Licensed Poker Sites for UK Players Compared
With the biggest choice of where to play online poker almost anywhere – the UK is in a great position. This page works through the choices, asking which is the best UK poker site in 2021?
The answer depends on you… on your experience level, bankroll, game preferences and whether you are happy with 1 or 2 tables - or like to play 8+ at once.
Here is how this super-detailed assessment of the best UK poker sites is laid out:
- The Quick Version: A TLDR; covering one site which ticks all of the right boxes!
- The Best Major UK Rooms: The top 5 online poker rooms for UK players summarized with links for further info.
- Poker Formats: Covering the best UK sites for poker tournaments, cash games, fast-fold and SNG / lottery poker formats.
- Amateurs vs Pros: Why some licensed sites are best left to the pros (and which are best for occasional / recreational players).
- Best UK Poker Sites FAQ: Covering the Gambling Commission, game fairness, depositing for UK players and more.
Best UK Poker Site: The Quick Version – Why Party Poker Works?
Party have the right balance. Easy games, plenty of variety, big tournament events and satellites to live games. With the introduction of cash-back last year – Party broadened their appeal to players that take the game more seriously. Add in the big brand trust (no scandals, ever) and you can see why this poker site is my best pick for UK players.
If you don’t have an account get the instant deposit bonus of $22 in tokens with bonus code SNGPLANET at www.partypoker.com now
Here are some more details on why Party are the top UK poker room in 2021:
- Easy Games: Some other sites have a lot of ‘pros’ grinding out a living. While there are some at Party, the balance between people who play for recreational reasons and pros is better than at any other UK poker site.
- Bonuses / Promotions: $22 in tokens gives you a shot at an instant score, though the main bonus action comes in the form of cash back. You get up to 40% of your rake / fees returned each Monday, depending on the volume of play you put in and stakes. There are missions, plus tons of one-off promos (see the Party Poker Website for the latest).
- Game Variety: Cash games come in regular or fast-fold format, with the focus on NL Hold’em and PLO. Tournaments are a big area of this site, huge events (PowerFest), progressive knockout games and a packed schedule of lower stakes tourneys. Sit N Goes now include the lottery SNGs, with random prize pools and a hyper turbo structure.
As you can tell, I’m a big fan of Party Poker.
Check them out now at www.partypoker.com (remember bonus code = SNGPLANET)
In Detail – The Contenders for Best UK Poker Site in 2021
I’m taking the sites in preference order – not size. PokerStars are still much bigger than the other sites. You’ll find Party come next in terms of traffic, with 888 not too far behind. iPoker sites are not cutting it any more (barely any promotions, declining traffic), though MicroGaming are moving up. There are smaller sites, with Unibet worth a mention, though with the ‘big 3’ having so much of the traffic, I will not drill down that far.
Best UK Poker Sites – #2 - PokerStars
The granddaddy of all poker rooms in terms of size – though not my pick for newer or recreational players.
If you are a pro, or a serious player willing to study, invest in HUD tools and multi-table. PokerStars is excellent. The software can’t be beaten, playing 8+ tables is easy, and the volume of games mean you’ll find opponents around the clock.
If you are a recreational player (as most of us are), then reading the paragraph above might have given you pause for thought!
Yep, PokerStars is perfect for multi-tabling pro grinders.
So much so, that the games are often completely filled with them.
Look at it this way, amateurs play 1 or 2 tables, pros play 8 each. If there were 100 pros and 100 amateurs at a stake / game combination. That would mean 1000 ‘seats’ to fill. 800 of them would be pros with software to get reads and identify the recreational types so they can play against them more often. 200 seats filled with recreational players.
Don’t get me wrong, I love PokerStars for many reasons. Its just, well, I prefer the games a little softer. The example above is not an exaggeration. If you are new to the game sitting in a PokerStars cash game (above the penny stakes) is 100% going to get you targeted by experienced players.
Back to the positives for PokerStars:
- Huge Choice: The size of this site means games run which you won’t find elsewhere and the pools for fast-fold are massive too.
- Big Prize Tournaments: The Sunday Million, World Championship, satellites to live events around the world and a mind-blowing schedule full of different games, formats and buy-ins.
- Quirky Rewards Program: Unlock chests for prizes tailored to your game preferences. A lot of one-off promos too.
- Amazing Software: The software client (including mobile apps) simply blows away the competition.
Best UK Poker Sites – How Does 888 Poker Fit in?
For me, 888 have a problem… They were my number one UK pick for a couple of years, though the quality of the games has plummeted.
