Online Poker is readily accessible to the masses, which in turn means that the online poker rooms have become very competitive to attract your custom. Whereas in Vegas you'll rarely get "comped" to start playing poker at a certain casino, online it's the equivalent of a foreign bazaar at the height of tourist season – namely every poker room will want you to play with them and will usually offer you the world to get you in, including the best thing in poker – the sign-up bonus. But Caveat emptor (buyer beware) some sign-up bonuses are better than others. Here's our guide to help you through.
Sign-up bonuses are usually structured so that the bonus you earn is a percentage of your initial deposit. For instance with a 100% bonus of up to $100, you'll receive $100 in free cash once you deposit $100. Sound too good to be true? Well there are a few restrictions...
In all cases you'll have to have to play a certain amount of raked hands in order to receive the bonus dollars or to "cash out" your bonus, this is to reduce the risk of abuse for the poker room and ensures they receive some money back in the form of rake. Make no mistake though, signup bonuses are great deals for new players, not tricks just to get you to deposit. Indeed with the myriad of sign-up bonuses available there's been a rise of a new type of poker player: the Bonus Hunter or the Bonus Whore, whose sole intention is to flit between poker rooms clearing the online poker bonus cash to build a bankroll quickly and easily.
For a beginner player it's important not to go for the biggest bonus available, but go for one you think is achievable within your range of limits and the time you can spend playing. It's no good going broke chasing bonus dollars at higher limits than you're used to playing, that'll defeat the object. Similarly check the cashing out/raked hand requirements for releasing the bonus. It's also important to know whether the bonus is released incrementally or as one big chunk, clearly the former is better as you'll have a bigger bankroll to clear the full bonus. Alternatively some rooms offer “no deposit” bonuses, which almost always smaller amounts of money, though the obvious plus side is that you don't part with any of your hard earned money.
To decide whether an online offer is worthwhile firstly you should decide on an amount that you want to deposit. Do not be tempted to make a huge deposit that you're not comfortable with just to chase a bonus. Once you've decided on an amount to deposit check out our online poker bonus section and locate the one you would like to play for. What you are looking for is an offer with a high percentage deposit match and low raked hand requirement per bonus dollar.
Check out our poker bonus table which compares all the online poker bonuses we feature on site.