Many poker sites in the US allow players to play online poker for free as a new customer through a sign-up bonus called a “No Deposit Bonus.” These promotions are designed to entice new customers with a free boost to get the player’s online poker journey started.
All it takes to sit down at a poker table is the money to buy into the game. That’s what makes poker a great equalizer in society – there is no difference in players once they sit down at the table, and no one who can buy-in is excluded.
But that still puts up a small barrier to entry in that a player needs the money to sit down at the table for real-money poker, whether online or live. No Deposit Bonuses at online poker sites are one way to even that out a bit, providing new players with a small injection of cash to get the games going for them.
Whether you are completely new to poker, or just looking for a new online poker site to play on, no deposit bonuses are a great way to get a start with no investment on the player’s part. As a thank you for creating a new account, many operators offer these no deposit bonuses giving players a much-needed start on their poker journey.
In most cases, it is pretty easy to claim a no deposit bonus. We’ll get into the details below, and things do change a bit depending on your jurisdiction, but in general, no deposit bonuses are available to any player creating a new account on an online poker site and are usually included as part of the player’s sign-up process.
Where to Play No Deposit Online Poker in the USA
Online poker is currently legal and active in five US jurisdictions with most of that action taking place behind geofences to restrict the player pool to respective states. That is the result of a long legal battle kicked off on Black Friday that is still finding resolution for US poker players on the ground.
Five states have passed legislation opening a legal online market – Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Delaware. However, Delaware is off the list for No Deposit poker as its regulations are stricter than the other states, and the three licensed “Racinos” in Delaware do not offer free money to new players.
That leaves four states with No Deposit bonuses on offer as 2023 begins, with the prospect of West Virginia also coming online in the near future. Players in Nevada, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Michigan can claim No Deposit Bonuses when they create a new account on one of the states.
Best No Deposit Bonuses for 2023
No Deposit Bonus
$25 Free on Sign-Up
Up to $1,000 in matched funds on first deposit plus an extra $25 in freeplay after first deposit
The concept of No Deposit Bonuses is very simple – as a way to entice new users, many online poker sites offer small amounts of free money for creating a new account. While these offers are usually small (under $100), available only to first-time account creations, and can’t be cashed out directly, they can still be an excellent way to get a start on a new poker site.
The bonuses are generally available immediately on sign-up, though the details vary slightly from operator to operator. Players can generally use the money immediately to play real money poker, either in tournaments or at the cash tables, and winnings from the bonus money can generally be cashed out immediately.
Pros and Cons of Free Poker Sign-Up Bonuses
The list of pros and cons regarding No Deposit/Free Play sign-up bonuses is heavily weighted on the pro side of the aisle, with very few downsides to getting free money to play. Players should be aware of wagering restrictions that will be dependent on the operator in question and should always check the terms & conditions (T&C) of specific offers to understand how best to make use of it.
While it’s pretty hard to find a downside to free money, the funds will often come in specific ways, such as in tournament tickets, or casino play vouchers, and the way the funds are distributed in a certain offer may not match the players preferred play style and game selection. Equally, while the No Deposit Bonus can be used to wager on games with the operator, the bonus funds aren’t available for withdrawal, though winnings from them generally are.
On the pro side, it’s easy to find points. There isn’t a gambler alive who doesn’t like free money, so that’s the obvious pro – the opportunity to get a free start on a bankroll. But beyond the chance to run up a bankroll from nothing, No Deposit Bonuses give players an excellent opportunity to evaluate a new poker operator with little risk to themselves, giving them a very good handle on the software and game selection before deciding to risk their own cash with a deposit.
How to Use a No Deposit Poker Bonus
Generally speaking, using a No Deposit Bonus is very easy. Players should always refer to the specific T&C of the operator and jurisdiction in question to get an idea of the conditions attached to specific offers, but in most cases players can start using the funds immediately after they sign-up. Sometimes an additional opt-in step is required, but that varies by site.
Using a No Deposit Bonus
Find a Poker Operator
The list of available online poker operators will vary depending on the state a player is in. In most US jurisdictions, players only need to be within the state borders to play, with no residency requirement. Each state will have its own list of regulated operators, and you can check out our handy guide on US poker rooms.
The sign-up form will generally have a text box to enter a bonus code in that new sign-ups can use to take advantage of the free offer. Entering a bonus code is generally the only optional thing on the registration page so it should be easy to spot. Once all your details are verified, your account will be activated and the bonus funds deposited.
Find Games and Play Poker
Individual offers will vary by state and operator, but players generally have a lot of freedom in how they use their bonus. In many cases, the funds are deposited as the equivalent of cash (with the caveat that they can’t be withdrawn) so players have complete freedom to play exactly the kinds of games they want. In some cases though, the some of the funds are specifically directed to tournament tickets or casino play so players may have to be more selective about what to play.
Strategies for Using a No Deposit Bonus
Players will generally have a lot of freedom in how they use a No Deposit Bonus. While there may be restrictions on specific offers, such as funds provided in tournament tickets instead of cash, even in those cases players will almost always have choices about which tournaments to use the tickets in.
How a player uses the bonus will generally depend on the player’s style and needs. Experienced players who are taking advantage of a low-risk tryout of a new operator will generally already know what sorts of games they are looking for, while newcomers to the game may be overwhelmed with choice at the beginning.
