I've noticed that for all of the poker affiliates and poker room review sites out there, there is very little help for the punter in working out which bonuses actually represent good value. The poker review site rankings usually bear no resemblance at all to the real value of the bonuses - I can only assume that they push the bonuses that are best value for them as opposed to those that are best value for you.
Therefore, I intend to compile my own list of the best value bonuses based on my own experience and research. I am particularly interested in comments about the bonuses, especially any suggestions on bonuses which should be included. I will always rank the bonuses based on the best interests of the punter. Sometimes I will recommend my own affiliate link (from which I make a small commission), but only where there is not another better value option available (that I know of).
Bear in mind that this list is compiled from the point of view of primarily a low-limit shorthanded limit holdem player.
So here goes:
The poker bonus hall of fame
***** Five star bonuses: These are the premium bonuses. They represent probably better than 200% rakeback when played correctly.
- Party Poker has a fantastic bonus offer via Poker Source Online. Deposit $100, earn 125 party points and you get $150 bonus. That takes a bit over 700 hands playing 0.5/1 limit, or less than 5 hands per dollar. Again, this is incredible value (maybe 400% rakeback if you play tight). Party is a great site with high traffic, good PokerTracker support and plenty of fishy tables. Use my link to Poker Source Online, and I get a small commission (but you don't get any less). Click on the "free money" link at PSO.
- Gnuf has another good Poker Source Online bonus. You deposit at least $50, and earn 500 "Gnuf points" (500 hands raked 0.25 or higher playing 0.5/1 limit or 360 hands at 1/2 limit). You get 12000 "PSO points", which can be taken as $120 on a few different sites including Party. Gnuf is on the Microgaming network. Traffic is fairly low, but the games are usually fishy enough. Click on the "free gifts" link at PSO.
- FullTilt has an excellent Poker Source Online bonus. Deposit $100, earn 250 "FullTilt" points (one point per dollar raked at the table) to win 12000 "PSO points". This is another superb bonus, working out at 200% to 500% rakeback depending on how you play it. As bort points out however, since FullTilt is one of the top traffic sites you may be better off in the long term going for a rakeback deal. You can earn 27% rakeback at PSO or at raketherake.
- Ladbrokes via Boogster. Boogster is another kickback bonus site with many good value bonuses. The bonuses can be takes as gift certificates to Full Tilt for example.
- Ultimate Bet has another good bonus via Poker Source Online. Deposit $100, earn 400 "Ultimate Points", and you earn $125 from PSO and $10 from UB (out of a larger bonus that you may not bother to complete). This took me about 700-800 hands, and I suspect it is possible to do it faster.
- Hollywood Poker via Poker Source Online. Deposit >$50 (best if you deposit $20 then a second deposit to get a manageable bonus), earn 325 "Player Points" (essentially this is dollars raked in hands in which you contribute to the pot), and you earn 12000 PSO points (=$120) and $40 from Hollywood. Hollywood is on the OnGame network, which seems to be among the tougher networks out there - lots of tight aggressive players. The traffic is excellent though so there are plenty of tables to choose from.
- Pacific Poker has a good signup offer via Pokerlistings. The "instant" part of the bonus is 50% up to $175, and is excellent value (there is a further $300 which is earned via points, but this is not good value on it's own). You have to wager 20x the bonus amount before you can cashout, which represents a bit less than 100% rakeback at Pacific's rather steep rake structure. What makes this bonus worth four star however are the excellent freerolls for Pokerlistings players. There is a regular $5000 monthly freeroll, which usually has under 200 runners. There are also regular freeroll satellites for the WSOP, the EPT and other big live events. You have to qualify for these freerolls through play, but the value of the tickets is still very very good.
- Captain Cooks Casino is a small poker room on the Microgaming network. It has a standard 50% up to $200 bonus, which cashes out at $1 per 10 raked hands (raked 0.25 and higher). This is results in anywhere from 50% to 200% rakeback depending on which limits you play. If you want to sign up to Captain Cook, tell me your email address so I can send you a referral - I get $100 referral fee, and your signup bonus is unaffected. Put your email address in a comment and then delete the comment if you don't want it to remain on display.
- VCpoker has the fastest cashing bonuses on the iPoker network as far as I know (most, including Titan and CDpoker are woefully slow). You get approximately 8c of bonus for every dollar that is raked at the table. That's nearly 80% rakeback if you play full ring games. The signup bonus is 300% up to $600, and it cashes out in $5 increments. See below for the free35 deal that you can get in addition to the deposit bonus. They also have fairly regular reload bonuses that are also good value.
Special mention- no-deposit bonuses: No deposit bonuses are a fantastic way to get started in online poker with no risk. My own start came via the VCpoker "free35" offer. These bonuses are usually not good value for someone who already has a bankroll, since the cashout requirements are usually fairly onerous - the deposit bonuses are also usually better value.
- Poker Source Online has a number of no-deposit bonuses, which change from time to time. Currently offered are Party Poker, Action Poker and Absolute Poker. I would avoid the Party Poker no-deposit bonus for now, because the deposit bonus is much better value. The other two look worthwhile though.
- VCpoker has a long running "free35" offer, where you get $10 up front and $25 earned through points. You can also get the 300% up to $600 deposit bonus. VCpoker has the fastest cashing bonuses on iPoker, so these bonuses are good value - particularly if you play full ring games. Click here for details.
This post is a work in progress - check back later for more bonuses!