Real Money Poker Online

It’s no secret that poker has been exploding in popularity over the last few decades. Poker games no longer just take place at kitchen tables for pennies or in back rooms of smoky bars. Thanks to the integration of poker and the internet, games now take place 24/7/365 with players from all corners of the globe.

You used to have to drive to the closest casino or back room home game and hope there was some good action going on when you wanted to play. Games were limited, and seats were even more limited especially if the game was good.  With the internet, though, you can play against players from anywhere in the world, and there is always a seat available 24 hours a day. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home to have fun and potentially make some serious cash.

If you’re already well versed on all of this and ready to get started playing immediately, we’ve provided some links for you to do just that. These are our favorite and most trusted online poker sites offering real money action. These sites have been highly vetted by our staff and hand selected as the best options currently available. To be clear, we do not ever allow sites to pay to be on our recommended list. Only the sites we feel will deliver the best experience to you end up here.

Real Money vs Play Money vs The Kitchen Table

You’re probably wondering why we’re so adamant about titling our sections “Real money Online Poker” and not just “online poker”. The reason is that playing for real money online is SIGNIFICANTLY different than playing for play money online or playing for fun at home with your family. You can tell it’s significantly different because we capitalized the entire word.

We want to walk you through some of the big differences between playing online for play money and playing online for real money.

Play Money

Play money goes by a lot of different terms…play money, practice chips, free play…Regardless of what you call it, play money refers to the chips you get to play with online that are not real money. They are chips that you can use to play in games against other people with play money. If you win millions in play money chips, you can cash them in for $0. They are worth no monetary value.

On the flip side, if you lose all of your play money chips, you can click a button and just get more. There are multiple reasons that sites allow you to play with play money. They are not making any money off of the play money chips as they are free to anyone that creates an account and can be reloaded for free as well.

The reasons that sites give you play money chips:

  • To get used to the software
  • To get your competitive juices flowing

Real Money

Playing poker for real money instead of just play chips makes the entire experience much more exciting and potentially a lot more lucrative for you if you’re good enough. Poker is a game of skill and can be beaten long term. Yes, you may lose in the short run, but the better players are going to always prevail in the long run and come out on top.

Let’s talk about some of the strategic differences we alluded to above in the play money section. There’s a popular TV show in the United States called Shark Tank. The show features four insanely successful and rich entrepreneurs that hear business idea pitches from new entrepreneurs looking to secure funding for their project. The four “sharks” decide if they like the ideas and then have the option of investing their own money into the company for a portion of ownership or royalties.

Mark Cuban, one of the most successful businessmen on the planet is one of the sharks. His famous question he always asks is how much each of the entrepreneurs has invested of their own money in their project. If they say none, he immediately is out as he feels like the person can’t care that much if they don’t have a financial stake in the situation.

The same is true for play money vs. real money. How seriously do you think people are taking the game when they are playing for play money? The answer is not seriously at all. People will go all-in at crazy times and never fold because it’s just play money. They have nothing to lose, and they play that way. This is all well and good because they are having fun, but it is not a good representation of what things are like when you are playing for real money.

If we make a big bet as a bluff and it costs our opponent $0 to call and see what we have, how often are they going to fold? The answer is probably never. If we make the same big bet as a bluff, but it costs our opponent $200 in real cash to call and see what we have, they may be much less likely to call for the heck of it.

The point here is that what works at the play money tables is probably not going to work at the real money tables. Some people say they plan to use play money to practice before moving to real money and that is just a bad idea. Frankly, you’re much better off starting with real money and playing for super low stakes so there is at least something on the line and you’ll be a bit closer to how things will be at the higher stakes.

Strategically speaking, people are generally going to be tighter and play “more correctly” when real money is on the line. In tournaments, they will be much more reactive to the changing stages of the tournament, specifically the bubble. The bigger the monetary difference is between cashing and not cashing, the more people are going to react.

In a play money tournament, that difference is $0, so people aren’t going to care at all whether they cash or not. In a super low stakes tournament, that might be a few dollars which will result in some, but not a huge effect on players. As you move up in the real money stakes, that difference will increase and so will the amount that people react.

