The best poker site reviews that will change the way you play



Honest in-depth featured on the best that real-money poker sites have to offer will always be the centerpiece of Beat The Fish.

I’ve gotten a bunch of e-mails over the past 12 years from players who tell me they appreciate them. I can’t tell you how gratifying that is.

As I think you’ll agree, honest reviews are so tough to find.

I’m going to give you a real idea of what to expect before you play.

These aren’t your father’s poker site reviews

If you’ve spent any time in our little corner of the World Wide Web devoted to poker you’ve seen them before.

Many reviews are thinly-veiled advertisements incentivized by the poker rooms themselves. Grasp of the English language is optional.

Others are woefully inadequate and clearly written by someone who didn’t actually play at the site in question. If it isn’t good enough for them, why should it be for you?

I’m not going to shove any one site down your throat. Pick what’s important to you and don’t compromise until you find someone that provides it.

Recent feedback I’ve gotten on my reviews:

Eddie McCracken

The reviews have helped me the most. The Ignition Poker review was very helpful, as I am playing there now.

Thus far, Ignition Poker and BetOnline are the best sites I've played on.

America's Card Room is also good, but I've found the players there to be much tighter.

Andrew Zimolzak

Honestly I'm new to online poker (as opposed to home games).

BTF has more or less given me the confidence to jump into online poker as a U.S. player.

The reviews of online poker sites, in particular for U.S. players, are convincingly unbiased.

Jay Aldridge

I really love your poker site reviews.

I'm starting to play online quite a bit, Ignition and Betonline.

I work nights, so I have to take what I can get during the day. Hence I play mostly on weekends.

BOL games seem softer to me.

I’ve been doing this for quite a while

Here’s the bottom line:

I’m entering my 13th year of reviewing online poker rooms.

I’ve reviewed 53 sites over that time.

I feel like I have a pretty strong grasp on what’s important to players because I’m still one myself.

Have a read and I think you’ll find my honesty and lack of bias refreshing from what you might be used to.


The real-money poker site reviews I put my name behind


Ignition Poker

Name: Ignition Casino Poker Room
Network: Proprietary closed network
US Players accepted: Yes
Overall review score: 9.2/10
Bonus: 100% and $5 instant free bet
Traffic: #1 in US market, #3 worldwide
In operation since: 2004 (for poker under the Bodog and Bovada brands)
Full review: Ignition Poker review


  • Poker room open since 2004 as Bodog and Bovada
  • The most US traffic by far
  • The quickest payouts in the US
  • The only mobile real-money client in the US
  • The only quick-fold option in the US
  • Some of the loosest cash games online

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Quick-hit thoughts on Ignition Poker

  • Ignition Poker received my highest poker review rating of any site.
  • Double the traffic, cash games, and tournaments of any other US site.
  • The best reputation and payout history of any site open to Americans, online for poker since 2004.
  • Excellent mobile client is one of the standout features.

BetOnline for US players

BetOnline Poker

Name: BetOnline
Network: Proprietary closed network
US Players accepted: Yes
Overall review score: 8.7/10
Bonus: 200% and $135 in free bets
Traffic: #2-3 in US market
In operation since: 1991 in brick-and-mortar form
Full review: BetOnline review


  • Processes nearly 100% of US credit cards
  • Now supports Bitcoin for deposits and withdrawals
  • Active tables up to the $5/10 NL level
  • Player quality is still low
  • I’ve played here since 2011
  • Quick payouts, some within days


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Quick-hit thoughts on BetOnline

  • BetOnline is my current #2 site for US players.
  • Near-100% US credit card success rates, diverse payout options, and above-average Fish Rating.
  • As for their gaudy 200% deposit bonus the real value lies in the industry-leading bonus payout rate per hour.
  • Tournaments may be mediocre, but cash game traffic is also one of the highest in the US market.