In 2021 this site is literally infested with Eastern Euro players / Russians. Sure, many of them are unpleasant in the chat (and passive-aggressive, throwing trophies using the software when they win big pots for the next 20 minutes…). That is not my problem.
My problem is that the games are full of multi-tabling nits.
Think about it. For someone in some god-forsaken Ukrainian village $5 an hour is an amazing wage! Why not sit at 8 tables, play the top 3% of hands + set-mine where possible cheap for 12 hours a day and reap the benefits. I really don't knock the motives of the individuals.
Unfortunately for the once excellent 888, this has killed the games to a huge extent.
There is still life in the tournaments. The ‘God of the Arena’ progressive knockouts are great. When the ‘Super XL Series’ events come along, you can expect some huge prize pools. I should also note that 888 is a WSOP sponsor – making their qualifiers excellent.
Until they root out their nit issues, I simply can’t recommend playing there!
If you want to have a look for yourself, you can get free tokens to enjoy the games with no deposit needed. Check out www.888poker.com for yourself, and then come back and tell me I was right!
Other UK Poker Sites Worth a Mention
So far, I only covered the biggest and best UK poker sites. There are some smaller outfits worth a mention. I’ll group these into a single list to save space:
- iPoker: This used to be a favourite of mine, though a few years ago the network went to sleep as far as promotions / events and even publicity. This is a pooled network which works with a lot of the big betting brands. I can’t recommend them these days – though I do keep an eye on things to see if there are any signs of life!
- MicroGaming: With a flat 30% rakeback deal, there are some pros at the tables on MPN. This network looks to be taking up the slack from iPoker and adding new events and promotions. Skins include 32Red, Red Kings and BetSafe. If MicroGaming continue to grow, they might just get a spot in the main listing for the 2021 rewrite of this page.
- Unibet: This former MicroGaming site have gone a different route to many poker rooms. They have an amazing looking software client (works great on mobiles). This includes lively avatars. The games are lower buy-in, and decidedly entertainment-focused. Pros would not want to play here, which keeps a ‘fun’ feel. If you literally want to donk around and have fun (without the abuse from Eastern Euros!) then www.unibet.com is worth a look,
Does Your Game Preference Change the Choice of Best UK Poker Site?
Yes, though only a little.
First, if you want to play game that is not NL Hold’em or PLO, then your choices are very limited. Only PokerStars have enough players for Stud, Draw, mixed formats and exotic variations like 5+ card Omaha or 2-7 triple draw.
The standard of play in tournaments is softer than for cash games at all the sites. What you’ll find is that the $50+ buy-in do have their share of ‘pro grinders’. You’ll find more of these pros at Stars, and fewer at Party. For me, 888 has a curved distribution. The smallest buy-ins are full of those same abusive Eastern Euros as the cash games. The mid buy-ins are soft and recreational, as you get higher the number of good players shoots up. It feels like the pros add a couple of big Sunday events to their schedule, while their focus is on Stars.
Again, Party Poker has the balance…
Amateurs vs Pros: Best UK Poker Site for Grinders?
This used to be a clear 100% PokerStars, though these days the changes in the rewards systems of the sites is making a difference.
Volume of play alone is no longer enough to make a living at PokerStars. This has sent a lot of breakeven regs looking for new hunting grounds. The cashback at Party has attracted a few of them, though the lack of games above $1 / $2 is a constraint.
For the volume at all buy-in levels and ease of multi-tabling, PokerStars is hard to top at the moment. The small caveat for this is that you’ll need to be +ev at the tables, and not just relying on rewards to make the money.
UK Poker Sites FAQ
Are UK Licensed Poker Sites Legal?
Yes, the UK has always allowed over 18’s the freedom to gamble. All gambling is licensed, and as long as you play at a poker rooms with a UK Gambling Commission license (or whitelisted license from Gibraltar, Malta or the Isle of Man), then you are fully within the law.
In theory, there is nothing to stop you playing at a poker site without a UK license. I would not recommend this, as you would have no protection and nobody to complain to if your money went missing!
How Does the UK Gambling Commission Work?
This body was set up in 2007, and has authority over all forms of gambling in the UK. This includes high street bookmakers, live casinos as well as online gambling sites. The application process for a license is open to all operators. Compared to many licensing jurisdictions around the world, the rules are strict. These include financial guidelines, responsible gambling checks and balances and cover topics like clear wording for bonus offers.
Without a license, it is illegal for a site to accept real money deposits or wagers from the UK.
