How We Review Real Money Online Poker Sites
There are many online poker sites to choose among and also a lot of different real money poker games. First of all, poker is a game where all players have different preferences. You play at different levels, you play different poker games and you like different designs and features. So it's impossible for one specific site to be the best for everyone. When we rate and rank real money online poker sites, we do so according to specific guidelines which are designed to suit as many players as possible.
Software and Graphics
First, of course, we take a look at the software of the poker room. We put less emphasis on bombastic visual effects. After all, you're playing poker not an action video game. We value poker room software that allows you to play easily and comfortably.
These aspects are especially important for us in real money poker software:
- A easy to use interface.
- Easy to customize (color scheme, hotkeys and betting amounts).
- A real money poker app available for Android and iPhone.
- All available games are easy to find.
- Simple layout of the poker tables.
- Does the site have a downloadable poker client for desktop.
Number of Players
The next important thing for us is how many players are actively playing real money poker games on the site. We rank by a simple principle: The more the merrier.
The more players we find at the cash game tables, the more limits and variants are played, the better it is. With a larger player pool, you will find more weak players and more variety at the tables.
Player numbers at tournaments are also important in our ranking. For example, you will find tournaments with thousands of players every day at PokerStars or GGPoker, on small poker sites on the other hand you can be happy if two dozen real money players show up in a tournament. However, small sites with small tournaments also have something going for them, as it's much easier to take the top spots in tournaments and overlays occur more often.
A very important aspect of online poker rooms is the quality of your opponents. The weaker the players on a site are, the easier it is for you to make a profit.
Poker rooms which focus primarily on recreational players with only a few professional players are rated better by us than sites where 8 out of 9 players at the table make their living playing professional online poker.
Rake and Fees
Real money poker does not come without costs on the Internet and neither does in live casinos. So called rake is collected in cash games and tournaments incur fees.
Tournament fees are a fixed share of the buy-ins - usually between 5 and 10 percent which is deducted from the buy-ins.
Cash game rake has two important aspects:
- Rake percentage: For each hand, a set percentage is deducted. Usually, this percentage is between 3 and 5 percent in real money online cash games.
- Rake Cap: The rake is capped at a certain amount. Once the cap is reached no more rake will be deducted for this hand. Usually, the cap is between $3 and $5.
The less rake a poker room takes, the better it is rated by us.
We also rate how many different games and variants are offered by each site. While common games like Texas Hold'em or Omaha are offered virtually everywhere, other variants and games are scarce at most providers.
These poker games with respective poker rules are offered online, for real money:
- Texas Hold'em – All the best real money poker sites, if not all, offer No-Limit Hold'em.
- Omaha – Omaha (in the form of PLO) is also offered by most online poker sites.
- Short Deck – 6+ Hold'em is a variant that grew in popularity over the last years and by now most big sites offer it.
- Fast Fold Poker – Games where you are moved directly to a new table after folding are available at all major providers.
- Jackpot Sit-And-Go's – Under the names Spin & Go, BLAST, Spin & Gold or Twister almost all major poker rooms offer jackpot sit-and-go's. These tournaments advertise prize pools beyond $100,000, although of course these prizes are only drawn once in a blue moon.
- Tournaments – Real money poker tournaments can be found even at the smallest providers, although the prize money and guarantees at PokerStars or GGPoker are of course significantly larger than at smaller sites.
- Stud and draw games – Older poker variants live Stud or Draw are only available at PokerStars and even here only a few tables are played in the evening hours.
All real money poker rooms try to attract new players by offering them more or less generous poker bonuses. It is worth taking a closer look at these money bonuses. While big numbers look good, they are not always what they promise.
Since it would take you, quite a lot of time to go through every bonus of every internet poker provider in detail, we have done it for you and compared all the first deposit bonuses of the major online poker rooms. There are massive differences when it comes to first deposit bonuses, and that's exactly why it pays to compare poker rooms.
The best deposit bonus is the one that benefits you the most. A 10% deposit bonus up to $5,000 may sound great, but it won't do you any good because you would have to deposit $50,000 first to even get the chance to clear the bonus. In contrast, a 200% bonus is excellent, even if the maximum amount is "only" $500. In fact, here you only need $250 to receive the entire bonus.
We also pay attention to the redemption rate in our review. This rate determines how much you need to play in order to be able to collect the bonus. The less you need to play to redeem the bonus, the better. Always read the terms and conditions so that you know when your bonus expires.
There are tons of different bonuses. Deposit bonus is the most common one, but some operators has bonus offers that gives you a free bonus or freeroll tickets when you sign up.
Licensing and Security
Another key factor when comparing poker rooms is the regulation and legal situation of the site. There is no world-wide regulation of real money online poker, but many poker sites are licensed through EU countries and thus offer legal security to all players that can play there.
In several US states real money online poker is legal and we rate poker providers with US licences much higher.
