The Best Poker Site Reviews for 2018

online-poker-reviews-10

Poker Sites for Real Money

Honest in-depth features 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 13 years from real players who tell me they appreciate them. I can’t tell you how gratifying that is.

As I think you’ll agree, honesty about poker sites is tough to find. I’m going to give you a real idea of what to expect before you play.

I personally review every poker site

My name is Josh and I launched Beat The Fish in 2005. I’ve been reviewing online poker sites for more than a decade. I’ve reviewed more than 60 poker sites over that time.


Every poker review you find here has been personally written by me only after I've played at each poker site for a number of hours.


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

Poker Site Reviews I've Done in 2018


Bovada Poker

Bovada Poker

Bovada Poker is one of my cult favorite poker sites since I started playing there for real money in 2004. They're the largest in USA poker player traffic by far and have one of the loosest player bases in the world for any poker site.


I love how Bovada embraces the use of anonymous tables, which renders poker site HUDs useless and encourages recreational players. Bovada is also the only online poker site in the US to offer fast-fold poker.

  • Real money mobile app
  • Bitcoin payouts in as little as 1 hour
  • Excellent poker site reputation earned by lack of scandals or payout delays
  • Fast-fold Zone Poker allows you to play 300+ hands per hour per table

Quick hits from my Bovada Poker review

Payout Speed

Fish Rating

Mobile Poker

9.1

Rating

My highest overall rating.

100%

Bonus

Valid for up to $500 extra.

#1

Traffic

The most poker player traffic in the USA market.

2004

Open Since

One of the oldest online poker sites still in operation.

Yes

USA Players

Americans are accepted for real money play.

Ignition Poker

Ignition Poker

Ignition Poker is a newer name in the online poker market, launched in 2016 when they allegedly bought the poker division from Bovada. Don't be fooled. They're likely operated by the same folks in charge of online poker site Bovada, which is good news for players.

  • On the busiest poker site network in the USA market
  • Real money payouts in as little as 6 hours with Bitcoin
  • One of the only mobile real money clients in the US
  • Some of the loosest cash games online

Quick hits from my Ignition Poker review

Payout Speed

Fish Rating

Mobile Poker

8.1

Rating

#2 in my poker site rankings.

100%

Bonus

Valid for up to $1,000 extra.

#1

Traffic

On the most-trafficked network in the USA market.

2016

Open Since

Opened by Bovada to take over its poker operation.

Yes

USA Players

Ignition has accepted US players since they opened.

BetOnline Poker

BetOnline Poker

BetOnline has settled into a nice niche as an online poker site, offering quick payouts, new software, a very good mobile app, and decent cash game traffic. Although the players aren't quite as bad as they used to be, I've played poker at BetOnline for years and have consistently rated them highly.

  • Processes nearly 100% of US credit cards
  • Supports Bitcoin ​and several cryptocurrencies
  • Active poker tables up to the $5/10 NL level
  • New excellent mobile poker site for iOS and Android

Quick hits from my BetOnline Poker review

Payout Speed

Fish Rating

Mobile Poker

7.8

Rating

#3 in my poker site rankings.

100%

Bonus

Valid for up to $1,000 extra.

#3

Traffic

Currently third in cash game traffic in the US.

2011

Open Since

I've played at this poker site since its launch.

Yes

USA Players

BetOnline has always catered to USA players.

America's Cardroom

America's Cardroom

America’s Cardroom has had an interesting journey as a rehabilitation poker site home for bankrupt gaming sites. They have never been riding higher as one of the more popular real money poker options for US players and it isn’t difficult to see why.


Their tournaments are mostly unmatched in their online poker market, amazingly hosting occasional $1,000,000 guarantees. America's Cardroom is on the second-largest real money American network and is offering a unique $50 free instant tournament bonus.

  • Now one of the oldest online poker sites left
  • 20 free Jackpot Sit and Go’s with real money deposit
  • Some of the largest tournaments in the US
  • Very fast Bitcoin payouts within 12 hours

Quick hits from my America's Cardroom review

Payout Speed

Fish Rating

Mobile Poker

7.5

Rating

Well-rated in everything except mobile poker.

$50 free

Bonus

Free real tournament money plus 100%.

#2

Traffic

Second-highest player traffic in the US market.

2001

Open Since

I've played on this network since 2005.

Yes

USA Players

With a name like that, they better accept them.

Sportsbetting

Sportsbetting Poker

SportsBetting Poker wouldn't score highly if originality mattered, as it's a carbon copy of BetOnline on the same poker site network. Sportsbetting is still one of the most well-rounded choices and is worth mentioning in such a barren real money market.