The takeaway here is that people are going to play differently than they do in play money. Trying to practice and hone your skills in play money for a switch to real money is like trying to learn baseball by practicing softball. It’s similar, but the nuances are going to bite you in the butt when you make the switch.

The Benefits of Real Money over Play Money

When we’re talking about real money here, we don’t mean the highest stakes they have. We don’t even mean the most popular stakes. Most of this becomes true the second any money is put on the line. Don’t ever feel like you have to play higher stakes than you are comfortable with. Just remember that the game will change as you move up.

Ability to Practice Strategy Effectively

As we’ve already beat like a dead horse, the play money tables are a terrible place for you to practice any sort of strategy you ever plan to use for real money. The only way to truly see what is going to work and what will not is to employ those tactics for real money. In a game where pressure from the fear of losing money is the driving force, it only works when that fear actually exists.

Ability to Make Money

It’s pretty clear that you can’t make any money using play money. While you also can’t lose any money, poker is a skill game that can be bested by the best in the game. Most players’ ultimate goal in poker is to get better and be able to start making some extra money or possibly take things a step further and play for a living. Obviously, you are going to need to be playing for real money if you want to make that happen. Last we checked, play money chips don’t pay bills.

Online Poker vs Live Poker – What You Need to Know

The above section is great for people that are already playing online making the switch from play money to real money. However, what about some of you that are making the switch from playing at home games or in brick and mortar casinos to the online realm? Don’t worry, we’re here for you and have a lot of good information that you need to know.

There are significant differences when it comes to playing online poker. You may think that it’s the same game (and it technically is), but there are several nuances about the game that are different and need to be accounted for by you.

Quality vs Quantity

Online poker players are notorious for playing multiple games at once. In fact, most successful players will opt to play more games at lower stakes to generate a higher profit. For example, let’s say that a player can beat $1/$2 NLH for $20 an hour when they play that game. That’s 10 times the big blind they win on average per hour. Let’s also say that if that player drops down in stakes and plays $0.50/$1, they can beat the game for 12 times the big blind, or $12 an hour.

Many online players will opt to play 2 or more tables of $0.50/$1 where things are “easier” than the $1/$2 game. If they play the 2 lower staked games, they will make $24 an hour as opposed to $20 an hour. You may ask why they just don’t play two games of $1/$2. The reason is that the games will be easier at the lower stakes, so they are able to focus less and play more games. If they are capable of doing so at the higher levels, they will.

What does this mean for you? This means that you’re going to have better players playing at lower stakes online sometimes. A $1/$2 game online can sometimes be tougher than a $1/$2 game in the casino or poker room. We say “sometimes” because this is always dependent on so many other factors.

Bigger Prize Pools

One of the best things about playing online poker versus brick and mortar is that the prize pools in tournaments are typically much higher for much smaller buy-ins. For example, you might play in a live tournament at your local brick and mortar poker room for $200 where first place is $10,000. Online, there are tournaments for $1 that have a prize pool greater than $10,000 (sometimes by a lot).

Because of the technology of the internet, more people are able to play because the tournament is opened up to all corners of the globe and people don’t have to leave their homes or offices to get in on the action. In fact, some sites allow people to play in tournaments directly from their mobile phones. This results in more players in the tournaments and bigger prize pools which mean more money that you can win.

Lower Stakes Available

Unless you live in the middle of nowhere or a super small town with a poker room, the lowest stakes you’re probably going to see in a brick and mortar casino or poker room is $1/$2 for most games. The usual buy-in for this game is $200-$300. This is sometimes A LOT higher than most new players would like to be playing for. Poker lessons can cost you stacks sometimes, and it can get too expensive to learn if every mistake and learning lesson costs you $200-$300 a pop.

Raise Sizes

This is a small nuance but one that usually shocks anyone going from live poker to online poker. If you pay in a $1/$2 No Limit Hold Em game in your local casino, the standard raises pre-flop are usually all over the place. When we play, we see the standard raise being somewhere around 5x-7x the big blind at these games. People are opening the pot for $10-$14 and sometimes higher depending on the game.