Last but not least, we also rate the available payment methods of the poker rooms. If you are going to play real money poker online it is essential that you have a great selection of payment options.
Some of the details we pay attention to are the following:
- Offer of different payment options
- Fast payouts and secure deposits
- Deposits and withdrawals without fees
- No hidden fees due to poor conversion rates
Top 5 Real Money Poker Sites by Type
Below we list our recommendation for the best real money poker rooms depending on what you're looking for. Please note that not all poker rooms may be available in your region.
|Editor's Notes||Poker Site||Bonus||Score|
|Best for cash games:||GGPoker||100% up to $600 and $100 tickets||4.6/5|
|Biggest sign-up bonus:||WPT Global||100% up to $1200 and Free $110 Ticket||4.5/5|
|Best for high volume players:||PokerStars||100% up to $600 + $30 free||4.4/5|
|Best for tournaments:||partypoker||100% up to $600 and $30 free play||4.4/5|
|Best for beginners:||888poker||100% up to $888 and $88 free||4.2/5|
Why Even Play At Real Money Poker Sites?
Play-money games are good for one thing: picking up the basics. You need a couple of hours at these tables to get a good feel for the online poker game. You'll get an understanding the order of play, how to make bets, adjusting to the pace, learning the controls - and more. But online poker games where you can win cash prizes are where the real action is.
How to Start Playing With Real Money
To play real money poker online might seem a little bit overwhelming at first, especially if you have little experience playing poker. But ultimately it is very easy to set up a real money poker account and you can play with a very moderate amount of money. A deposit of $50 can be all you need to start your bankroll and is plenty of money when you play the lowest stakes.
You don't have to spend too much learning the ropes. All the online poker sites on this page offer hundreds of low-limit cash options. Starting from $0.01/$0.02 cash games and $1 single-table tournaments. And yes, it’s fast - I mean you’re shooting off to your seat almost instantly after creating an account. But don’t worry - these online poker sites are really recreational-player driven these days. So, you're protected from more experienced players and have plenty of time to get adjusted.
Here's how you best set out your real money poker journey:
- Find your first real money poker site: We have introduced our top-rated sites in the list above.
- Register an account: Click through to the site and register an account. This usually only requires you to choose a nickname and confirm your email address.
- Deposit some funds: Once your account is confirmed you can deposit money via one of many deposit options. You can always deposit with credit cards and e-wallets and several sites also offer deposits with crypto currencies.
- Collect your welcome bonus: Once you sign up and deposit the first time virtually all the best online poker real money sites give you a welcome bonus - either in form of cash or in form of tickets for newcomer tournaments.
- Hit the tables: You're all set and can start to play poker for real money online. Remember that when starting out you should always stick to the lowest stakes at first to get a feel for the site and the games, and also always play responsibly.
It is very easy to start playing online poker for real money. The whole process of setting up an account and depositing money can be done less than 10 minutes. But please note that once you want to withdraw money, you will need to provide some legal documentation - usually some sort of ID card and a proof of address (usually utility or phone bill). Otherwise, the provider is not allowed to transfer funds to you. So, make sure you have those documents ready for the withdrawal process. (You only need to provide the documents once, subsequent withdrawals will be handled without re-verification.)
Video: Basic Poker Tutorial
Best Real Money Poker Games for Beginners
You have registered your account, deposited some money and are ready to play some poker. But which real money games should choose as a beginner? Here are some tips which games might suit you best.
One of the most obvious picks for your first real money poker games are the cash game tables. You're probably familiar with cash game rules and know how to play Texas Hold'em.
Please note: Opponents are much stronger online than live
If you've played mostly live poker so far, you should play much lower online real money poker limits first. If you're in a live casino at a $2 / $5 Hold'em table, you still have numerous weak and mediocre players around. Online almost all players at this limit are competent and experienced. At best you can expect one fish at such an online table.
When starting out, pick the lowest limits available, even if it's well below the stakes you play in a casino or with your friends at home. To get a feel for the games and the level of competition you will need to play a couple of thousand hands and it's rather easy to lose your bankroll if you play at higher stakes.
Also make sure to pick the proper cash game tables and not the fast fold tables. While the latter ones are great for grinding many hands, the regular cash game tables allow you to get a read on your opponents and to get a better feel for the game.
Sit and Go's
Another good option to start out are sit-and-go tournaments. These days the predominant variant are jackpot sit-and-go tournaments. Those are usually 3-player tournaments where the prize pool is drawn randomly before the tournament. The prize pool multiplier can be between 2 and up to 500,000 times the buy-in. Please note that the super high multipliers are incredibly rare.
Those tournaments are very quick, usually they last less than 15 minutes. They are structured in a way that doesn't give you much room for post flop play, but you will quickly learn how to play with shallow stacks - a skill that is vital when playing big tournaments. The tournaments are available for little money (usually the lowest buy-in is below $1) and with some luck and a great Sit & Go strategy you can play for big prizes without risking too much of your bankroll.
