NEW 200% BONUS AND INSTANT CASH BONUS: The increased bonus package for our new depositing players includes a 200% poker bonus and up to 25% instantly added to your sports real money account. The 200% bonus is valid up to $5,000 making it the largest percentage and total dollar bonus in the US market.
Despite the 25% sports bonus not being applicable to the poker room it’s an extremely rare risk-free instant bonus opportunity that can be built up and eventually transferred to the poker room or cashed out.
Overall (average): 8.3/10
BetOnline, who has been in the online sports and casino business for over a decade under various names, is nothing if not ambitious. In one of the most hostile environments ever for US online gaming sites BetOnline is not only holding their US market ground but is choosing to enter the poker market with a brand-new independent platform. Rather than going the typical route of poker startups and piggy-backing on an existing brand BetOnline has largely created their own network.
This bold move of bypassing the software “skin” route has allowed BetOnline to reap the benefits of complete control over the cashier and self-containment of their extremely loose existing player base. While player traffic is always going to be an issue with a new network this poker room has done little to no marketing and is one of the only strong options left that allows new US signups.
I’ve been impressed with the extremely quick growth of BetOnline, which now features active 10-seat no-limit tables up to the $5/10 level and tens of active tables at lower limits. They’re second in traffic for US-facing sites, trailing only Bovada. As US players begin to discover this poker room, their easy deposit options, and their incredibly soft games I expect traffic to spike even further.
In the early-to-mid 2000s US online poker rooms were a dime a dozen with thousands of players at countless networks. Most player prioritized the number of games, tournaments, and the size of the initial deposit bonus.
The online poker industry is an entirely different beast today. With less new players to loosen up the games and deposit options drying up left and right most players are focused on finding a cashier with realistic deposit options and cash games filled with players that don’t treat every dollar like it’s their last. BetOnline has enjoyed early success with their poker room because they succeed on both of these fronts, an incredibly rare feat in this market.
A US poker room offering e-check checking account deposits and block-free credit card deposits seemed like a pipe dream after the events of online poker’s “Black Friday”, yet BetOnline has both of them. At times, the cash games have also been a throwback to the ultra-loose early heydays of online poker with high flop percentages and average pots fueled by the resident casino and sports players.
BetOnline doesn’t offer massive tournament numbers or the promotions featured at the former behemoths during the US poker glory days, but US players aren’t going to find that anywhere anymore. This group is taking a chance on the US market and it couldn’t come at a better time for players.
Those willing to tolerate some transitional growing pains will be rewarded with easy deposits, loose games, excellent customer service, and quick payouts. In the current online poker landscape that’s enough for me to make this my top-rated US poker room.
Bonus and Promotions: 9/10
With the poker room recently being added on to the cross-platform offerings they previously overlooked the poker-only crowd to the tune of no outright poker bonus. It may have taken a couple of years but BetOnline management finally wizened up and now actually offers the largest poker-specific bonus in the US market to our players. It is a 200% first-deposit bonus, valid up to $5,000. Both of those numbers are quite large but, as with any bonus, the play-through terms are far more important than the gaudy numbers.
Surprisingly, the 200% bonus release rate is very good when compared to its competitors, clocking in at about $3 of bonus per hour of play at each .50/$1 NL table. Since 2011 I’ve found the average at other US poker rooms to be about $1/2 per hour per table, making the terms of this bonus stand out. As with every bonus it is a glorified rakeback system, dispensing parts of your bonus as you earn POP Points, which are given each time you contribute rake to the dealt hand.
The specific benchmarks that trigger the transfer of cash from your pending bonus account to your cash account are a bit convoluted, with funds given as you earn enough POP Points to release 10%, 20%, 50%, 50%, and 70% of the total bonus. The rake required for each segment increases significantly with each portion but the average hourly rate of bonus still remains very good throughout.
Players have 120 days to earn as much of the bonus as possible, which is 30-60 days longer than the typical time period given by competing sites. While it is clearly publicized on the poker promotions page the only frustrating aspect of the bonus is that players have to manually e-mail the support team to activate it within their account.
