Summary of Games, Deposit Options And Pros / Cons For The Best US-Friendly Online Poker sites
Here is what you will find on this page:
1) An intro and high level overview of US poker sites - focusing on the larger offshore sites.
2) Below the 'Biggest Sites' box you will find a listing of many more detailed guides, including pages covering regulated sites, specific poker formats (US tournaments, cash and SNGs all have pages) and practical guides like deposit and withdrawal methods.
3) After that is a news feed, summarizing the latest news in quick-fire format.
10,000's of US players are enjoying online poker at the moment - and while I’m recommending some caution for all readers, there is no legal reason at Federal level not to join the fun yourself. There is some serious rivalry between the sites (particularly Bovada, WPN and Carbon poker) when it comes to guarantees and welcome bonuses. You can take advantage of this and enjoy some very good deals as we go through 2014. Deposits and withdrawals are still an issue of course. Sites are still accepting credit and bank cards with some success - with Visa going through particularly well at the moment. Bovada are currently the best bet for successful deposits - they handle the costs of your first deposit each month for certain methods too. Money transfer services and wire-transfers also seem to be holding up ok, with credit cards working better in 2014 than they have for a while. Paper checks are the most popular cash-out methods, there are some minimums in place for this.
Relative Size Of Offshore US Sites - November 2014
The numbers on the pie chart above are based on the 7 day average for cash game players according to Poker Scout. Tournament and Sit N Go players usually make up a number several times as big. As you can see, Bovada (the US facing part of the Bodog brand) are the biggest single room - in fact they are 8th overall in the global rankings. Regulated sites are still small, despite the hyperbole the biggest sites are attracting 400 concurrent cash game players between them at peak times in New Jersey, with the Nevada sites smaller still. This is only the start for regulation, and I hope to bring a lot of good news on this subject later in the year.
Articles List: Comparisons, Payment Methods and Game-Specific US Poker Articles
Detailed US Site Reviews: You'll find these reviews more than comprehensive, going through the cash games, tournaments, sit and goes, software, bonuses, deposits and incentives. These are more than just a dry list of features which you can find on other sites, my reviews include opinions, pros / cons and screenshots too. Here is my Carbon Poker Review and my Bovada Poker Review and my America's Cardroom Review
US Deposit Methods Articles: Just completed a big revamp of this impportant area of the site, with the help of an experienced US colleague. The good news is that deposits are pretty stable in 2014, with credit cards working surprisingly well This list includes a main US Poker Deposit Methods piece, one which focuses on US Withdrawal Methods and site specific articles covering Carbon Poker, and Bovada
SNG Specific Reviews: Another update, these reviews are unique to SNG Planet, and focus on the Sit N Go offerings at each room. They cover 1-table tournaments, multi-table SNGs and satellite qualifiers - and conclude with my 'top 5 reasons to play' at each site. You can find the refreshed Bovada Poker SNGs review here, ACR SNGs here and the Carbon SNGs review here.
Best US Site For Tournaments: Well, the Sunday Million has gone, though this does not mean no tournament action at all. There are plenty of smaller buy-in < $22 games still available and some of them have decent guaranteed prize pools. This article shows you what is available for tournament fans at the remaining US-friendly sites. Best US Site For Online Poker Tournaments
Best US Site For Cash Games: There are actually a lot of smaller stakes games available. For those playing lower to mid-stakes you’ll need to search a little harder, if you are used to multi-tabling then this can still be done – depending on your stake level you might need to combine a couple of sites. This article compares what is still on offer for cash game players. Best US Site For Poker Cash Games
Best US Site For Sit N Goes: I could not leave these out of a site named SNG Planet! Same story again, there are a lot of smaller stakes Sit n Goes in various formats (including the popular double or nothing and turbo games). As you get above the $11 level then the games get sparse outside of peak times. Again it is possible to multi-table still if you play the lower stakes or combine sites in the evenings. Best US Poker Site For Sit N Goes
Best US Site For Satellite Qualifiers: Grabbing that seat in a live tournament is still possible, with some big prize packages which include extra cash for travel expenses and accomodation in addition to the tournament buy-ins. Here I look at the satellites running at the sites still welcoming US Players. Best US Site For Poker Satellites
Regulated Sites In NV and NJ: You can find info on the sites and upcoming legislation in this article covering the Regulated US Poker Sites in 2014
Bovada (Bodog) Are The Biggest US Site - Check Out Their Super Sundays!
US Poker Sites - Latest News Updates
11th December 2014: California is still the big hope for State-by-State regulation proponents, though it looks like the latest bill to be put forward does not have the support of the group of sites, tribes and industry interests which would be needed to have a realistic chance of becoming law. Legislation which indirectly affects US players is moving forward in Mexico, who look like they will segregate their market in the same way that Spain and Italy do. This means many of the US pro grinders who relocated to Mexico will have to start looking for a new home.
