Do new customer poker bonuses really help to build a bankroll?

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Getting lucky – are matched deposit bonuses actually beneficial?

You’ve probably seen a host of poker professionals on television that have proudly declared that they have built their poker bankroll from nothing into tens of thousands of bucks. Although you’re right to be sceptical, it is absolutely possible to build a poker bankroll by investing minimal funds of your own in this day and age. That’s because many of the leading online poker rooms offer bonuses to new customers that entice them to play for longer.

The online poker industry isn’t the only iGaming sector that utilizes such bonuses. Online sportsbooks also offer matched bonuses, as well as instant no-deposit bonuses, to encourage sports fans to wager on pre-match and in-play sporting events. Oddschecker has a definitive list of leading bookies offering such bonuses. However, in online poker, the number of online poker networks compared with the number of online sportsbooks is greatly diminished. Subsequently, if you’re a poker player looking to build a bankroll, you need to be smart and pick the right bonuses that can help to generate the quickest income.

Understanding the types of new customer poker bonuses

  • Matched deposit bonuses

Arguably, the most common type of new customer poker bonus offered by poker rooms are matched bonuses. This means that a poker room will offer to match the size of your initial real-money deposit up to a specified percentage. For example, a poker room may offer a 100% matched deposit bonus for real-money deposits up to $100. This means that when you deposit $100 for the first time, you will unlock $100 worth of bonus funds that must be cleared by earning “poker points” whilst playing in the online poker room. You can normally unlock matched deposit bonuses in increments, with staged releases of funds into your real-money account when you hit poker point milestones.

  • No-deposit bonuses

No-deposit bonuses that offer instant real-money cash into your new online poker account are increasingly rare. However, some poker networks do still offer instant sign-up bonuses, but the real-money amounts are much smaller today than they were during the online poker “boom” of the mid-2000’s. Undoubtedly, these bonuses offer the best opportunity to build a poker bankroll as you are receiving, quite literally, free money to play with. However, be mindful of the fact that these bonuses are diminishing both in size and variety and you may be better off opting for a matched deposit. For example, if you are prepared to deposit even $20 of your own cash, you could take advantage of a 100% matched bonus and get another $20 to unlock. Some poker rooms even offer 200% matched bonuses, which can prove even more lucrative.

Which poker games help you to clear bonuses quickest?

As we’ve alluded to in the section above, “clearing” a matched deposit bonus can take some time. So, which poker games are most effective in earning your account much-needed poker points to unlock the first increment of your matched bonus?

One type of online poker game that is not conducive to quickly clearing a matched deposit bonus is multi-table tournaments (MTTs). The reason being is that MTTs generate a very low rake – you only pay rake on your tournament entry fee. This means that cash games are far more beneficial to earning poker points, given that you will pay a rake for every hand you play at a cash game, be it No Limit Hold’em or Limit Hold’em.

The benefits of signing up for rakeback

As most matched bonuses are intrinsically linked to poker points, it’s highly recommended that you sign up to your chosen poker room’s rakeback promotion, if available. In fact, it’s always best to sign up for a rakeback account with your chosen poker room before making your first real-money deposit and triggering the matched bonus. Rakeback deals, like no-deposit bonuses, are much harder to come by in recent times but they can be hugely lucrative, earning you a percentage return on the rake you generate when trying to clear your matched bonus.

Rake is typically calculated as a total percentage of a pot at a cash game table. This can be as high as 5% at the micro-stakes tables, which is more than likely where you’ll be heading as a poker beginner. However, the beauty of a rakeback deal is that some online poker rooms commit to offering up to 30% rakeback to new customers, which is a sizeable refund to your real-money account by the time you’ve unlocked your entire matched bonus.

Once you gain in confidence playing at the micro-stakes cash tables, if you have a rakeback deal, you can also look to increase the number of tables you play at once. Multi-tabling micro-stakes cash games increases your average hands played per hour, increasing your rakeback and clearing those poker points quicker than ever. A typical full ring micro-stakes cash table will play between 60 and 75 hands per hour, so increasing your play from one table to three could see you clear your next matched bonus increment three times as fast.

Freerolls are your friend too

Photo by Simon Dingley, CC BY-SA 2.0
Chris Ferguson (pictured in the hat) built an online poker bankroll from $0 to $10,000

Don’t forget, if you are looking to build a poker bankroll without investing huge wads of your own cash, online freerolls are a must. Look upon them as a free-hit to winning more real-money into your poker balance. Entry to freeroll tournaments is, unsurprisingly, free and this attracts hundreds – sometimes thousands – of entrants. Some online poker rooms will also offer guaranteed prize pools for freerolls, giving you a very decent return if you can make the final table.

It’s also possible that your chosen poker room will offer exclusive freeroll tournaments to new customers, allowing those new to the poker room or poker in general a chance to get a feel for the game without any pressure. If you do have any poker experience, it should be possible to turn a profit from these new customer freerolls, providing you play solid ABC poker. By combining freerolls, rakeback and solid micro-stakes cash game play, it is possible to steadily nurture an online poker bankroll with new customer bonuses, taking you to bigger and more exciting stakes. If you’re looking for inspiration, be sure to check out the story of Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, who started from nothing to build a bankroll worth $10,000.