This is a move that reminds of online poker circa 2003 and is clearly unnecessary in the days of modern software tracking but it is a one-time bother for a very good bonus. Again, be sure to follow the poker room’s instructions for activating the bonus following your first deposit.
BetOnline has also instituted a player reward system called POP Points, which are awarded via cash game play or by entering tournaments. Earned POP Points can then be as a buy-in for designated daily tournaments that award real money.
More uses for POP Points are likely on the horizon but, for now, it is a risk-way to earn real money based on past gameplay. The other main significant promotion is a 100% slots bonus that can be cash out after a 50x rollover from slots play.
Two other newer promotions that are worth educating yourself on are a 4 of a kind and a bad beat mini-jackpot. Both require you to manually notify the poker room if they occur, use both hole cards, go to showdown, and provide the hand number and other details. That is standard practice, but they also want you to do that within an hour of the qualifying hand happening.
Imagine how many players might miss out on some free money simply because they don’t know the promotion exists? What I like about these offers is that the hand qualifications are quite low, meaning that most players are bound to see the bonuses one or more times.
The four of a kind bonus requires any four of a kind, win or lose. The bad beat bonus is the lowest I’ve seen, requiring only to be beaten while holding a Jack-high flush or better. The rewards are similarly common, with up to about $40 available per occurrence, which seems modest, but they also don’t require one-in-a-million scenarios that the big jackpots do like have a straight flush beaten.
The only caveat is that these aren’t run all the time, although they should be if BetOnline wanted another standout feature. The four of a kind offer seems random and the software will notify you when it is on. The bad beat rebate happens every Friday.
Finally, freerolls are run at least once or twice every hour and offer prizes up to $200.
As a poker-only player it was gratifying that the management here has begun to understand the value of offering more poker-specific promotions and responded to player criticisms. The instant free bet offer was always appreciated, but the poker room now has a much better shot at acquiring bonus-driven grinders by competing (and exceeding) the rest of the market with the new 200% offer.
Despite the antiquated requirement of e-mailing the poker room this is the best bang for the US buck in terms of total bonus size and play-through requirements.
US Deposits: 10/10
One of the most notable advantages BetOnline has over the rest of the US market is the near-100% success rates of credit card deposits. By utilizing proprietary processors and almost two decades of experience in the online gaming industry they should be able to accept any major credit card or debit card, including those that may have been declined previously at other poker rooms.
Pre-paid gift credit cards should also be accepted as long as the issuing bank allows international transactions. No third-party e-wallet or fees are involved making this poker room the current industry leader in terms of pain-free US credit card deposits. Both of these offers are unique in an industry that is trending towards complicated bonuses that ultimately either rob the player of the offer or take exorbitant amounts of time to play through.
With the online poker industry being forced into massive changes in 2006 and 2011 US player priorities have also changed. With the luxury of easy deposits disappearing from the US market the ability to perform the simple act of funding your poker account is now a determining factor in deciding who gets your poker business. BetOnline largely succeeds in this market because they make it a pain-free experience for US players to deposit.
E-checks, the gold standard of convenience, had become an endangered species following recent legal developments. BetOnline has somehow procured direct processors for them and players should either call the poker room or chat with support for more details. No fees are charged by the poker room for any deposit method.
This poker room has one of the best credit card deposit success rates for US cards at nearly 100%. Despite every poker room offering credit card deposits they’re largely useless if most cardholders’ banks block the transaction. BetOnline suggests the use of debit cards over credit cards, although you shouldn’t experience issues with any originating bank, including those issuing prepaid gift cards.
In the rare instance that you aren’t able to make a direct credit card deposit the recently-added voucher method should break the processing barrier. With this option you use your existing credit card to purchase a prepaid gift code from a third-party, which can then be entered directly into the poker room cashier. There are no fees involved with this method and it will have a higher success rate with some credit cards.
As a final option cash transfer deposits are accepted, which can be done at physical locations like pharmacies and convenience stores as well as online with both transfer providers. Typically the poker room will reimburse players for any transfer fees, especially if requested. Paper alternatives include mailing the poker room a cashier’s check or money order via courier.
BetOnline is a bit more generous than others for paper deposits as they’ll reimburse players for any courier fees. They seem to pride themselves on personalized service so if you cannot find a suitable deposit option I’d recommend asking a telephone support representative for other suggestions.
