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How to Compare Poker Sites

Some poker sites are better than others -- that's a fact. And you don't want to get stuck playing at one of the bad ones. It's no fun having to deal with poor software, a lack of games, or a tapped-out pool of fish. Thus you should know how to compare poker sites before you make a deposit. Picking the best poker site is, to a degree, a subjective process. You'll certainly have to decide what features you value, and weigh your decision accordingly. But in order to do that properly, you need to know all the variables involved.

This page outlines some of the key requirements poker sites should have to make them a "good site". Only the poker rooms that have met the criteria outlined below are listed and new players joining these rooms receive exlusive bonuses from our site.

Compare Online Poker Rooms

Rank help Poker Room help USA help Mac help Bonus help Match help Code help Player Trafic help Room Review help
1Cake Poker Ignition Poker   This Site Accepts USA Players   mac-icon $1000 100% N/A 4,000+ Ignition Poker
2Cake Poker Bovada Poker   This Site Accepts USA Players   mac-icon $500 100% N/A 5,000+ Bovada Poker
3Intertops Poker BetOnline Poker   This Site Accepts USA Players   mac-icon Instant 25% N/A 6,000+ BetOnline Poker
4Intertops Poker Intertops Poker   This Site Accepts USA Players    $1100 200% N/A 8,000+ Intertops Poker

The Main Differences Between Poker Sites

The differences between poker sites can be subtle. After all, poker is a pretty standardized game. So what you need to look at is how well or how poorly certain rooms implement certain features. I've found there to be roughly four main features you'll want to compare across poker sites: software quality, value of promotional offers, variety of games spread, and fish-to-regular ratio. To help you compare poker sites, I want to go over both the subjective and objective aspects you should consider in each category.

Compare Poker Sites by Software

Probably the biggest differences between poker sites have to do with software quality. Some rooms are way ahead of the pack in terms of usability and stability, and others are more advanced in terms of special features and graphics. In the end, it all comes down to what you value in a poker client.

Consider how fast a poker client runs on your computer, and how responsive the client is to your actions at the table. Some poker rooms have poorly-coded software marred by latency and sticky buttons. This could be a big problem for you if you're a multi-tabler, or if you're just impatient.

Make sure a poker client has all the standard game-enhancing features. These include a four-color deck, an auto-rebuy option, and multi-tabling tools like resizable tables that can be arranged easily. Also consider that some poker rooms go way above and beyond in terms of extras. For example, 888 poker has just introduced 'PokerCam' tables, at which you can set your avatar to be a live webcam feed rather than a static picture. A feature like this can sway your decision, depending on what you're looking for.

Make sure that a site's poker software is compatible with your computer. If you're running a PC with Windows installed, don't worry about this -- you're good. But if you're a Mac or Linux user, make sure a prospective poker room has a Mac- or Linux-compatible client. Often these will be web-based Flash clients. But some rooms like Lock Poker and Party Poker do offer native MacOS clients. If you don't like playing on a web-based client, this could sway your decision.

Compare Poker Sites by Promotional Offers

Do you like free money? If so, make sure you compare bonuses and promotional offers across poker sites.

A common form of bonus in the poker industry is the first deposit bonus. This type of bonus rewards you for choosing a poker room by giving you free money upon your first deposit. The amount of money you can receive depends on how much you load in. Generally, you'll be offered anywhere from 50% to 200% of the value of your deposit. Obviously, the higher this percentage, the more free money you get. Look out for the best first-deposit bonuses when you compare poker sites.

Another popular form of bonus is the reload bonus. This type of bonus rewards you for making a deposit above and beyond your first one. Generally a poker room will run reload bonuses temporarily over short periods of time; so you'll want to know how often, if ever, the poker room you're considering does this. Reload bonuses can be a great source of extra income if you play a lot of poker.

Poker rooms also run special value-added promotions as incentives for players to stick around. These come in the form of freeroll tournaments, VIP schemes, and landmark competitions. 888 Poker, for example, runs a bunch of first-depositor freerolls that only newbies may play. These freerolls give you a shot at padding your bankroll, with no investment required. Another example of a good promotion is Lock Poker's Bad Beat Jackpot: just play at the BBJ tables, take a bad beat, and you could potentially win a 6-figure score.

Compare Poker Sites by Games Spread

Some poker rooms have more traffic than others. As a general rule, poker sites with high traffic spread a greater variety of poker games. So if you're into playing lesser-known forms of poker, you will probably be better off at a high-traffic room.

For example, say you like playing Seven Card Stud. Most sites have Stud tables. But very few have a decent-sized pool of Stud players. So if you pick a site too hastily, you might end up sitting in at empty tables. A site like Party Poker is great for Stud players because there's enough traffic to keep games going all the time. Other sites might not have enough traffic to run Stud except at peak hours. Make sure you compare poker sites in this respect before diving into play.

Compare Poker Sites by Fish-to-Regular Ratio

It's kinda tough to figure out which sites have soft tables and which sites have tough tables before you actually play on them. What you might want to do is open up a poker room's software before you deposit, and watch the games for a little while. Most poker rooms will allow you to do this.

Watch the tables for five or ten minutes. This is enough time to get a general feel for the player pool. If you see tables mainly full of nitty or aggressive players, chances are these tables are a good representation of the site as a whole. If you see lots of weak, passive play at the tables, chances are you've found a goldmine.