You don’t need a huge bankroll to play real money poker. By choosing the right bonus offers and the right games – it is possible to turn a minimum deposit into a real poker bankroll. How quickly you move to the high stakes will depend on your skills. While you move through the ranks, you will enjoy extra bonuses and rewards to keep your balance topped up.
This page covers what to look for with online poker sites to get the best from that small deposit. You will find out how both no deposit and minimum deposit bonuses work below. This includes some advice on things to look out for in the small print that can make bonuses difficult to clear. Ongoing rewards, moving through the buy-in levels and practical steps including poker site deposit methods are also covered.
When you look at the benefits compared to the amount spent, there is no doubt that a minimum deposit in the $10 to $50 range hits the sweet spot. Poker rooms give rewards in addition to the 100% match – and you do not need to spend hundreds of dollars to get them.
That said, there are bonuses available that don’t require any payments. Many online poker brands offer no deposit bonuses. These are small amounts, often in the form of tokens for tournaments. They give you a chance to check out a site without taking any personal risk. At sites that offer casino games alongside poker, you can also enjoy no deposit free spins offers.
For small deposit bonuses, it is the extras that make the difference. You can get entry to freeroll tournaments for depositing players – often with $1000+ prize pools. Tokens for lottery-style super-turbo sit and goes are also given away. Some sites give you access to special ‘beginner tables’, where inexperienced opponents will often spew chips.
A big benefit of bonuses with minimum deposits is that they will clear (complete) quickly. This means you are ready for the next reload, promotion or reward without needing to grind through your initial offer.
Put two or more offers side by side, and they can appear almost identical. Both will double your deposit with bonus funds, both offer entry to a tournament or two and both let you collect loyalty points while you play.
It is the small print where the difference between the offers becomes clear. The key factor is how much you need to play move your free bonus chips into your cash account (from where you can withdraw them).
Poker bonuses clear based on the fees paid to the sites. Fees take two forms. For cash games, the rake is taken from every pot. This is just a few cents at the lower buy-ins. In tournaments, you pay a fee alongside your buy-in. For example, a $4+40c tournament takes 40c from every player, distributing the rest of the money in prizes.
By looking at your points target to clear your small deposit bonus and seeing how each site counts fees towards clearing points, you will find the fastest clearing poker bonuses.
There are other factors to look out for:
Poker sites offer a variety of bonuses and rewards to new and existing players. Here are some of the most common.
A quick way to boost your poker bankroll after making a small deposit is to take advantage of free tournament entries. Freerolls for new players have the advantage of many inexperienced opponents. The prize pools vary, though, with some solid play and a little luck, you could be boosting your small deposit with a final table score.
Freerolls are also given for depositing players. These are different from new player-only tournaments, in that the field will include players that have been online for a while. Many of them will not take advantage of their tickets.
Lottery sit-and-go tournaments can be found at most sites. These are small tournaments, typically with 3 players. The prize pools are determined at random after the game starts. Shallow stacks and super-fast blinds mean they only last a few minutes each. If a site gives you free entries, make sure you take advantage. You never know when you will strike lucky, hitting a 100x or even bigger prize pool game.
When you build your bankroll from a small deposit, you need a poker site that will offer ongoing rewards. They should include a good range of promotions, free tournament buy-ins, poker events, and loyalty point style rewards. If you play somewhere that incentivises new players to sign-up, without rewarding loyal players – then it is time to move your account elsewhere.
Loyalty rewards schemes are available at most online poker sites with minimum deposit options. Even with a small deposit, you should be able to climb the initial tiers. These schemes let you swap points for cash bonuses, tournament entries, or even branded merchandise. Some have monthly tournaments for players at each level with big prize pools.
Reload bonuses work just like your initial welcome match – only for later deposits. The percentage match will vary, from 50% of your deposit amount and up. Remember to check the small print for minimum deposit amounts.
Poker events often come with promotions like satellite tournaments – where small bankroll players can take a shot at winning tickets to big buy-in events. There are seasonal promotions, offers tied to live poker events, and on-off deals when sites introduce new poker variants.
The final type of promotion to look out for crosses over into the different gambling verticals. Many poker sites have casinos and sportsbooks. Even if you don’t play casino games, taking advantage of free spins (for example) could give your poker bankroll a welcome boost.