SportsBetting Poker for US players

SportsBetting Poker

Name: SportsBetting
Network: Proprietary closed network
US Players accepted: Yes
Overall review score: 8.7/10
Bonus: 200% and $125 in free bets
Traffic: #2-3 in US market
In operation since: 2012 (current owners)
Full review: SportsBetting Poker


  • Same network, same benefits as BetOnline
  • Bitcoin for deposits and withdrawals
  • Lowest credit card decline rate in US
  • Traffic is in top US tier
  • Payouts are quicker than average
  • I’ve played here since 2012


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Quick-hit thoughts on SportsBetting Poker

  • SportsBetting Poker would not score highly if originality mattered as it is a carbon copy of BetOnline on the same network.
  • They’re is still one of the most well-rounded choices for US players and are worth mentioning in such a barren market.
  • The same excellent US credit card processors apply, with deposits almost never declined and no extra fees added.
  • Other main positives include a high volume of cash tables and one the most bloated bonuses online.
  • Players are allowed to have an account both here and at BetOnline with the benefit being that you’re able to earn any deposit bonus or promotion twice.

America's Cardroom for US players

America’s Cardroom

Name: America’s Cardroom
Network: Winning Poker Network
US Players accepted: Yes
Bonus: 100% and 20 free Sit and Gos
Traffic: #2-3 in US market
In operation since: 2001
Full review: America’s Cardroom review


  • Actually now the oldest US site left
  • Traffic is strong up to the $5/10 NL level
  • 20 free Jackpot Sit and Gos with deposit
  • Some of the largest tournaments in the US
  • Quick payouts
  • Supports Bitcoin
  • I have played on this network since 2005


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Quick-hit thoughts on America’s Cardroom

  • America’s Cardroom has had an interesting journey as a rehabilitation home for bankrupt gaming sites. They have never been riding higher as one of the more popular options for US players and it isn’t difficult to see why.
  • Their tournaments are mostly unmatched in the US market, amazingly hosting occasional $1,000,000 guarantees and daily events the draw 500+ players.
  • Cash game action is surprisingly loose, although highly focused on 6-seated tables.
  • The number of active tables is right up there with the US leaders.


888 Poker

Name: 888 Poker
Network: Proprietary closed network
US Players accepted: No
Overall review score: 8.8/10
Bonus: $88 no-deposit and 100%
Traffic: #2 worldwide
In operation since: 2002 (for poker)
Full review: 888 Poker review


  • Traffic is the second-best in the world
  • Received one of my highest Fish Ratings
  • $88 no-deposit bonus
  • Instant Play for no-download play
  • Accepts the most countries for PayPal
  • Real-money app for iOS and Android
  • I have played here since 2004



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Quick-hit thoughts on 888 Poker

  • 888 Poker has risen through the ranks over the years, going from casino sidekick to now the #2 poker room in the world in terms of traffic.
  • There are a couple of advantages 888 Poker gives players over PokerStars, namely the much looser competition and the excellent promotional offers.
  • The $88 no-deposit offer is the only legit one of its kind left in online poker.
  • They’re also one of the only sites left to offer an Instant Play client, allowing real-money gameplay without downloading anything.
  • If you use PayPal, this is the only site that accepts it from most countries in Europe



Name: PokerStars
Network: Proprietary closed network
US Players accepted: No
Overall review score: 8.1/10
Bonus: 100% up to $600
Traffic: #1 worldwide
In operation since: 2001
Full review: PokerStars review


  • By far the largest poker site in the world
  • Hundreds of cash games and daily tournaments
  • Extremely tight player base
  • Real-money app for iOS and Android
  • $1 million guarantee every Sunday
  • Some of the fastest payouts online
  • I have played here since 2004



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Quick-hit thoughts on PokerStars

  • PokerStars has a stranglehold on the online poker market and is heads-and-shoulders above the competition in terms of traffic.
  • There are dozens of cash games available at every limit, including the highest stakes online
  • Every single tournaments draws thousands of players. $1 million guarantee every Sunday.
  • Quick-fold poker on PC, Mac, and mobile apps.
  • With the only knocks being the incredibly tight games and lack of telephone support most players are unlikely to need to visit anywhere else.



