If you choose a new poker site, the poker bonus offered is a key decision criterion. In this comparison we explain how poker bonuses work and list the best poker bonuses in 2020.
Poker sites ranked by deposit bonus rating
This is our objective ranking of all big poker sites by their deposit bonus:
Please note that we list Full Tilt Poker at the bottom solely because it’s the same platform as PokerStars and you cannot claim the bonus on both sites.
Best Poker Bonus Comparison – Our Criteria
For our bonus ranking we ONLY take the deposit bonus and bonuses into account that are available to new players.
Virtually all other poker comparison sites simply rank by bonus amount. We don’t. Because the bonus amount doesn’t tell the whole story. We take 4 criteria into account when rating a poker bonus. That’s why our poker bonus rating is a very string indicator about the quality.
This is how we rank the first deposit bonuses:
Our Poker Bonus Comparison Criteria
- Bonus Amount: The raw amount of money certainly is an important criteria to rank any bonus.
- Difficulty to clear: For virtually all poker bonuses you have to generate X amount of rake to receive Y amount of bonus money (for example on PokerStars you need to generate $36 rake to receive $10 bonus). The ratio between those two numbers is the effective cashback players receive while clearing the bonus (in the PokerStars example the effective cashback is 28%). Higher effective cashback is always better.
A good bonus has an effective cashback of 20% or more.
- Time to clear: Players need time to clear the bonus. The best bonus is worthless if you’re not given the necessary time to clear it.
A good bonus gives players at least 2 months to clear before it expires.
- Additional value: Some operators add some extra incentives for new players. TonyBet for example hands out a €10 tournament ticket for new depositing players. We consider those values as well when rating the bonus.
The exact formula for our deposit bonus rating is:
r: Deposit bonus rating on a scale of 1 star to 5 stars (capped at 5 stars).
a: Bonus amount (capped at $1,800)
c: Effective cashback while clearing the bonus (capped at 100%)
t: Time to clear the bonus (in days, capped at 90 days)
v: Additional value via tokens or tickets (value between 0 and 1 – for most operator this is 0).
Poker Bonus Codes (March 2021)
Most poker providers don’t use bonus codes anymore and credit bonuses simply with the first deposit. There are some exceptions though:
Overview: Poker Bonus Types
There are numerous different technical terms in the world of online poker bonuses. In this section we explain the most important bonus types:
“Welcome Bonus” is simply the name for all sorts of bonuses specifically for players new to a platform. Such a welcome bonus can come in the form of a few free tournament tickets, a little money or another bonus (usually a deposit bonus).
First Deposit Bonus
Almost all poker sites in ’2021’ will not give you any bonus at all unless you deposit. A bonus that is claimed with the first deposit is called a First Deposit Bonus. In most cases, the deposit must be at least €20 for the bonus to be unlocked. There are different kinds of first deposit bonuses.
The Match Bonus is the most common bonus available on poker sites (and usually online casinos as well). Such a bonus can look like this:
- 100% up to $600
This means that 100% of the amount of the first deposit will be credited as a bonus – players basically double their first deposit.
However, this bonus cannot be accessed immediately, but must first be cleared. We will explain how exactly this works below.
Free Play Bonus
Quite often, a few free tournament tickets are given to new players who make a first deposit. For example, PokerStars offers a handful of free Spin & Go tickets when a new player deposits at least $30. These bonuses are becoming increasingly popular and many casinos also offer free spins on slot machines for first-time payers (William Hill for example). While the free spins at casinos are usually subject to complicated conditions, the poker free spins can usually be used unconditionally.
No Deposit Bonus
Very few poker sites today still offer no deposit bonuses. These are called “No Deposit Bonus” and currently only 888poker has such a bonus (see section below about the free 888 bonus).
Generally speaking: If you want to play poker for real money, you should also be willing to deposit at least a small amount, otherwise you are simply not valuable enough for the poker providers and they wont hand out any bonuses to players that are not valuable to them.