With only a small amount to invest in your initial poker bankroll – avoiding high-variance games is important. Variance describes the volatility of wins/losses in a poker format in the short run. Even winning players experience losing periods of play. By making the best decisions, they ride out variance over extended periods to book profits.
Tournaments are the most volatile format. Profits come from the (rare) final tables, with minimum flows of cash and losses in between. For a small deposit player, taking a shot at online poker tournaments with worthwhile prize pools can burn through your bankroll too fast. It would only take a bad beat or two, or a card-dead stretch before you needed to reach into your pocket to reload.
Cash games have less variance. They are easy to beat at the lower buy-ins. A tight, solid strategy can easily take advantage of the loose/passive play you find online. You will need to employ bankroll management, table selection, and take notes on regular players so you can easily adjust to their playing styles. Fast-fold cash games are a popular way to grind out a lot of hands.
Sit-and-go tournaments are a popular way to grind a bankroll from online poker. 1-table games that pay the top 3 players reward a patient early game strategy. Knowing when to move into ‘push/fold’ mode is a must. Lottery jackpot sit-and-goes are more volatile, with the occasional big prize pool balancing a lot of break-even runs.
Players looking to turn their minimum deposit into a poker career or side income should balance grinding out wins with taking shots at the bigger games.
Bankroll management will give you a method to know when it is time to move up to the next level. The number of buy-ins you hold will depend on the type of poker you play, plus your ability to reload if you go broke. If replenishing your bankroll is easy, then you can afford to take more shots at bigger games to move up quickly. If you prefer to make only one small deposit, then a more conservative poker bankroll management style is required.
Here are the guidelines:
By sticking with a proportion of your bankroll, you will know when to move up levels and when to move down. Even the best players have losing streaks – moving down is a necessary part of winning over the long run.
As you move up levels the quality of your opponents will increase. There is a dramatic shift from the micro buy-ins ($25 and under cash games) and small stakes ($50 and up). You get many more ‘grinders’ – winning players who grind out profits over multiple tables at the small stakes and above. This makes it important to invest in your training and education as you move up the levels. Again, even world-class pros are constantly learning.
These days, most poker sites are well run, licensed and reputable. For new players, making sure that your site is one of the safe, legitimate operators is difficult. Online poker rooms take many formats. You get free to play poker apps, sweepstakes poker sites, rooms associated with the provincial lottery gambling portals, and offshore sites. Even within the offshore category, there are dangers. Some sites are ‘licensed’ offshore in the Caribbean or Central America. While they appear legitimate, Canadian players have zero protections if their bankroll ever disappeared.
Look for a track record before you make even the smallest poker deposit. A license from a reputable jurisdiction, protections for players (via a responsible gambling policy), fast withdrawals, and fair bonus terms are a minimum requirement.
Canadian players often find bank cards declined for poker payments. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to get your money on board safely. A secondary requirement that applies more to those making minimum/smaller deposits is that the fees should below. Nobody wants to deposit $20, only to pay $5 in transaction costs.
Here are the current ways you can deposit to poker sites and online poker apps – along with notes on minimum deposit amounts:
The minimum amount you need to make a withdrawal will vary between the sites and by withdrawal method. Look out for sites that have high minimums, as it is possible to get a small balance stuck online. Some sites will request ID documents before you can make your first withdrawal as part of their ‘Know Your Customer’ requirements.
The good news is that you only need a small payment to unlock the new player rewards package at many of the leading online poker sites. They can include tournament entries, matched bonus credits, and tickets to special games like jackpot sit and goes.
As with special offers everywhere, it can pay to read the small print. There are big differences in how even small bonuses are handled by different poker rooms. You will the amount of play required before your bonus is ‘cleared’ varied significantly between the sites. Look out for ongoing rewards before you deposit. The best sites offer loyalty schemes, promotions, and reload bonuses to their regular players.
Online poker can be profitable for skilled players. It can also be volatile. If you want to grow your small deposit into a significant poker bankroll, then you need to choose the right games. Cash games are less volatile than tournaments – and have the benefit of being ‘soft’ at the lower buy-ins. Bankroll management will help you know when it is time to take a shot at the higher buy-in levels.