Most players got their first touch into online poker through freerolls or play money games. If you did well playing some of those, you will likely try your hand also in real money online poker games. First you should choose the best site to play though, which can sometimes be quite challenging as there are so many options available in the poker market.
Once you know what things to look out for, choosing your go-to poker site becomes very simple. That’s why we have broken down how you can find a safe online poker room that runs good games and offers juicy bonuses – basically everything a poker player could hope for!
This post gives you all the important criteria for choosing where to play real money poker, as well as lays out the differences between real money vs play money games and the most common poker formats. Additionally, we’ll dive into the details of different legislations around poker sites in different countries. With our guide you’ll be able to pick up the most suitable poker site for you, which can mean winning more money in the long run.
How to find a suitable poker site for you
Choosing a suitable poker site is one of the most important steps that will affect how well you do in online poker. You don’t want to be one of those players who just randomly pick one! Instead, do as our Beasts of Poker Team Pros have done to make their millions – which is making the decision according to these factors:
- How soft the games are
- Game formats and player traffic
- Software & User experience
- Payment methods, cash outs and customer service
- Rakeback & deposit bonus
- Licensing of the online poker site
- Poker site complaints & red flags
If you only choose your site based on how soft the games are or how the software feels, you might enjoy the games but there can be other problems along the way. Nevertheless, the softness of the games is the number one criteria on our list. Nothing else matters much if the games are too tough to beat.
With these suggestions it will be an informed decision which poker site you end up choosing. Let’s dig deeper on how to take into account each of these criteria when comparing poker rooms:
How soft the games are
The number one criteria you should have when choosing where to play is the softness of the games. Even if you are a very skilled poker player, you will be making much less money on sites where the so-called fun players don’t like to play.
Tough opponents = little profits
Bad opponents = lots of profits
The ratio of tough players vs bad players must have a healthy balance for anyone to make consistent profits at the games. Yet, plenty of professional players tend to ignore this fact by playing mostly on sites they’re familiar with. Our recommendation is to always explore new waters to find a soft player pool.
You don’t actually even need to deposit or play on all the online poker sites to check out how good the games are. Instead, just open a few tables on any sites at your preferred time for playing and observe the action. Look for any of the following stuff while watching the tables:
- Limping instead of raising preflop
- Not 3-betting much
- Revealing medium or bottom pairs in showdown after calling multiple streets
- Showing trashy hands at showdown such as 83s, Q2o, J6o, 74o
These are the best signs of a good game. If you can spot a lot of this type of play at any poker site, you should probably try it out.
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The skill of game selection
Game selection is one of the easiest tactics to win in poker. Quite paradoxically, it’s still probably the most underrated skills among poker players, similarly to bankroll management. By game selection we are referring to the tables and stakes you choose to play within a chosen poker format.
Here’s a typical situation that comes up in game selection. Let’s say you fire up the poker client and see there are multiple tough tables with mostly winning regulars running at some specific stakes like No-Limit Texas Hold’em with blinds of $1/2. Suddenly at the same stakes you can see one table that is truly amazing: Three beginners are limping pretty much every hand, and two weak-tight players are trying to take their money by flopping the nuts. This is a dream table, and you should immediately grab the seat before someone else does! Most players will miss this table though, since they just click a few tables open and don’t bother to keep an eye on the lobby. Don’t be that lazy player!
A great way to find the best tables as quickly as possible is to mark all players you encounter with a tag. This way you can keep track of skills levels of your opponents. A simple system of three colors can do well, with one for good, players, one for weak regulars and one for the clueless fun players.
Game formats and player traffic
A poker room without good traffic is like a near-empty nightclub where the atmosphere is cold and just a few people are out on the dance floor. The traffic a poker site has is a key factor when it comes to choosing where to play, not to mention all different poker variants offered.
