Here I Go Through The Poker Sites Still Open To US Players In 2014
And Compare Their Offerings Of Cash Games
Update: This is one of those articles which never seems to stay still. Until cashout issues are resolved, I am no longer recommending Lock Poker. The 'offshore' US friendly sites in contention are now down to 3. Bovada (Bodog Brand), Carbon (Merge) and The Winning Poker Network. Each have their pros and cons, which I have outlined below. Regulated sites are still tiny in comparison, so I'll deal with those elsewhere.
Cash games are where you can really make your skill differences count at the poker table. While the days of massive volume at Stars might be over for now, there are still some great games available – especially at the lower to middle limits.
This article is now in its 3rd version, and the news for US based real money poker players is getting gradually better. with deposit options stable and enough liquidity to give you a choice of games up to the mid-stakes. What I have also noted as we move into 2014 is that the different networks are focusing on different player types. Bovada take serious steps to keep 'Grinders' at bay, making their games anonymous (stops software tools) and restricting players to 4 games. At the opposite end the Winning Network (Amerca's Cardroom, True Poker) are courting these grinders with rakeback deals, races and leader-boards. For me this improves the amount of games at the expense at making them harder to profit from with so many 'rakeback nits' multi-tabling. In the middle is Carbon, who have plenty to attract recreational players including some cool tournament events. On top of this they have daily cashback, which keeps the small stakes pros happy.
Just a quick aside. I have been updating a lot of reviews, payment method articles and related pieces like this one every few months to keep on top of the changing US situation. The main page to keep an eye on is my main page featuring poker sites open to US players in 2014. I will update there first when there is any major news - if you want the news even faster you can always check out our Facebook Group.
Ok, here is what to expect at the 3 main networks, my overall top pick is at the end of this article:
Best US Site For Real Money Cash Games 2014 – Carbon Poker (Merge Network)
Carbon are the 2nd biggest site on the US friendly Merge poker network. This network has consolidated recently, and Carbon Poker are now the dominant brand. Even after the departure of Lock and many smaller skins, they maintain a healthy number of players with 7k peaks meaning only Bovada are bigger. This site run regular tournament events (COPs and so on) which can increase the numbers when the main events come around.
Carbon have a great choice of real money poker games - which range from 2c / 4c blinds, up to $50 / $100, with a the largest number at 50c / $1 and below and a smaller (but significant) choice up to $5 / $10 blinds. There are heads-up,6-handed and 9-handed tables with fixed limit and pot limit games running too. While there are many poker variations available, the focus is very much on NL Holdem and Pot Limit Omaha.
In addition to game choice I put Carbon well ahead when it comes to software - in both the looks and the playability. One cool feature is the animations which players can trigger at the tables by typing in certain keywords. These add a 'fun' element to the game, which keeps the recreational players happy - leading to that 'fun == loose' atmosphere in the games (making them very profitable for those who have some poker strategy knowledge!).
Key to these cash games are the mainly recreational player base of Carbon Poker, the games are noticably softer than those at PokerStars (for example). Bad-beat jackpot tables are popular at Carbon, especially once the jackpot goes over $100k, the rake is bigger in these games, however the recreational players will flock to them once the prize gets big - making them even softer than the regular tables and balancing the extra fees.
Carbon have a great loyalty scheme with several levels, this gives cash bonuses, daily cashback - and goods from their online store. I consider this sheme generous by poker site standards. You can also enjoy an extra big welcome package - 200% matched (max $5k) + a free cool poker calculator + 1 month of pro video poker training, simply use Carbon Poker coupon code CARBONPX when you register! Check out the cool cash games at www.carbonpoker.ag now, because the cashback + easy games make for a profitable combination.
Best Site For US Players Seeking Real Money Great Cash Games #2 - Bovada.lv
Bovada are part of the Bodog Brand, a name synonymous with sports-betting and casino games as well as online poker. It is this big brand awareness that gives Bovada the edge in the US, their peaks of 10,000 concurrent poker players making this the biggest single site by a significant margin.
The cash games are noticably easier than any other US site, largely thanks to all the new players crossing over from the sports betting part of the brand.
The games are also anonymous.
Yep, instead of sticking with a user name which opponents can track with their own software or pay tracking services for your info - you play anonymously. Tools like PokerTracker will only work until you change seats, negating much of their advantage. This is a deliberate policy by the Bodog brand, and is designed to make their tables less attractive to grinders who often rely on these tools to help them multi-table. With an additional restriction of 4 games at once, the option of playing tight at many tables to eek out a profit is far more difficult here.
On top of the easy games you'll find the promos are pretty cool too, lots of one-off specials aimed at recreational players which include qualifiers to unique events (which include the infamous Bodog parties).
If you are a recreational cash game fan, who likes to win money and enjoy the games rather than a full-time pro, then Bovada make a fantastic choice. Check out their slick website and the latest and greatest deals at www.bovada.lv
Best US Site For Cash Games 2014 #3 – Winning Poker Network
In 3rd place rankings-wise (though hot on the heels of Carbon / Merge) are the Winning Poker Network. This is a group of sites which includes America's Cardroom, True Poker and Black Chip Poker + many smaller skins. They enjoy 5k player peaks and have a lot of promotions based around rake races and leader boards which appear deliberately targetted to grinders.
The number of grinders compared to recreational players keeps the choice of cash games high, yet makes them harder to beat.
The very grinders who make the site work, also kill the games... an old story which is probably only being repeated in a bid to gain liquidity / momentum for the network that will allow them to recruit more recreational players later. I'm recommending that you stick with Bovada or Carbon who have far softer games. If the winning network succeeds in escaping the grinder trap then you can always move part of your bankroll there later.
Conclusion / Next Steps
Carbon hit the sweet spot for my money, their cool software makes the games fun and recreational (so, easy to beat) and their daily cash back scheme and long list of themed promotions keep your bankroll well topped up. Bovada have a lot to offer too (especially if you like to bet sports as well as play poker)... however I have trouble getting used to anonymous tables.
Check out www.carbonpoker.ag now because that great software should be seen with your own eyes!!