Poker is a game that deftly combines skill and luck, and distills it in a way that produces competitive formats. Visited by poker players from around the world, the best online poker sites today provide poker aficionados with tremendous opportunities to play many popular variants of the game, participate in online poker tournaments, and more. Poker sites offer players real money games, a variety of tournaments, and not least, the opportunity to find a suitable poker format and game online.
More so than ever in the past, online poker has been enjoying rapid growth around the globe, seeing a significant jump in interest. Today, poker sites operate both as licensed domestic cardrooms as well as international establishments. The best poker networks support thousands of players active around the clock, creating a competitive and rewarding online poker environment. Today, we will take a closer look at what makes a poker site worthwhile and whether you should consider one brand over another.
Our Recommended Online Poker Rooms
Here is a list of the best online poker sites that have been reviewed and tested by our iGaming experts:
BetOnline Poker100% up to $1,000
Ignition Poker150% up to $1,500
Americas Cardroom Poker100% up to $1,000
Intertops Poker200% up to $1,000
Bovada Poker100% up to $500
How Do I Find the Best Online Poker Sites?
Finding a great online poker site is a combination of things. You ought to know where to look, but also – what to look for. One poker network can be much better than another and so can an online poker room. Yet, the best real money poker options aren’t so difficult to find, especially with so many reputable US poker sites available today.
There are established online poker sites, such as those we’ve listed above, where all important criteria are met and players have a variety of games, tournaments, and even some free play options to enjoy. Whether you are a player who is looking to buy in low-stake games or sit down at more challenging online poker tables, you will definitely have your options open. In light of this, how do you find the best online poker sites in the first place?
1. Check if They Are Licensed and Reputable
The first thing to look into when looking for a great online poker site is to see what others think about it. It may look a little unprofessional, but the poker community is close-knit, and you can usually find a valuable piece of information. Some poker sites keep coming up in discussions. Some players might provide a positive experience while others tend to look more favorably towards another poker site.
Either way, reputation plays a key part in determining what can be considered best online poker sites and what might be better left alone. Community-driven opinions are a viable source of information. They provide you with insight knowledge of poker sites and inform you about the cardroom’s specifics even before you have had a chance to play.
Licensing is another key aspect of trusting an online poker site. Knowing that an online poker room has been vetted and hand-picked as a trusted website guarantees long-term sustainability as a player. Many online poker rooms these days don’t necessarily have a license, but they still enjoy a favorable opinion among the community.
2. Make Sure They Have a Sustainable Player Base
One thing new players look favorably upon is the quality of the poker network. In most cases, players judge this based on the number of people playing. In a way, they are right. The more people you have around, the better the quality of the poker room must be. Most US poker networks these days get around 1,000 – 3,000 online players, depending on where you play. Some have much smaller communities, but still enough to entertain players and offer them a variety of games and tournaments.
Either way, players usually have a reason for playing at one online poker site over another. They either enjoy the quality of the cash games or, perhaps, they are there for the tournaments. Often, even low-traffic websites will post tournaments that can easily stretch to $2.5 – $3 million worth in cash prizes, so keep your eyes open.
3. Find Out if They Offer a Good Variety of Poker Games
Naturally, the selection of games plays another key part in determining the quality of an online poker room. Most players agree that Texas Hold’em and Omaha are usually must-haves, and they are. Whatever website you play at, these two games are always part of the selection of poker games.
Yet, online poker makes it very easy to find other versions. Brands such as PokerStars often come up with their own unique games. You will also witness such gems as Stud, Americana, and 32 Card Draw. Admittedly, not many people play these games, but some do, and it never hurts to have them.
4. Ensure They Support Your Preferred Deposit/Withdrawal Option
All poker sites will make sure to provide players with the smoothest and quickest banking experience they can. Part of this experience is how quickly you can deposit and withdraw real money from a poker site. Most poker sites focus on familiar payment methods that make it easy for new players to manage their money. These methods include:
- Credit cards
- Debit cards
- Wire transfer
- Check via courier
You can always find additional payment options that make it easy for poker players to move their funds in and out of a card room. Usually, deposits are transacted instantly, but it might take up to 24 hours or five business days to successfully cash out funds.
