How to Choose an Online Poker Room
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How to Choose an Online Poker Room

Online poker is an extremely competitive business. Poker players seeking online action have an overwhelming amount of choice. In making that choice here are the criteria to consider.

First question—Are you a resident of the United States? A large fraction of the online poker venues will not serve U. S. players; so if you live in the U. S. your choices are immediately limited. If you live outside the U. S. and online poker is legal in your jurisdiction there are many more cardrooms to choose from. But, poker is a game about money and most of the money wagered online still comes from the United States. A cardroom that welcomes all players should be seriously considered even for players outside the U. S.

Second question—What kind of games do you like to play? Texas Hold’em is the most popular game in the world. All online venues spread Hold’em with a wide variety of limits and table sizes that range from heads-up to a full 10 players. An online Hold’em player is usually quickly seated at his or her game of choice at most cardrooms. It is also possible for players with modest bankrolls to participate in the no-limit and pot-limit forms of Hold’em because of maximum buy-in rules. A player sitting at a $1-2 no-limit table at Full Tilt Poker cannot buy-in for more than $200. The rule results in a rough parity in stack size at the table so that a player who can afford a deep stack does not have a permanent advantage.

Players who want to expand their poker skills and interests beyond Hold’em must find cardrooms that spread the games they want to play. The rising popularity of Omaha, Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Stud, and Stud-Eight has resulted in most online cardrooms supporting these games. It is now common for cardrooms to offer mixed tables where the deal rotates between different poker variations.

However players who want games other than Hold’em must consider the size of the player base when choosing an online cardroom. If the site has too few players there will not be enough interested players online at a given time to support games other than Hold’em. The problem of too few players becomes more pronounced at higher limits because as limits rise player availability decreases. A small online venue might have an active $1-2 Stud-Eight table all the time, but if you want to play $5-10 that table might never run.

To get a feel for the size of a site’s player base go online as an observer and check the lobby for the number of players currently seated. For sites that routinely seat 20,000 or more at any given time, you can usually find any kind of game you want. But for sites that seat 5000 players or fewer at a given time, game choice will be limited.

Additional considerations when choosing an online room:

• Longevity of the site—There has been a great deal of consolidation in the online poker industry now that its explosive growth as curtailed and the U. S. government has made it difficult for U. S. residents to transfer money to the sites. Larger sites have absorbed many smaller ones. Look for well-established sites with a viable player base numbering in at least the tens of thousands.

• Tournament versus Cash—If you are a tournament specialist you need to carefully study the tournament offerings for each site. While cash games have standard structures with only small variations, there are an infinite number of ways for structuring tournaments. Many tournament players have become specialists in particular formats and should find a site with offerings that match their specialty.

• Computer operating system—Owners of computers with the Windows operating system can play anywhere. Macintosh owners must consider compatibility issues. Read Online Poker on a Macintosh.

• Familiarity with other players—If you play at middle to high limits at a small site, or prefer games other than Hold’em, you will face the same opponents on a regular basis. That means you will have the ability to know and study their play and they will have the ability to track your play. This will be particularly true if you play many hours each week. If that is the case, you must be cognizant that your playing decisions are being tracked and analyzed. To be successful requires that you pay attention to the specific tendencies of regular opponents. If you play low-limit Hold’em infrequently at a large site you might never play the same person twice. Tracking will not be an issue.

• Time of day—Games tend to be looser on weekends and during evenings when there are more hobbyists online. Daytime poker has a greater percentage of professionals. But, daytime is not the same time everywhere. A daytime player on the east coast of the United States might want to look for sites with a heavy European base because it will be evening in Europe when he or she plays.

• Additional Games—Your gaming interests might extend beyond poker. Some sites are full service gaming sites that offer sports betting, blackjack, and more. At these sites you can use one player account for all of your gaming activities.

Promotions—All sites run promotions and offer deposit bonuses. But, be careful that you don’t play over your limit in order to chase bonus money. See bonus offers.

With these considerations in mind here are some recommended cardrooms. All of these well-established cardrooms welcome players from all over the world, including the United States. The games of Texas Hold’em, Omaha and Omaha Hi/Lo are offered in no-limit, pot-limit, and limit structures at each of these sites. Each also offers limit Seven-Card Stud and Stud- Hi/Lo. Cash games and a wide variety of tournament formats are available at each.

Bodog Poker—is an all-purpose gaming site. It offers poker, sports betting, horse betting, and over 100 casino games. It is a well-established site that has remained in the U. S. market. It is one of the few places where you can find Five-card Stud