If you’re like most poker players, having the following game formats available is a must:
- Cash games
- No Limit Hold’em (NLHE)
- Limit Hold’em
- Pot Limit Omaha (PLO)
- Sit and Gos (SNGs)
- Spin and Gos
- Omaha 8 or Better
Besides the usual game formats, exotic game formats can be quite profitable once you’ve become somewhat good in the most popular games like NLHE and PLO. If you like some exotic game formats, you might also look for the following:
- Triple Draw Poker
- Open-face Chinese Poker
- Mixed Games
- Drawmaha aka Sviten Special
- Scandinavian Stud aka Sökö
- Fast-forward or zoom poker
One thing to keep in mind is that a big player traffic doesn’t guarantee good games. Sometimes you can find a truly amazing exotic game running regularly at a smaller traffic poker site – our Beasts Of Poker Team Pros have crushed games like these for big 5-figures or even 6-figures!
Tournaments & tournament series
Poker sites are famous for attracting players with huge tournament series. These tourney series can have tens of millions in guaranteed prize pools. No wonder recreational players like to join major online poker websites where you can make a big payday by winning a tournament!
Typically there is a lot of cash game action available during any tournament series. Even if you don’t play tournaments as your main poker game, it’s still worth checking out the tournament offering of each site before signing up. In case there are no big guaranteed tourneys and satellites to them, it’s likely tournament winners won’t be punting away their winnings at the cash games either.
Software & user experience
If you compare the user experience of online poker sites to PC games, it’s quite clear not all poker sites have their software made with modern standards and features. With more mobile poker apps being available for players there’s plenty of options to choose though. Customer-friendly user interfaces are becoming more and more common these days.
What you want to avoid here is a poker room that has such a poor software that it makes focusing on the game play difficult. Good software and a pleasant poker experience are essential for all players, especially for those multitablers who need to click the right buttons in a matter of seconds so that they can keep up with all the action!
You can test out each poker room in this regard before making a deposit. Just download their software and try out their play money games. Most poker rooms have their poker client available for both Windows and Mac users. You should see quite quickly if there are any issues. On the other hand, if the software works smoothly after playing a while, you have found a poker room that passes this criterion.
Payment methods, cash outs and customer service
When you’re playing online poker to make money, it’s essential you don’t have to wait for weeks to access your winnings. In addition, if you can’t get proper customer service when encountering a problem, it can really eat your motivation to play. That’s why payments, cash outs and customer service should be included in your key criteria for choosing a poker site.
There are two simple rules when it comes to payments on online poker sites:
- The more payment options, the better.
- Finding proof of withdrawals from fellow players is a BIG plus.
In case some poker room only sticks with a few deposit methods, they’re likely missing some player traffic that would join if their preferred money transfer method was offered. For many recreational players, using a credit card like VISA is the preferred way for making a deposit. The most common deposit methods include the following:
- Credit card deposit
- Debit card deposit
- Bank transfers
- Trustly deposit
- Neteller deposit
- Skrill deposit
- PayPal deposit
- Paysafecard deposit
- Bitcoin deposit
- eCheck deposit
- WebMoney Poker
Getting started in online poker doesn’t necessarily require much initial capital or bankroll as poker players like to call it. Minimum deposits and withdrawals in online poker usually start as low as $10. When it comes to safety issues, the question on every player’s mind is: How comfortable am I with keeping money on the site?
To feel 100% comfortable with this, you must have certainty about the money not being stolen and winnings not being forfeited. A great way to verify if this is the case is to ask around regarding payouts. If you can find friends who have got their withdrawals in time with no issues, it gives you a peace of mind for making the first deposit. Still, we recommend to keep most of your bankroll readily available in other places than online poker sites – it’s very easy to deposit more money on a site if you bust your balance.
The money should show in your poker account balance in a few moments after you’ve made your first deposit. In case it doesn’t show up, most real money poker rooms have a customer support ready to help you 24/7 every day of the year. You should get in touch with them in a live chat if that method is available, or by email.
Rakeback & deposit bonus
There is a fierce competition of acquiring new players between online poker rooms, and for this reason you can find quite generous deposit bonus offers as a new customer. When you’re signing up on a new site, check if they offer a first deposit bonus and some type of cashback program for their players. When you go to the website of any poker room, their first deposit bonus is usually the first thing you see there.
With a big welcome bonus you can build your bankroll pretty fast. Remember to check the conditions for releasing the bonus money before signing up. Most bonuses are released in small chunks and need to be cleared in 30 days, which gives you plenty of time to grind it out. If you can’t find this info or it’s unclear, just open the live chat of the poker room to ask about the specifics of the welcome bonus.