5. Verify That the T&Cs Behind the Bonuses Are Fair
Just as importantly, new players are always looking for the best real money poker opportunities. One such is the welcome bonus and any deposit bonus for that matter. Online poker sites will make sure to feature enough poker promos so you can have a field day playing. What matters the most to a bonus is a good clearance rate as well as fair terms and conditions so that you can clear the promotion quickly.
Online Poker Bonuses and Promotions
Finding the right poker site often means looking into the available bonus options. Whether you are looking for a simple deposit bonus or want a great welcome bonus deal, the best online poker sites will usually provide you with sufficient opportunities. Standard online poker bonuses include a 100% match offer when you first deposit. Some card rooms request a bonus code, but most let you deposit right away and collect your funds as you keep playing.
Sometimes, a poker site will offer a no deposit bonus, which can be claimed right away, without the need to deposit at all. This bonus is still bound to the poker room’s terms and conditions, though, so keep this in mind. Last but not least, you have some exclusive promotions, such as generous reload deposit bonuses, VIP and loyalty offers.
One particular twist of the deposit poker bonus, though, is how you redeem and clear the bonus. Poker sites allow you to claim the bonus funds in increments, making for a gradual and smooth release of all funds.
Clearing Your Online Poker Bonus
The process of making your bonus available for withdrawal is called “clearing”. To clear your poker bonuses, you’ll either have to generate a certain amount of rake or earn a certain number of player points.
Some sites will allow you to clear your bonuses in increments. For example, if you received a $100 bonus, it will be cleared $5 – $10 at a time as you earn the required points. Other sites will make you wait until you’ve cleared the entire bonus before releasing the full amount.
What Are the Best Poker Sites for Beginners?
New players might often feel a little intimidated by a poker site. With so many numbers whirling around, and hundreds of games to pick from, most people find themselves out of their depth. But these numbers will quickly make sense, even if you are a new player.
There are some common features most people look for no matter what their familiarity or skill level in poker is. Here are some of the things a new player would want and expect to see at a top card room:
- A good first deposit bonus and variety of recurring promotions
- Many low and mid-stake Texas Hold’em games
- Low-stake tournaments a player can buy in without spending too much
- A high number of games and good overall traffic allowing to play any time of the day
- Making it easy for new players to avoid predatory behavior
- A spotless reputation and an environment free of attempted cheats
Any new player tries to play at the best poker sites out there and this includes meeting the above standards in full. The good news is that US players have many domestic and offshore options that allow them to find a great environment in which they can thrive. With a few pointers, you will be playing at the best poker sites in no time at all.
What Is a Poker Rake?
As is the case with land-based poker rooms, online poker sites charge you rake for playing in cash games and tournaments. Depending on the type of activity that you’re taking part in, the way that the operator collects rake will change.
In cash games, a small percentage of every pot contributes to the rake, which will vary based on the type of game and the number of players who are at the table. At some of the best online poker sites, there is no rake charge if no flop is dealt.
When you’re playing in online poker tournaments, the rake is charged when you register for the event. It is not determined per hand. If you rebuy, then an additional rake may be charged.
Sometimes, the rake is returned back to players. At the best online poker sites, some of the rake will be rewarded to you as part of the operator’s rewards programs.
Different Online Poker Tournaments to Look Out For
Poker is a competitive game by nature. online poker has taken this to the next level. Unrestrained by physical distances and time zones, online poker rooms can offer players a quality experience around the clock. Part of this experience is featuring some of the best poker tournaments.
They are all played for real money, although the assortment of prizes could feature tournament tickets and even a pre-paid trip to the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas. There are six main types of tournaments today, with their variations, that an online poker site will usually offer to poker players.
Sit n Gos
Sit n Go tournaments are exactly what they sound like. Whenever the maximum number of players sit at the tournament table, the event will begin. The number of players varies from tournament to tournament. In these games, the prize pool is relatively small, as the number of entries is limited.
