Online poker gives you the chance to win long-term profits by outplaying your opponents. Skill is only part of the equation, though – you also need to play at a trusted internet poker room that offers fair software and pays you on time.
Trust is a major issue in online poker considering that crooked sites have cheated players with rigged software or shut down while owing customers money. Fortunately, these scandals don’t represent the industry norm.
Many sites are committed to serving players well through excellent customer support, fast withdrawals, quality software, and preventing cheating or collusion. The issue is that it takes time to vet the countless poker sites and ensure that you find a reputable operation.
Our site is dedicated to helping you find quality online poker rooms faster. We judge these sites based on several categories to make sure that they’re safe. The following internet poker rooms have earned our endorsement after careful inspection.
How do you find a trusted online poker room?
Finding reputable iPoker rooms would be easy if you only had to consider one or two factors. However, safe sites need to be adequate in many areas. Here are the primary factors that we consider before approving a poker room.
Online poker’s biggest scandals (discussed later) involve sites that closed down while owing their customers millions of dollars. Many players could see these disasters coming ahead of time because the sites were slow to process withdrawals.
Some insolvent iPoker rooms slow down cashout speeds to control the flow of money and stay in business. These struggling sites then dip into player funds to remain operational. The significant risk here is that a poker room can eventually run out of money and be unable to repay players.
You should be on guard any time you find an online poker site that can’t process withdrawals in a timely manner.
Ring-fencing player funds
Ring-fencing refers to poker sites keeping their operational funds separate from player deposits. An online poker room should never use customers’ money to fuel their operation.
The aforementioned payment-related scandals could’ve been avoided if the sites didn’t pillage customer deposits. If an online poker room is struggling, they should be able to refund all of their players’ money before shutting down.
Poker sites use random number generators (RNGs) to determine what cards each player receives. The RNG is typically programmed to deliver cards with the same randomness as a standard 52-card deck. However, if the RNG is skewed, it can alter the game and even give some players an unfair advantage.
Auditing firms help prevent this by testing internet poker software. For example, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker regularly have their software audited by Gaming Laboratories International (GLI).
Other popular auditing agencies include eCOGRA, iTech Labs, and Technical Systems Testing (TST). Check the bottom of a poker room’s website to see if they display an auditor’s seal.
Elite jurisdictions like the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) require their licensees to undergo annual software auditing. If you see that a site holds a UKGC license, then their software must be tested regularly.
Reputable online poker network
Many iPoker sites are part of a larger network. These networks pool customers from their multiple sites (a.k.a. skins) to create larger tournaments and cash game liquidity.
You can research a poker room’s network to find out if the operation as a whole is trustworthy. If the operation’s skins treat players well, then you can have more confidence in any of their sites. In contrast, a poorly run network means that any of their poker rooms could be risky choices.
The vast majority of iPoker rooms obtain licensing. A license allows sites to serve any country or territory within the licensing jurisdiction.
For example, an online poker room that’s licensed by the UK Gambling Commission can legally serve UK adults. A Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) license, which covers multiple European nations, allows networks to provide poker to any country that falls within the MGA’s jurisdiction.
Some licensing authorities are more prestigious than others in vetting applicants and protecting consumers. The UKGC, MGA, and Isle of Man are among the most respected. In contrast, Antigua & Barbuda, Costa Rica, and Curacao eGaming don’t offer the same quality of player protection and applicant scrutiny.
Commitment to preventing cheating & bots
Internet poker’s nature gives nefarious players a chance to cheat opponents and even collude with others to win.
An example of cheating is a player opening and using multiple accounts (a.k.a. multi-accounting), which enables them to see several sets of hole cards on a single table. A collusion example is when two or more players agree to help each other win in cash games or tournaments.
Trustworthy poker sites that are alerted to potential cheating or collusion immediately investigate the matter. For instance, PartyPoker acted quickly upon being notified of suspicious behavior by certain high stakes tournament players. Partypoker investigated the accounts and determined that they were colluding with each other.
To protect players, iPoker rooms must also be on the lookout for bots, which are programs that play for their account holders. Bots have become a bigger problem in today’s game as their skill level is higher than ever before. Any site that doesn’t actively look for bot accounts and ban them should be avoided.
Quality customer support
Any good gaming site — whether it be poker, casino, or sports betting — should provide helpful customer service. It’s surprising how many iPoker rooms offer mediocre or poor support.
Firstly, quality customer service answers players’ questions and resolves their issues within a reasonable timeframe. A support representative shouldn’t take 20 minutes to answer the phone or two days to handle emails.
Live chat is an excellent option because it typically connects players and reps almost instantly. Therefore, it’s a good idea to choose poker rooms with live chat.
Poker rooms are responsible for protecting your banking and personal details from third parties. Many sites use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology to ensure this protection.
SSL encrypts the data that your internet-capable device exchanges with a poker room’s website. This encryption prevents potential hackers from reading any of your information that they might intercept.
You can check if a site uses encryption technology by looking at their URL address. Secure websites feature an “s” — which stands for “secure” — in the “https” section of the address.
Firefox, Google Chrome, and Internet Explorer users can check for encryption by looking for a padlock symbol followed by the word “Secure” in the URL box.
Major online poker scandals
Most poker sites work hard to ensure fair software, process withdrawals quickly, and offer quality customer service. However, a few bad operations have hurt the industry with shameful acts. Check out the following scandals to make yourself aware of the risks associated with sketchy online poker rooms:
- Absolute Poker & UB Poker (both CEREUS network) offer rigged software – The now-defunct CEREUS network featured two incidents of employees using “superuser” accounts, which allow players to see their opponents’ hole cards. In 2007, an Absolute Poker employee used a superuser handle called “POTRIPPER” to win money from customers. In 2008, Russ Hamilton, a UB consultant and WSOP champion, utilized a superuser account to win an estimated $22.1 million from high stakes opponents.
- Poker sites fold after Black Friday – On April 15, 2011 (a.k.a. Black Friday), the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York indicted several online poker room owners and board members for bank fraud and money laundering. The CEREUS network, Full Tilt Poker, and PokerStars were forced to exit the US market. CEREUS and Full Tilt eventually shut down while owing customers an estimated $50 million and $350 million, respectively.
- Lock Poker fails to ring-fence players’ money – Lock Poker, the Revolution Gaming network’s flagship site, capitalized on serving the US market after CEREUS, Full Tilt, and PokerStars were forced out. However, Lock eventually became insolvent and stopped processing withdrawals. They closed in 2015 while owing players around $15 million.
- Americas Cardroom struggles with bots – Americas Cardroom (part of the Winning Poker Network) began taking heat in early 2018 for their inability to deal with bots. Poker YouTuber Joey Ingram had a public argument with Americas Cardroom owner Phil Nagy, who claimed that they were actively looking for bots. However, the site only began seriously dealing with the matter after Ingram brought attention to it.