollar. Do not consider bonuses with as much as 15 raked hands per bonus dollar regardless of the percent of your deposited money. Furthermore, at some poker rooms you are not allowed to cash-out any money before the entire bonus amount is cleared, even if you have been playing brilliantly and have won a large sum of money. To avoid a confusing situation, it is recommended to read the agreement with the poker room, especially the bonus policy.
As told before, the player has to accumulate an amount of raked hands to get the bonus. Some rooms require the player to collect the number in a certain time limit, usually several months. A standard hand takes about a minute to be played out, which in turn reaches about 60 hands per hour, of which 70-75% are raked, making a total of 42-45 raked hands per hour at a full ring table. For example, if a bonus is $100 with 5 raked hands per hour, a player needs to play 500 raked hands to quality for a bonus, which he/she can accomplish in about 10-15 hours if playing at one table at a time.
Another type of bonus are so-called "loyalty programs", when poker rooms generally repay the rake they have charged from players over time. Put it plain, loyalty programs are designed by online poker rooms to keep their players playing at the desired poker room as the competition has increased greatly over the years and it still continues to rise rapidly.
There are several types of loyalty programs, depending on the poker room, the most common of which are the Loyalty Points (usually 5% of the rake and below), Dollar Points (usually 5-10% of the rake) and rake-back programs (10-20% of the rake). While some poker rooms give away the percentage of the rake by adding it to the player's account in real money, while others award players with points which can later be redeemed by choosing merchandise from the poker room store or by paying the points to enter a tournament or a freeroll.
The mechanism of aquiring the loyalty points differs from poker room to poker room, but the most common way to get points is to play raked hands and get the bonus on a timely basis, which ranges from a week to a month. However, the best loyalty progam type is when the player can use the loyalty points to enter a special freeroll or a tournament, as in that case there is a chance of winning a large sum of money, so when considering a loyalty program, try to choose the one which offers a free tournament or freeroll buy-in.