Online Poker Sites
The one thing there is no shortage of in the online poker industry are places to play! There seems to be a new online poker room launching every week, and when added to the long list of current poker sites in operation, potential online poker players will have hundreds of sites to choose from.
In this article I will breakdown the most important factors you should be looking at when trying to find your first online poker room, or for a player who may be looking for a new home. Forget what pros play there, which sites sponsor tournaments around the globe or televised poker shows, and focus on the really important factors that should go into your decision.
The following factors aren’t the only considerations you should take into account when choosing an online poker site, but they are among the most critical, and will have the biggest impact on your long-term profits at the site as well as your enjoyment during the time you play there. It’s also important to consider your location when looking at all the factors. This is mainly due to the restrictions places on players from the US. Due to the lack of choice for US players its usually pretty easy to workout which is the best US poker sites for you. From the top of my head i think we only recommend half a dozen US poker sites. BetOnline now have a poker site which is pretty solid if you have to play from the US.
So here is a look at some of the most important factors you should be considering when you join an online poker site:
Does the site offer a competitive First-Time Deposit Bonus?
The first thing you notice when you visit any online poker room is their sign-up bonus. The sign-up bonus gives you two advantages: You get a good deposit bonus for yourself, and casual players are attracted to these big numbers and join these sites.
On the whole deposit bonuses typically pay the same amount per hand as a rakeback deal, and most sites will not allow players to take advantage of both at the same time –players will earn their deposit bonus and then their rakeback deal will kick in when the deposit bonus is completed if they receive both.
Does the site reward me with long-term rewards?
As nice as the one-time deposit bonus is the real money for long-term players are in the lifetime rewards: VIP Loyalty Programs, Rakeback Deals, and Reload Bonuses.
The great thing about rakeback, and what makes far more important for serious poker players than a deposit bonus is the fact that a rakeback deal is for life. In the end rakeback works out to about the same amount of profit per hand as a deposit bonus, so even though the appeal of a $1,000 bonus is far more enticing than 30% of the rake you pay at a table: In the end your rakeback deal will far exceed the amount of the initial deposit bonus you get.
That said, unlike a deposit bonus that entices casual players, sites that offer rakeback deals tend to attract high-volume “nitty” players. So, there as plusses and minuses to both deposit bonuses and rakeback deals, but in the end players can usually land both deals.
If a poker site offers a rakeback deal (always through an affiliate, you will never find rakeback details at an online poker site’s homepage) and you are a serious, long-term winning, poker player it is utterly foolish to play without a rakeback deal. Rakeback is absolutely free money, all you do is join a site through the appropriate channels and you get extra money! If you were going to play anyway, you might as well receive a rakeback deal.
VIP Rewards Program
VIP Reward Programs are the new rakeback in poker. Most sites have switched to casino-style comps for their players that allow them to incentivize a player into playing more hands and higher stakes as they climb the VIP Rewards ladder.
VIP Rewards work in the same manner as a rakeback deal, players will earn Frequent Player Points based on the amount of hands and stakes they play (usually calculated by the rake generated) and these FPP’s can then be used to purchase prizes, tournament tickets, or even receive cash.
If you are a casual or low-volume player than a rakeback deal will usually give you the most bang for your buck (generally around 30% rakeback): For high-volume consistent players the VIP Rewards Programs can offer as much as 40% cash-back (the same as rakeback), making the VIP Program the more important factor.
Some sites also offer frequent reload bonuses which are basically ongoing first-time sign-up bonuses. Reload bonuses are usually for less money, but can still be very profitable in the long run. Reload bonuses are for the most part a thing of the past, but from time to time you will come upon a reload bonus, usually centered on some milestone in the site’s history.
Does the site provide a Safe and Secure place to play?
Go to any online poker sites homepage and scroll down to the very bottom of the page. Now look for the logo of the site’s regulatory body and where they hold licenses. Now quickly go to these sites and see what kind of standing the online poker site is in. That’s it; that’s all it takes to make sure a poker room is licensed and regulated by a credible body.
Not only should you be looking for an online poker room that is licensed and regulated by a reputable regulatory body, but you should also be checking into a site’s track-record as it pertains to allegations from cheating to slow deposit and withdrawal speeds.
There are plenty of outlets that will give you a quick understanding of how the poker community as a whole feels about a particular online poker room, and what past problems they may have had. Remember, not every allegation is founded in reality (especially when it pertains to being “rigged”), but a site that has 90% negative feedback should be viewed with a bit of skepticism.
Does the site’s software have the functions and features I want?
There are a number of things that can turn a player off to a poker room’s software:
Everything from the color scheme to lag or choppy software could drive you absolutely crazy while you are playing online poker. If you’re unhappy with the look or feel of a poker site than you will never be happy playing there; bad beats quickly turn into grumblings about the color scheme or the choppy software, which will only add to your tilt level.
Believe it or not something as innocuous as the sounds certain software makes can really grate on you. Certain sounds can not only be distracting if they are annoying (think nails on a chalkboard) but can also be a bit mesmerizing and hypnotic; tyo the point where some players actually get caught up in the gambling atmosphere created by these sounds –the same tactics Brick & Mortar casinos use to keep players gambling.
If you regularly play 12 tables at a time and a site only offers a maximum of 8 tables then you are going to have a problem. Also, if you are use to a certain function, like a hand history replayer or note-taking option; a sit-here feature or resizable tables; then you need to make sure the site you are checking out has the features you require.
Does the site have adequate Game Selection and a large Player Pool?
A poker site is only as good as the games it offers and the player base it has. If the site doesn’t have enough players, or the games and stakes you play what good is it to join the site?
Before you join any online poker room you should always make sure the site offers the game and stakes you intend to play, and that the site also has a large enough player pool for these games. Remember, if you multi-table Omaha 8 or better your options will be far more limited than a player who is a NLHE player –only a few sites may have enough players for your needs as an O8 practitioner whereas the NLHE player will have greater flexibility.
Does the site offer deposit and withdrawal options available to me?
This is an often overlooked aspect of choosing an online poker site, but in the end it could be one of the most important. Imagine if you join a poker site because you think their rakeback deal is slightly better than another site’s VIP program, BUT what if every cash-out on the site has a $25 charge and the other site doesn’t?
You’ll also want to check and see if your credit card or an online payment processor you use is accepted at the site before joining. Depending on where you are located in the world it could take weeks to setup a payment option that the site accepts, and heavy fees may be incurred with each deposit.
So there you have it, some of the most important factors to consider before you sign-up at an online poker site. From here on out we will provide you with our choices for the best online poker rooms on the Internet, taking into accounts all of the above factors as well as some other factors that have led us to the following sites.
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