The most common online poker bonuses you can find include the following:
- First deposit bonus
- No deposit bonus
- Free tournament tickets for new customers
- Reload bonus
- Rake chase & rake race
Rakeback programs and loyalty schemes are designed to keep existing players happy so that they don’t easily switch sites. In our opinion, it’s best to have lots of poker rooms available as it gives you more options for finding a good game to play in. If you play poker at low stakes, a flat rakeback deal is usually better than a VIP program. A VIP rakeback program where you have different levels is more suitable to high-volume players who play mid stakes or high stakes.
Most online poker rooms pay the rakeback each week or each month to your account. Rakeback has a significant impact on your overall poker winnings, and it’s basically variance-free money you get by just playing. Here you can read more about the Importance of rakeback.
Licensing of the online poker site
Besides checking where a poker site is based, you should try to find information on their licensing status. A gambling license is basically a permission issued to a company to operate gambling activities, in this case online poker. Gambling licenses are provided by a regulatory body, for example a gaming commission or a gaming control board. By obtaining a license poker rooms can show their customers that they comply with all the gaming requirements and restrictions to provide legal online poker services in specific regions.
Not all poker site licenses are equally valuable. Regulated online poker websites that have obtained a license from Gibraltar or Malta are required to run their operations in a quite strict manner. You can easily check what kind of license an online poker room holds by visiting their website and scrolling to the bottom section on their front page.
Poker site complaints & red flags
Google and poker forums are your best friend when it comes to finding complaints about online poker sites. While there are always beginners who claim some poker site being rigged, there are legitimate threads on poker forums that can help you to steer away from a site or network that players have had problems with.
The first topic to search for is withdrawals on the specific poker site. Any complaint that seems to be a genuine one where the player has followed the T&C of the site should be a sign to proceed very cautiously. If that kind of case hasn’t been solved in a few weeks or months, by playing at the same site you’re basically risking ending up in that exact situation yourself.
If you find threads about a poker site or network sharing confidential information about their customers with 3rd parties you probably shouldn’t start playing there. Any information that you share with a poker room is confidential as long as there are strict license regulations in place with that operator. Even when you play rake races or other promotions, your whole name will never be displayed. Instead, they either show your poker alias or just surname and the first letter of your first name.
There are some exceptions to this though. For example on partypoker, there are now massive real-name tournaments where everybody can see who is playing at their table. These real-name poker tournaments are increasing in popularity.
Responsible gambling principles are applied on all licensed online poker operators and networks. If you ever find yourself playing too much or playing above your means, you can ask for self-exclusion or limiting the stakes that you can access.
Why play on real money poker sites vs play money sites
Real money online poker sites offer an excitement that’s not available on play money sites. It comes down to the possibility of winning money through playing cards. Besides the possibility for occasional wins, in the long run you can actually make a side income from poker or even play poker full-time.
This requires mastering the game of poker through study and lots of hours at the tables. If you’re up for that, trying your hand at the real money tables is the way to go. You’ll start to learn poker strategies that work much faster than you would on play money sites.
Cash games on real money poker sites
The beauty of cash games is you can set your own schedule and play any buy-in levels that suit you. With buy-ins ranging from $2 to $40k, everyone can find stakes that they’re comfortable with. You can also play multiple tables at once, so that you have action going all the time.
While our aim should be to play as well as we can in cash games, it’s good to remember that enjoying poker is also important. What’s the point of poker if you’re not having fun while doing it? Therefore we recommend trying out different game formats until you find a game that you really like. For some it might be the good old Holdem, but for others it might be Pot-Limit Omaha or some other game. You’ll only know after trying the different game formats yourself!
Tournaments on real money poker sites
The fact that anyone can win a tournament even against the best players in the world is what drives many players to play poker. Poker tournaments are what essentially make all the big headlines in the media: The multi-million dollar winnings, the trophies and the cinderella stories of small satellite winners making it into a big final table are what people want to read about.
If you’re looking to turn a small sum of money into a big payday, tournaments is the game format you should choose to play. In large-field MTTs you can get +1000x return on your buy-in if you manage to finish at the top positions.
