PokerStars are Alienating a Lot of Players – What Are The Best Alternative Poker Sites?
It would be fair to say that PokerStars has made the transition from being the flavor of the month (well, years) through to going a bit sour on their player base recently.
First restrictions on poker tools kicked in, then quickly got worse covering HUDs, seating scripts and advice-engine software. Then lottery SNGs took a lot of the recreational players out of the regular games. To add insult to injury they have now changed their VIP / Loyalty program so that high volume players are worse off.
I would add another reason that it is worth looking at the alternative online poker sites to PokerStars. In fact, I believe that this is the main one:
The proportion of ‘pro grinders’(winners or break even players multi-tabling) compared to recreational players is worse at Stars than anywhere else.
You sit in a game at PokerStars and face 4 or 5 multi-tablers who are experienced in online poker and probably using the tools (within the new rules) to help them… At other sites you’ll find 1 or 2.
If you cannot see right away how much of a difference this will make to your profitability… well, I urge you to give up poker now and take up knitting instead!
So, What Sites Are Viable Alternatives to PokerStars?
When it comes to size, nobody comes close. There are two alternatives which have a decent player base, enough to allow you to multi-table the lower stakes at least if that is your preference.
As I will argue below, I think 2019 will be the year that multi-tabling declines and more players focus on developing winning strategies that the extra attention per game will allow. Both 888 Poker and iPoker have a lot more recreational players, making them ideal places for this.
The positives are great software which will work on just about any device you might own, plus a very recreational large player base. The standard of play compared to PokerStars in the tournaments is like comparing night and day, loose, passive and often just plain bad.
On the negatives side comes the rewards. There is a loyalty scheme, though this focuses on the lower stakes / more occasional players. Basically, you’ll need to make up for this by taking more of your profit from the tables.
888 are growing, and the new players they are attracting are recreational / regular people who like to have an occasional game. They keep players coming back with innovative ‘give-away’ promos.
After a fantastic 2 years which saw 888 go from mid-division to 2nd in the traffic rankings, I am predicting even more growth for 2019.
If I had to choose one alternative to PokerStars – then 888 would be an easy top pick. Have a look at the soft games over at www.888poker.com and I am sure you will agree.
iPoker Network (Titan Poker)
iPoker is certainly big enough to multi-table, and the games benefit from the big sports betting brands that use this network for their poker games. There are various rewards on offer, including flat 20% rakeback (opt-in needed via e-mail to support) and leaderboards / races which are relatively easy to cash in for higher volume players.
For me the biggest downside is their software. This looks a lot better than it did, though is still not great for playing more than a few tables at once. Whether this balances the easy pickings from the players is up to you!
I should note that there is a brand new software client on the way… lets see if they iron out the glitches this time around.
If you’d like to try out Titan, I have a long-running reader special where you get $20 extra cash in your player account within 48 hours (usually sooner) on top of your 200% welcome bonus. Register with bonus code SNGPLANET to claim this deal. See those famously crazy iPoker games for yourself over at www.titanpoker.com
Alternatives to PokerStars – What About The Smaller Sites
Party are still as soft as ever. I’m assuming that their complete ban on tools and recreational player-only promos and offers are not going to cut it for people more used to Stars! Full Tilt are owned by the same company as Stars, and are subject to the same issues with a lot of grinders and the same rules.
After that the sites get small very quickly.
You can use tools at MicroGaming sites, and even get yourself a rakeback deal… the smaller number of tables and same old tight opponents grinding out a few bucks in rakeback make this less than ideal. OnGame (RedKings) have soft games (again the sportsbook connections help), though not exactly enough games to get the volume you’ll be used to… after that, well, the volume of games gets very small very quickly.
Summing it Up
I think 2019 will require a change in approach from many players. Instead of putting in the volume by multi-tabling, players will need to actively seek the best games and take more of their profits from the tables than via the reward schemes.
There is certainly an opportunity here, and making the move now could give you a head start over those grinders who stay at PokerStars until they are squeezed even further (I’ll give them 6 months to a year!).
Of the alternatives, 888 has the biggest volume, best software and very easy games at the moment.
I recommend you ‘fill your boots’ now, before everyone else catches on.
See www.888poker.com for yourself!