What to Look for in Poker Room and Casino Welcome Bonuses

By James Guill
December 08, 2017

It’s no secret that online poker rooms and casinos are constantly competing with each other to attract new customers. As competition has grown, operators have improved the quality of their welcome bonuses. Smart players who shop around can score huge bonuses that can give their starting bankroll a nice boost.

Naturally, not all welcome bonuses are the same. Continue reading to learn more about what to look for in the best online poker room and casino welcome bonuses.

welcome bonus

Match Bonuses

The majority of online poker rooms  and casinos will give some type of match bonus when you make your first deposit, for example, a 100% match bonus on a deposit of up to $200. That means if you deposit $50, you get $50 in bonus funds that can be used to play at the site. Your starting bankroll in this case will be $100.

Standard to all online casinos, however, is that the $50 in bonus cash is not “free money” but rather a bonus that must be cleared before you can cash it out. To clear a bonus, you must wager the amount of that bonus a set number of times. This is known as a playthrough or a wagering requirement.

Many online casinos require a playthrough of anywhere from 25x to 40x the amount of the bonus. In our previous example, if your bonus has a playthrough of 30x, you’d have to wager at least $1,500 before you could cash out the bonus.

In some cases, casinos may even require a playthrough of BOTH the deposit and the bonus funds. In our previous example, a 30x playthrough would require you to wager $3,000 before you could cash out the $50 bonus. Obviously, you’d want to be selective in where you play to maximize your potential bankroll.

The two things you want to try and get from a match bonus is a high match percentage (of 100% or more) and the lowest playthrough requirements possible. The latter is tough to do. On average, the lowest wagering requirements are around 25x.

If you find an online casino offering below a 25x playbthrough, then that casino is certainly worth a second look. One great example is the slots bonus from Swanky Bingo. They have a wagering requirement of just 20x on slot games and just 4x on bingo games.

On the poker front, the rake collected from you via tournament fees and from pots in which you partake in cash games will be what affects the speed with which you can obtain your deposit match bonuses. We’ll go into more detail about that later.

Free Spins

This one is obviously only relevant for online casinos and not online poker rooms. A large number of casinos offer free spins to new players. These spins may be awarded all at once or spread out over several days. In some cases, these spins are divided over multiple deposits. Free spins are popular amongst players because they can play their favorite slot games longer and potentially win more.

When an online casino offers free spins, it’s typically on a single game or group of games. There’s typically a time limit on these spins, often just 24 hours. In other words, if you don’t use your spins within that time frame and you’ll lose them.

Be advised that some online casinos will limit the amount of money you can win on free spins, even as little as $100. That’s why you never hear about anyone winning a large progressive jackpot on their free spins. Even so, starting off with an extra $100 with which to pad your bankroll from free spins isn’t a bad welcome to a casino.

Note that free spin earnings are subject to wagering requirements just like bonus cash. Often, they have the same playthrough rate as well. Free spin offers vary from casino to casino. You may get as few as 10 free spins or up to 200 or more. If an offer doesn’t specify which games are available for free spins, be sure to check the fine print.

The best welcome bonuses offer at least 20 or more free spins and award all of the free spins on your first deposit. Superior casinos offer a no deposit free spin bonus just for signing up for an account. This is often in the 10 to 20 spin range.

Free Bets

Another common welcome bonus offered by online casinos is free bets. Note, however, that free bets are different from bonus cash credited on a deposit. Free bets are set bet amounts that can be used on either casino games or at a casino sportsbook. Online poker rooms often offer casino side games or even sportsbook facilities via which you can utilize these monies

For example, after making a deposit, you might receive two $10 free bets for Live Casino games. This means you can make two bets of $10 each on games such as Live Blackjack, Roulette, or Baccarat. If the free bets were for the sportsbook, you could place the bets on your favorite team, athlete, or any other bet allowed at the sportsbook.

As with the other bonuses, some restrictions on free bets may apply. For example, you may not be allowed to play on certain games where the casino has a very low edge, such as Single Deck Blackjack.

When looking for the best free bets, you want bets that allow the most flexibility. If you get four $5 free bets, you want to be able to use them at on table games, Live Casino game, the sportsbook, or anywhere you might make static wagers. Unfortunately, slot games don’t usually qualify for free bet usage. Any casino, such as 888casino, that calls their slot bonus a “free bet” is really talking about the standard cash bonus given.

Poker Room Cash Game or Tournament Entries

As mentioned, bonuses aren’t restricted to slot and table game players. Online poker players can also take advantage of welcome bonuses. The most common poker welcome bonuses features are free cash game play and free tournament entries.

Poker rooms offering free cash game play will add funds to your account after you sign up and make your first deposit. This cash is restricted to cash game play and usually at the lowest stakes in the poker room. These funds must be cleared via the earning of points.

Similar to casino play through, you must earn a set number of points before you can cash out your bonus. Typically you will get somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 point for every $5 to $6 in rake earned. The method of point accrual varies from poker room to poker room.

Poker room welcome bonuses also offer tournament entries to new players. These range from entries into freeroll tournaments to entries in standard events. Often these tournament tickets are worth $5 or less each. Some casinos will allow you to combine your entries to enter larger events. For example, if you’ve received five $1 tickets, you could combine them to enter a $5 tournament.

Shop Around for the Best Deal

Finally, once you know where you want to play, it is always a smart idea to shop around for the best offer. Check out various websites along with the casino site directly to see which offers are available. Casinos don’t always advertise their best deals so it pays to check out some good affiliate sites, which often negotiate special deals and deposit offers with online poker rooms and casinos that you don’t see everywhere.

Also, don’t be afraid to a site’s contact customer support directly to see if you can negotiate a better welcome bonus. Some sites are willing to offer more to get your business if you show that you’re serious about signing up. Most online poker rooms and casinos have a Live Chat feature on their website, so you can contact them directly 24/7.

By shopping around for the best deal, you’re virtually guaranteed to get the best possible welcome bonus for your desired casino or poker room.



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James Guill poker author
Written By.

James Guill

James Guill started his poker career playing semi-professionally from 2006 to 2008. In 2008, a colleague suggested he try his hand at poker writing and the rest was history. Since 2008, James has written for numerous publications including PokerNews, PokerUpdate, Ivey Poker, PokerJunkie, PokerListings and PokerNews Australia. James also spent several years providing content for […]



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