There are detractors in every line of business, those who dislike the website, the customer service or the company on the whole, and in poker things are no different. Poker is a game that relies on luck, it’s a game where people can win and lose fortunes, and when you combine these two then you have a recipe for animosity. There are those that call shenanigans whenever they lose, immediately assuming the website is rigged when they land a bad beat, and although most are acting out of anger, there are those that actually believe a site is rigged just because they lost their money.
All poker sites, even the legit and established ones, have communities of players that hate them and/or think they are rigged, the issue that the amateur player faces when choosing a new poker site is separating the angry reviews from the genuine ones, and understanding that the former are common and should be ignored, whereas the latter need to be studied closely. This is because there are sites out there that really are out to rip you off, and whether they do this through a rigged banking setup, through unaudited and rigged software or through something else, these sites are bad news and need to be avoided.
We have compiled a list of the best and worst sites based on reputation and on our own extensive knowledge of the poker world. Poker in the US can feel like a different world to poker outside of the US, so we have separated these into two different groups, with the best and the worst websites on both of them.
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The Best and Worst in the US
In the United States alone it is estimated that 40 million people play poker on a regular basis, and when you consider that nearly 9 out of 10 Americans use the internet, then you have a lot of people looking for an online poker website. Of course, the gambling laws don’t make this easy, and Black Friday made things even harder, but there are still sites out there that cater for players in the United States.
One of the sites that many US players joined following the Black Friday incident was Lock Poker, but the reputation of that site has been dragged through the mud in recent times and there are reports that players are waiting months for withdrawals. No one really knows what is going on behind the scenes at Lock Poker, but one thing for certain is it’s bad news for members. Unfortunately, when it comes to US poker rooms there are more bad ones than there are good ones. There is also a grey area that includes sites like Juicy Stakes and True Poker, ones that are legit, but have such a small number of players that they aren’t worth your time.
The number of players isn’t always a good indicator either, as scam sites will often fake this to lure you in, pretending to have thousands when in truth they have just a handful. The best indicators are audited software, official licenses and fast withdrawals, and whilst some sites miss out on one or two of these, there are others that don’t tick any boxes at all.
One of the sites that has no redeeming qualities is BetonUSA, which goes by several other names, including OddsMaker, Big Daddys Casino, Pokerdealer and more. There are reports of players losing hundreds of thousands to these sites, and there have been dozens of scandals throughout their short histories. This is a big company and they are almost certainly out there operating under new names, so be cautious. The World Sports Exchange should also be avoided, they lost their gambling license due to their unfair activities, but there is a chance that they could return under a similar name or a different license.
ProPoker was involved in a scandal similar to Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker, although in this instance it was a current staff member who used his knowledge of the system to see hole cards and win tournaments. Choice Poker and Luck3 Poker were both taking deposits, but refusing to run withdrawals, and in the case of Luck3 Poker they didn’t even pay their staff.
As for the ones that you can trust, the best option currently available to US players is Carbon Poker, which leads the way by a long shot. This is the biggest and it is also the most trusted. BetOnline is also solid, with some of the biggest tournaments around, and if you want a site that has years of experience then America’s Cardroom is definitely worth your time and money.
The Best and Worst Worldwide
Once you move away from the United States you have a broader market and one that the law has a much tighter hold on. Gambling is entirely legal and there are many systems in place to ensure that the players receive the best service. That’s not to say there haven’t been scams though, as these are commonplace everywhere.
Some of the biggest ones involved Absolute Bet and Ultimate Bet, two big sites that ran on the same network and were embroiled in cheating scandals. This was before Black Friday, when US customers were also active on the site. This is the biggest scandal that has ever hit the online poker community, and although many people received refunds (there are reports that Tom Dwan received over a quarter of a million dollars) it damaged the reputation of what was a very trusted poker network.
Other scandals have included BedFred, a sports book, poker and casino operator who admitted to using software that offered a 50/50 chance but was actually weighted heavily in the favor of the house. Pokerstars and Full Tilt also had their reputations damaged following Black Friday, but this was seemingly through no fault of their own, at least as far as the players were concerned.
Pokerstars is by far the most trusted website out there. Not only have they been in business since 2001, but they have been instrumental in shaping the game of poker. Chris Moneymaker’s success at the World Series of Poker is credited with inspiring a generation to play the game, and it was at Pokerstars where Chris entered and won the satellite that sent him to the WSOP. You also can’t ignore the fact that Pokerstars have by far the largest database of players, a number that exceeds 50 million.
Pokerstars’ dominance allowed them to purchase Fill Tilt for over $700 million, and when Amaya Gaming bought Pokerstars this year for a fee just shy of $5 billion, they became the biggest online gambling company to be listed on the stock exchange. It should go without saying that you don’t stay in business for over a decade and you don’t create a worth of $5 billion by ripping people off. Scams are short-lived, there to earn a quick buck for unscrupulous minds, and Pokerstars is anything but a scam.
On the same lines, Party Poker can also be trusted with your money. They are the longest running online poker enterprise and throughout their lengthy time in the business they have consistently been one of the three best sites out there. For a long time they were the best site, but in 2006 they lost their US customers when they were forced to suspend operations in the United States. The poker rooms run by SkyBet, Paddy Power, William Hill and a slew of other sports books can also be trusted, and as they generally use large poker networks they are not short on players.
Some of the sports book poker rooms are a little stale and lacking in promotions and other areas, and these include big names such as Ladbrokes and Betfair, whilst some are just pretenders, wannabes, and should also be avoided, such as Stan James. Typically though, these are some of the best places to play, and if you already bet with a sports book, then you can even play with your winnings.