14th November 2014: A shock announcement from Nevada, with Ultimate Poker closing their doors not long after leaving NJ. With New Jersey also hitting a record low in revenue, it really is starting to feel like State regulated poker is fizzling out. Californina is still the big hope on this front, though even there multiple interested parties would need to be satisfied with any agreement... Interesting times, it looks as if the offshore sites will continue to be the number one destination for the time being.
6th November: 5Dimes might not be the first place you would think of when it comes to poker, though they made the news today. This site has left the Equity Network, and formed their own poker room - the Grand Network. I have not yet played there to report any details, however the creation of a brand new poker network feels more news-worthy than a CA tribe offering real money bingo games!
20th October 2014: Updates the pie chart above with the relative size of the networks. Bovada are smaller (this is just an estimate according to PokerScout), with Merge (Carbon) holding on to 2nd place. The big change from last time is the gains for the Chico Network (BetOnline) at the expense of the Winning Poker Network (ACR Poker). Equity is now challenging for that 4th spot. The biggest NJ site (Party Borgata) has 130 player averages for comparison.
23rd September 2014: The resignation of Roderick Wright, the pro poker Californian Senator has added another setback to poker legislation in CA. With Ultimate Poker pulling out of NJ (their 'reason' was the Taj Mahal closing, but lets not kid ourselves, they had no players anyway) and the glitches in Party / Borgata's tournament series, there really need to be questions asked on the State model of online poker. It is now an odds-on shot that we end 2014 with only the 3 initial States limping along in terms of player numbers, with PokerStars New Jersey the only major plus for the rest of this year.
4th September 2014: Two pieces of Bovada related news... First, the PokerScout rankings put Bodog (Bovada and the Canadian Bodog site) above Full Tilt as the 5th busiest site for cash games, thats the highest ranking of any US site for a long time. This operator has also announced another Golden Spade Open - which kicks off on September 8th and runs for 8 weeks, with $3 million in guarantees. Details over at www.bovada.lv
25th August 2014: America's Cardroom has announced that they will be hosting an online tournament with a $1,000,000 guaranteed prize pool. This runs in time to give someone the guaranteed $200,000 first prize in time for the xmas / holiday season. The date for your diaries is the 14th December - though you'll find satellites are running right now.
11th August 2014: COPs, the regular tournament event held by Carbon Poker, is set to return. The dates for your diary are the 16th through 28th September, there are $2,000,000 in total guarantees - including a $250,000 Main Event. This event keeps on getting bigger and better.
3rd August 2014: Bovada have an interesting promo out called 'Bubble Boy', you can win an all-expenses paid trip to play in the Punta Cana Classic, which is inthe Dominican republic. What you'll like about this one is that one in five players that reach the finals get a prize package.
14th July 2014: An odd news item today over at Calvin Ayre's site. A California tribe called the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel has announced they will offer real money poker games from their land without waiting for State regulation. They have some kind of licensing from the Kahnawake tribe and will open up their games worldwide, though you'll only be able to deposit from CA. Whether this will work out, only time will tell. Here is the link to the original story.
26th June 2014: Bovada have announced that they are pulling out of Nevada and Delaware (they already left NJ). It does seem like the exit of the offshore sites has had little impact on the number of players at the intra-State sites. This made the national press, with some clutching at straws on payments included...On a more positive note, Bovada has announced a $1,000,000 guaranteed poker tournament series, starting July 7th. Qualifiers to this event are already running.
18th June 2014: Despite a lot of finger pointing (at offshore sites and the affiliates who promote them), the regulated in-State sites continue to attract only small amount of traffic. I have just added a pie-chart to this page showing the size of the main players, to put this into context the biggest NJ site (Party / Borgata) only manages 7-day averages of 140 players. My personal feeling is that the State-by-State model is in trouble - with only a large network of States pooling their games able to turn the tide.
30th May 2014: Bovada can now be added to the list of sites no longer accepting players from New Jersey. Existing players can keep their accounts. This is the last of the 'big' (relatively speaking) sites to leave and just leaves the minnows or the regulated sites.
26th May 2014: More news from the regulated States, the Equity Poker Network has stopped new accounts from NV. DE and NJ. It looks like the pressure applied by the New Jersey authorities who are blaming offshore sites for their slow takeup is starting to have an effect. My opinion is that the offshore sites are a minior influence at best - as outlined in this blog post.
14th May 2014: The Winning Poker Network (which includes America's Cardroom and Black Chip Poker) have announced they are stopping activity in the regulated States of New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware. Merge (Carbon Poker) have already pulled out of these States, which leaves Bovada as the only mid-sized offshore site happy to accept players - along with a number of tiny sites. Players who had cash balances will be able to log on and make withdrawals from those States.
