Chico, Winning Poker Network, Ignition and Horizon – Which US Poker Network is the Best in 2018?
Things have settled into a groove as far as the US friendly offshore poker sites are concerned in 2018. It is easier than ever to make deposits and receive withdrawals. While the sites are not huge compared to the pre Black-Friday giants, there are enough games to choose from to suit most bankrolls, and some pretty big tournaments – topped by the regular $1m guaranteed events on the Winning Poker Network.
There are some changes to note since the last update. Full Flush Poker are no longer around (their 'temporary' closure in October has yet to be resolved). Bovada have transferred their poker room to Ignition, though it is business as usual as far as the games / tournament scheule is concerned.
The question this page will answer is ‘Which US Poker Network is the best in 2018?’
I’ll go one level deeper than that… since poker players have different goals, preferences and bankrolls, I’ll answer what is the best poker network for your needs in 2018. I have done that by comparing the main contenders on each type of game, their software and their rewards / bonuses.
One more note, there are two sites which are not included here. One is Bovada, who are no longer actively promoting the poker part of their brand and have asked 3rd party sites like this one not to send them any traffic. The other is Merge, which is sinking down the rankings, dropping their promotions and deals and as far as I can tell seem to be winding down their operations. That’s a shame on both counts – though it does leave 2 mid-sized and 2 tiny networks to work with.
Best US Poker Network in 2018 – Traffic
These numbers are from the ever reliable pokerscout.com, I have used the 7 day average cash game players number, tournament players are 5x to 10x this number - depending on the site.
- Ignition Poker: 1200 average cash game players
- Chico Poker Network: 700
- Winning Poker Network: 950
- Horizon Poker Network: 110
- Equity Poker Network: 'Temporarily' closed
As you can see, after the stand-alone Ignition Poker there are 2 network front runners and the numbers are very close. This has to be a good thing, a little competition is just what online poker needs! What you need to keep in mind is that the players at Chico are more biased towards those coming through the BetOnline (and other) sports betting brand and so more likely to be recreational type players. On the other hand the Winning Poker Network has loyalty programs in place to reward multi-tablers, which means the more ‘serious’ poker players are attracted here... having said that the WPN (America's Cardroom) tournament schedule is starting to attract a lot more traffic - particularly when they run the popular Online Super Series events.
Best US Poker Network in 2018 – Comparing the Tournaments
Big prize tournaments have been a problem area for the offshore poker networks – until recently. With limited traffic, it is hard to guarantee big prize pools. When there are no guaranteed prize pools, it is hard to improve traffic (the classic vicious circle).
The Winning Poker Network went for it and organized a $1,000,000 guaranteed game as a one-off. This was a success, and has now become a regular fixture. In addition to these one-off games (which come around every couple of months), there are regular ‘Online Super Series’ events, which are short 5-day festivals with big and mid buy-in games on each day.
BetOnline and the Chico Network do not do so well in the tournaments area, their biggest is the Sunday $50k guaranteed – and on the whole prize pools are smaller. As you will see below, this site focuses on cash games to a much larger extent. Ignition Poker have a busy tournament schedule too. These games are played anonymously. You get a number at the start of the tournament, instead of using screen names. This helps keep the games soft (making tracking tools less effective), though is not to everybodies taste.
When it comes to satellite qualifiers to large events the Winning Poker Network again is an easy pick. Surprisingly the tiny Horizon Poker Network (formerly the Revolution Poker Network) also has some focus on live tournament qualifiers. These include events out in the Caribbean, as well as in Europe.
All of the sites have a selection of smaller and mid buy-in games – if you play tournaments at $11 and under then you’ll find action at them all. Again the biggest choice is on the Winning Poker Network via America’s Cardroom.
Comparing the Cash Games on US Poker Networks in 2018
NL Holdem with a side-order of Pot Limit Omaha is the story for just about every poker site in 2018. The difference with the US sites is that there are not usually enough players to have many high stakes games running or other poker variations.
You are going to find the same 6-max / 9-max and heads up NL Holdem on all of the networks. The important question is which site has the easiest games?
The good news is that none are particularly tough. I would personally / anecdotally rate the games at BetOnline (Chico) and InterTops (Horizon) as more ‘crazy’ than those at America’s Cardroom (Winning) and Ignition Poker. The difference is in the sports betting… when the big betting brands have a poker room, more gamblers and recreational players find their way to the games compared to the ‘poker specialist’ sites. As any experienced player knows, it only takes one or two crazy players in a game to really liven things up for everyone.
