Selecting the Best Online Poker Sites
With hundreds of online poker sites in the current market, finding a great poker site that offers excellent promotions, a large player base and of course safety and security can be challenging for new players. While some poker sites take major steps to ensure their integrity and reputation, unfortunately some site run less reputable operations and therefore players need to be educated when they are selecting a poker room to play at. This article will focus on things to look for in a great poker room as well as recommend you some of the best online poker sites around. All of our suggestions and recommendations are based on years of experience in the industry combined with tests and player advice as to what to look for to the find the best poker sites online.
When choosing a new online poker site to play at, there are many considerations that you should take into account while making your selection. By doing some research before hand, you can save yourself lots of headaches and/or frustration down the road as you will be able to eliminate sites that do not offer features that are important to you as a player. Below are some of the most important factors you should take into account when checking out a poker site to make sure that they offer a quality and trusted product.
The world of online poker players is a tight knit community and it seems that the best policing of poker sites are done by players themselves. For this reason, it is a good idea to speak to your fellow players and friends about the different poker sites available because chances are you will find someone who knows the site you are looking at and can offer some insight into its quality. Other options for this route include browsing the major poker forums to see what is being said about the different sites at any particular time.
This may sound like something that may not be a big factor in the quality of an online poker site, however we would suggest to you that this can portray lots of information about an operation and give you a sense of how they view their site and product. Sites that put a great deal of effort into their appearance are usually in it for the long haul and have serious plans to become a respected and trusted poker site. Be on the look out for poorly designed and non-functional site designs as this is usually a really good indicator that the company does not believe in their product. If the site can’t even put the effort and investment in to build a quality looking portal, why would you deposit your hard earned money at that site? The lesson here is an obvious one but far too many players overlook this simple aspect that can mean the world of difference in choosing a quality or poor poker room.
Software is another vital feature that should be on your mind when you are considering joining a poker site. The reason for this is that there are lots of different options out there including networks (many sites that share players) as well as stand alone sites (custom software) and there are differences between playing at one or the other.
The way that networks work is there is one central software provider that leases their software to various sites. As the sites on the network bring players, they go into the network’s pool of players so when playing on a network you could be playing against opponents who register on other sites. One of the great things about networks is they usually tend to have a large player base since there are lots of sites working together to increase the number of players playing on the network at one time. This can be beneficial to players as there will always be a game around to participate in and low traffic levels will not be quite as common. Some of the downsides associated with playing on a network include similarity (all sites are essentially the same minus design) as well as central support (customer support is handled through one centre and staff may not be very knowledgeable of the site).
In contrast to network poker sites are stand alone sites, which have put up very large investments to develop and market their own software. What this means is that the player base on a stand alone site only plays on that site and all players deal with one central poker room when playing or with any transactions on the site. There are only a few poker sites that use fully owned software as it is a largely difficult task to gain enough players to make it worthwhile and build a quality site. For the sites that have managed to pull it off, the list of player benefits is long including things from custom promotions and bonuses to VIP programs and excellent support staff. The only real potential downside to playing on a stand alone site over a network one is if you are signing up at a newer site as they may not have gather enough players yet to keep popular games running 24/7, however this is very rare and most stand alones have already achieved this milestone in their development.
Although almost every poker site in the world offers popular games such as Texas Holdem and Omaha Poker, if you are a player that likes to play some of the non-traditional poker games such as Razz or H.O.R.S.E. you will need to do some research into which sites have a wide variety of these games. The two best poker sites that offer a very large game selection are PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, which both include traditional and non-traditional games in their software. All of the information you need on the games offered at different online poker sites is available through our poker reviews which detail games plus other important aspects of the sites.
Security is always one of the major concerns that players have when playing online poker and this is a paramount factor that must be taken seriously by a site for it to become trusted by thousands of players. The three most important things to look for in terms of security at an online poker room are a professional security department, the use and explanation of their RNG (Random Number Generator) as well as the use of an independent body who regularly executes audits on the site to ensure that the integrity of all games are upheld.