You will not learn how to master the fine arts of deep stack poker when playing jackpot sit-and-go's, but you will quickly accumulate a lot of tournament experience which can be very beneficial in your future poker career.
Another good option for beginners are multi table tournaments (so called MTTs). Those are available for very low stakes and allow you to play a long time for that buy-in. They also give you the chance to win big prizes if you make it to the final table.
If you're just starting out, you should not expect to do particularly well in tournaments, but you can always get lucky. The great thing about poker tournaments is that you know exactly what it will cost you. An MTT with a buy-in of $5 is costing you exactly five dollars and could last for hours. In a cash game on the other hand you can easily lose several buy-ins in quick succession - a nightmare for every beginner.
Legal Status of Playing Online for Real Money
In virtually all European countries, South America and Canada online poker is regulated, licenced and legal. Therefor, most Europeans can open up a poker account and play legal online with real money. The United Stated unfortunately have segregated the online poker market and only several states allow legal licenced online poker with real money.
Legal Status in the US
Many Americans think that playing poker online with real money is illegal, but it’s actually not the case, there are legal US poker sites and possible to play online poker for money in the US. The gambling laws affecting online betting and games, including poker, are mainly targeting card rooms, not players. So it would be unlicensed poker sites that take the heat, and that’s why legislation is a hot topic. Michigan and West Virginia are on the horizon. But at this point, the following states can legally offer poker games to American players:
True, US-facing sites are more limited than European Poker rooms, but there are legitimate options. You can play on the major 888 poker site in NJ, DE and NV, and Pokerstars in NJ and PA. You can also play WSOP online once a year from qualifying states. Playing on a licensed site comes with major benefits like fund security and smoother transitions processing. These licensed sites are much safer than any offshore or unlicensed poker room. And the card games being dealt are legit and monitored for fairness. Playing on legal online poker sites is always better for the player.
We've partnered with the best state-regulated internet poker rooms to give you the best offers. But every player is different. So you can read our expert reviews and make your own decision.
Our Recommended Card Rooms
- WSOP.com Poker (running on the 888poker NJ network)
- PokerStars NJ & PA
- partypoker NJ (on the Borgata & PlayMGM network)
Downsides of real cash games in America
The downside is that these state-approved rooms are only accessible from within those state borders. But it won’t matter whether you’re a resident or visitor - so you can easily visit for an online poker holiday. However, the poker site will use geo-location to enforce this, and they’re becoming more sensitive to VPNs. So it’s not that easy to get around in that sense.
Yet the biggest drawback is probably the fact that in licensed poker rooms in the states, you get a limited player pool. Essentially you would only be playing against other Americans in licensed states - like New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware. This can make finding a game a bit harder. But it also means smaller fields and a better chance at a prize.
Global Poker - Anywhere in the US
Besides licensed sites in New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Delaware, the only real option for US players to play online poker is Global Poker. This poker site uses a unique sweepstakes and virtual currency model as its legal justification. As a result, it’s not considered an online gambling site per se - and it’s available all over the US. This is actually a poker site disguised as a sweepstakes game. So you can then play for real cash prizes which you convert via Mastercard, American Express or Skrill, for example.
In the spirit of transparency, the site also has some downfalls. Like the fact that there are no loyalty rewards, freerolls or rakeback incentives. Or that the buy-ins are low enough to encourage some crazy play from other players. The rake is also on the higher side in comparison to other card rooms in the US.
Want to delve deeper into poker laws state by state, and your options as a poker-loving American? Then browse our detailed guide to USA legal poker info, including our recommended card rooms in your area. You may also find specific bonuses and reviews to help make your decision easier.
Legal Status in the UK
Since 2014, it’s been legal to operate and advertise poker to UK players. In fact, the UK is one of the poker havens of Europe. So, if you’re accessing this page from the UK you’ll find multiple poker site options and bonuses to choose from. They’re all compliant with the UK Gambling Commission and are 100% safe to play at.
UKGC licensing laws make the whole poker experience more secure for players, from registration to playing at tables to transactions. Top poker sites like PokerStars even use a specific domain for UK players to monitor activity and for taxation purposes. Regulated UK poker sites must segment player funds from poker business funds, so they can always pay out winnings.
Legal Status in Canada
No surprise that some top online poker pros have emerged from Canada - case in point: Daniel Negreanu. Canadian players who wish to follow suit have tons of online poker sites on this page to try out where they can play with their Canadian dollars. And they’re not just Canada-friendly in terms of tournaments - but also top poker sites worldwide. This makes them totally safe and reliable, so you can carry on and play. Just remember that, like many countries worldwide, winnings are subject to tax.
For more information about gambling in Canada, check out our approved list of the best poker sites in Canada.