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Poker players have a huge number of online poker rooms and gaming sites to choose from, with new providers joining the market all the time. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned player, there are plenty of sites claiming to offer the very best online poker experience. It's not surprising, then, that many try to attract new members with special promotions and freerolls. But are you really getting good value? Here's Gambling.com's guide to poker bonuses and freerolls.
In the online poker world, a freeroll is a tournament that costs no money to enter but offers great cash prizes. This kind of tournament is not always technically free because you may have to use membership or bonus points to enter,but there will be no cash fee for playing. Freerolls are a common way for poker rooms to attract new players and showcase new features.
Almost every online poker room offers freerolls to some extent. Some are genuinely free – for example, 888 Poker offers a £5 free for all even before you've made a deposit. Other poker sites use entry to lucrative freerolls as an incentive for participating in their loyalty and VIP schemes. William Hill Poker runs a £500 freeroll for first-time players who deposit £10 or more, but members who climb the VIP scheme can gain access to more exclusive freeroll tournaments with prizes of up to £25,000.
VIP schemes have become a fairly standard feature across the leading online poker rooms, with players receiving points each time they deposit and play. As well as being used to enter freerolls, these points can often be redeemed for cash or merchandise. Winner Poker offers a scheme with these benefits, although the loyalty programme at Betfair Poker has a particularly eye-catching set of benefits.
Due to its status as sponsor of the World Series of Poker Europe, Betfair runs special promotions that give players the chance to gain entry to international events and compete with professional poker players. Play your cards right and you could be sitting at a table with the likes of Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth.
Another popular promotion at online poker rooms is the sign-up bonus. Providers will often match your initial deposit, effectively doubling the money you have to play with when you sign up to a new site. Many sites will match initial deposits up to £600 or £650. Leading poker rooms that offer this feature to new members include Betfair Poker, Paddy Power Poker (who give a generous 150% deposit match) and William Hill Poker.
However, the sign-up bonus is another area where it can really pay to study the small print. The terms imposed by many poker sites mean it may not be as straightforward as doubling the cash in your account. For example, William Hill Poker's sign-up bonus is only unlocked once you have accumulated a required number of loyalty points. And sometimes the funds put in by the poker site will be released gradually in increments of £5, £10 and £20, rather than added to your balance in a single sum.
As we've seen, the benefits and incentives offered by poker sites are broadly similar, but there are often subtle differences in the way they work for customers. To get value for money, you really need to study the terms and make sure you're happy with the offer you're signing up for. Remember to take the other aspects of an online poker room, such as game variety and community, into account as well – it's not all about the freebies.