Freezeouts are the most popular poker tournaments online. You pay your buy-in and are allocated a number of chips. Once you’ve depleted your balance, you’re out of the event and there’s no option to enter in once again.
Rebuy and Multi-buy
The opposite of freezeouts, rebuy and multi-buy tournaments allow you to buy back in for a small price if you’re eliminated. These types of tournaments attract many more runners and they last for quite a while – so, they’re not for impatient players.
These are fast-paced tournaments where the blinds increase much faster than they would in a standard tournament. In regular tournaments, blind levels last about 10 to 15 minutes – but in Turbo competitions, they can be as short as 5.
Satellite tournaments offer players the chance to win entry into bigger tournaments with more generous prizes up for grabs. For example, a satellite tournament that costs just $5 to enter could provide you with entry into a larger event with a $10 000 prize available that would normally cost $50 to play.
One of the best parts of playing poker online is that that you can take part in tournaments that do not require any entry free. These are called freerolls and the best poker sites will have plenty of them on offer.
Mobile Poker Sites: Play Poker on the Go
The best poker sites these days make sure they offer the full gamut of options. Part of that is running a mobile-friendly online poker room. Today, you can play online by using your browser or downloading dedicated software. In the case of a mobile poker site, this could be a poker app. There is no difference in the quality of gameplay between a mobile and desktop poker room, as most poker sites try to deliver a universal experience across the board.
While in the past playing from a handheld device was a bit limiting, due to the lack of enough poker games, these days it’s perfectly fine to play real money poker games from your mobile. You can play Omaha or Texas Hold’em, or even join an online poker tournament. Of course, some players don’t feel entirely comfortable partaking in poker tournaments on the go, and they stick to desktop devices. It’s a matter of preference these days, but you can rest assured mobile poker sites have got it right.
Legal Online Poker Sites – Legality of Poker Worldwide
For the longest time, the legality of online poker has been a contentious issue. Perhaps, the most difficult industry of all is online poker, and there are many reasons for that. Yet, poker sites have adapted, and many online poker options in America are completely legal today. We will take a look at the main jurisdictions where you can play poker these days, and comment on their specifics, not just in the USA, but around the world, too.
Regulation in Canada and the UK
The United Kingdom is one of the coziest places to play poker. Players there enjoy access to established and trusted poker networks, real money tournaments, and generally some of the best bonuses. Poker sites in the UK usually are busy, attracting a decent number of players. You will find poker sites in the country hosting multi-million tournaments, too.
Canada is also another great place where you can play online poker and do so freely. In fact, many US players often come up North to participate in poker tournaments or relocate more permanently to play online. Both countries offer aspiring poker players the opportunity to play as much as they wish without having to worry about withdrawing their funds or being disqualified.
Online Poker in the USA
Online poker in the United States could give you a bit of a headache – or so used to be the case. These days, however, US players are enjoying a fairly vibrant community around America, and many online poker sites have arrived to offer a viable alternative to offshore card rooms. Online poker is legal in five states presently, including:
- New Jersey
There is a very big “if,” here though, as US poker is growing at an unprecedented pace. Michigan and West Virginia, for example, have recently passed laws, and by the time you read this, there might have been other changes we will try to reflect here to the best of our ability.
However, back to US poker, these four states currently share something called a “liquidity,” which means that most players from these states can play in a common pool. This has allowed US players to play for bigger and better prizes, enjoy more tournaments, and generally have access to the best poker rooms there are.
Offshore Reliance for Australia
Australia is a different kettle of fish altogether. The country doesn’t regulate any poker sites, which has made it somewhat difficult for players to find trustworthy poker rooms. They have repeatedly turned to offshore websites, even though many of these sites have been the subject of a government crackdown.
However, as mentioned before, reputation plays a key role here, and while US players can at least nip out to a neighboring state or travel up to Canada, Australians have to rely on the poker community’s recommendations. Still, there are some poker sites you can play in Australia without having to worry much.
What’s an Offshore Poker Site and Can You Trust It?
