This exclusive guide is based upon the play of “ABC,” a moderately conservative limit Texas Hold ’em player. ABC plays one $2/$4 six player table for two hours every day, seven days a week. He is a creature of habit. He is marginally successful at the tables, but his main aim is to break even and clear his sign-up bonus. During the first hour that ABC sits down, he acts thus:

- He posts 10 big blinds, value $20.
- He checks 5 of those hands and subsequently folds to raises or bets on the flop.
- Of the remaining 5 hands he calls 2 and folds to a bet on the turn at an additional cost of $4.
- He flat calls two hands to the showdown, including two $4 raises at an additional cost of $28.
- The final hand sees some action: one raise on the turn, and two on the showdown at a cost of $22.
- ABC wagers a total of $74 on his big-blind hands.

The small blind hands result in ABC wagering an additional $64.

ABC is dealt a further 40 hands during this hour. He folds 20 and plays twenty, wagering $128.

At the end of each hour, ABC makes some calculations. His calculations tell him that the average pot at his table is $31.25. ABC’s average hourly wagering comes to $266. The average rake taken (5%) is $1.56. His average contribution to the rake, based simply on his wagering, is $13.30 per hour. He participates in 40 raked hands worth $62.40, of which none was less than $1 in value.

During the next hour, ABC’s play replicates exactly his play in the previous hour.

When his two hours are up, ABC has wagered a total of $534. He has made contributions to 80 raked hands worth $124.80 in rakes to the poker room.

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The Ratings

Were all poker rooms to offer the same bonus amount, turning the above data into a formulaic set of ratings would be a straightforward task; alas they don’t – both bonus amounts and play-through requirements differ from one poker room to the next. It would be unfair to compare unfavourably a ‘raked-hands’ bonus of 100% up to $1000, say, with a ‘time-based’ bonus of $25: the bigger bonus will naturally have a harsher play-through requirement because that poker room is risking a lot more than its counterpart. In order to differentiate between bonuses we have defined a set of parameters which provide a fair guide to both the time it takes our ABC player to clear any given bonus (referred to as ‘Speed,’ this is a calculation of bonus $ earned per hour by a player playing at ABC’s rate); in addition to this we have formulated equations which take into account the size of the bonus, and the fairness or ‘Value’ of the bonus percentage, to find the best casino bonuses.

And so in addition to the ‘Speed Rating,’ we have the ‘Mean Rating,’ and the ‘Value Rating.’ The three figures produced are all of equally significant importance. The ‘Speed Rating’ provides a clear indication of how quickly a player is likely to clear his/her bonus, irrelevent of its size. The ‘Mean Rating’ takes into account both the size of the bonus and the speed of the bonus – levelling out the playing field for both small bonuses with easy play-through requirements and large bonuses with more difficult requirements. The ‘Value’ figure takes into account the percentage terms offered by the poker room and the result it provides is a combination of speed, size and fairness. All three figures can be used by a player depending on his/her preferences; although the ‘Value’ Rating is of more importance to those who are not willing to or unable to deposit the full amount required to clear the bonus in question. (A player depositing $400 at a poker room offering a bonus of 25% up to $100 can largely ignore the ‘Value’ figure and concentrate on the other two ratings).

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The Figures In Action

Question: OK, I’ve looked at your figures but there’s something I don’t quite understand. How is it that Coral Poker’s figures are better than Full Tilt Poker? Both these poker rooms offer a 100% bonus up to $600, and Coral’s points look like they are worth less than Full Tilt’s to me.

Answer: The first thing to understand is that all the figures we provide are based solidly on the ABC pattern of play, amounts staked, and an average rake of $1.56 per raked hand. Our ABC player would earn 1.05 points at Coral Poker for each raked hand of this value: multiply this by the 40 hands he plays per hour and we find that he earns 42 points per hour. Coral Poker’s play-through requirement is 10 x the bonus, and so ABC’s points are worth $4.20. After two hours play he has made $8.40 in bonus cash. Over the course of 30 days he builds a total of $252 in bonuses.

Meanwhile, at Full Tilt Poker the award per raked hand is 1 point per dollar raked: ABC plays 40 hands per hour of which an average rake of $1.56 is taken. This earns him 62.4 points. Each point is worth $0.06, and so ABC’s 62.4 points are worth $3.74 in bonus cash. Over the course of two hours he accrues $7.48 in bonus cash, and over 30 days he accumulates $224.40. Therefore Coral Poker’s award of 100% up to $600 is worth $27.60 per month more than Full Tilt Poker’s based on the play outlined above. (Of course, both bonuses are identical, and ABC can make the full $600 at either of these poker rooms. He’d just do it slightly quicker at Coral).