Every beginning poker player can use a boost. You can (and should) study the game closely, and practice away from the table, but ultimately, you’re going to have to get in there and play some hands.
Lots of hands. Tens of thousands of hands. It’s the best way to learn the game, and while those early mistakes you make will cost you some money, most poker rooms will help you out by offering you a generous bonus package – just for signing up with them and playing.
Here’s a quick look at the kind of bonuses you should be tracking down before you start playing real money poker:
This is where you’ll earn most of your free money at the tables. Generally speaking, poker rooms will offer to match your first deposit by a certain amount (100 percent is common), as long as that deposit lies within their minimum and maximum. To earn this bonus money, you’ll have to play poker; each dollar you pay in rake or tournament fees will be counted as part of your playthrough (rollover), and you’ll have a limited amount of time (usually 30 days after your deposit) to collect that sweet, sweet cash.
For example, if you happen to be in Michigan, BetMGM Poker offers a bonus where they match your first deposit by 100 percent, for up to $600 in free cash (look for similar bonuses in other states). Collecting this cash will help keep your bankroll afloat while you’re learning the ropes. The trick is to find the sweet spot between playing low stakes – a must when you’re just starting out – and playing enough volume to clear as much of your playthrough as possible. Don’t start multi-tabling at higher stakes just to rack up that bonus money, or you’ll get in over your head and end up going bust.
In addition to deposit bonuses, some poker rooms will offer smaller, no-deposit bonuses to get you started on your poker journey. Bet365 has previously offered new players a €5 ticket to use at the cash tables; other rooms stateside might offer $20, or free tournament tickets. These bonuses don’t require any playthrough, so there’s no pressure to play the higher limits; start at the microstakes, and if you burn through that $20 right away, don’t sweat it.
Many online poker rooms are run by larger companies that also have a foothold in the casino and sportsbook space. If you like to place a bet or two or play a few hands of blackjack, the bonuses offered by these establishments are often larger than what you’ll find at poker-specific sites.
At press time, Caesars Casino has a 100% first-match bonus of up to $2,021 for new players in New Jersey, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, although the only poker they currently have on tap is video poker. You don’t have to be a new player to collect poker bonuses, either – keep an eye out for other promotions like bad beat bonuses, where you earn a prize when your monster hand loses to an even bigger hand, and royal flush bonuses, where you get paid out for completing the best five-card hand in poker.
Every cent counts, so get in the game, grab yourself some free cash, and we’ll see you at the tables.