The same excellent ​credit card processors processors apply, with money deposits almost never declined and no extra fees added. Other main positives include a high volume of cash tables and one bigger real money bonuses online.


Online poker players are allowed to have a real money account both here and at BetOnline with the benefit being that you’re able to earn any deposit bonus or promotion twice.

  • Same poker site network, same benefits as BetOnline
  • Lowest credit card decline rate in US
  • Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies
  • New real money mobile poker software

Quick hits from my Sportsbetting Poker review

Payout Speed

Fish Rating

Mobile Poker

7.5

Rating

Strong ratings aside from HUD blocking.

100%

Bonus

Valid for up to $1,000 extra.

#3

Traffic

Third in real money game traffic in the US.

2012

Open Since

I've reviewed this poker site since its launch.

Yes

USA Players

Sportsbetting draws most of its players from the USA.

Black Chip Poker

Black Chip Poker

Black Chip Poker is follows the quintessential “skin” online poker site formula: share tables and tournaments with the flagship brand in America’s Cardroom and reap the benefits. My poker site review shows their bonus at 100% with a large cap at $1,000 if using a bonus code. High-stakes players will see a lot with micro-stakes players seeing very little.


The Black Chip Poker software platform is the major weakness. It works great on Windows, but the lack of Mac or a mobile poker site is a big fail. This poker site has solid traffic, which is higher than many of my other reviewed poker sites, and an excellent tournament schedule.

  • Part of the largest US poker site network
  • The largest real money tournaments in the market
  • Some unique features like Jackpot Poker

 Quick hits from my Black Chip Poker review

Payout Speed

Fish Rating

Mobile Poker

7.4

Rating

High ratings aside from lack of mobile.

100%

Bonus

Up to $1,000 extra and 4 private freerolls.

#2

Traffic

Currently third in cash game traffic in the US.

2012

Open Since

Launched by the poker site network owners.

Yes

USA Players

They specifically market to American players.

Nitrogen Sports Poker

Nitrogen Sports Poker is less of an online poker site and more of an all-around Bitcoin betting solution. Nitrogen only offers deposits, withdrawals, and bets in Bitcoin.


Nitrogen Sports does have a real money poker section with some fairly loose tables and daily freerolls. You also can't beat the ability to make an anonymous real money poker account without any personal information.

  • Every poker table and tournament works well on mobile
  • Real money poker with all buy-ins in Bitcoin
  • Anonymous accounts with no ID ever needed
  • Bitcoin payouts within 4-6 hours

Quick hits from my Nitrogen Poker review

Payout Speed

Fish Rating

Mobile Poker

7.3

Rating

Traffic and bonus are the lowest scores.

None

Bonus

Rewards and free bets is the only bonus.

Low

Traffic

Only around 10 real money tables are usually filled

2012

Open Since

Successful for sports bets and added poker later

Yes

USA Players

Games are in Bitcoin so no need to block players

How I rate the best online poker sites


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


Like filo dough made out of countless layers of poker site hyperbole, I want to peel back every aspect of a prospective real-money poker site to cover what may be most important to you personally.


If I cover what may seem like too much detail on every online poker room, I have a better chance to review something specific that's important to every player.


Here's what I include in every single poker site review. The best sites earn consistently high scores in most, if not every, category.

Aces and Deuces

This is at the top of each review page and gives a couple handfuls of quick pros and cons for each real-money poker site.

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

The Best Bonuses

This is at the top of each review page and gives a couple handfuls of quick pros and cons for each real-money poker site.

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

Fish Rating and the Easiest Poker Sites

If I actually had a phrase I wanted to trademark for Beat The Fish, "Fish Rating" would probably be it.

The Fish Rating has been one of the staples of my online poker site reviews since the beginning, which scored the “easiness” of a poker site.

Every poker player will have their own priorities, but this should be one of your main factors in deciding on the best new poker home.

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

I test multiple real-money tables at multiple limits to come up with this rating.

Real-Money Deposits

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

Even for non-USA players, availability of deposit methods even at the best sites can vary considerably.​


It’s helpful to know how you can deposit before you even bother with a new site.

Payout Speed and Options

Online poker 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 site is better than its ability to players in a timely manner.

You need to know how you can get your real money, how long it’s going to take, and that you can consistently get your money at all.

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

Tournaments

What is the poker site's 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 the best tournaments, how long it takes to fill a Sit and Go, freerolls, and potential prize money overlay opportunities.

Player Traffic

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

You're just going to end up frustrated if you have real money at a poker site where you can’t find filled tables or offers paltry tournament guarantees.

I always include realistic expectations for player traffic.

In fact, I’ve unlisted or declined to review poker sites simply based on lack of traffic. It's that important.

