# Online Poker: Where To Play? ## Overview In the past two decades, online poker has emerged as a viable alternative for traditional brick and mortar poker rooms and casinos. The advantages for online players are obvious - convenience, game selection, ability to play multiple tables at once or, for some, ability to play at all, etc. - and the numbers reflect that: In a testimony before the United States Senate regarding Internet Gaming in 2011, Grant Eve, a Certified Public Accountant representing the US Accounting Firm Joseph Eve, Certified Public Accountants, estimated that one in every four dollars gambled is gambled online. Although finding reliable more recent statistics for online gambling is difficult due to the variance in regulations and reporting across jurisdictions, we can reasonably assume that this ratio has only increased with the advancement of technology and the growth in popularity of the game itself. ## Traditional Poker Networks The vast majority of online poker traffic occurs on just a few major "networks". A poker network is a collection of individual companies, or "skins", that pool their players together to create a larger poker room. Think of a car dealership: each store sells effectively the same vehicles, but each have different special offers and levels of customer service. The largest and most popular online poker networks today are: ### [PokerStars](https://www.pokerstars.com/) PokerStars is the largest and busiest online poker site in the world. On most weeks, it generates more traffic than all the other West-facing poker sites combined. It offers a very complete internet poker experience: tournaments, cash games, live events – if you want it, they probably have it. Many consider PokerStars the gold standard in online poker. * Pros: * Largest poker site in the world (by far) * Excellent selection of games to play * High-stakes cash games around the clock * The most satellites to the WSOP * Great software, slick graphics, outstanding reliability * Cons: * Competition is generally tougher than average * Increasing rake * Decreasing player rewards * Average customer service (no live-chat support, email-only) ### [Full Tilt Poker](http://www.fulltilt.com/) Full Tilt Poker was launched in 2004 and quickly became one of the largest and most successful poker sites in history. The entire site came crashing to the ground in 2011, however, when the company was unable to pay back its players after the events of Black Friday. Former rival PokerStars finally stepped in and purchased the site and paid back all players in a spectacular industry-defining move. Today, Full Tilt is as strong as ever (perhaps even better than ever with PokerStars-level security, and finances, and software). The site also offers a complete casino, which draws the attention of many casual gamblers. If you’re looking for a site with soft competition and direct ties to the biggest poker room in the industry, then I suggest giving FullTilt a try. * Pros: * Very creative and innovative selection of games * Great software, slick graphics, outstanding reliability * Backed by PokerStars, the largest and most popular poker network in the world * Cons: * Softer competition than PokerStars, but still better than average * Increasing rake * Average customer service (no live-chat support, email-only) ### [888 Poker](https://888poker.com) 888 Poker is the world’s second largest online poker site. Launched in 1997, it has grown to become one of the best and most trusted poker sites in the industry. Over 25 million registered players have taken advantage and create a very steady traffic flow at all games and stakes. 888 Poker has its own version of the ultra-popular fast-fold poker variant called SNAP poker that can be played both in Cash game and Tournament formats. It’s designed to reduce waiting time by dealing you new cards the instant you fold. 888 is not for players who are higher-stakes tournament junkies who expect to play with pros at the tables. It’s known for having relatively softer players and high quality cash games. * Pros: * Second in player traffic worldwide * Still one of the softer poker rooms online, drawing above-average flop percentages * Instant Play option with no download required * Fast-fold tournaments * Sponsor of WSOP with lots of satellites * Cons: * Tournament schedule isn’t the best * Does not block HUDs (heads up displays) * Relatively slow withdrawals (72 hours) * Questionable exchange rates ### [Ignition Poker](https://www.ignitioncasino.eu/poker) Ignition Poker is the re-branded poker wing from Bovada, formerly Bodog. They have deep roots, having launched under Bodog during the heart of the poker boom in 2004. Ignition is the largest and most popular US poker network by far, trailing only PokerStars and 888 Poker for the largest in the world. Ignition is known to be one of the softest sites due to having anonymous tables that do not allow long-term player tracking with databases. They’re also one of the only US sites offering mobile gameplay, and their payout reputation is unmatched. Sick of tight games, payout worries, and bare tables? Ignition Poker is probably your best choice. However, the network comes with its flaws as well. The Ignition Poker software still launches and loads a blank lobby at times, and the only way to resolve it is to close and reopen the software. Users have reported that they’ve experienced occasional freezing both in the middle of and in between hands both on mobile and desktop. They’ve also been operating without an official gaming license: Bovada and Bodog operated for years under the Kahnawake Gaming Commission License originating in Quebec, they (and all US-facing online gaming sites) lost that license back in 2016. * Pros: * Largest US network by traffic * Fish-friendly, competition relatively not as tough * Mobile software for cash games * Fast payouts, free first payout per month for any method of withdrawal * Cons: * Increasing rake levels * Servers occasionally freeze during games * No multi-table tournaments on mobile * No official license ### [Party Poker](https://www.partypoker.com/) Party Poker is a long-time stalwart of the poker gaming industry. Cash games, tournaments, Fast Forward Poker (fast-fold poker), and sit & go tournaments are accessible wherever and whenever through their highly rated mobile apps. Over the past few years, Party Poker has been heavily focusing on recreational players in response to the almost-irreparable tightening of cash games offered across the industry. All of their cash games are anonymous: as a result, many pros have turned away because of the inability to run poker tracking software and the playing field has been leveled significantly. It also offers fantastic bonuses and promotions. * Pros: * Long-standing room with tradition * Decent cash game traffic, excellent tournament schedule * Offer anonymous tables that eliminate pros from tracking you * Excellent mobile client * Reliable support available via numerous channels * Cons * Almost non-existent VIP program * Some users have reported connection issues * Tournaments are not anonymous ### [Winning Poker Network](https://www.americascardroom.eu/) The Winning Poker Network, or WPN, has been around for many years under many different names. Their flagship site, America’s Cardroom, has been around since the early days of online poker. It is currently the 2nd largest provider of US-friendly cash games and tournaments, and the only American provider of the popular variable prize pool sit and go format, dubbed “JackPot Poker”. The WPN is incredibly generous to their players in terms of rakeback, VIP programs, and rake races. Players can choose between earning a flat 27% rakeback or participating in the generous WPN benefits program (recommended for grinders as many exceed 27% in rewards fairly quickly). * Pros * Second largest player pool out of any US facing site * Known to be one of the softest US facing site due to having anonymous tables that do not allow long-term player tracking with databases * Quick payouts (and free first payout per month for any method of withdrawal) * Cons * A maximum of 4 tables may be played simultaneously; this applies to both cash games and sit-and-goes * Hand Histories only available for download for 7 days * Almost all tournaments allow re-buys * No mobile software * Does not block HUDs (heads up displays) ### [Chico Poker Network](https://www.tigergaming.com/) The Chico Poker Network has become increasingly popular over the past few years due to its recreational player infested cash games and appeal to SNG/MTT grinders. It is currently the 3rd most popular network for USA residents, partly due to the fact that it is one of the few networks that services all 50 states. The most popular network-owned skins are [Tiger Gaming](https://www.tigergaming.com/), [BetOnline](https://www.betonline.ag/), and [Sportsbetting](https://www.sportsbetting.ag/). * Pros: * Relatively weak cash game competition * Third largest US player traffic; services all 50 states * Bad Beat Jackpot and 4 Of A Kind Bonuses * Cons: * Tournament selection is mediocre * Mediocre software * Video evidence of possible dealer cheating at live Blackjack at BetOnline * High withdrawal threshold ($100 minimum) and fee (starts at a $40 fee for a $100-$200 withdrawal amount) ## Problems With Traditional Online Poker Networks However, many of these traditional online poker networks have had their fair share of scandals and critics over the years. Rumors of fraud, insider cheating, collusion, operator insolvency, and insecurity of user funds have riddled the space since its inception. As a result, many players distrust traditional online poker rooms: surveys have shown that two-thirds of Americans do not trust any agency to provide fair and secure online poker. ## Crypto Poker In 2012, the blockchain-based game Satoshi Dice introduced two revolutionary concepts to the online gambling world: 1) the possibility of checking every single result through a provably fair feature and 2) the ability for users to control their own funds at all times. But only recently have we began unlocking the technology’s full potential for games of skill like poker. Crypto poker is still in the very early stages of development. Very few of them have launched (Nitrogen, CoinPoker, Crypto Poker Club), some have working betas available to the public (Pokereum, Blockchain Poker, Oddslingers), but most are still in development (Virtue Poker, etc.). Because of this, the number of active online crypto poker players are very limited (a few hundred per site at most). With that said, it's likely to become the future of online poker given its inherent trustworthiness and advantages over traditional centralized poker networks. So be on the lookout for further development of these projects! Some of the biggest names in this space are: ### [Cubeia Network](http://www.cubeia.com/cubeia-poker/) The Cubeia Poker platform powers [Global Poker](https://globalpoker.com/) and [Nitrogen](https://nitrogensports.eu/), the latter being one of the most popular crypto poker sites on the Internet. Nitrogen offers a full sportsbook and casino (dice, baccarat, blackjack, three card poker, and slots) as well as a very solid poker room. All players are required to register and create accounts, but all accounts are anonymous and all deposits, withdrawals, and wagers are handled in Bitcoin (BTC). * Pros * Anonymous accounts * Very well-regarded sportsbook * Quick, free deposits and withdrawals * Software is tried and tested; poker room is live and working * Every wager is handled solely in Bitcoin (BTC) * Game selection (Texas Hold'em, Telesina, Crazy Hold'em, Five-card Stud, Seven-card Stud) * Tournaments live and running * Cons * Doubts about the system's provably fairness (player suspicions) ### [CoinPoker](https://coinpoker.com/) CoinPoker is a cryptocurrency-based online poker site launched in November 2017 that utilizes its own native CHP tokens. These tokens operate according to Ethereum-based, smart contract cryptocurrency protocols. It is the first crypto poker platform to launch a Crypto Series of Poker (CSOP) tournament event. * Pros * Software is tried and tested; poker room is live and working * Android mobile app * CHP tokens listed on several exchanges (largest being KuCoin) * Team identities and biographies online; more credibility * Cons * No mobile app for iOS (coming soon) * Users must use CHP tokens; transferring fiat currency to CHP can be complicated for users unfamiliar with cryptocurrency exchanges * CHP token value can fluctuate greatly due to lack of liquidity ### [Pokereum](https://www.pokereum.io/) Pokereum is a decentralized poker DApp that uses smart contract and client side cryptography to provide efficient, provably fair, secure and decentralized global poker. It was the first poker DApp to be announced (late 2013) and is the oldest poker program in the Ethereum ecosystem. A demo version is out and working. However, news and development updates have stalled out recently, and rumors of a lack of continued funding has quieted the project. * Pros * First poker Ethereum-based DApp * Working Demo version * Cons * Not many recent updates; social media accounts quiet * Rumors of project development becoming defunct * Anonymous team; questionable credibility? ### [Blockchain Poker](https://blockchain.poker/) Blockchain Poker is an online poker room that opened in 2017. It's currently a working BETA. Players are pseudonymous, meaning that the platform does not store identifiable information about its players -- this both allows players to retain their privacy and protects them in the event of a data breach. Currently, players can only sit down instantly at a single-table No-Limit Texas Hold'em cash game, playing with chips representing real Bitcoins (BTC) or Bitcoin Cash (BCH). Each chip is worth one satoshi (1/100,000,000th of a bitcoin). There are no other features other than a seldom-used chatroom. * Pros * There are no sign-ups, which means players can remain anonymous * New players are automatically awarded free satoshis to play with, allowing anyone to jump in and play * Aggressive rake caps and rakeback * Players can choose to play with either Bitcoin (BTC) or Bitcoin Cash (BCH) * Cons * Only option is to play a single-table No-Limit Texas Hold'em cash game; no other features at all * Virtually no players * No mobile app support * Anonymous team; questionable credibility? ### [OddSlingers](https://beta.oddslingers.com/) OddSlingers is a platform powered by blockchain and distributed ledger technology that will allow people to securely place real-time wagers on poker, eSports, and other games of skill. It is currently in process of securing a legal gaming license in the Isle of Man. They currently offer a play-chip poker platform in beta. Several active tables are available for players to choose from, each differing in minimum buy-in amounts, blinds, and game type. They currently offer no-limit Hold'em, no-limit Bounty, and pot-limit Omaha. * Pros * Strong legal foundation: will be fully licensed unlike most crypto poker and gambling platforms * Good game selection for a crypto poker platform * Very interesting live-streaming, real-time wager concept * Open-sourced code * Team identities and biographies online; more credibility * Cons * Cannot yet play with real money (play chips only) ### [Crypto Poker Club](https://cryptopokerclub.io/) Crypto Poker Club (CPC) is a crypto poker platform that launched on April 2018. Their goals are to "transform the online poker industry by being more secure, fairer and providing higher profitability compared to traditional poker rooms". They've built their own proprietary random number generating system that "utilizes Quantum Properties & Blockchain Hashes" to shuffle cards fairly. CPC offers both a web and Windows client where players can choose between Hold'em and Omaha cash and tournament games with Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH). * Pros * Platform has launched * Web and Windows clients * Guaranteed <5% rake * 3x Freerolls every day * Up to 50% rakeback * Cons * Not many players * No mobile app support * Anonymous team; questionable credibility? ### [Virtue Poker](https://virtue.poker/) Virtue Poker is a P2P decentralized poker platform built using Ethereum. The project plans to remove deposit risks by using Ethereum smart contracts to escrow tournament buy-ins and automatically distribute winnings based on outcomes. Furthermore, a cryptographic p2p protocol will reportedly be used to ensure that all players on a table take part in card shuffling, and that the shuffled deck does not remain on a central server. The Virtue Poker platform will be governed by an ERC223-compliant token, called VPP. VPP will serve as the in-game currency on the platform, it may also be staked in the Justice System’s registry, giving a token holder the permission to act as a Justice. Thirdly, players on the platform can access special tournaments using VPP. No working product has been released yet. * Pros * Strong advisor team from the crypto sphere + three professional poker stars: Joe Lubin, Andrew Keys, Dan Colman, Phil Ivey, Brian Rast, etc. * ConsenSys incubated company * Cons * No working product yet (private alpha scheduled for late-May, 2018)
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