An exclusive bonus is a special offer, which is usually linked to the player signing up to a provider via a specific site. In the online poker world this term should always be treated with some caution. Many affiliate sites advertise special “exclusive bonuses” they claim to have with poker sites. More often than not though, they just offer the standard bonuses everyone else offers as well.
Some poker sites have promotions where existing players can also benefit from a deposit bonuses. These bonuses are called “Reload Bonus” and are almost always a match bonus. This is how providers want to create incentives for players to deposit more money or to start playing again
Some poker sites still offer so-called refer-a-friend bonuses. Here you get some money when you get a friend to sign up for the poker site. However, these offers are now very rare. Of the big providers, only 888 currently have such a bonus and at least for the advertised friend the normal bonus is much more lucrative.
For existing players, there is some sort VIP program on virtually all poker sites that rewards frequent play. This bonus is called VIP Bonus. The quality ranges from almost worthless (e.g. stars & 888) to more than 50% cashback (e.g. TonyBet).
How does a match bonus work?
Let’s take a closer look at the most important poker bonus, the match bonus. It could look like this, for example:
- 100% up to $600
This means that 100% of the first deposit will be 100% added as extra bonus money (capped at $600).
This is what the bonus would look like depending on the deposit:
|Deposit||Bonus Money||Total Money|
Terms of a Match Bonus
A match bonus has two important factors and is subject to several conditions. We’ll briefly explain the most important points:
- Bonus Amount: The maximum amount for the bonus. In our example this is $600.
- Match: How many percent of your deposit will be added as a bonus. In our example, that’s 100%. But there are also bonuses where, for example, 200% of the deposit is credited as a bonus.
- Clearing requirements: Every bonus needs to be cleared, before the money can be withdrawn. To do this, you have to play cash games or tournaments for real money.
- Clearing steps: All bonuses come with terms like: $10 bonus will be released per 250 Players Points earned.
For every dollar you generate in rake you get a certain number of players points (they might come in different names, depending on each platform). For example, this could be 5 points per dollar rake. In our example, you would have to generate $50 rake in order to get a bonus of $10.
- Clearing time: All bonuses are only valid for a certain time period – usually between 30 and 120 days. Any bonus money that has not been unlocked will simply expire thereafter.
Which Poker Bonus is easiest to clear in 2021?
Let’s take a look a the poker bonuses that have the easiest requirements:
Easy to clear poker bonuses
The following 3 bonuses are exceptionally easy to clear:
How to spot a good poker bonus?
The bonus requirements and terms & conditions can be a bit difficult to understand and especially as a beginner you can quickly be completely overwhelmed by all those percentages, comp points, player points and other modalities.
First: You cannot go wrong picking a poker site from the top of the list above. We read all the small print so that you don’t necessarily have to.
But if you want to unterstand how poker bonuses work, in this section we will explain which keywords you have to pay attention to in order to find a good bonus:
Good Poker Bonus Terms
Simple Terms and Conditions
On the bonus page, the terms and conditions are always shown. They should be short, concise, unambiguously and without any weird sounding modalities.
In a perfect world, the conditions fit on a coaster.
Fair Clearing Requirements
A match bonus should always be easy to clear. All providers explain how to unlock the bonus. For example, PokerStars: “You’ll earn five points per $1, which you pay as a rake or tournament fee. Whenever you’ve reached 180 points, we’ll credit your Stars account $10.”
A little math shows that you get every $10 bonus for every $36 dollars rake. That is fair.
Generally speaking, all rates of less than $50 rake per $10 bonus are fair.
Enough time to clear the bonus
Players should always have at least 60 days to unlock a match bonus, 90 days are even better.
Thus you have a chance to clear as much of the bonus as possible, even if you don’t play huge volumes.
There are providers that advertise a bonus of $1,000 and only give you 30 days to clear it (TigerGaming for example). Such a bonus very bad, despite advertising a 4 digit bonus amount.
