Licensed Poker Sites for UK Players Compared
The introduction of licenses for gambling site operators in the UK has had benefits for players. Sure, the biggest benefit comes from the government’s new found ability to tax the games. At the same time, the poker sites do need to stick to the rulebook if they want to keep their license.
This has created a safe group of (mostly) bigger poker sites – where you’ll have recourse to complain if you feel you have been treated unfairly. Conversely, it creates a dis-incentive to play at the smaller offshore sites, where your money is not protected.
Here I look at those big UK poker sites and compare them on different points. Below the sites you'll find a detailed FAQ on the UK poker laws, payments and safety.
Ultimately, the room you choose should reflect your goals as a player. If 12 tabling 8 hours a day is your thing, then you would choose differently to those of us who enjoy the occasional game for pleasure as well as profit.
For me, one room stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to looking after the part-time and recreational crowd, 888 Poker. You’ll find an overview of them first of all below – before I go on to covering the other main contenders for the title of best UK poker site in 2019.
888 Poker – Planet Mark’s Pick for Best UK Poker Site 2019
- Focus on recreational players means far fewer nitty ‘grinders’ in the games
- Plenty of innovations; Snap poker, webcam games and more
- Official partner of the WSOP, plenty of qualifiers to live events
- £20 in tokens to check out the real money games before you deposit, plus excellent ongoing bonuses and rewards
In Detail – The Contenders for Best UK Poker Site in 2019
#1 – 888 Poker
Over the last few years, 888 Poker has developed from an ordinary ‘mid-table’ online poker room into the 2nd biggest site worldwide by number of players. What is more, they did this by focusing on regular (amateur / recreational) players, and not by filling their tables with nitty grinders like other sites have done.
This makes for a great place to play, the games are enjoyable and you will not find an army of sharks all playing 12 tables waiting for their software to tell them to take your bankroll.
You’ll find Holdem and Omaha games in many different formats. Cash games are busy, and the tournament schedule gets new additions every month – including a growing number of live event qualifiers. The Sit N Goes are way softer than at PokerStars, and come in double-up, turbo and knockout format. There are timed lottery SNGs, which allow you to win up to 10,000x your buy-in (these are called 'Blast!' games), and a fast-fold format called SNAP too. You will aso find satellite qualifiers for live events (including the World Series), and online tournament events in their 'Super XL Series'.
Rewards are not tied to playing thousands of hands each day. Give-aways, fast bonuses and tournament entries are the preferred options here. UK Players get £20 in tokens, no strings attached to try out the games – if you want to deposit later down the line, then you can still get a 100% matched bonus.
I’m a big fan of 888 and have shifted most of my recreational play there over the last couple of years. I strongly recommend you check them out for yourself at www.888poker.com.
#2 – Titan Bet Poker (iPoker Network)
Titan Bet Poker is the same site that is called just plain Titan Poker in the rest of the world. They brought the ‘Bet’ in to add sports betting to their UK brand. You will access the same software and the same games as Titan Poker players – and those games are pooled on a common back-end system shared with the rest of the iPoker Network.
In the past Titan had a reputation for being soft. This is still the case (again, compared to PokerStars), though armies of Eastern Euro grinders at the smallest buy-ins are slowly suffocating those games. Most members of the iPoker Network are big sports betting brands, and it is the cross over traffic coming to check out the poker after placing a bet which is the secret to why the Titan Bet games are still profitable.
The game selection is diverse, with plenty of variations available and a packed tournament schedule. Unusually, most of the games are in Euros, with a few in British Pounds. You’ll find the famous Jackpot Sit N Goes, Twisters (lottery Sit N Goes) and Speed Holdem poker available here.
Titan Bet offers one of the biggest bonuses of any legitimate poker site. They will double your first deposit, so if you put in £50, you’ll get a £100 bonus on top of that. I have a special offer with Titan Bet for SNG Planet readers in addition to this – a free $20 (yeah, I know, in dollars!) on top of your first deposit when you register using bonus code SNGPLANET. This is paid into your player account within 48 hours (usually sooner than that).
This site knows how to look after regular players better than anyone. You’ll have a regular loyalty program, plus extra goals based scheme known as ‘Titan Treasures’. Check out Titan Bet Poker for yourself at www.titanbet.co.uk.
#3 – PokerStars
It might surprise some readers to see the biggest single poker room in 3rd place on my list. This is certainly an excellent room, with first class software and the biggest and best tournaments and selection of cash games anywhere. The reason they come 3rd is that every online poker pro and his dog play there. The huge volume of games and generous rewards for collecting points mean that just about everyone who decides to make a living from the games heads to PokerStars in the end.
There are still reasons to play there, and enough recreational players to make your play profitable unless you are very inexperienced. The big tournament events (Sunday Million,World Championship of Online Poker, EPT Qualifiers and so on) are certainly reasons to play. You can find $100,000+ prize pools for small ($10 to $30) buy-ins and play just about every poker variation out there in some form or other.
My personal view is that the more recreational sites are better.
At PokerStars you can sit in a small stakes game and have more than half of your opponents be small stakes pros with tracking software. This just kills the spirit of the games, as well as making them less profitable (fewer fish to go around).
Still, you’d better play the Sunday Million at least once in your life!
You can get up to 3 ‘first deposit’ welcome bonuses at PokerStars. Register your account with marketing code PSP3108, and then make those first 3 deposits with bonus code STARS600 (good for 90 days up to $600 in total) to get your bankroll off to the best possible start.
See www.pokerstars.com for yourself now!
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 888 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 2019 – 888 Poker
Fewer ‘grinders’, better promotions, smart (mobile friendly) software and easy games are more than enough to make 888 Poker my top pick for 2019.
When you add to this tokens to try out the real money games before you deposit, then you have every reason not to take my word for it… and to check out www.888poker.com for yourself!