Online, this is way different. The standard opening raise is 2.5x-3x the big blind. Players are raising to $5-$6 pre-flop. The reason for this is that the players in the live setting are usually looser and want to play more hands (probably due to the fact they are only playing one table). Online, the smaller raise garners the same, if not more, respect than it would live.

Let us say this a different way to make sure it’s clear. If you raise to $6 pre-flop in a live casino or poker room, you are going to get seven or eight people calling you pre-flop. This is not ideal. If you raise to $6 pre-flop online, you will get only a few callers which is much more ideal. For this reason, pots in live games will be much larger and more inflated than pots at the same stakes online.

This isn’t really a positive or a negative; it’s just something you need to be aware of and adjust for.

More Game Variations

The chances are that if you walk into your local card room right now, they are spreading no limit hold em predominantly and maybe some pot limit Omaha and maybe some limit hold em. If you’re a player that likes to play some of the other poker variations like razz or stud, for example, you’re out of luck.

Online, though, they usually spread every game type you can think of. Now, the games might not be running all the time depending on how big the site is, but they at least have tables set up and ready to go for every variation. Usually, if a game is not running and you sit down, one will start up as more players see that someone is interested in playing a mixed game.

Online Real Money Poker Game Options

Online poker offers the same options that you’re used to in your home casino or poker room, but with some added benefits. They also do have a few additional options that most brick and mortar casinos and poker rooms will not have or will only have a limited number of. We’re going to walk you through the different game options available and discuss some of the added benefits available thanks to the technologies of the internet.


Online poker rooms offer a lot of real money tournament options. A poker tournament is a style of poker where participants pay a fixed entry fee and receive a certain amount of tournament chips. Players then play until one player has all of the chips. Players are not allowed to “cash out” and must complete the tournament. Usually, the top 10-15% of the field is paid money with those towards the top getting paid progressively more.

Tournaments online differ from those live in a few ways. First, the buy-ins are typically going to be smaller (at least in relation to your major $10k+ events). A major main event online might be a $200 or $1k buy-in event, while live your main events are much more expensive. Now, you may be thinking this stinks in terms of the prize pool, but you would be wrong. Because online tournaments allow players from all over the world to play with much more convenience, the player pools get much larger which mean the prize pool does as well.

There are weekly tournaments for $200 where you can win several hundred thousand dollars for first place. There are even some tournaments for $1 where you can win five or six figures for first! Yes, this means that you’re going to have to wade through a lot more people as the field size will be larger. But it also means that your risk vs. potential reward is going to be vastly different. You’ll have a much higher potential for reward for a much smaller risk.

Online poker also offers a lot of real money tournament options that are not available live. The reason these are not available live is that some of these tournament styles are logistically much more difficult to run in a brick and mortar setting. Online, though, everything is handled electronically, and the right computer systems can do anything.

Also, brick and mortar casinos only have a limited amount of space and tables to run tournaments. This means they’re going to pick the most popular tournament styles that draw in the most people. This will usually be a standard buy-in cash tournament where the winners are paid cash. This would be the type of poker tournament that you are probably most used to.

Here are some of the different special variation tournaments that you will probably find online. We’ve attached a very brief description of each to give you an idea of how each of them works. These are incomplete descriptions, and we recommend researching these further if you’re interested in playing one of these formats.

Satellite Tournaments

A satellite tournament is a smaller buy-in tournament that wins you entry into a larger buy-in tournament or event. For example, if you want to play in a $100 tournament but don’t want to spend that kind of money, you can play in a satellite tournament. An example of a satellite tournament would be 10 people playing a tournament for $10 (total prize pool is $100), and the winner of that 10 person tournament gets entry into the $100 tournament.

Satellites are a way for you to win your entry into bigger events for a smaller amount of money. Brick and mortar casinos will sometimes run satellites, but they will usually only be to their events on their property. Online, though, you have the ability to play satellites to their events as well as live events all over the world.