Name: PKR
Network: Microgaming Poker Network
US Players accepted: No
Overall review score: 8.0/10
Bonus: 200% up to $1,000
Traffic: #7 worldwide
In operation since: 2005
Full review: PKR review


  • The only reputable real-money site with 3D software
  • Customizable avatars, clothing, emotes, voices
  • Joining Microgaming was great move for traffic
  • Now on a top-10 network
  • Large bonus, but only average clearing rate
  • PayPal available to U.K. and Denmark
  • I have played here since the closed Beta in 2005



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Quick-hit thoughts on PKR

  • PKR is still unlike any other poker room on the market, offering a seamless blend between a video game and real-money poker for over a decade now.
  • No one has even tried to compete with their 3D software since they launched in 2005
  • Lack of traffic has always been an issue, but they joined the Microgaming network in 2016 for a significant boost
  • Now offers a 2D option to improve speed
  • Real-money apps for iOS and Android


My Recipe for Rating the Best Poker Sites

My poker review recipe follows a general format that I feel gives you the most informative cross-section possible.

Like the epic timpano from Big Night or an English dessert trifle I want to peel back the layers of a prospective poker site to cover what may be most important to you.

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Aces and Deuces

This is at the top of each review page and gives a couple handfuls of quick hits and misses for each poker room.

It serves as a quick reference for what I feel are the standout features, both good and bad.

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Bonus and Promotions

I feel that a lot of poker review sites err in their over-the-top attention of the bonus number.

Unfortunately, only the greenest of the green online poker players take bonuses at face value anymore and actually believe they’re going to get that bonus money right away.

In this section I focus more on how long it actually takes to clear the bonus and what the inevitable restrictions are.

I also review any notable promotions such as depositor freerolls and what the player rewards system is like.

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Fish Rating

If I actually had a phrase I wanted to trademark for the site this would probably be it.

The Fish Rating has been one of the staples of my reviews since the beginning, which scored the quality of play at a poker site.

Everyone will have their own priorities, but this is going to be one of your main factors in deciding on a new poker home.

The higher the Fish Rating, the higher the number of poor players that populate the tables.

It’s an interesting phenomenon that players at one site can behave so differently than players from another.

I always try to give you the clearest picture of this important factor.

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Real-Money Deposits

More of a concern for US players, I like to rate the cashier options in each poker review and how well each one is processed.

Even for non-US players availability of deposit methods can vary considerably. It’s helpful to know how you can deposit before you even bother with a new site.

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Nothing complicated here. What is the tournaments schedule like? What are the most notable events and what is their big Sunday guarantee?

Beyond that, I like to include how many players typically enter each tournament, how long it takes to fill a Sit and Go, freerolls, and potential overlay opportunities.

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Again, probably a bigger concern for US players, but players worldwide should know what to expect from the cashout process.

Payout speed is such an important factor that I simply don’t think any poker room is better than its ability to players in a timely manner.

You need to know how you can get your money and how long it’s going to take.

Surprisingly, this essential is left out of most poker reviews.

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Player Traffic

This is another key to my poker reviews that is often overlooked or left out entirely. Like it or not, player traffic can doom an otherwise-solid poker site.

You’re just going to end up frustrated if you have money somewhere you can’t find filled tables at and/or offers paltry tournament guarantees.

I always include realistic expectations for traffic.

In fact, I’ve de-listed or declined to review poker sites simply based on lack of traffic.

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Yes, you’re going to want an attractive software style that you won’t mind staring at for hours at a time, but what about advanced usability features?

Beyond features or game speed I like to note if a poker site uses anonymous tables, offers a native Mac version, and what the mobile options are like, if any.

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Customer Service

Customer service is easy to ignore until you actually need help with something.

I find something to contact the poker site about in order to test how well they perform.

Additionally, anyone with e-mail-only support deserves the shame I try to give them.

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Finally, I’ve always closed each of my poker reviews with a strategy tidbit specifically designed for players at that site.

Each poker room tends to have a certain flow and player type. There are usually ways to exploit that.

Here I share some ninja tips to combat whatever the specific player trend is at the given poker site.


Their Poker Reviews


Ah, potted meat product. It’s seemingly a staple in the over-processed realm of poker reviews by the mega sites.

Most reviews of online poker rooms out there on the interwebs these days aren’t worth their weight in 7-2 offsuits.