For some players, the ability to multi-table (and get rewarded for putting in high volume) is important. Here America’s Cardroom is the best pick. This site has progressive leaderboard contests covering both Cash games and Sit N Goes, which add a lot to the bottom line for the highest volume players.
If you want to check out the fast-fold games, then your only choice at the moment is Ignition Poker. They have a variation called 'Zone Poker', which like all of their games is played anonymously.
Best US Network for Sit N Goes in 2018
First, lets rule out the minnows… Horizon do run SNGs, though you’ll have to wait even to get one micro stakes games going.
Once again, there is a straight up choice between the slightly bigger volume or games on the Winning Poker Network, the softer games at BetOnline and the Chico Poker Network - and the anonymous Sit N Goes at Ignition Poker.
Personally, I’d take the Chico choice.
The reason is that America’s Cardroom ‘Sit n Crush’ promo encourages a lot of small stakes grinders who block the games. These are not brilliant players by any stretch (I very much doubt many of them have read my Sit N Go Blueprint course!). They have learned not to spew chips, which is a shame, as that really adds to your profits when you play against them. While the average ‘nit’ at ACR does not know the finer math of ICM / Bubble ranges – they do not make many huge mistakes. I recommend you 'rail' a couple of games at www.betonline.ag - you will quickly see why this is my SNG rec!
Compare this to the sports bettors at BetOnline / Chico, and you’ll really see the difference.
It is just a shame that games above the $22 level are so rare to kick off!
US Poker Networks 2018 – Comparing the Software
When you compare the software platforms of any of these networks with the huge strides the non-US poker sites like PokerStars or 888 have made, their software seems kind of cute and retro. I’m feeling polite, so l will go with the word ‘functional’.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the Chico, WPN or Horizon clients… it is just they all resemble something from 5, or maybe 8 years ago. Ignition use the old Bovada client, which is very strange looking if you are used to the modern international brands - though perfectly easy to play on.
Probably best to leave this section as ‘all equally bad – though functional / playable’... If I really had to choose one best one it would be America's Cardroom / WPN, just!
One small note: If you have been playing long enough to remember the old Cake Poker software, then you’ll find this still in use on the Horizon Poker Network. InterTops Poker is the place to see it.
US Poker Networks in 2018 – Bonuses and Rewards
It is probably easiest to go through the rewards for each site, and then make my comments about the best one after that – this way you can compare the raw numbers to help you make a solid choice.
200% Welcome Bonus
Leaderboard for MTTs + SNGs + Cash Races
POP Points based loyalty scheme
25% on all deposits for life (sports x-over)
Cross-Over promotions (live dealer casino etc)
100% Welcome Bonus
Up to $50 Tournament Bucks Free (first deposit extra)
Sit N Crush + Beast Progressive leaderboards + races
Elite Benefits loyalty Scheme
On Demand Freerolls
Lots of promos, including live event qualifiers
200% Welcome Bonus
Tiered loyalty scheme
‘Season’ challenges for extra bonuses
Gold Chips bonuses
Small extras for Social Media Likes
100% Welcome Bonus to $1000
Poker Points Scheme
Bad Beat / Royal Flush Bonuses
Cross over promotions (casino)
On paper, the Winning Poker Network comes out ahead of the other US poker networks for rewards. If you are a high volume player (particularly someone who has studied how to exploit the predictable grinders), then you will get the best rewards here.
If you are a recreational player that does not want to commit 4+ hours a day to the game, then I would recommend you take the softer games and larger number of one-off promotions and deals offered by BetOnline (Chico Network). This is even more important if you also enjoy betting on sports or playing the occasional casino game.
Best US Poker Network – Summing it all up
Here is the TL;DR:
The Horizon and Equity networks are tiny, it would be great to see them grow and to improve their game / tournament offerings – though as things stand they are tough to recommend. (Equity now closed)
The Winning Poker Network is great for tournaments, particularly the bigger ones. These include a $1 million gtd, biggest Sunday Major and biggest general selection too. This site is not so good for cash games or SNGs, as there are too many grinder types at the tables. My pick for this network is the excellent America’s Cardroom – you can check out their promotions at www.americascardroom.com
Ignition is the biggest single site, and features anonymous games and retro software.
The Chico Poker Network is best for cash games, and in particular soft / wild cash games. Key here is that sites like BetOnline are huge sportsbetting brands, and the poker room attracts many recreational / newer players all the time. If you enjoy betting on sports or casino games, then you’ll also be able to benefit from a lot of cross over promotions at BetOnline.
Check out www.betonline.eu for the latest special offers and to see those crazy loose cash games for yourself.