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While $472 is not a huge sum of money - definitely less than one small blind at the Big Game in Vegas - to a low-stakes poker player like myself, it is a significant portion of a bankroll. That figure represents the amount of money that I have received in the first three weeks of this month from deposit bonuses, reload bonuses, and rake back at several online poker sites. And to me, since my play in the past week has been less than stellar, that sum represents the difference between a net gain and net loss for the month.

There are several types of bonuses that sites offer to entice players to their poker rooms. The most common is the "first deposit bonus". When a new player signs up, they are given the opportunity to receive a bonus for their play at the site. Bonuses vary in amount, type and ease of receipt. Some sites, like Everest Poker , offer a set amount for new signups, like Everest's "Deposit $50 and receive $50 free" bonus, while other sites offer bonuses that match a percentage of your initial deposit, such as Titan Poker's "100% match bonus" offer.

Frequently these match bonuses are capped at a specific amount. Titan's bonus has a maximum amount of $500, and Party Poker's 20% deposit match bonus is capped at $120. The maximum amounts of bonuses allowed are often inversely proportional to the ease at which you can clear the bonus and receive the money. Party Poker is renowned as the largest online site, with the most players (and as follows logically, the most ‘bad' players), with the easiest bonuses to clear and frequent redeposit bonuses.

But all sites have their own requirements to clear a bonus. Most use a form of Frequent Player Point, where you accumulate points by playing more hands. During a recent PokerStars deposit bonus, the redeposit bonus is 20% to a maximum of $120, with the requirement that you earn seven Frequent Player Points for every dollar of bonus earned. So when I deposited $500 to take advantage of the reload bonus, I understood that to receive my bonus I would have to earn 700 FPPs. One FPP is earned for any hand that I am dealt cards in where the pot is raked at least $1. So at $2/4 limit, the pot must exceed $20 for me to earn any part of my bonus. This bonus will take a while to clear at the modest stakes that I play, but the PokerStars deposit bonuses never expire, so I was in no rush.

Such was not the case with a recent PartyPoker bonus I received. I was offered 20% match up to $120 on my redeposit, so again I deposited $500 into my account to take advantage of as much as possible. The requirements were different for this bonus, proving that you must always read the fine print when signing up for anything on the internet. I had to play 10 raked hands for every dollar of bonus, so to receive my $100, I had to play 1,000 hands of poker. And this bonus must be completed within seven days, or the bonus expires.

PartyPoker's raked hand requirements were much easier than Pokerstars , counting any hand where the pot is raked - at all - towards my bonus. To maximize my ability to do so, I played four tables of 6-person max NLHE at the lowest limits Party offered, and was able to clear my bonus very quickly while showing a small profit on my play as well.

This brings up an interesting point about bonus chasing. If you are not a good player, it is very possible to lose more trying to clear a bonus than you will receive from the bonus! So when working on a bonus I try very hard to stick to the games that I feel I am better at, rather than playing too many tables of games that I'm weaker in, to get in my maximum hands/hour to clear my bonus more quickly.

Bonus chasing is a good way for some players to pad their bankroll, and it also offers incentives for players to check out new poker rooms, but it is always important to find out whether the bonus is released incrementally as you earn parts of it (Titan ) or in a lump sum when you've completed the whole bonus (Party ). Titan's bonus is tougher to clear the whole amount, but the fact that it is released in increments as you play makes it more attractive than others.

Another side to bonus chasing is rakeback. Some sites offer a portion of your rake refunded to you monthly, if you sign up for new poker rooms using their site. For a long-time player, rakeback can be more profitable than deposit bonuses, but it's important to consider your stakes and how long you plan to play at a site. If you're just checking out a new site, then rake back won't be a significant benefit to you. If you are a medium to high-stakes player, then rakeback is certainly more profitable.

So take a chance on a new site, check out the great bonus offers here at PokerWorks, and add some bonus money to your bankroll each month.

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