Big prize pools and huge tournament series
Big guaranteed prize pools make excellent promotions for online poker rooms to attract new players. That’s why you can see plenty of sites running their own tournament series from time to time. Here’s a list of some of the biggest tournament series you can find online:
- GGPoker Super Circuit Online Series
- partypoker POWERFEST
- partypoker WPT Online Series
- PokerStars SCOOP
- PokerStars MicroMillions
Since prize pools in all poker tournaments are very top-heavy, it’s worthwhile to study the best strategies for making deep runs in tournaments.
You can play poker online from most countries in the world. Some countries have their own multi-license system when it comes to poker, such as the United Kingdom and Sweden. There are also countries where legislation allows any licensed operator to offer games. Let’s take a quick look at the specific legislations in different countries:
Real money online poker in Asia
Online poker has taken a while to become popular in Asia. Many new players have been introduced to the game due to economic growth in most Asian countries and a growing number of international brands such as GGPoker establishing their market positions.
India has seen a massive growth in online poker in jurisdictions where online poker is legal and poker is widely accepted as a skill-game there. Many Asian countries such as Combodia, Macau and Philippines host live poker tournaments with the most famous being the World Poker Tour, The Asian Poker Tour and Asia Pacific Poker Tour. It’s not unusual to find an online poker player living in Thailand, where they can enjoy the warm weather and also play on their favourite online poker rooms.
Real money online poker in the US
In 2011 UIGEA pretty much shut down the online poker industry in the US, and many professional US players moved to Canada and other countries to keep playing online poker. Additional US states are expected to legalize online poker again, and currently real money poker is legal in the states of New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Nevada. Michigan passed its law in December 2019 and many predict that online poker would be launched there in 2021. PokerStars is currently available in Pennsylvania & New Jersery. For many players living in West Virginia, a trip to Pennsylvania is just a short drive so driving accrosing the border to play online poker is a viable option.
Regulated US poker sites
Regulated US Poker Sites are sites that legally operate in states where the legislation allows online gambling. These sites include the following brands:
There’s an interstate compact in legalized US states which allows combining their player pools so that the total number of US players online is higher for both cash games and tournaments. States that are part of this currently include Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey.
Offshore poker sites accepting US players
Offshore poker sites are available to other US states, and they are legal in jurisdictions where they operate. Besides poker, many offshore gambling sites offer sports betting & casino games to their players. Offshore sites that accept US players include brands like:
- Bovada Poker
- America’s Cardroom
- BetOnline Poker
- Ignition Poker
- Global Poker
Real money online poker in the UK
Local regulations require all iGaming services that are available to players in the UK to be licensed in the UK. To obtain a license these sites must pass the tests of the UK Gambling Commission and comply with UK law. For the players UK law is quite favorable, as they don’t have to pay any taxes from their poker winnings even if they play poker for a living.
Real money online poker in Canada
Canadian players have access to the largest online poker sites with games played in CAD. Like in the UK, there is no tax obligation for players for their winnings for the most part in Canada. Some districts have their own laws though, so you should check this based on your location.
The most reliable sites available to Canadians such as partypoker and Pokerstars are globally renowned. While most of the big online poker rooms available to Canadians have their license elsewhere, a few are regulated by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. Canada is a very attractive market to gambling operators, so you can expert to get great bonuses for signing up for both poker rooms and sports betting sites.
Beasts Of Poker Pro Team Insight: Picking the Winners
- Rakeback and rewards
- Number of players, amout of the action and the stakes of the action
- Liability, whenever money is involved, you’re sure to get a few bad eggs in the mix
- Playability and appearance of the software
- Fastness, the amount of hands you get dealt in an hour can vary greatly from site to site
- Options in the software, for example is there 4-color deck option or possibility to run it more than once.
- Smoothness, is the particular software very hard to run on your computer?
- Are tracking systems allowed or not.
After a small chat with our pros it became clear that the top three points on the list were by far the most crucial to them.
