Popularity Roller Coaster
Online poker was first introduced in the late 1990s with Planet Poker, and card game fans flocked to it. The demand for better and bigger sites prompted developers to consistently improve the options, and by the early 2000s, sites like PartyPoker and PokerStars were giving players more options than ever before.
Live poker had been popular for centuries, but tournaments like the World Series of Poker began to garner more attention with its broadcast on television in the late 20thcentury. This brought more players to tournaments, and in 2003, when Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event for $2.5 million, the game’s popularity skyrocketed. Not only was Moneymaker the everyman, an accountant from the Midwest United States without much experience in the game, he also won his seat to the WSOP via an online satellite for less than $100. The notion that anyone could play online, win a seat into a big tournament, and win lifechanging money appealed to millions of people around the world.
The poker boom ensued, and millions of players signed up for real-money online poker accounts on PokerStars and other sites. Competing online became a challenge in itself, and the number of players online everyday grew exponentially from 2003 to 2008.
When the United States and other nations began to question the legality of online poker in 2006, some sites departed jurisdictions in which they were under scrutiny. And when Black Friday happened in 2011 – when the US government indicted executives at PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, UltimateBet, and Absolute Poker and seized the site domains – poker sites departed more markets.
Not nearly as many players could compete in real-money online poker as in previous years. Players in the US were not allowed to play on any sites, players in European countries like Italy and Spain were relegated to sites closed off to dot-com access, and many sites eventually closed as a result.
Even so, real-money poker sustained itself as operators obtained licenses in various markets and players moved to nations that did allow online poker sites. The game began to rebound. And all the while, poker online survived and, in some areas, still thrived.
Advantages of Playing Real Money Online Poker
Professional poker players can testify that many of them became skilled players quickly because of the ability to play online at any time of the day or night, play multiple tables at once, and play many more hands than they could have ever played in live games or tournaments. The ability to play online is as much a benefit to experience as it is for comfort and convenience.
Free-play sites have their benefits for new players, but once the strategies are in place and skills have been tested, the real money poker tables await. It allows players of all skill levels to put their abilities to work for money, no matter at what stakes. Most start at very low stakes and work their way up as their bankrolls grow. And the ability to risk money instead of play chips makes it worth all of the time and effort.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of playing real-money poker online.
- Serious play: Many people on play-money sites make looser plays than they would with real money on the line. Playing on a site that requires real money prompts people to play a more serious strategy.
- Bankroll building: No matter what level real-money play, a player begins building a real-money bankroll. This truly gauges the ability to play in more diverse scenarios. As the bankroll grows, players can play for higher stakes, compete in bigger tournaments, and really consider the possibility of going semi-pro or full-time pro as a career. Even if that is not the goal, the money grows into amounts that can be withdrawn and make a difference in everyday life.
- Reputation: Poker players love accolades. By playing at higher stakes, competing in tournaments, and cashing/winning those events, they can start building a reputation as a skilled online player.
- Satellites: Most players cannot afford to travel the world to play tournaments in places like Monte Carlo or Barcelona, London or Macau. But online poker satellites on real-money poker sites allow for that possibility. A small investment can turn into a prize package that sends players to casinos from the Bahamas to Las Vegas.
- Practice: Even for the most casual players, the experience garnered when playing US real money poker online can be priceless. Developing strategies and working with pot odds, for example, can be done online, and those skills can then translate into better results at a home game or a local casino.
- Camaraderie: Many people in the poker world have made lifelong friends after meeting at the online tables. Poker is a solitary game in some respects, but through chat boxes and online forums, many players find like-minded people with whom to talk strategy and develop friendships.
Best Qualities of Top Real-Money Poker Sites
The truth is that the best real money sites can be found with a simple web search, but players should not settle for the first ones they find. There are some qualities to look for in the process of choosing a site on which to deposit money and play internet poker.
- Responsive customer service: There should be several ways to contact the site’s support, and representatives should be friendly, fast, and helpful.
- Proper licensing: The site should be registered and licensed with a regulator in Malta, Curacao, Alderney, Isle of Man, or a number of other regulators in various countries. The license should also be up-to-date and show the company in good standing.
- Encryption: An operator should take the proper precautions to encrypt data, thereby protecting its customers from cybercriminals.
- RNG certification: RNG stands for random number generator, something that is required for fair online poker. A certification proves the software is regularly tested and compliant.
Some of these qualities are easier to prove than others, but players need look no further than the recommendations we provide. The sites listed here are ranked among the best real-money sites available for poker that meet the criteria for trusted, safe, and secure games.
Top Rated Poker Sites Invest in the Real Money Games
As poker players, we intuitively know that it takes money to make money. This maxim is as true applied to us as it is applied to the sites we play on. Simply put, if a site doesn’t invest in its games, its product will be sub-par.
Given this, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the highest rated poker sites invest heavily in product improvement. A few things great poker sites invest in:
- Software improvements: The poker room should have the best poker software — period.
- Player incentives: The best sites take care of their players via guaranteed tournaments, VIP programs, and promotions.
- Innovation: Truly awesome sites take some chances. For example, a site could spread a rare form of poker (like Pokerstars 8 Game Mix); or a site might be innovatative in terms of gameplay (PokerCam tables at 888 Poker); or a site might straight-up reinvent the way poker is played (Rush Poker at Full Tilt). In any case, the absolute best online poker sites all give back to the game through innovation.
Poker Sites That Offer Real Money Should Be Certified & Safe
The most popular real money poker rooms don’t screw around with security. Safety is one of the top priorities for online players, and poker sites know this. So any smart poker room ensures that its customers receive fair treatment, and that its games are 100% fair.
888 Poker is a great example of a room committed to security; they have an independent gaming auditor (eCOGRA, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, Technical Systems Testing) conduct a Random Number Generator analysis regularly. If eCOGRA were to ever discover any irregularities in the 888 Poker software, 888 would lose its certification.
888 has consistently passed eCOGRA tests, and proudly displays its fairness certification on the 888 homepage. It’s just a reminder of why 888 Poker is one of the highest rated poker sites: they make a real commitment to safety, and back up their claims with forced accountability!
Games are Better at the Top Rated Poker Sites
The best poker sites for money advertise heavily in order to draw casual players to the tables. Generally, this works pretty well. There is a noticeable difference in player skill between sites that advertise and sites that don’t.
Consider Bodog Poker. Bodog isn’t just a poker site — it’s an international entertainment brand. Bodog licenses its name to record labels (Bodog Music), television shows (BodogFight), and even video games (Scarface: The World Is Yours). The result of this is that many different people, some of whom wouldn’t have ever thought of playing online poker, are exposed to the Bodog name on a daily basis.
When these people get the itch to play online poker, they think back to seeing Bodog’s logo on television. They figure they’ll be best off playing at a site run by a familiar company. So they sign up at Bodog Poker, fill up their accounts, and start donking around.
This has the effect of making the games at Bodog incredibly soft. Since it’s not just grinders and professionals who find out about the site, Bodog’s player pool becomes largely populated by newbies, making Bodog one of the fishiest poker sites online. And this is good for the game. Hence you’ll see Bodog consistently named as one of the highest rated poker sites online.