US Payouts: 8/10
One of the reasons BetOnline has done well in the sports market over the years is their solid reputation for quick payouts. They seem to structure themselves for returning loyal players rather than for quick-fix bonus hunters.
That being said the actual payout request process is fairly archaic. The guidelines are strange but once you learn to work within them it is one of the more dependable payout services online. BetOnline works more like an old-fashioned sports site in that you need to e-mail them through the software to request payouts.
There is a $50 credit of withdrawal fees every month, although for some reason you have to request them on a Friday. The most common method is paper check, although you can request payouts via ACH, cash transfer, Moneybookers (non-US), and NETeller (non-US).
Fish Rating: 7/10
Like most players I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the pervasive tightness that has largely sucked the life out of today’s cash games. The lack of new US players, deposit difficulties, and the availability of advanced poker strategy are largely responsible for the single-digit flop percentages seen at the largest rooms in recent years. Fortunately, the gambling-centric mindset of the casino and sports players here hasn’t changed much over the past decade.
With the BetOnline poker room predominantly populated internally by players from their other gaming platforms the cash tables are fairly loose. Many of the players haven’t played much, if any, poker and are simply looking for another thrill to gamble their balance on.
The cash game traffic has really improved over the past few months with at least 10-20 active tables at limits up to $1/2 NL and several full tables at higher limits up to $5/10 NL. Virtually every one features flop percentages of at least 25-30% and average pots of 20-30x the big blind, which is remarkable for 10-seated games in the current poker climate.
Hunting through the lobby for the isolated table with decent average numbers has become a common practice for players at the former US powerhouses. It’s refreshing to know that just about every table is filled with calling stations and maniacs chasing draws and paying you off more often when you hit your monster hands.
BetOnline bucks what has become the new norm for poker worldwide and consistently offers cash games comparable to those “poker explosion” days that seem like a distant memory now. Rather than focus strictly on bringing in full-time poker grinders as the former industry leaders had this poker room appeals to all-around gamblers and those jaded by the tight dull games found elsewhere.
I believe the extremely easy deposits also tend to allow players to subconsciously play a looser game and release the fear that a lost bankroll might be impossible to replace. Cash game traffic is only second to Bovada in the US market and those players are in the top tier for Fish Rating.
Update: Cash game traffic has tightened up somewhat since I initially reviewed BetOnline, likely thanks to more experienced players discovering the poker room’s formerly-wild traffic. Games are still looser-than-average but their Fish Rating has been updated to reflect that decrease in soft players.
The tournament schedule at BetOnline is more of a token feature at this point than a serious draw for new players. While there still can be plenty of casual fun in play sub-$10 events dedicated tournament players might quickly grow impatient with the high end of guaranteed prize pools ranging from $1,000-20,000. The most popular daily real-money events draw about 100-200 players, which is certainly modest.
There are freerolls every hour with prize pools between $10-100, although you’ll be competing with 800+ players for that miniscule prize. Some of the largest high-value events are the new $15,000 guarantees with a .99 buy-in, which is an excellent prize-to-buy-in ratio at any site.
There are some overlay opportunities in which the poker room guarantees a minimum prize pool but the actual buy-ins from players fall short of that threshold. For example, one of the better tournaments on the schedule is a $3,000 weekly guarantee with a small $11 buy-in. The entrants often only make up $2,000 or so of the prize pool, meaning that the poker room has to add in the other $1,000.
This is essentially like starting the tournament with a hundred players already knocked out as the prize money is there but not the players. They do have several weekly events with strong value in their $1,000, $3,000, and $4,000 guarantees with buy-ins under $12.
The largest monthly guarantee is $20,000, which won’t turn any heads, although the buy-in is extremely reasonable for low-limit players at $60. This is also a rewards system that disperses Promo Bucks, which can be used directly for tournament buy-ins. Players can either earn these as a deposit bonus or through special tournaments that give away Promo Bucks as prizes.
Sit and Go events are surprisingly popular up to the $33 turbo level with only a few minutes of wait-time per table. The “1-Up” Sit and Go tables are the equivalent of the addictive Double Up format in which the remaining half the table doubles their buy-in.