It amazes me that the mega online poker portals – with their teams of content writers that often don’t use the English language well – all follow just about the same recipe.

The most egregious offense is that what should take up the bulk of a poker review – you know, information that you can tell is genuine on what it’s like to actually play at the site – is usually missing.


Online Poker Review Tartar

A common dish served at popular poker portals. Blend all ingredients until smooth using food processor. Serve ice-cold with a garnish of sleek infographics. Present to unwitting guests.

  • 1 cup PR highlights from the poker rooms themselves
  • 2 cups generic background information
  • 2 tablespoons of an exclusive bonus (Note: if unavailable freerolls may be used as a substitute)
  • Hyperbole, sprinkled generously throughout to maintain unbridled positivity
  • Optional: reported experiences from actual gameplay

My Online Poker Reviews

Like one of Hannibal's fine meals I want my online poker reviews to be thoughtfully-prepared, detail-oriented, and considered from all angles. No people required.

Like one of Hannibal’s fine meals I want my online poker reviews to be thoughtfully-prepared, detail-oriented, and considered from all angles. No people required.

I can do better than that.

I think that players want unbiased, balanced, objective, and complete reviews just like any consumer buying a new car or TV would.

The most important quality in my poker site reviews is that they aren’t influenced by money and make them as honest and complete as possible. The amount of misinformation and outright lies published online about poker rooms is staggering.

A Different way to look at what qualifies as the best in online poker

I’ve always strived to  succeed in a different way than others, whether at the poker table or in business. I would rather have players trust me and return for advice than trick them into going with who pays me the most.

I’m an online poker player first and foremost so I evaluate poker rooms just like a normal player would.

Real players don’t just look at marketing statistics or bonus numbers. Real players dig deeper than flashy design and actually experience the games. Real players actually see how well the deposit, withdrawal, and support systems work.

For prospective players to make an informed decision I feel like the following questions need to be answered in a site review, at minimum.

Questions I always answer in my online poker reviews

  • How stable is the long-term outlook?
  • How easy is the deposit process (especially for US players)?
  • What is the current and historical delay time for payouts?
  • How soft are the cash games?
  • Is there enough player traffic?
  • Is the tournament schedule strong?
  • How easy is it to actually earn the promoted bonus?
  • How much help is the poker room if I have a problem?

I've done more than 50 online poker reviews for Beat The Fish over the past 11 years. Out of all of those, I only recommend the 6 currently listed.

I’ve done more than 50 online poker reviews for Beat The Fish over the past 11 years. Out of all of those, I only recommend the 6 currently listed.

Resisting the Money Bias for Online Poker Reviews

I can’t count the number of times over the years that poker room affiliate programs have tried to coerce me to increase their exposure in return for better rates or player exclusives.

I’ve had the same answer for them from the beginning: I will always be in charge of my own reviews and I will rank them as I see fit.

If that costs me whatever reward you’re holding hostage then so be it.

My Philosophy on how to look at the top poker sites

I’ve reviewed more than 40 poker rooms since 2005 and rejected more than that.

I don’t hesitate to remove any poker site that has massive withdrawal issues, has real evidence against it of cheating, or any other issue that makes me too uncomfortable to give my recommendation.

Combined with the closure of many of my former top-rated sites the current list stands at just 6 poker rooms, but I believe that these are the best 7 in the market, each for different reasons.

I hope that you find something useful in my reviews that helps you be more informed about your current online poker home or a prospective one. At the very least, know that they’re honest experiences from a fellow poker player.


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Josh H
Josh H
Owner and Editor-in-chief at Beat The Fish
A lifelong poker player who moved online in 2004, Josh founded Beat The Fish in 2005 to help online poker players make more-informed decisions on where to play and how to win once they got there. He hopes to cut through the rampant dishonesty in online gaming media with objective reviews and relevant features. Tech nostalgic. Nintendo apologist. You can reach Josh directly at

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2 Comments on "7 Superior No-BS Online Poker Reviews [2017 Case Studies]"

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These might be the most detailed reviews out there. A lot of effort clearly went into making these, really appreciate it!


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