No hidden cash-out conditions
Once you have cleared a match bonus you should get the money, no strings attached. In the past, there were some providers who demanded that the money cleared must be wagered so and so often before it can be withdrawn.
Fortunately, virtually all poker providers nowadays don’t have such hidden cash out conditions and they all allow to withdraw any winnings without further conditions.
About the $88 free bonus from 888poker
888poker offers a special bonus on top of their standard deposit bonus: $88 free without deposit.
Please note that this bonus is incredibly difficult to clear.
Technically, new players can receive up to $88 without having to deposit a single penny. But the terms and conditions of this bonus make it an extremely difficult endeavor to actually clear the bonus.
Only the first $8 of the bonus are really free. They’re credited over seven days in the form of fourteen $0.50 tourney tickets plus $1 in cash.
The remaining bonus is released in steps of $8 per $125 rake generated. This is a ridiculous requirement. Given that players trying to build up a bankroll from nothing will start playing micro stakes, they will needs weeks, probably months to accumulate this amount of rake.
There’s also a catch to the initial $8 of this free bonus. Any amount won using this bonus can only be withdrawn after the player has generated at least $10 in rake.
We have 2021 and there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch in online poker.
Meaning: Don’t expect free no deposit bonuses that you can easily clear or withdraw. To receive anything valuable, you should be willing to deposit some money first.
Tips: How to make the most out of your Poker Bonus
- Bigger bonus doesn’t always mean better bonus: Son’t let the poker providers fool you. Just because a bonus advertises with a larger number, it doesn’t have to be better than a smaller bonus.
For casual players, a free spin bonus worth $30 is almost always worth more than a match bonus of $2,000. The free tournament tickets are directly available with the deposit without any conditions. For the match bonus on the other hand you will probably have to generate thousands of dollars of rake to clear it completely. This is unrealistic for the vast majority of players.
- Read the rules: We only list poker providers with fair bonus terms. Nevertheless, you should always take a look at the conditions and check whether you can clear the bonus. Especially when it comes to match bonuses, you should pay attention to the clearing rate and the time you have to clear the bonus.
- Don’t forget the bonus tickets: Very often, free tourney tickets are unlocked over the course of several days and expire quickly. You should use these tickets immediately after receiving the bonus, otherwise they are gone.
- Choose the right games and limits: If you want to unlock a match bonus, you have to generate rake. You don’t do that (or at least not enough) if you only play three tournaments once every Sunday. If you want to unlock a match bonus, you should either play a lot of tournaments or, even better, cash games.
- Pay attention to your bankroll: The most beautiful bonus is useless if you lose your deposit because you play stakes that are far too high for your bankroll. When clearing a bonus, you should always pay attention to your bankroll and not play above it.
Poker Bonus FAQ
Where do you get the best poker bonus in 2021?
Where can I find the best poker bonus codes?
Most poker sites don’t use bonus codes anymore, but simply tie bonuses to the deposit directly. You can find all exception and bonus codes in our Bonus Code Section.
Are there any good no deposit bonuses?
The only poker site with a no deposit bonus is 888. They offer $88 free for new players. But the bonus is exceedingly difficult to clear and for most players not worth the hassle.
Why do poker sites offer bonuses in the first place?
Bonuses are used to attract new players and give customers an incentive to deposit money. Usually bonuses are a win for the poker site and player as well since both gain something from it.
I forgot to enter the bonus code, what do I do?
If a bonus is tied to a bonus code and you forgot to enter the code or entered the wrong one, the only way to correct this issue is to send a message to the support team. If it was your first deposit and you have not used any other bonus codes before, they will most likely be able to help you out.
How can I withdraw bonus money?
Before you can withdraw bonus money, you have to clear it. Usually you have to generate between $30 and $100 rake (depending on the poker site) to clear $10 bonus.
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