For example, interested in playing in the $10k buy-in WSOP Main Event but don’t have the cash and don’t live in Vegas where the satellites are being run?  A lot of online sites will run satellites to this tournament that you can play from your own home. If you win a seat into the big game, it usually comes with travel money and accommodations. Satellites, as we stated, are a great way to get into the big action and “take your shot” without breaking the bank.

Bounty Tournaments

A bounty tournament is one where not only do you get paid for finishing in the top 10-15%, but you also earn money every time that you knock out a player. Usually, a larger portion of your buy-in will go towards the prize pool, and a smaller portion will go towards your bounty.

For example, if the tournament is a $20 buy-in with $5 bounties, $15 of that will go towards the normal prize pool, and then $5 will be set aside for whoever knocks you out. You can end up not making the money in a bounty tournament but still making money!

All In or Fold Tournaments

These tournaments are still somewhat rare online but are much more often run there than they ever are in a brick and mortar setting. In this format, you have two options before the flop. You can fold your hand, or you can go all in. This is an extremely fun format but as you can imagine, is a logistical nightmare to run in the brick and mortar setting.

It requires dealers to count chip stacks every single hand and can take way longer than people like. Online, though, everything is done automatically so this style is able to run as quickly as a traditional tournament but still with the rush of the all in or fold format.

Rebuy Tournaments

These tournaments are actually becoming rarer live as they are being replaced by the next format we will mention below, reentry tournaments. A rebuy tournament is one where you can purchase more chips when you are out of chips or below a certain threshold. The difference between this and a reentry tournament is that you stay in the exact same seat and are not treated as a brand new player. A lot of times rebuy tournaments play a lot crazier during the rebuy period that a normal tournament or even a re-entry tournament during the reentry period.

Re-entry Tournaments

As we mentioned above, these are the tournament styles that are replacing rebuy tournaments in the brick and mortar setting. A re-entry tournament is similar to a rebuy tournament except you can ONLY re-enter when you have zero chips. When you choose to re-enter, you are treated like a brand new player and given a brand new seat and a brand new stack of chips. While online poker sites opt for the rebuy structure over the re-entry structure more, this format is still used a lot online.

Sit and Gos

A sit and go is a tournament with a fixed number of players that does not have an official start time. The tournament starts as soon as enough players are registered for the event. For example, if there is a single table sit and go with nine seats available, the tournament will start as soon as nine people are registered. These are great if you want to play a tournament but don’t want to wait for a scheduled event to start.

These are also great because you know how many people will be in the event and can better gauge how long the tournament will run. For example, a $10 regular (freezeout) tournament that is scheduled for 1 pm, may get 10 players or it may get 1000 players. Because of this, you won’t know roughly how long the tournament might run until registration is closed and things have started. A nine-person sit and go will ONLY ever have nine players. It will NEVER have any more or any less than that.

Yes, these are occasionally run in brick and mortar settings but very rarely and with limited options. You will never find yourself a $5 sit and go in a poker room or casino. Online, though, you will have sit and gos of all levels and all game types. Most sites have sit and gos starting as low as $0.10.

Step Tournaments

A step tournament is a group of sit and gos that culminate in a grand prize at the top that is usually an entry into a major event. In effect, they’re a form of satellite tournament that is run as a series of sit and gos. Let’s say that you want to win a $12k package to go play in the WSOP Main Event. The package includes your $10k buy-in and $2k for travel and expenses. You could play in a 10 person $1200 sit and go where the winner gets the package. However, $1200 may be a bit more than you were looking to shell out for this shot.

This is where step tournaments come into play. Each step will be a slightly higher buy-in where the winners will win tickets to play in the next step up, tickets to try the same step again, tickets to a lower step or nada. The idea is to work your way up the steps until you get to the top step and ultimately win that tournament. Let’s look at a quick example of how the steps might be laid out for the above satellite to win the $12k WSOP Main Event package.

$10 Sit and Go

The prize pool for this sit and go is $100 (we’re ignoring rake for now for simplicity). The standard payout for this sit and go might be $50 to first, $30 to second and $20 to third. All other places would get nothing. Let’s also say that Step 2 is a $40 sit and go. The prize structure might be shifted where the top 2 finishers get a ticket to play in Step 2, and the 3rd and 4th place finishers get tickets to replay Step 1.

