What is the Best Online Poker Site?
It's not news to anybody that there are a lot of different online poker rooms to choose from. Picking the right one can be pretty difficult since they all want to promote themselves as being the best for various reasons.
In reality, the best site is going to be different from player to player because different people need different things. Instead of turning it into a popularity contest, we want to show you how to take into consideration the different metrics of poker rooms and decide for yourself what is the most important for your own personal situation.
There are three main considerations that you need to have when it comes to the software used. Note that some poker rooms use the same software, and this leads to playing with the same player pool. Along these lines, the three main considerations in this group are the software itself, the games available in that software and the traffic available for those games.
Poker Room Traffic
The ecology of poker requires that you need a certain number of players at each level to be able to have enough tables running that people will want to stay loyal. PokerStars has the most traffic by far and dominates the market on this particular point. Along these lines, you'll be able to play just about any game there at any level of stakes with plenty of tables to choose from.
|Poker Room||Peak Traffic||Average Traffic|
|Full Tilt Poker||2,400||1,500|
This chart gives a quick overview of five of the top online poker sites in terms of traffic.
Software and Game Selection
Most top sites these days have software that features all of the major options that you're going to need to have a good overall experience. When someone asks what is the best online poker site, you'll have to think about how many tables you want to play at one time and if you want to play Fast Fold Poker variants. These are the main components of the decision that are based on software selection.
If you want to play more than eight tables at a time, then you will need to stick to the software at PokerStars. This is the only main consideration you have with software other than game selection.
When it comes to game selection, you just have to look at each site and see what they have available. Almost all of the major variations like Holdem, Omaha, cash games and tournaments are available at all of the major sites these days, so it's hard to find an advantage in that area for one room over another.
However, if you're looking to play games like Five Card Draw or Seven Card Stud that don't usually get as much play, then you'll need to scout the tables before signing up since traffic for those games can vary so much.
Aside from the software and popularity of the rooms, there are also a number of other things that contribute to how good of an experience you're going to have at any given poker site. These things include customer service, the strength of your opponents, and promotions like bonuses and rakeback.
Because your money and your experience are tied together in making sure that you're able to enjoy the games without any problems, customer service is extremely important for most players. Along these lines, consider the following evaluation of the support available at a number of different sites:
- Black Chip Poker tends to be the best. They are fast and helpful with responses the vast majority of the time, and they always help you to resolve your issues.
- Support from Bovada, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker is in the above-average category. Some of their responses seem canned, and they aren't as fast as Black Chip Poker, but they are always helpful.
- Americas Cardroom, Carbon Poker and Paddy Power all have average customer support. They will help you with whatever issues you are having, but it might take them a few days to get things sorted out.
Customer service is just one factor to consider among many when determining the best online poker site, but it's a particularly important one because it can act as a bottleneck when it comes to being able to enjoy the rest of what an online poker room has to offer.
The Strength of the Opposition
While it's clear that PokerStars has the most traffic, they also have some of the hardest games anywhere. The ratio of super-serious players to recreational players is particularly unfavorable there, and that's why traffic can't be the number one consideration that is more important than everything else.
If you want the best chances of making money, you have to get as big of an advantage as you can against your opponents. That often means seeking out weaker competition.
You're typically going to find the weakest competition at sites that also have other types of gambling like an online casino, sportsbook or bingo room. This includes sites like Bovada and Paddy Power in particular. This is also why you find the most difficult games at PokerStars in part because poker is all that they offer, so you don't get people who are just trying out new games as often.
Recreationals prefer Bovada Poker for its anonymous tables where no screennames are displayed.
Promotions and Rakeback
As a poker player, you're going to pay in a significant amount of money to the site in the form of rake. This is how poker rooms make money to provide the games you enjoy, so it can be seen as a necessary evil.
However, almost all of them give you options for getting back a significant amount of this money, and the better your options, the more likely you are to be an overall winning player. Therefore, the best online poker site is going to be the one that gives you the most value for the stakes you play and your particular playing habits.
One type of value you can get is in the form of a welcome bonus or reload bonuses. These are essentially bonus offers you can get in exchange for a deposit, and maxing out the value of these deals is critical. On the other hand, you can also get value from rakeback and rewards programs.
|Poker Room||Rakeback||Maximum Bonus||Overall Value||Notes|
|Black Chip Poker||27 percent||$1,000||High||Good for all players|
|PokerStars||Rewards Program*||$600||Varies||Bad for low-volume players|
|Carbon Poker||Rewards Program**||$5,010||Medium||Good value until bonus is cleared|
|Full Tilt Poker||Rewards Program***||$600||Varies||Medium for most players|
* The PokerStars rewards program is very top-heavy, but can give up to 74% effective rakeback if you get in enough volume. This is not ideal for low-volume players.
** The Carbon Poker rewards program gives a minimal amount of value. However, the large potential deposit bonus means that this is a good deal if you want to play at this site for the short-term only.
*** The Full Tilt Poker rewards program is better for low-volume and medium-volume players. However, it doesn't give as much value to high-volume players as PokerStars.
High rakeback room Black Chip also accepts signups from the US.