Software and Instant Play

Yes, you’re going to want to play at poker sites with attractive software style that you won’t mind staring at for hours at a time, but what about advanced features, mobile, and no-download options?

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

Player Support

I find numerous questions a new player might ask and contact the poker site about them in order to test how well they perform.

Additionally, any site with email-only support deserves the shame I try to give them. The best poker sites provide numerous methods of player support.

Spotting Red Flags at Online Poker Sites


Player traffic is an essential consideration of any poker site. I dig into not only raw player numbers, but how filled the poker tables and tournaments actually are.

I always review a poker site's official license. I'm a big fan of Bovada Poker, but they're quietly operating for real money without a license if you do a little digging.

I think it's important for real money players to know if an online poker site has anonymous play or allows Heads-Up Display software.

I loathe when online poker sites only give an email address for player support. I always review for alternative support methods.

Although I always check a poker site's real money player metrics for trends, many sites no longer provide player stats in the lobby. I always play at the tables and report my findings for player quality.

It's easy for poker sites to boast about quick payouts, but I dig into any predatory real money fees or delays that affect those payouts.

The Ugliness of Most Poker Site Reviews


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


They're written by teams of content writers that often don’t use the English language well but are well-versed in hyperbole and exclamation points.

The most egregious offense is that what should take up the bulk of a poker review is usually missing. You know, just genuine information that could only be experienced through actual play for real money at the site.


They all follow just about the same recipe when reviewing a poker site.

Biased Online Poker Review Tartar

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

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

How I Look at Real Money Sites


I'm confident I can do better by you because I still personally play for real money at every poker site online you'll read about.


I'm skeptical. Poker sites have to earn my trust before I recommend them to you.

I think that online poker 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 sites is staggering.

My Way to Judge the Best in Online Poker



I’ve always striven to succeed in a different way than others, whether at an online poker table or in business.


I would rather have players trust me and return for poker advice in the future than trick them into going with the site 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 risking real money don’t just look at marketing statistics or bonus numbers.


Real players dig deeper than a poker site's flashy design and actually experience the games.


Real players actually see how well the deposit, withdrawal, and support systems work.

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

What I always answer about poker sites I review

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

Real Poker Player Feedback I've Gotten


Love your poker site reviews...

I really love your poker site reviews. I just wanted to compliment you on your style of writing when you cover the games. It's easy to read, right to the point.

JAY ALDRIDGE

You've helped my game tremendously...

I've been playing poker for 5 years. You've helped my game tremendously. BeatTheFish has remarkably profound and didactic approach to online poker, minutely analyzing every aspect of poker strategy and mindset. Along with Upswingpoker, I tend to treat you as the most invaluable up-to-date poker source ever.

TARAS MOKHURENKO

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You are spot on...

The strategies helped a lot along with the up to date "real deal" reviews on the poker sites and the news around the world. You are spot on regarding the reviews of the two main sites I play on: BetOnline & America's Cardroom.

Andrew Zimolzak

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Convincingly unbiased...

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.

A.H.

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The reviews are great...

The reviews are great. I love the site reviews, freerolls, and the Bitcoin tutorial. They are very in depth.

David Traverso

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Resisting the Money Bias in Online Poker


I can’t count the number of times over the years that affiliate programs for poker sites have tried to coerce me to increase their exposure online in return for better coverage.

I’ve had the same answer for them from the beginning: I will always be in charge of reviewing poker sites my own way and I will rank them the best way I see fit.

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

My Philosophy on the Top Poker Sites


I’ve reviewed more than 60 poker rooms since 2005 and rejected more than that.


These are the poker sites I currently rate and review:

I don’t hesitate to remove any online poker site that has massive withdrawal issues, has hard 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 best-rated sites the current list stands at under a dozen poker sites, but I believe that these are the best in the real money market, each for different reasons.

I hope that you find something useful in my poker site coverage that helps you be more informed about your current online poker home or a prospective new one.


At the very least, know that my poker coverage comes from the honest experiences from a fellow poker player.

Josh H on EmailJosh H on FacebookJosh H on GoogleJosh H on TumblrJosh H on Twitter
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. Cryptocurrency missionary. Still fondly remembers the soup avatar at Doyle's Room. You can reach Josh directly at support@beatthefish.com.
 
  • These might be the most detailed reviews out there. A lot of effort clearly went into making these, really appreciate it!

    • Thanks, Davis. I’ve always put more effort into these reviews than anything else on the site. They’re long, but I would rather over-prepare potential players than leave them with unanswered questions.

      You simply aren’t going to get the same truthful information from the PR-inspired official websites of the poker rooms themselves that you get from actually playing there.

      There’s so much to be told at any given poker site and, sadly, most other reviews out there in the wild rarely come from actual players.

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