$40 Sit and Go

The prize pool for this step would be $400, and the standard payouts could be $200 to first $120 to second and $80 to third. Let’s also say that Step 3 is a $150 sit and go. The new payouts might be 1st, and 2nd win a ticket to play in Step 3, 3rd and 4th place win a ticket to replay Step 2, and 5th and 6th place get a ticket to Step 1.

This continues all the way to the top until you have hopefully won your package for $10. The perks of these are unless you get last place or close to it in the sit and go, you’re going to be able to keep playing and still have a shot. You can also buy into any step directly that you want to so you can start at the $150 level if you want above or the $10 level, it’s totally up to you.

Cash/Ring Games

The bread and butter of online poker sites are the real money cash games (sometimes referred to as ring games). These are games where you buy-in for an actual amount of money and can play as many or as few of hands as you’d like. You can cash out at any point or reload money at any point.

These games are common in brick and mortar settings, but they are incapable of having as many options as are available online. Online casinos will have every game variation and every stake level you could ever want. You can literally play as low as $0.01/$0.02 if you want somewhere to work on your game for real money. Having all of these different stake levels is great because it allows you to make much smaller jumps as you move up the ranks.

If you’re playing in a brick and mortar casino, you are forced to usually start at $1/$2 which is way too high for most people just beginning. After this, your next step up is $2/$5. Online, though, it’s common to see a $1.50/$3 step and then $2/$4. These additional steps are a great way for you to move up the ranks without having to take a huge jump all at once that could put you too far out of your element or playing for too much money than you’re comfortable with.

Fast Poker

This goes by a lot of different names online, so we decided to come up with our own name for it that is the most descriptive. “Fast poker” is a game where as soon as you fold your hand you are moved to a brand new table and given a new hand. There is a pool of players playing, and they create a new table every time you fold your hand. This means you can get an insane amount of hands in while you’re playing.

This will NEVER be available in a brick and mortar casino because it would look like the craziest game of musical chairs and would just never be able to work…not even a little bit. The best way to understand this format if you’re still confused is to hop online and give it a shot.

Tips for Playing Real Money Poker Online

These are not going to be strategy tips. Those are a dime a dozen on the internet. What these are going to be are tips that will protect you from making huge blunders and tips that will give you a much better experience online. Frankly, these could be more important than any strategy article you could ever read depending on where you are in your poker journey.

Use Play Money Properly

You’re probably saying to yourself, umm what does play money have to do with making real money playing poker online? There are two things we want to point out here that will answer that question.

One, we HIGHLY recommend that you use play money at least briefly before playing for real money so that you can become comfortable with the user interface and how the buttons work. The worst thing that can happen is that you sit down in a real money game and misclick and accidentally raise or fold or bet the wrong amount because you don’t understand how the software works.

All you need to do is take a few minutes at a play money table and practice raising, calling, and folding. It will not take long, but could potentially save you from a really costly mistake at the real money tables.

Two, we want to make sure that you are NOT using the play money tables to practice any sort of strategy that you plan to use for real money. As we addressed earlier in this guide, play money players have nothing invested in the game and therefore are going to react completely different than someone will when real money is on the line.

If you want to practice strategy for little risk, play for real money but at the micro stakes. Play for a few bucks. Even the smallest amount of money on the line is going to make people play more seriously. Of course, as you move up in stakes the realism and skill level will increase, but it’s much better to start light years closer to the real thing than light years away as you would be with play money.

If you don’t believe us on this last point, try this experiment. Go ask a friend or family member to play checkers with you for fun. Then, go ask them to play checkers with you again, but this time for $5. Take note of how much more seriously they take things the second time around. This is what we’re trying to point out to you.

Understand the Differences from Live Poker

This cannot be stressed enough. Live poker and online poker are the same game, but they have some major differences in the nuances of how they are played. If you’ve read the section above about online vs. live, you’re good to go. If you haven’t, though, we highly recommend you take the time to read that list.