Tips for Experienced Players
Filters: Spend a few minutes in the new lobby setting filters to help find the best games for your style
Sorting: Use the sorting options that all clients provide to get access to the games that most fit the prize pools you are looking for and the bankroll the No Deposit Bonus gives you
Overlay: Target games where it looks like there may be overlay as that will maximize your potential returns
Bounties: Think about bounty games, as that format offers two ways to get money out of the game with bounties giving a player instant cash
Tips for Poker Newcomers
Find the Newcomers Lobby: Many clients have a newcomers lobby that shows games more specifically tailored to new players
Play Freezeout/Bounty Tournaments: If playing tournaments, look for freezeout and/or bounty tournaments to maximize the value of your No Deposit Bonus
Freezeout Tournaments: These tournaments only allow a single buy-in per player which makes a more level playing field for players with smaller bankrolls as rebuy tournaments allow bigger bankrolls to “buy wins” in some cases.
Bounty Tournaments: While not all bounty format games are played as freezeouts, new players should certainly treat them that way. In bounty games, players can earn immediate money by knocking out other players, which gives players a second way to win money from the tournament. New players should be wary that bounty strategy differs significantly from more standard formats however.
Look for Overlay: Many online poker tournaments have guarantees, which means the operator guarantees a certain amount of money in prizes no matter how many entries the game gets. When a game doesn’t get enough entries to meet that guarantee, the “overlay” means more potential value for players in the game, so look for games that appear as though they might miss their guarantee.
Try Both Cash and Tournament Play: New players to the game may well have been attracted to poker by the excitement of televised tournament poker, however players should also take a look at the cash game side as well. All online poker clients in the US offer cash games with blinds as low as 1c/2c for a $2 buy-in, so it can be an excellent way to learn the game at a minimal cost.
Freerolls vs Play Money vs Freeplay/No Deposit Poker
Poker has a lot terms with “free” attached and it can be a bit confusing sometimes. There are several ways to play “free poker” in the US, and while this article is mostly focused on Freeplay/No Deposit Bonus Poker, it’s useful to look at the other free poker options and compare the differences.
Many poker sites offer freeroll tournaments as a regular part of their schedule, including some specifically devoted to new sign-ups depending on the operator. These are free-to-enter tournaments that usually only require an account to sign up, with the only further requirement being that the player must be physically located in the state they wish to play in.
Though players do not have to pay anything to get into these freeroll games, there is still real money in the prize pool to be won. Poker operators use these as a way of enticing players with free value, as well as to give back to the community of players that support them. Depending on the game, the operator will put a certain guaranteed prize pool on the games out of its own pocket, and money won in the games is just like cash.
The big difference between freerolls and No Deposit Bonuses is the free aspect. A No Deposit Bonus actually puts money in a player’s account (or the equivalent value in tickets) that allows them to play any real-money game they can afford. Freerolls, on the other hand, require no money to join, and many freerolls run regularly that aren’t tied to sign-up or deposit requirements.
Play Money & Free Poker Apps
The other way to play free poker is through one of the many free poker apps available for download on many platforms. There are full details at the link above for specific apps, but in general, free poker apps provide various kinds of poker games that are free-to-play on mobile devices using iOS and Android.
While there is no money component to these apps, they provide various kinds of poker for free that gives players a chance to experience the game at no risk. While there are many choices out there, our pick is Appeak Poker.
No Deposit Poker Bonuses FAQs
How do I claim a No Deposit Poker Bonus?
Claiming a No Deposit Bonus is very easy. Generally, it only requires the use of a Bonus Code during sign-up. The codes required will vary by jurisdiction and operator so be sure to check out the offers on the operator website to get details on how to take advantage of the offer.
Can I win real money on a free poker bonus?
Yes. Whether the funds are provided in cash equivalent, or in tournament tickets, the games a player can play with the money have real money prizes at the end of the games. The size of the bonus will naturally limit the buy-ins and prize pools available, but players can win significant prizes for nothing with No Deposit Bonuses.
Are no deposit poker bonuses restricted to any types of games?
This depends on the specific offer. In many cases, the funds are provided in cash equivalents, which means there are generally no restrictions on any games the player can afford to enter. However, in some cases, the funds may be paid out in tournament tickets and other game vouchers, which will have some limitations on where they can be used. For example, casino vouchers will only be good on casino games, while tournament tickets won’t allow players to play cash games, but otherwise, the choices are usually all in the player’s hands.
How do I clear a free no deposit poker bonus?
Each offer will have its own specific requirements to clear the bonus, but generally speaking, playing poker and other games on the client will release and clear the bonus amounts. In many cases, money is immediately credited to the players account, and is fully available for use right from the beginning, but in other cases, funds may be released with more play.
Where Can I Get a No Deposit Bonus?
There are five states right now where online poker is legal and being played, with a sixth state in pipeline with legislation approved, but no active play. At present however, only four of the active states offer No Deposit Bonuses – NJ, PA, MI, and NV all offer some form of the bonuses, while the regulations on Delaware’s three licensed “racinos” prevent those sort of offers. West Virginia now has legislation approved to create a legal online poker market, but that marketplace is still developing with no active play yet, and it is unclear at this point what the bonus situation will look like.