Rakeback is the main source of income for numerous players. Their yearly earnings vary from just” making that bit of extra” with other work to over 6-figures in winnings yearly. Even if you’re crushing the games, you probably want that extra money going to your pockets – not the game providers. Some sites also offer poker bonuses which can vary from first deposit bonus, to longer term rakerace deals. Great rakeback deals added with well picked bonuses & promos are often the easiest ways to make sure you’re making money in the long run. Also, it’s the only guaranteed positive money flow to your account. No matter how you are doing at the tables, you’re generating rakeback every time you play.
We have put a lot of time and effort to make the best possible reviews of the sites that we represent. These poker site reviews include number of players (or the very least a rough estimate), the amount of action and the stakes you’re able to play. We also promote only companies that are trustworthy and even added it to be one of the parameters you can find on the “general view” on any poker site review.
The other points are nice as well, but has any true grinder stopped because the client was not perfect? Or because the action was amazing, but the hands were just not dealt fast enough? Absolutely not – and neither should you.
At the end of the day, choosing a poker client comes down to what you like the most. Try different gaming providers and find out what suits you. It’s okay to start with your favorite client, play there for a while and move on to multiple sites later. Whatever you decide, the only crucial thing to remember is to make the rakeback- and possible rewards-deals as you’re setting up your account. Luckily, you only need to do that once per client and you’re set for life. Even more luckily – we got you covered. Sign to any poker site through Beasts Of Poker and enjoy the best deals and offers available.
As you can see, looking for a poker software that works best for you can be a tricky business, but with a bit of our help and right attitude – it surely can be a very profitable one. Now go and choose the poker room of your liking, and best of luck on your way to success & transforming into a true poker beast!
Play money games are suitable for picking up the basics of poker, such as how the betting rounds and controls of the game work online. The real action and all the profitable opportunities are in real money games though. You can get started at comfortable stakes on all the best online poker sites, whether you like to play micro, low, mid or high stakes games.
Once you have started playing real money poker online, it’s good to refine your skills from time to time. Improving your game is essential for those who want to become winning poker players. Take your first step towards that today by reading our guide on how to crush 6-max poker!
Real Money Poker Sites FAQs
What's the difference between play money and real money poker sites?
Poker becomes quite a different game when the stakes are real, even if they are just micro stakes. While both play and real money poker games are played with exactly the same rules, their playing experience can be very different when you jump from play money games into real money games. Players become usually more cautious with their chips, making less loose calls and all-ins with trashy hands. With the chance to either win or lose real money will make some players play more aggressively and some players more conservatively.
What types of buy-ins real money poker sites offer?
Buy-ins for every bankroll can be found on real money poker sites, ranging from micros stakes cash games with $2 buy-in to high stakes with buy-ins up to $40k. Same goes for tournaments, where you can enter tourneys with buy-ins worth anything between $1 and $25k, sometimes even $100k! The average buy-in that people make into both tournaments and cash games is around $10-20.
Can I actually win some money playing poker online?
Yes, it’s possible to make even regular profits in online poker. However, winning in online poker does not come easy, as you need to commit to study the game and play consistently in good games. In the short term poker is mostly about luck, but in the long term skill is what distinguishes winners from the break-even players and losing players.
Is online poker profitable anymore?
Yes, online poker is still profitable even after many players have started using advanced poker solvers to fine-tune their strategies. But, the requirements to make a profit playing online have gone up: You need to work hard to find good games, study different strategies, improve your mental game and put in a good volume of hands.
What are the biggest online poker sites?
According to data from Pokerscout, the three biggest online poker sites are PokerStars, IDNPoker and GGPoker. Each of these sites have tens of thousands of players online at any time, multiple poker tournaments starting any time of the day and thousands of players at the cash game tables.
How do you rank real money poker rooms?
Multiple factors go into ranking real money poker rooms. A site that is great for a tournament player might not be that good for a cash game player or vice versa. In general, you should take into account the quality of play on the site, the traffic and game formats, how smooth the software is, banking options, rakeback and bonuses, license and any possible complaints other players have posted online regarding the site.
How secure are the real money poker games online?
On most sites the security level of the games is extremely high. Best online poker sites spend a lot of money in making their software secure and their data protection processes flawless. Licensed poker sites are also monitored constantly by financial authorities, and they don’t want to risk losing their license by not following the regulations.
