With so many poker rooms to choose from, how do you select the one that’s best suited for you? You have to make a big decision – where to deposit your hard-earned money – and the last thing you need is to pick a site that turns out to be one you don’t like or will have difficulty clearing your bonus at for whatever reason.
Poker Room Size
The more players an online poker room has at its tables, usually referred to as ‘traffic’, the easier it will be to find games to play. All other things being equal, you will enjoy your initial foray into the world of internet poker much more if you are able to login and jump into a game within seconds, rather than having to sit on a fifteen-deep waiting list, or worse yet, sit at an empty table, waiting for someone to play against.
There is a myth about larger poker rooms, though: the larger the poker room, the more reputable it is. While larger rooms have typically been around a while and have usually had a chance to iron out any kinks, they are generally no more reputable than smaller rooms. Many often feel that if a room is small, it is likely to be a “fly by night” operation geared towards stealing customer deposits and then closing up shop. While this sort of thing has happened, it is very rare, and at PokerBonuses.com we have never promoted a site that simply disappeared without first cashing out all its customers. Small rooms are usually just newer rooms trying to grow their player bases or older rooms trying to keep up with their competition.
What you really need to be aware of is the most likely geographical location of the players on a given site, particularly if you prefer large field tournaments. If you live in a North American time zone, you will generally want to play on sites that have lots of players from the same zones (USA, Canada, Mexico, etc.) because they will tend to be playing at the same hours as you, and consequently this is when most of the big tournaments will be run. Similarly, if you live in the UK then you will want a site that caters more towards the European time zones.
Another thing about most of the smaller rooms is they have gotten a lot smarter about making sure they have a wide range of games available even if they have a much smaller player pool to draw from. How? By creating a new game variation of No Limit Holdem known as Fast Poker (which has many different brand names like Speed Poker, Blaze Poker, Rush Poker, etc.) whereby players are pooled based on their stakes preferences so that you are continually being seated at a new table as soon as each hand is finished, so that you never have to wait around for a new table or game to open up.
There are really two aspects to game selection: availability of certain game varieties and quality of competition. For most people, the availability of specific games will be more important. If you are a fan of a certain variety of poker (for example, Hi-Lo Pot Limit Omaha) but a poker room has little to no traffic at that game’s tables, then you would be wise to look elsewhere. Even the rooms with the most players typically have their specialties, although the largest rooms are usually the safest bet for variety if you are going to take the plunge blind, without doing any research. Texas Hold’em games can be found at every room, but some are almost solely No Limit sites and some have customer bases who concentrate on the short-handed tables. Some rooms have plenty of Omaha, Stud, and other games running, while others have almost no non-Hold’em traffic. Sign up for the sites that have the games you enjoy.
As for quality of competition, you obviously want to try to find the online poker rooms with the worst competition, as these rooms are where you’ll have the best chance to make money. There is really no rhyme or reason to which rooms have the best or worst players. Large rooms typically have plenty of players of all skill levels, while small rooms will often fall at one end of the spectrum or the other.
Sign Up Bonuses
Every online poker room offers some sort of signup/first deposit bonus. When you make your initial deposit, the poker room will award you a percentage of your deposit in bonus dollars (see our Poker Bonuses 101 primer for more details). Most of the time, this bonus will be held in a bonus account, to be released after you earn a certain number of player points. Sometimes, the bonus will be released all in one lump sum and sometimes it will be distributed in smaller increments. Every so often, you will see a bonus deposited into your account immediately, but you will still have to play a certain amount before you will be allowed to actually cash out that money.
In general, you just need to make sure that the poker room that you sign up for has enough traffic in the game variant(s) that you prefer to play, at the hours you are likely to be playing, so that you will be able to clear your bonus in full in a reasonable amount of time. For example, if you are mostly a weekend player, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding good games 24/7 on just about any of our poker rooms, since that’s when traffic is at its peak (and also when you are likely to run into more rookies and/or poor players).
If you’re not sure about whether a site is right for you, you can always download the software and observe the traffic and table availability with your own eyes – just make sure you use our hyperlinks so that you will be credited with your bonus if you eventually decide to make a deposit!
You may think to yourself, “Why would security not be at the top of the list?” and that’s a perfectly valid question. It’s not that security isn’t important – it is – it’s just that most online poker rooms are safe places at which to play. Plus, we have personal relationships with management at all of the rooms we promote. We deal with them on a regular basis, and we are also dependent on them to honour their agreements with PokerBonuses.com, as well as our players. If we have any security concerns about a room, we will simply not promote them, no matter how good their bonus might be.
Having said that, every online poker room should have at least a basic explanation of its security measures on their website. While some sites provide the general public with much more information than others, they should at a minimum provide some information about their policies, and be willing to answer any straightforward questions. Some information to read up on may include:
- Data transmission security – how does the poker room make sure data sent back and forth is safe from prying eyes?
- Game security – what, in general, does the poker room do to deter and catch cheaters and fraudsters?
- Card shuffle – what process does the poker room use to generate a random shuffle? Has this been verified by an independent auditor?
- Account security – what is the login process? Are usernames different from screen names? What are the deposit and withdrawal policies?
- Financial security – are player deposits kept separate from the poker room’s operating funds? (Hint: the answer should be YES.)
- Staff – do employees have access to players’ personal information? Are they allowed to play at the poker room’s tables?
Not all of this may be readily available on the site, but at least a few answers should be there. Don’t hesitate to contact the poker room if you have questions (or we are happy to do this for you).
What you do with the information you gather is up to you.