It’s fair to say that online poker was something of a gold rush in the early noughties. The advancements in technology, coupled with the high-profile Chris Moneymaker World Series of Poker main event victory in 2003, caused interest in the game to explode. Dozens of online poker sites sprung up from nowhere, and millions of people around the world drew up a chair to see if they could get lucky and turn a profit.
Fast forward to the present, and there is still a big interest in online poker. For newcomers to the game, deciding on which online poker site to join can be confusing. There is an extensive choice, but not all will necessarily be a good fit. In this guide, we explore the five top things you should look for before signing up for an online poker room.
You’ll be signing up to a site because you want to play poker. Like, duh! But that requires lots of other players to be online simultaneously, available to sit down with and play cards. Imagine depositing on a site, excitedly sitting down at a cash table, and finding you are waiting for ages for enough players for the game to start?
And what if it’s the same few players turning up time and again, ones who you find it hard to beat?
While looking for your poker site of choice, find one that has a healthy playing pool. That way, you’ll always get a game at any time of day, and the skill level will be much wider. Sure, you might still lose, but you’ll have a better chance of winning.
A big customer base is also a big tick when it comes to social authority – the site must be good if so many people are happy to put their money on the line and play.
2. Game selection
Poker is a game with many possibilities. Firstly, there are different variations of the game – Texas Hold’em is the best known, then Omaha and Five-card draw. Other less-popular variations include Razz and Stud. On top of that, some of these games have different twists in themselves – there might be no limit, pot limit, or fixed limit. How about Omaha hi-low? You can play heads-up, six-handed, or a full table.
And then we come to the forms of poker. There is the traditional cash game or ring game, but then there are tournaments – a single table and multiple table variations. Oh, and for tournaments, there are deepstack, turbo, hyper turbo, knockout bounties, rebuys, and more!
We’re saying that a poker player has a massive choice, and some people prefer one type of game over another. For you, it might be playing six-handed, no-limit hold’em cash games. Fine – just make sure the online poker site you have got your eye on offers these games and that they run regularly.
Back in 2007, there was a huge cheating scandal exposed at Absolute Poker and then Ultimate Bet. A superuser account skimmed millions from customers by being able to see their hole cards. Since then, the industry has been squeaky clean, not least because most sites are now fully licensed. This protects player funds, makes sure personal data is secure and ensures games and promotions are fair.
Look for a site with a license, but if there is not one, perhaps because the site operates in a so-called “grey” market, where online gambling laws are unclear, then do some thorough research – there are many sites that do an excellent job in this regard.
4. Promotions and customer support
Everyone loves good customer service. When you play on a real money site, then you should expect good support. See if there is a live chat support option available or 24/7 email support, or even a phone line. Extensive FAQs or educational guides will also help the novice poker player.
As we mentioned earlier, the online poker industry is super competitive, so sites do all they can to attract new customers. They do this with first-time deposit bonuses for new players and cool ongoing promotions and rewards for existing players. Take a look around to see what the various sites offer, as one bonus might suit you more than another.
Our final category is essential. An online poker site might have the best rewards and lots of juicy games, but if the software sucks, and it’s a pain in the behind to play on, then what’s the point? After all, poker is meant to be a form of entertainment, so who wants to be stuck on a site that keeps crashing or is impossible to navigate.
Perhaps a good piece of advice is to sign up for several sites. Don’t deposit any money until you have had a good look around, seen what games are on offer, and perhaps try some play money games. Then you can make an informed decision about where to spend your money.