Gala Casino Poker Review

May 2012 Update: Gala Casino Poker has now left the Ongame network and is now part of Playtech’s iPoker network. Most of the below review is out of date and applies to the site as it was when it was a skin on the Ongame network.

Gala Casinos Poker is the poker site of Gala Casinos, which also offers bingo, casino games, live casino action and sports betting. All of the different wagering services can be accessed through GalaCasino.co.uk, a UK online casino owned and operated by Gala (Alderney) Limited, a subsidiary of Gala Coral Group Limited. Gala is the registered trade mark of Gala Group Investments Limited. Gala Casinos Poker is licensed by the Government of Gibraltar and regulated by the Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner.

In 2005, the Gala Group and Coral Eurobet merged and became the UK’s third largest bookmaker and largest bingo operator with main offices in Nottingham, where it oversees its more than 30 brick and mortar casinos and over 1,630 licensed betting offices. Gala Casino operates 20% of the UK live casino market through its outlets. Coral Poker is also operated by the Gala Group on the Ongame Network.

Gala Coral currently employs 18,000 people in the UK and is the leading fundraiser in the campaign by the Bingo industry that raises money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. The Gala Coral Group is also a founding member of the Nottinghamshire Cares scheme, an East Midlands employee volunteering program.

Two Deposit Bonus Options

Gala Casinos Poker offers only two deposit bonus choices. The sign-up bonuses are available only to customers of www.galabingo.com and www.galacasino.co.uk. Players with accounts at www.coral.co.uk and www.eurobet.com are not eligible to partake in the bonuses.

The smallest bonus available is set at $25 and can be obtained by depositing only $10. However, Gala will allow a minimum of $5 deposited or transferred from the casino or sports betting arm in order to obtain a $15 bonus. This meager bonus is clearly designed for low-stake casino players who might want to try their luck in the poker room. The $10 for $25 bonus works out to a 250% bonus, while the $5 for $15 is even better at 300%.

The second sign-up bonus choice is quite large at 100% up to $1,000. Both bonuses allow 45 days to clear and are paid off at the rate of 8 points per $1. Both bonuses are also paid in one lump sum, so if you deposited $1,000 to take advantage of the large bonus, make sure your amount of playing is enough to accumulate the 8,000 necessary points in the 45 days allowed or you won’t receive any bonus at all if time expires prior to you earning the required points.

But don’t forget, you can deposit any amount up to $1,000 and it will be matched at 100% by Gala Casinos Poker. For instance, a $300 deposit would require only 2,400 points to earn a $300 bonus.

Accumulating Points and Earning the Sign-up Bonus

If you did deposit $300 to avail of the 100% deposit bonus, the 2,400 points needed would be earned at the rate of 3.6 points per 1 U.S. dollar contributed in rake to each pot. The Ongame formula of rake times percent contributed to the pot multiplied by 3.6 gives you your total points earned per hand with a slight adjustment made as to the strength of your opposing players.

If you averaged pots raked at of $0.35 each hand you played, not merely dealt but actually played, and your pot contributions totalled 50% of those played hands, each hand would earn you .63 points. With those averages, about 3,810 played hands would earn the 2,400 points needed to add the $300 bonus to your bankroll.

Loyalty Rewards Program

Gala Casino Poker’s VIP program is identical to that of Coral Poker with seven different player levels. The first four levels base cashback bonuses and rewards on monthly VIP Poker Point totals, while the remaining top three levels use yearly totals. The beginning level is called Pair and consists of players who earn 1-999 Poker Points in a month.

Trips level is achieved at 1,000 monthly Poker Points, followed by the Straight and Flush player levels at 3,000 and 6,000 Poker Points, respectively. Accumulating 72,000 Poker Points in a 12-month period shoots you up to the first annual level known as Full House. Following that, 156,000 Poker Points establishes the Quads ranking and the Royal Flush Club allows members at 240,000 annual Poker Points accumulated.

Poker Points are then multiplied into VIP Points in a multiplier scheme that allows Trips level players to garner a monthly rate that is 1.5 times their Poker Point total. The remaining levels increase in multiplied rates of 2 for Straight level players, 2.5 for Flush ranked punters, and 3.75, 4.375 and 5 times for the yearly tiers of Full House, Quads and Royal Flush Club, respectively.

Cashback Benefits and Promos

First-time depositors at Gala Casinos Poker are awarded not one, but four tickets to play in four separate New Player Freerolls with a guaranteed prize pool of $500. New players are also automatically entered into a New Players Points Race that pays out $1,000 among the top 50 finishers in their first full month of play. Open to all players is the Monthly VIP Points Race that divides a whopping $10,000 in cash and prizes to the top 100 Poker Point earners.

The most important benefit is the Weekly Loyalty Bonus, which rewards Gala players with cashback bonuses. The cashback formula at Gala uses both Poker Point and VIP Point criteria to determine the cash bonuses. The way it works is you purchase a bonus in the Poker Points Shop depending on the amount of VIP Points that you have to spend. You then have 60 days in which to earn the set number of Poker Points to redeem the bonus.

So even though it’s billed as a Weekly Bonus, you can’t really collect extremely large bonuses every week because you still have to earn the requisite Poker Points after purchasing the bonus with VIP Points. It’s a bit confusing and could use some refinement and simplification by Gala Casinos Poker, truth be told.

In any event, Pair level players (or above) can redeem a $5 bonus with 25 VIP Points as long as 50 Poker Points are also earned. A $10 bonus can be had with 50 VIP Points and the accumulation of 100 Poker Points. At the Trips level, a $25 bonus is redeemable for 250 VIP Points and the same number of Poker Points.

A Straight-ranked player can pocket a $50 Weekly Bonus for 500 VIP and Poker Points. To pad your bankroll by $100, you must achieve the Full House level and earn 2,500 VIP Points and also amass 1,000 Poker Points. The highest $500 Weekly Bonus can be redeemed by a Trips-tiered player or above with 10,000 VIP points, with at least 4,000 Poker Points earned in the allotted 60 days.

In addition to the weekly cash bonuses, you can also purchase tickets to various tournaments with entry fees ranging from 25 cents to $55. Only VIP Points are needed for the tourney tickets and, unlike the Weekly Loyalty Bonus, an additional accumulation of Poker Points is not required.

Clear the Bonus and Move On

The Gala Coral Group has a stellar reputation throughout the UK with 85 years in the gaming industry with most of that coming, of course, from live casinos and betting shops. As far as online poker skins go, the deposit bonus of 100% up to $1,000 could be worth a look if you happen to be scouring the Ongame Network to take advantage of the sign-up bonuses offered by each skin. Eight points earned per dollar is a good rate considering that some skins require 14 points per $1 on large deposit bonuses of $1,000.

However, the loyalty program could be simplified somewhat. Purchasing a cash bonus with VIP Points and then needing to acquire more Poker Points to release the bonus is a scheme that many poker players will undoubtedly find distasteful. Unless you’re a casino player who wanders into the poker room from time to time to play a few poker hands recreationally, my recommendation would be to clear a hefty deposit bonus at Gala Casinos Poker, play the New Depositor Freerolls, and then move on to another skin on the Ongame Network.