The tournament section is still clearly a work in progress with few large guarantees and a modest level of traffic. Fortunately, there are still several low buy-in events every hour, fairly busy Sit and Go tables, and overlay opportunities to offer value to tournament players.
Player Traffic: 8/10
The biggest crux of BetOnline had previously been the traffic level but it has shown remarkable growth since the early post-launch days. Peak times usually feature about 2,000 online players with most of them populating the cash games. There are now 10-20 active tables per limit up to the $1/2 level around the clock with about a dozen more up to the $5/10 level.
As I prefer 10-handed games to 6-handed I was pleasantly surprised to find almost as many full games and shorthanded ones. The most popular tournaments draw about 300 players and Sit and Go events are busy with little waiting time for buy-ins up to about $30. The traffic has really grown to competitive levels with table variety at each limit.
The BetOnline software is pretty standard fare although I feel that it deserves a strong score for being clean, uncluttered, and dependable. I also always enjoy seeing original software clients as opposed to those that are simply lightly modified versions of a network template.
The lobby offers similar filters as other poker rooms with the ability to show cash games and tournaments based on specific parameters like limit and type of game. Strangely, it doesn’t show the average number of hands per hour but from my playing time I’ve found it to run at an above-average speed of 60+ hands per hour.
You can choose between a couple of racetrack-shaped table skins called “Modern” or “Retro”, both of which are no-frills birds-eye view layouts with clean graphics. I usually prefer the Modern theme, which is pictured at the top of the review and features a stylized stadium background. The Retro options looks almost identical to the lounge-like graphics of the old Paradise Poker client, which can serve as a nice dose of nostalgia for online poker veterans of last decade.
Both table themes have a minimalistic approach with a soft color scheme, stylized chairs, and little player customization. The active player is clearly identified with a blinking light and a colored meter tells you exactly how much time you have left to make a decision.
Individual table stats are available and the hand history is in basic text form. There is a buddy list and player notes features for keeping track of friends or following around weak players. There is little to no player customization such as custom themes, avatars, or visual player accolades. Table windows can be resized or tiled, if necessary.
Overall, the software package isn’t more advanced than anything else that’s come out in the past 10 years but it doesn’t really need to be. It doesn’t feature many advanced options but it has good functionality with a clean look and speedy games.
Customer Service: 10/10
So few poker rooms actually offer live telephone support that doing so almost automatically compels me to give a top score. BetOnline focuses more on player support and banking ease than flashy promotions and bonuses so they offer just about every contact method for players. I usually take advantage of the live chat feature, which is available both from the website directly or the poker software.
The support team actually seems familiar with the poker room and I’ve always gotten the answers I needed from them without having to call in. Skype is even an option, which is something I haven’t seen anywhere else.
Strategy for BetOnline Poker
Though you are probably familiar with the overall concepts it’s essential to brush up on methods of combating aggressive players at BetOnline. With the majority of cash games featuring high flop percentages and large average pots you’ll usually be seated with a combination of passive calling stations that play too many hands or maniacal sports bettors that try to run you off of every hand.
With few poker rooms matching the wild play of this poker room over the past few years you may be a bit rusty on specific strategies to employ against loose players. The key to profits in loose games is to be selective with your starting hands and know when to give and take control.
The inherent weakness in calling stations is that they play too many hands and stay in far too long, content to allow more aggressive players to take control and dictate the betting. How do you extract maximum profits from calling stations? Seize control and simply bet for value on your strongest hands.
While that may seem simple many players here overcomplicate decisions by trying advanced plays, acting weak, or bluffing. If you expect to get called simply act strong when you’re strong and make your bet sizes as large as possible without exceeding the post.
How do you succeed against overly aggressive players? Allow them to take control and hang themselves with their poor play. Regularly employ check-raises to trap players for a quick profit or simply flat-call in position on the flop before making your move on the turn or river. Overaggressive players typically can’t see the forest for the trees, building a significant pot by making large bets at every street while you lull them into comfort by weakly calling until the river.
For this reason I recommend holding strong made hands rather than speculative draws when facing overaggressive players. This method works particularly well when playing in position and heads-up post flop.