You can find out more about the gambling commission via their website: http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/home.aspx
How Can I Be Sure That the Deal Is Fair?
One of the great contradictions in online poker is the large number of people who claim that the deal is rigged (usually specifically against them), and the total lack of evidence. There have been literally billions of hands dealt, constant monitoring by 3rd party testing services (for example TST or eCogra), and millions of individual players collecting their own databases… nobody has found any deviation from what you would expect for a completely random deal.
I get that everyone’s mate knows a pro who swears that the deal is suspect’. After more than 10 years in the industry, I’m going with the maths!
All reputable poker sites are regularly tested. Look for a logo in their footer, and you’ll see the accreditation at one of the 3rd party sites.
How Can I Get Money on Board (What UK Poker Payment Methods are Available)?
One of the positive effects of having a strict licensing system is that you do not need to worry about finding ways to get money on to and off from UK poker rooms.
The most popular poker deposit option is to crack out your debit or credit card. This is used in exactly the same way as if you were buying something online.
Some people do not like poker site transactions on their bank statement, or simply prefer to keep their own banking and leisure gambling completely separate. If this is you then there are plenty of solutions. The most popular ones are collectively known as ‘eWallets’ (electronic wallets). This includes PayPal, Skrill and Neteller. All work in similar ways, you fund them from your bank, and then use them to pay the poker rooms. You can also use electronic wallets to withdraw your winnings.
There are plenty more deposit methods. There are prepaid credit cards (both physical and ‘virtual’ like EcoPayz). There are vouchers, including the popular PaySafeCard system. You can even use a bank wire – though this is not economical for smaller deposits.
Bitcoin has yet to make it to UK poker rooms (only NetBet take this, and for their Sports Betting product). The Gambling Commission did say that they will treat this exactly the same as regular currency deposit – so it might be added to the list of available payment options soon.
How Can I Be Sure I Am Not Playing Against Bots?
This is something from poker’s past which still comes up regularly today. Bots is short for ‘Robots’, and describes software which plays by itself, making few mistakes and accumulating money over time.
These days the poker sites catch bots, colluders and ‘soft play’ between friends within hours. There are some (PokerStars) which pop up a ‘CAPCHA’ in the chat if they suspect play is automated.
What has happened at some sites is that humans have learned to act very much like bots. A lot of players are in the games, playing 8, 12 or more tables using ‘HUD’ software to collect and display stats on their opponents. These people are known as ‘Grinders’. In an unfortunate development, lower GDP countries players have flooded some sites. Not only will a Romanian (for example) play 12 tables using software tool at the lowest limits – they can often be unpleasant and even abusive in the chat too.
The good news is that not all the sites have this issue.
The even better news is that the issue of unpleasant Eastern Euros is known to the sites. I hope we will see these parasites removed en-mass in the near future!
Not all people from one country or region are unpleasant of course – I’m generalising – though anyone who has played online poker for any length of time can almost certainly relate.
The best site for avoiding this issue is Party Poker. Their setup is way more recreational, and discourages ‘grinders’.
How Do UK Poker Site Welcome Bonuses Work?
When it comes to welcome bonuses, there is a big contradiction. On the surface, they all look the same. That is to say that from a quick glance, you would not be able to easily tell them apart. The contraction is that once you delve into the details – there are huge differences.
Let’s start with the 100% matched part (all the main UK sites offer this). This is a match to your first deposit. What you need to know is how quickly this bonus is ‘cleared’. This shows when the money will be yours to play with and withdraw. Usually, this involves earning points at the tables. These are accumulated based on the buy-in levels you play and the tournament fees you pay. Some sites let you clear your bonus in increments (between $5 and $20). Others need you to accumulate the whole set of points and then pay the bonus in one lump sum
Many sites give you a smaller amount (matched) right away. You’ll need to play a certain number of hands (earn those points) before you can withdraw this money. You can find more on this topic in my best poker bonuses article!
Wrapping Up – Planet Mark’s Best UK Poker Site Pick 2021 – Party Poker
No surprises here, since I started this article with it… Party Poker are an easy pick for the best UK online poker site in 2021.
The key reason is the balance.
- Tons of games in many formats
- Recreational fields, good balance of pros and amateurs
- Cashback, paid every Monday (makes Monday a great day to hit the tables!)
- Tournament events and qualifiers to live events
Top it off with $30 in tokens / buy-ins (bonus code = SNGPLANET) and you have a combination which is very hard to beat.
See www.partypoker.com for the latest offers now!