An offshore poker room is usually located beyond a specific jurisdiction’s reach. Whether this is Curacao or Panama, there is no real difference between going to these destinations and playing there, and staying home and joining a poker site located there. The only downside is that because of their remoteness, some US players find it more difficult to trust such a website.
However, the online poker industry is now over 20 years old, and this means you can find plenty of reliable and worthwhile poker room options. Much of the same criteria you find in regular poker site brands apply. You still expect a decent welcome bonus, the availability of reload deposit bonuses, and to find many players to play with.
Traffic, reputation, and not least the speed of banking will all play their crucial part in determining if you can trust a poker site. Having access to game versions such as Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and many others. Surprisingly, many players falsely suspect that there isn’t much to do at an offshore poker site, but these card rooms are bringing together thousands of players and often distribute millions worth of money every week.
So, is an offshore poker site worth your while? The best of them surely are. The inherent downside, though, is to make sure that you have found those best online poker sites in the first place.
Real Money Poker vs Free Money Poker
For those of you who are looking for real money poker sites, there are plenty of options. There is another breed of player, though, and he or she usually prefers a more recreational form of poker. This is alright, as there are many websites that will offer you free versions of Hold’em.
These websites are perfect if you are a new player who is looking to find his or her bearings in the competitive world of poker. You can practice and pick a few memory tricks. However, even the least experienced player will quickly realize that most people in these free money games don’t put much effort into trying to win.
Often, there are some mistakes that will stick out like a sore thumb. What’s important here is for a player to keep a mental distance from picking bad habits from the start.
Want to Know More?
The online poker world is vast, and we could go on about online poker for days – but, we’ll let you take it from here. If you want to know more about the game of poker and learn additional strategies, here are some recommendations for further reading/watching:
Every Hand Revealed
Gus Hansen is one of the best poker players in the world, and you can get an incredible insight into game strategy by reading his book. Bet Raise Fold offers a breakdown of the hands Hansen played en route to the 2007 Aussie Millions, where he took down the main event.
It’s a great read for intermediate players who want to learn more about the game from the perspective of an accomplished pro. Every Hand Revealed can really help you polish up your own strategy by learning from one of the best players in the poker market.
Bet Raise Fold
Watching this documentary is a must for any online poker fan. This film takes a look at the origin and evolution of poker in the digital world while following the poker careers of three individuals: a young mother who plays online to support her family, a Las Vegas tournament pro and a mathematics prodigy who uses his poker winnings to travel around the world.
Small Stakes No Hold’Em
This book by Ed Miller is considered a must-read for a novice poker player. It is a step-by-step poker guide that offers up practical examples that will help beginner players get to know the game and perfect their personal strategies.
The Biggest Bluff
The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova is a look into the psychology of poker players. In researching the book, Konnikova decided to play poker herself.
Finding the best online poker site often takes a bit of looking around. Thankfully, most sites have been around for a while now, so locating a trusted operator isn’t that much of a challenge anymore. Yet, it always helps to keep in mind the few time-tested poker pearls of wisdom that can help you tell if certain poker sites are better than others. Whether you are looking for a great first deposit bonus, trying to find a specific version of Hold’em, or just want to make sure that the website accepts US players, there is always a trusted brand out there waiting for you.
Yes, online poker in the United States is already legal. You can play at a state-licensed poker room in four states right now. Nevertheless, you can still play from any state in the United States.
Yes. Legitimate websites exist. They are licensed by national regulators and sometimes – offshore authorities. Most people agree that online poker sites that hold a national or state license are those to be considered legitimate. However, offshore brands have also proven themselves as legit sites over time.
Each poker site has something specific to it. A new player needs a variety of things to make an online poker room work. And so, most beginners look for flexible buy-ins, generous low-stake tournaments, great welcome, and first deposit bonuses.
PokerStars has a reputation as the world’s largest poker room and it is often cited as the top destination to enjoy poker. Most people tend to agree that the site offers some of the best poker options while others like it, but still prefer to play elsewhere. Some players even choose to stick with offshore brands.
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