There are a lot of differences between online poker and poker in the brick and mortar world. One pleasant difference that you can rely on online is that every poker room you join will give you money when you walk through the door.
The most generous of them will give you money as a thank you for trying out their poker room. They don’t ask that you make a deposit, only that you put their poker room software on your computer and open a “real money” account. That is so there is a place for them to put your real money bonus, and so you can sit at the real money tables.
It is not uncommon for a room to require some proof of adulthood before they give you money. This often consists of a valid credit card number. Adults have credit cards, children shouldn’t. Admittedly, this may not keep everyone from Mr. McCoys’s Math class from opening an account, but it does prove they had to be devious enough to trick the system to gain entry.
Once you have your seat at the tables and free chips in front of you, enjoy! But, do keep in mind that $10 is not a sufficient bankroll for a player at the $1/$2 tables. You’ll be cutting your fun unnecessarily short playing those stakes.
Besides the “No Deposit Bonuses” that a few rooms offer, there is another form of bonus that every room awards. They are first-deposit “Welcome Bonuses”.
Welcome bonuses are commonplace amoung online casinos, and poker rooms have followed suit to attract players to their particular room. Most rooms offer a first time deposit bonus of some sort. They differ greatly from room to room, as do the terms of the bonus.
Some rooms give a set amount of chips for a minimum deposit. Make a minimum deposit, get $x in chips. Make a larger deposit, you still get the same $x in chips. This definitely favors the player who makes the minimum deposit, as opposed to those seasoned players that make deposits of hundreds of dollars. The good thing about deposit offers like this is that they can easily double your bankroll. And if this is your first time at the money tables, that can come in handy.
A second type of deposit bonus is a percentage of your buy-in. If a room offers you a 35% deposit bonus, the more you deposit, the more free chips you get. Usually they put a cap on this, so you can’t deposit your life-savings and make 35% on it in one day.
In order to keep players from immediately withdrawing their chips and running, rooms often (if not always) place terms on the bonus. Most involve “raked hands”, or play at a real money table where there is a “pot” that the house rakes a portion of. The larger the “pot, the more money is taken from it by the house, up to a preset maximum.
Here’s the interesting part. Each room can look upon what exactly counts as a raked hand differently. Some give a player full credit if they are sitting at a real money table, see their cards, and fold them – never putting a penny into the pot. Some rooms may not. If you’re main concern is receiving that bonus, it is a good idea to check with customer support about the terms of the bonus and what exactly the room regards as a raked hand before making a deposit.
While all online poker rooms should have a “comp” system in place (some may call them “player points” or “promo points”, etc.), some rooms have complex comp systems and they make use of them for releasing bonus money. Once again, if you look forward to receving that bonus into your account, check the website for the terms of the offer before depositing.
After the initial welcome bonus, many rooms offer “re-deposit” bonuses. This offer goes out to players with both empty or well-funded accounts, and are similar to first deposit bonuses. The rooms often use these bonuses as a reward for time spent at the tables there, or as an enticement to get you to return the their tables.
Some rooms are known for their frequent offer of re-deposit bonuses.
Besides chip bonuses, another method poker rooms use to show appreciation for their players is their comp system. Often players receive some kind of “comp points” for time spent at the tables. Points are awarded for a entry into a tournament, or for playing a raked hand. Depending on the room players may be awarded comp points for everything from winning high hand or bad beat of the hour to starting a new table.
As comp points are acquired, they can usually be spent on merchandise (everything from logowear and poker books to Harley Davidsons and DVD players). Some rooms offer tournaments where there is no cash entry fee, but they only invite players with a certain amount of comp points. The comp programs are as different as the rooms themselves. If you plan to be spending time at the tables in a room, it worth at least taking a look at their comp system (or in some notable cases, the lack thereof).