Bankroll Management

The only way that you can keep having fun playing poker for real money online or continue to get better is if you’re still playing. This means that you need to be smart about your money and the size games and tournaments that you are buying into. If you have $100 in your account, you should not be playing $50 tournaments. Because of variance, you could be the best player in the world and lose twice from bad luck and be out of money.

Be smart about your money and make sure you are playing in the correct sized games. We could have an entire discussion on bankroll management, but here is a way oversimplified way to look at things. If you’re playing multi-table tournaments, you want to have 100x+ the buy-in level in your bankroll. This means to “properly” be playing $10 tournaments, you should have $1000+ in your bankroll. As the field sizes increase, this increases as well.

Now, if this seems absurd, this is only meant to be for people that are playing poker for a living. If you want to play a $10 tournament and you have $10 to spend for entertainment, go for it! Just don’t pull out another $10 that you don’t have to play again.

For cash games, anywhere from 30x-100x, the buy-in is recommended. The standard buy-in is calculated as 100x the big blind of the game. So, for no limit hold em $1/$2, the buy-in would be $200, and you should have anywhere from $6k to $20k in your bankroll if you are playing that game for a living. Again, this fluctuates based on the game type and how cautious you want to be.

Below is an article from Poker News with a beautiful chart that explains this in more detail:


Due to the fact that online poker is played, well, online, you’re at a computer and have access to a lot of technological tools to help you with your game. While you are not required to use any of these, they will help, and a lot of your opponents may be using them. This will put you at a disadvantage if you are choosing not to use them as well.


There are TONS of online training programs that can help you improve your game. We won’t begin to list them here, but just know that they exist. These can be training sites you join with videos and analysis or they could be forums and informational resources. They can also be programs that you play fictitious hands and tell you what you’re doing wrong. All of these formats are helpful and available all over the web.


HUD stands for heads-up display. There are lots of software programs out there that will track your opponent’s every move and overlay them on the screen for you to make decisions from. They will tell you things like how often the person raises, how often they continuation bet, etc. Some people think these are cheating, but most sites allow them. Therefore, if you are sour about them and refuse to use them, you are only putting yourself at a disadvantage.

Hand Analysis

Programs exist (usually packaged in with the HUDs mentioned above) that will help you to analyze all of your hand histories and see where you might be making mistakes. These are phenomenal programs and can really help you to develop a much more effective winning strategy. Programs like this are also great if you play against the same opponents day in and day out. It can help you to find flaws in their games and figure out how to exploit them.

Range Calculators

These are tools that allow you to calculate different outcomes in different situations based on a range of hands your opponent might have. You rarely know exactly what your opponent is holding, but you have an idea of the range of hands they could be holding. These programs allow you to make calculations based on ranges and not just on an individual hand.

Without going into too much detail and confusing the crud out of you, this is a super important tool especially as you start to move towards the higher stakes.

Real Money Poker Promotions

A great perk of playing poker online for real money is that you get the ability to take advantage of a lot of great promotions that they use to bring in new customers and retain existing ones. While there are too many different types of promotions to list them all, we wanted to give you a preview of some of the more popular and poker specific promotions that you will see.

Remember, promotions are great, and bonuses are even greater, but they should never be the driving force for why you pick one poker site online over the other. Your main priorities (and ours when we select sites to recommend) should be security, the integrity of the site, and the quality of the software. You should never sacrifice your safety or the quality of your gaming experience for a few bonus dollars.

That all being said, if you are trying to decide between two great sites, the bonus promotions could be what helps to make the tough decision for you.


A freeroll is a poker tournament that you can enter into completely free but has real prizes. These prizes might be cash, tournament entry tickets, or some sort of swag. These are a great way to get some money online and get your feet wet without depositing any money. Now, keep in mind that freerolls are usually going to have a zillion people in them fighting for a few bucks. There are times that freerolls get a lot sweeter if the criteria to enter are higher, but usually, that is not the case.

Typically, freerolls are reserved for new players or sometimes those that have made any deposit on the site.