Is there a poker app for real money?
There are multiple poker apps for real money. All the apps are free to download, so you can check out the games before making a deposit and jumping into the action. For further information on the best poker apps to play on, read our post on the Best Mobile Poker Apps in 2020.
Are there US friendly poker sites with mobile software?
Yes, there are tons of those. Sites like Bovada and BetOnline work on all the modern android & iOS devices, and poker apps like Poker Bros and Upoker are designed & optimized specifically for mobile play.
How to start playing real money poker online?
Getting started in online poker is easy. First, you download the poker software and register an account. Second, you choose your preferred deposit option to make your first deposit. Third, you just find a suitable game from the lobby and start playing. From every online poker site you can find a lobby where their selection of games is visible for players, including stakes, the game format and the number of maximum players at the table. The most usual table types are heads-up, 6-max and 9-max also known as full-ring. You can also find a quick start option on most sites, which is useful when you want to grab a seat fast in a game.
What’s the biggest difference between play money vs real money poker?
Play money poker doesn’t have any risk, as you can always reload your stack without paying anything. Players treat real money poker much more cautiously as they are risking money to play and win. Play money poker is great to learn the basics of gameplay in poker, but to learn the strategic aspects of the game it’s necessary to play real money games.
How to make a deposit on a real money poker site?
After registering an account on the site, simply click the cashier option and choose your preferred deposit option. Then you type in the amount you want to deposit, complete the transaction and you’re ready to play.
What are the different payment options on real money online poker sites?
The most common payment options available on poker sites are:
- eWallet deposits
- Credit card deposits
- Debit card deposits
- Bank transfers
- Bitcoin deposits
While some of the deposit options are faster than others, most online poker sites have multiple options to offer their players so it’s easy to find one that suits your needs. Remember to check out the deposits limits before making your first deposit!
How good are the players who play on real money online poker sites?
They are definitely more skilled than the players you face on most play money sites. That doesn’t mean you can’t beat these players with the right strategies! No one forces you to sit down with 5 professional players in a 6-max game. Instead, you can game-select tables where you're among the best 2 players. Only the top 10% of players who play real money online poker are winning players. The vast majority of players break even or lose in the long run, and most of them play for recreational purposes.
How do poker sites structure their operations to be legal in the US?
To structure their operations in a legal way in the US, poker sites offering real money games to American players are operating outside of the US. Therefore most sites that can offer games to Americans are called offshore sites. Due to UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act), financial transactions to any online poker sites, casinos or bookmakers have been prohibited inside the US since 2006. This means the US bank and other institutions for transferring money can be enforced, but poker players are not covered by the UIGEA. In addition to offshore poker sites, a few online poker sites have managed to acquire licenses lately in some specific states. We’re expecting more states to grant licenses to online poker sites in the near future.
What should I do if a poker site is delaying my withdrawal?
First you should contact their support in a friendly manner a few times with an email or a phone call. If the withdrawal is still not being processed after you’ve made requests through support, you can create a thread on the popular poker forums such as 2+2 Forums to describe your case and to notify fellow players of the issue. Depending on the site you’ve played at has a gaming license, you can also make an official complaint to their licensing body. The potential loss of their license due to complaints is something that almost all licensed poker sites take seriously.
However, if you’ve been playing on an unlicensed site, the chances of getting your money back are far worse. That’s why we recommend having an agent like Beasts Of Poker as we guarantee your deposits 100% on all the clubs that we work with on PPPoker, Upoker and Poker Bros. If you deposit through an agent to these apps who doesn’t guarantee your deposited funds, it’s on your own responsibility if something happens with the club.
Do your reviews cover all aspects of a specific site, for example GGPoker?
We try to cover all the essential details that affect whether you should play at some site. Sometimes there might be factors that we haven't noticed during testing and playing on the sites, but they're mostly minor ones. We do recommend checking also other reviews from poker media sites checking also other reviews as anchor to verify information
Beasts of PokerEditorial Team
Beasts of Poker Editorial team curates and publishes in-depth reviews and ratings of online poker sites by using their extensive industry experience. Content is created by both in-house team of experts and outside authority contributors.