8th May 2014: Some State news today, bills have been introduced in New York looking to regulate online poker. As you might expect from the State who were behind the 'Black Friday' crack-down, sites who broke the UIGEA rules after 2006 are not going to be allowed to reply. A similar bill last year did not make it to a vote, so it is too early to set high expectations just yet.
29th April 2014: Poker Host, who recently left Merge for the Equity Poker Network have caused a mini-storm by banning winning players from their room. These players are tagged as 'aggressive' and are often good multi-tablers... While there are lots of angry voices on various forums and news sites, I would be willing to bet that there are many recreational players who are looking forward to the games getting easier!
9th April 2014: Carbon Poker are to bring back their bad-beat jackpot. Before they dropped this about a year ago, this used to pay 6 and even 7 figures to people getting beaten holding quad 8's or better. The new jackpot will not involve contributions from players in the form of higher rake - making it a rival to 'The Beast' over at ACR. I'll update my review as soon as this goes live!
2nd April 2014: Comcast ISP users have reported issues logging on to Bovada from some States. Comcast have denied that they are behind this, which adds a little mystery to the situation! The solution is easy, even for non-technical people, you switch your 'Domain Name Server' (or DNS) from that used by your ISP to the Google one. Here are the instructions over at Google.
29th March 2014: Merge Network news... PokerHost have announced their imminent move over to the Equity Poker Network. It is estimated that this will take some 20% of Merge's Players to this new home. For me this fits in with the pattern of major 'skins' leaving Merge, who then grow back the numbers through their main brand, Carbon Poker.I will keep an eye on the Equity Network and start to cover them here if they gain significant popularity.
21st March 2014: Some small-scale though welcome news from the Winning Poker Network and their oldest member, America's Cardroom. Their flagship weekly points race called 'The Beast' will no longer require playing on special tables, or in fact any special rake consideration at all. This will instead grow from the site's standard rake. Good news for cash games players, particularly those who enjoy putting in the hours and / or multi-tabling. I also added a new article concerning this network today, this one focuses on Deposit And Withdrawal Methods.
17th March 2014: There are 2 great online poker events about to start for US players, the Online Super Series On the Winning Poker Network returns on the 28th for it's 3rd running with $900k in total guarantees and a $200k main event. Bovada (Bodog) have trumped this with a massive event in the form of the Black Spade Open, which has $2.5 Million in guarantees and a post Black-Friday US online tournament prize pool record of $300,000 guaranteed in their main event. You can find out more about both of these in my Online Tournament Events page here.
10th March 2014: Carbon Poker have announced changes to their tournaments. There will be lower late registration, more turbo events and poker variations and more satellite qualifiers to the nightly guarantees. This follows consultation with many players on the Merge network - great to see a site listening!
25th February 2014: Interesting news from the regulated States today, with Nevada and Delaware signing a deal to share liquidity on licensed sites. This should be a small but significant traffic boost for the NV rooms - especially as the Delaware skins did not really get enough traffic to make them interesting to many players (a vicious circle). Of course, this also sets a precident for other States to follow in the future... we will have to wait and see how things work out.
16th February 2014: After a quiet month for US poker, Carbon have just done something noteworthy by releasing the first mobile poker app for US players. This is optimized for iPhones, though worked great on my iPad and just about coped with my Android phone. Let us hope that this is the start of things to come as far as device compatibility is concerned.
25th January 2014: Carbon (Merge) have announced that they are no longer accepting players from New Jersey or Delaware. No mention of Nevada in this announcement. The biggest offshore site Bovada (Bodog Brand) still has its doors open for residents of both states.
21st January 2014: Bovada have increased their tournament prize pool guarantees. An extra $100,000 per week has been added, with a focus on smaller and mid buy-in events - great news for tournament fans, as the buy-ins remain the same.
13th January 2014: COPs is coming back! The Carbon Online Poker Series is set to make a return on the 9th Feb. This tournament event is very popular and now has prize pools totalling $1.2 million - plenty of satellites to make sure that the games are full too. I'm predicting big things from Carbon and the Merge Network in 2014, and COPs will make a great start.
10th January 2014: Sponsorship of sports teams does not usually make the news feed here, however this time things are different. The NJ Devils and 76ers deal with Party Poker is the first cross over of a newly legal US poker site into the world of sports and media. This has to be a significant development and will help make a lot of people aware that poker is now legal and regulated in New Jersey. Lets hope this is the shape of things to come.
8th January 2014: The Winning Poker Network, whose members include Amerca's Cardroom and True Poker, have now started accepting Bitcoin as a payment method. There are several smaller sites including Seals with Clubs who accept BTC, however this is the first established network to do so. It will be interesting to see how this one works out.
Don't forget to bookmark this page now - I'll update on the US scene as soon as any news comes in.
Note: I have now archived the news updates from 2011 through to 2013. If you are interested, you can find them here.