Rakeback is a type of promotion that has become extremely popular with online poker. Sometimes it is referred to as cash back or some other term, but they all usually mean the same thing. You get back a percentage of the rake that the site takes from you. It’s basically a refund of sorts.

Why is this great? Well, rakeback allows you to make money playing poker even if you are not beating the games. Let’s look at a quick example. If you play $1/$2 online and you break completely even for the week, you’ve made $0 in profit. Now, let’s say you have a rakeback deal where you get 10% of your rake back. If you raked $1000 that week, you would be getting $100 from the site. You are now profiting on the game even though you are a break even player.

Deposit Bonuses

Hopefully, this is one that you only need to take advantage of once (because you’re winning and never need to deposit again). Deposit bonuses are free money that the casino gives you when you make a deposit. Usually, it is a match percentage up to a certain amount.

For example, a common number we see is 100% deposit match bonus up to $600. This means that if you deposit $600, the site will match that and give you another $600. If you deposit $200, they will give you $200. Now, something important that we have to point out. The money they give you is bonus dollars. These turn into real cash as you play more and more on the site. If they just gave you $600, people would deposit $600 and cash out immediately all day long.

They require you to play a certain amount, and they will release those bonus dollars to you. Honestly, if this upsets you, it shouldn’t. It’s completely fair and is much better than if the sites didn’t give you any free money at all.

Specifics to Look for When Selecting a Site

Selecting where you play poker online for real money could be just as important as some of the strategic choices you make to be a winning player. If you’re brand new to selecting a site to play at, we highly recommend you read this guide first. This goes over all of the things you MUST look for in a site. These include licensing, security, reputation, amongst other things that are a must for any type of online gaming site.

What we’d like to talk about in addition to that list are the factors that are specific to online poker. Remember, the things on that list are the most important, and these come second. It doesn’t matter how many of these factors a site has if they have issues with safety and security.

Game Choices

If you’re someone who just likes to play no limit hold em, pretty much any site is going to work great for you. If you like to play different games, though, you may want to look around a little bit to find a site that offers action on the games you like to play. You should also peek at the lobby at peak hours to see if the games have any action or not. Some sites will have tables set aside for mixed games, but no one will ever touch them.

You also want to look at what stakes are running. Make sure that the stakes you are looking for are supported by the site, and they have action. If you want to play $5/$10 and the site has zero games for those stakes, what’s the point of joining? Take a few minutes and look through the lobbies at peak hours and see if they have what you’re looking for.

Main Player Pool Location

While we’re on the topic of checking at peak hours, you may be asking when those hours are. This will largely depend on where the bulk of the player pool is from. For example, if they are all from the US, the peak times are going to be in the evenings (US time) and on the weekends. However, if most of the players are from Europe, it’s going to be the same (evenings and weekends) but European times. If you live in the US and are playing on a predominately European site, they’re going to have their games running hot at early morning your time.

This information won’t be readily posted but can probably be deduced from their website and who they look like they might be targeting. If not, you can just check the lobby at different times and see when the games are running.

Game Difficulty

This is an important one so make sure you’re paying attention. Different sites are going to have different levels of skills of their players. One site might have some of the best cash game players on the planet while another may have some of the worst. Obviously, you are going to want to look for the site that has the worst players as they will be the easiest to make money off of.

There really aren’t any rules for finding the softest (worst players) sites but a few ideas that can point you in the right direction. The great players tend to like the bigger sites. This means that the smaller sites with fewer players are typically softer. This may be because they just want tons of bigger action or it may be because of egos. It also could be because they’re just too lazy to look for value sites. They’re loss, our gain.


There’s an interesting tradeoff between software and good players. Usually, the better the software, the more good players a site has. The worse the software, the worse the players are. Does this mean you should play at the site with the worst software? Not really. Terrible software can make you make mistakes and can significantly ruin your overall experience.

Honestly, we prefer to play at sites with great software, but are willing to “slum it” a little if the action is that good and the rest of the site is great. As long as safety and security are accounted for, you can surf around for the good action.