Every trusted poker site will have a large team dedicated to investigating, maintaining and developing the security procedures at the room to ensure fair play for all players on the site. Good sites should provide direct access to their security team via email and/or telephone and should have preventative measures in place such as fraud checks and security questions to secure you account. This are the de facto standards within the industry so if a site does not have them, there is a strong chance they are not a legitimate operation.
The second major security concern that players should take into account at a poker site is the use and explanation of how the sites Random Number Generator works. A Random Number Generator (RNG) is used all poker sites to determine which cards are dealt to players during any given poker hand. RNG’s are constantly generating an infinite amount of numbers and when a hand is dealt a series of numbers is chosen at random and then translated to represent a particular composition of cards that are dealt to the players at the table. Reputable poker sites will predominantly display and explain the procedures and functionality of their RNG and how it works to ensure randomness and fairness on their site. If you have any concerns about this aspect of a particular site, it is best to contact them directly and ask for explanation, which they should be more than willing to give to you to further your understanding of how the process works.
The last issue that should be taken into account by players researching poker sites is the use of independent auditing firms who regularly execute tests and checks to ensure that games are fair and the integrity of the site has not been compromised. All of the known poker sites will employ third party agencies to run these checks on a frequent basis and will display who does this process and how it is done. This is an added layer of security for players and it is highly recommended that you only play at poker sites who take the care to implement this process.
Proper customer support and care is an important feature that a top quality poker site must not only provide but do extremely well in order to make things run properly. Although many of the top poker sites do not offer phone support, email only support is acceptable within the industry as long as support times are fast and replies are responded to within 24 hours. Some other poker sites include features such as telephone and live chat support which is a great feature for players to get instant answers to their inquiries. The other aspect in this area that you should consider is how knowledgeable the support team is of their products. A great client care team will know the workings of the poker site inside and out and should be able to answer your questions in a straightforward logical manner. An idea for this area is simply contacting the sites support before you register to test their response times and knowledge on the product. This will help you get an understanding of what being a player there might be like in the future should you ever have any matters that need to be taken care of.
Deposit and new player bonuses are one of the biggest incentives that entice players to join a particular poker site. When selecting a site based on their poker bonus, make sure to read the terms and conditions associated with it as most rooms will implement play requirements or other stipulations that you need to fulfill in order to receive or cash-out your bonus money. The most standard bonus structure at poker sites involves releasing your bonus slowly over time as you earn loyalty points by participating in live ring games or tournaments. Your bonus is then released in increments (usually set $ amounts) into your account to play with and usually can be cashed out at that point. Be sure to check with each room’s individual conditions to ensure that they offer fair requirements and that the bonus is realistically attainable.
Promotions are one of the most integral parts of playing poker online and with offers from WSOP Qualifiers to trips and getaways this is an important feature that you would want a site to offer. The absolute best site these days in terms of promotions and giveaways is by far PokerStars, which offers tons of qualifiers to land based tournaments as well as other promotions including freerolls, pro tournaments and cash bonus offers. In general, choosing a poker site that provides frequent and high value promotions will ensure that you have an enjoyable experience and a chance to win some great prizes, which in all honesty is one of the biggest motivating factors to playing poker online.
Player traffic is a large factor than can either be very positive or extremely negative in terms of providing a great environment to play in. Most poker sites will display the number of players playing at a site on their homepage and you should take this into account in your decision making process in conjunction with your personal preferences. While some players prefer a smaller more intimate site with less traffic and competition, others enjoy a large base of players with constant action running 24 hours a day. Whatever your preference, this is a factor that should be researched and considered to ensure that you don’t end up at a site that never has any of the games running that you enjoy.
Overall, by using all of the points above as your criteria for judging and research different poker sties on the Internet, you should be able to select a room that offers you all of the benefits and features that you think makes up a great poker site. All of these areas described here represent the major factors that comprise some of the best online poker rooms in the world and are based on player experiences through many years of trial and error. In the end, a poker site is what you make of it and obviously your personal preference should be the ultimate tool used to make your decision, however considering these criterion as your guiding principles should help you avoid mistakes and frustration so you can focus on the game you love and hit the tables!