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No Deposit Poker Bonus
Success in online poker is normally achieved by someone starting with a small amount of money to start their bankroll and systematically working their way up through the stakes. A no deposit poker bonus gives you an opportunity to get your account funded initially without having to make an actual deposit and risk something of your own. This makes it a particularly attractive way to get started at a poker room online, and there are countless examples of players turning nothing into something big with these offers. We want to walk you through what you need to know about these deals and the strategies you can use to maximize your chances of seeing success with them yourself.
Terms, Conditions and Requirements
Each no deposit bonus poker offer is going to have slightly different terms and conditions, but there's a basic format to how they work. The idea is that you're given free money, either in the form of a free chip added to your account balance or free tickets to specific types of tournaments, and you're allowed to play the games with those funds. However, before you can cash out, you have to meet certain requirements based on how much you've played.
A wagering requirement (also called a play-through requirement) is a minimum amount that you must bet and wager before you're allowed to cash out any of your winnings. They're put in place to protect the poker room from individuals who would abuse no deposit poker bonuses by cashing in on the offers without actually intending on playing at the tables. This type of abuse would become widespread, and sites wouldn't be able to afford giving players these deals if they weren't policed with these types of requirements.
The basic idea of a wagering requirement is that you'll need to either play a certain number of raked hands or accumulate a certain number of player points by playing real money games before you can cash out. As we mentioned above, the exact terms and conditions will vary from site to site, but it normally works out to something like one or two hours of play for every $5 to $10 of value that you're given.
Playthrough requirements example
Let's look at a quick example of play-through requirements. One poker site might define a raked hand as a hand where you contributed money to the pot and saw a flop. A $25 no deposit poker offer might have a play-through requirement of 200 raked hands. One way to estimate how long it will take you to clear this requirement is to figure out what percentage of hands you'll play that will qualify as raked. Generally speaking, this will be about 8-10 percent for full-ring games and 10-12 percent for short-handed (six-player) games.
If we're playing full-ring cash games, we might need to be dealt in on 2,000 hands to get the 200 raked hand requirement. If we play about 50 hands an hour, that will take about 40 hours of play, unless we play multiple tables, which could speed things up quite a bit. Most casual players can handle playing four tables of full-ring cash poker since you won't often be involved in more than one hand at a time, and this cuts it down to about 10 hours of play. That's more than reasonable for a free $25 chip.
Free Chip Style No Deposit Poker Offers
The most popular type of no deposit poker bonus involves simply giving players a starting amount in their account balance. This is typically small enough to give a few buy-ins at the lowest-level cash games or tournaments that the site has to offer. The right strategies for this type of offer usually involve playing cash games with variable buy-ins so that you can adjust your buy-in size as you build up your starting bankroll. This allows you to manage your risk more precisely than playing tournaments where the variance is higher, and the buy-ins are set in stone.
Strategies for free chip style deals
Clearing the wagering requirements is one aspect of a no deposit bonus poker player's overall goal,but what's more important is steadily winning small amounts at a time without risking too much of your bankroll at one sitting. Along these lines, we recommend a cash game strategy based on breaking your bankroll up into a number of equally-sized parts.
For example, suppose you have a $10 starting bankroll from no deposit poker bonuses. If there's a $2 buy-in game with blinds at $0.01/0.02, you can normally have the option to play a half-sized stack for $1. This still gives you 50 big blinds, which is plenty of room to turn a nice profit, but now you have ten buy-ins for the game instead of just five. This will help you to mitigate your risk until you can build your bankroll up a bit more and earn enough that playing with a $2 buy-in makes sense.
It's important to realize that you don't need to rush to clear the play-through requirements. If you keep winning and keep playing, then you'll clear them naturally as time goes on. If you're too aggressive with your bankroll management, however, then you'll go bust and not have a chance to win anything at all.
Free Tournament Tickets Style Bonuses
Aside from the free chip approach to no deposit poker promotions like what we've discussed above, you can also get a set of free tournament tickets. These are usually tickets to some of the smallest buy-in games available, so you might get something like ten tickets worth $1.10 apiece for $11 in value.
What normally happens with this type of deal is that you either get to just keep your winnings from the events you buy into with these tickets, or you'll need to clear a flat wagering requirement after you score some winnings. It varies from promotion to promotion, and there's no uniform rule as to how those terms and conditions are handled, but the strategies you can use to maximize your chances of success aren't really affected.
Tournament strategy for no deposit poker bonuses
You have less flexibility with tournament ticket style no deposit poker bonus promotions, but you can still make the most of them by using a little planning with how you cash them in. For example, you often get to select which type of tournament you'll enter. Some people like to hop into big multi-table tournaments with hundreds or even thousands of people with these tickets, but we don't think that's a good idea.
Your goal isn't to try to win a huge prize right away. Instead, you want to try to build up a modest amount of winnings that you can use as a starting bankroll to build up much like what we described in the section above on strategies for free chip deals. Maximizing the value you get from no deposit poker promotions is all about this type of slow-but-steady approach.
Along these lines, our suggestion is to play short-handed and full-ring sit-and-go style tournaments. These are single-table tournaments that only last a short amount of time, and they give you a good chance of winning with prize pools where about one-third of the players win a payout. You can imagine that you'll probably make it in the money a few times with ten shots in a $1.10 entry game, and that's the basic idea.
Mid-Term Strategies Once You're Established
Once you've established yourself with winnings from no deposit bonus poker games, you have a bit of a road ahead of you as far as turning that small amount of starting money into a formidable bankroll. This period requires a set of mid-term strategies based around growing your account balance while the wagering requirements are cleared without getting too aggressive with the size of your buy-ins and busting out.
When you reach this level, you're guaranteed winnings from your no deposit poker bonus if you can be patient. You also start to have the option to grind through small stakes tournaments as well because your bankroll has become large enough to handle the swings. There's a lot of potential once you reach this point, but it's also when you're the most vulnerable to becoming impatient and making too large of a buy-in hoping to strike it rich when all you're really going to do is destroy a lot of the progress you've made so far.
The most important thing to realize with no deposit bonus poker offers is that there's a clear process that can take you from nothing to a sizable bankroll as long as you're patient and get a little bit of luck when you're first starting out. If you can follow the strategies above, you'll clear the play-through requirements on the bonus you're cashing in on and run up enough of a bankroll where you'll be able to cash out winnings over and over again. Instead of just getting paid one time off of these deals, you can get paid regularly for quite a while as long as you keep playing well and keep managing your bankroll intelligently.