When looking at a website such as OnlinePokerSites.com one of the first questions a new reader might have is how do we actually come up with our online poker ratings. After all, we have gone into great detail about many topics and subjects related to online poker sites. This includes actually reviewing top websites, evaluating bonus offers, payment options, poker tracking software, and many others.
We have a team of excellent researchers who are all experienced online (and offline, for the most part) poker players. These researchers have hunted down the best poker sites, software, bonus offers, payment methods and more. Then, we also actively play these sites to make sure the actual experience lives up to the promise. We comb through traffic statistics and even take a detailed look at the various laws of different countries and regions—and we stay on top of all this.
With that in mind, here are some of the ways and methods we use for rating the different aspects of the online poker experience in 2018.
With a site such as this one of the most important aspects is to bring you the most accurate and up-to-date advice regarding various online poker sites, rating them accordingly. This is something we do indeed take great pride in and work very hard. This is part of the reason why we have a team of expert poker researchers and players. They spend a lot of time out on these various poker sites, playing, learning, and evaluating. They also talk with other players and visit various forums and chat rooms to talk about online poker.
Having said all of this, there are a number of key factors and criteria we have them look at in order to actually rate online poker sites. This will include the games which are offered. Every poker room is going to at least offer Texas Hold’em (and most likely at least some form of Omaha). However, beyond this there is a lot of variability. Some of the best online poker sites have a very deep line up of games, which can be a great way to attract all types of new players. Generally, we view having more games as a positive sign.
We also look at the traffic being generated by these poker sites. The real key here is not so much finding a site with high traffic, but one that is actually growing their player traffic. That is a great sign and it bodes well for their future success. It is also important to note how this traffic is split between tournaments and real cash games. Obviously, most players at online poker sites are more interested in tournaments, but having a good balance here is also important.
The real money bonuses and promotions offered at the site are another factor in our ratings. Most pokers sites (although you might be surprised to learn that not all of them) will offer a bonus for new depositors. This must be evaluated from a number of angles (see our section below on evaluating poker bonuses), and the largest bonus does not always win in this category. In many cases there may also be some type of promotions or even loyalty programs that are designed to help players as they remain loyal to the site. We also look at this element to make a determination as to whether the poker site in question should be considered one of the top places for your poker investment.
Sometimes, there are other categories that just make one particular poker site stand out. This could be something intangible like have an amazing set of features on their poker software, or some of the best online satellite tournaments that can lead to entry into top offline poker events. Maybe the site has a special arrangement or connection with one of the top poker tours or something else that doesn't really fit neatly into any type of ratings guidelines or format.
One of the more exciting areas of online poker in 2018 has been the advance of tracking software. While these programs are certainly not without controversy (some say their use represents an undue), they do have some great advantages and features.
In fact, poker tracking software really comes down to just about two things: features and price. Different programs will allow you to do different things. For example, most of the popular options should allow you to calculate odds at various stages during your hands, which can be a real help in a number of situations. There are others to help make decisions regarding table selection and even some which help in tournament play. In a number of cases, these software programs will actually integrate directly with a number of popular online poker sites, so exactly which software you can use might be limited by the where you have chosen to play.
We also look at the training aspect of online poker tracking software. You will find editions that focus on either cash games or tournament play. Some are very highly specialized. The bottom line is that you really need to look at all of the elements and criteria involved with these types of poker tracking software in order to come up with specific ratings, and even then you should remember that there is still no one-size-fits-all solution.
Since almost every online poker site will offer at least new players some type of bonus, this is another important factor that we rate, poker online sites we recommend needing to be top notch. The first thing to look at is the actual bonus percentage. Obviously, the higher the better. The larger this percentage, the more it can expand your bankroll. For example, a 100% bonus will basically double your initial deposit, whereas a 200% bonus will triple your initial deposit. Everything else being equal, you really do want to have a higher percentage here.
The next critical element of rating an online bonus is to look at the maximum amount of cash it offers. Once again, generally speaking the higher the better. Being able to get a $1,000 bonus is certainly not as good as being able to claim a $2,500 bonus. But, this is where we start getting in to some personal considerations. For example, maybe you are only looking to make a small deposit and would not qualify for the maximum amount of free real money.
This is why we also rate the amount of real cash it takes in your deposit to maximize the bonus. We feel this is very helpful for actually making the bonuses seem more real. Choosing the largest bonus is not going to do you much good if you will not have the deposit to maximize it. So, we also advise each player to look at their own resources and then choose accordingly. In this respect, a 200% bonus worth up $1,000 might be better than a 100% bonus worth $2,500. Maybe you want to deposit $500. That first bonus would allow you maximize, plus would actually give you more cash than the seemingly 'better' and larger bonus. On the other hand, if you wanted to make a $2,500 deposit, then you should choose the second.
All bonuses offered by the various online poker rooms will have what is known as a clearance method. This determines exactly how that bonus is released into your player account. In almost every online poker room you will be required to play a number of real cash hands to help the poker room generate some cash in the form of their commission, also called a rake. After you have done this enough, you will 'earn' some of the bonus to be released into your real money player account. This can be released in smaller increments of between $5 and $15 each, or the site might have it set up to release at a set schedule, maybe four or five times—each in relatively equal amounts. You will also need to pay attention to the time period in which you have to finish clearing the bonus. This could be anywhere from 30 days to 120 days; go beyond this time limit and the remainder of your bonus will be lost.
You never want to assume that just because a poker site has many deposit methods that all of them will be available to you. One of the things we look at in this section is country and location restrictions. This is usually on a United States versus the rest of the world basis, since many of the online e-wallet banking options are not available to US players. If you live outside of the US, you will have many more options for getting your deposit to these poker sites and for taking your payouts out as well.
Credit and debit cards are one of the favorite banking options for many people. You might look at a site and see the claim to accept these methods, but do they really? In many cases, the credit and debit card companies will decline a large percentage of transactions coming from offshore and online poker sites. Some of these sites have acceptance rates with cards as low as 10%, so this is something we also look at and advise about.
For the most part, using either an e-wallet system or a wire transfer service will be the best banking options for most US players. Skrill should be available to a number of US players now, and they will be expanding in the future. While you could perhaps try to send an actual bank wire, we think you will find this amazingly inconvenient and fraught with all kinds of difficulties, especially as a US resident looking to send money offshore (and most poker sites are indeed offshore). Western Union is a great option, being very fast, secure, and relatively cheap. Additionally, most poker rooms will even pick up the cost associated with your sending fees, and taking a withdrawal is also very straightforward.