Here I Compare The Options For Real-Money Online Poker Tournaments Available To US Players
Poker Tournaments For US Players
Update: As we go into 2018 there are some big improvements to report. First, America's Cardroom have announced a million dollar guaranteed Sunday Major every week until early March... this was unthinkable just a couple of years ago, and shows how much the offshore poker industry has matured! There are plenty of satellite qualifiers, see www.americascardroom.eu for more.
Second, Bovada are back. They have their own events (for example a Superbowl Special). It is the regular tournaments that I like the look of. Soft fields, anonymous games and a lot of smaller to mid-sized guarantees!
This article will not cover the regulated in-State sites – which (WSOP bracelets aside) are struggling to gain any real momentum.
Below you will find a site by site summary, using the most popular individual sites where a network is involved. After that I have gone through the US online tournaments by size (buy-in). At the end of this page you will find my overall recommendation.
US Online Poker Tournaments 2018 – The Contenders (Sites)
#1 – Bovada Poker Tournaments
There is no doubting that Bovada (who pool players with Ignition Poker / Bodog) are the biggest US room.
What many people do not know before they play there, is that the games are anonymous. Instead of playing with a nickname, you are assigned a new number for each tournament. This stops the tracking software which gives pro players an edge - leveling the playing field for casual players. Bovada proved the skeptics wrong, their 'recreational poker model' was a big factor in their growth.
This is the biggest US poker room (only players from the US and selected Latin American countries can join). There is a solid regular schedule, with a ton of guarantees in the $1k to $5k range (buy-ins up to $22). While for the big 'headline events' America's Cardroom are ahead, for the 'bread and butter' tournaments, I rate Bovada as the number #1. The focus is 98% on No-Limit Holdem, with Omaha the minority game type
There are already some notable highlights for tournament fans. Note that the anonymous play model is still in use. You do not get a screen name at this site – instead when you play a tournament you are assigned a number, and cash games just use the seat numbers.
- $2 Million in Guarantees every week… that’s a lot of guarantees. This is not skewed by a couple of huge games either. When you see the listing you will quickly see that most of the tournaments have some kind of guaranteed prize pool.
- $100k Sunday Major… This always beats the guarantee, there are plenty of satellites too, entry costs $162.
- Mad Monday Tournaments:... This has been a very successful promo, a lot of extra tournaments, often with big guarantees spread each Monday. The total seems to vary (holiday weekends and seasonality affect this) though expect $300,000+ in extra games and again plenty of satellites.
Bovada were good for events and for satellites to live tournaments, for example ‘Vegas Weekends’ during the World Series. I hope to bring you news on this area soon.
With easy deposits, and plenty of poker variations to choose from, I do not see Bovada losing their number one spot any time soon. Check out their busy nightly tournament schedule, and find out how much more fun those anonymous games can be for yourself now at – though I do have a feeling that it will be one of (at least) the top contenders by the end of the year! Check out www.bovada.lv to see the latest deals and tournament events for yourself.
#2 – Chico Network / BetOnline Poker
BetOnline has been looking after sports bettors from their HQ in Panama for the best part of a decade. Last year, they joined the Chico poker network, and have grown this part of their brand to become the 2nd largest US friendly poker site.
Guarantees are not yet at the level that you might expect (a lot of their players hit the cash game tables instead). Though they are already up to $250,000 a month in prize pools. If you like your tournaments with smaller fields and smaller buy-ins – then you will not find softer games than these at any US site. The secret is that a lot of the field are sports fans who have crossed over into the poker room – and not the experienced ‘pro grinders’ you might find elsewhere.
At the moment the BetOnline weekly flagship event has a guarantee of just $25,000. This does go up to $150k approximately once every month (usually on the last Sunday of the month) as part of a special promotion. BetOnline also recently introduced knockout bounty tournaments each day, these are entertaining (though lower buy-in) alternatives to the regular games.While it does not seem that the recent increase in players at Bet Online has fed through to an improved tournament schedule - there are still some good reasons to play here. The main one is that the fields are very soft, with a lot of players crossing over from the huge sportsbook part of the site.
You can check out the new bounty games, tournament leaderboard promos and date for the next $50k guaranteed over at www.betonline.ag
#3 – Winning Poker Network / America’s Cardroom
Since the last update to this page, America's Cardroom have improved their offering for tournament fans further. They regularly host events under the 'Online Super Series' name. There are bigger and smaller events, and some huge guaranteed prize pools. The most recent series ha guaranteed prizes of $4.5 million.
ACR Poker's USA 'Sunday Million'
In 2018, ACR are guaranteeing $1,000,001 each week in a single million-and-one tournament. This is huge news for US tournament fans. If you prefer, you can hit the qualifier games and win your seat in one of the games. There continue until early March. In previous years, they did continue through the year, though were more spread out. If you want to see $1 million+ prize pools for US players continue, then do make sure that you support these events.
The video below gives you an intro to the Million Dollar Sundays, you can find the qualifiers and details over at www.americascardroom.eu
Even though this is only the 3rd largest player pool, the focus on tournaments makes the schedule here the busiest - especially when there is an event like the OSS coming up. Some of the bigger tournaments have relatively high entry prices, though there are plenty of satellite qualifiers running to give smaller bankroll players a shot at the big money. These can be entered for just $1.
In addition to this headline event, there is a 'Super Saturday' lineup, which itself has $750,000 in guarantees. There are also live tournament qualifiers. In addition to the qualifiers via regular tournaments, you can win big event entries via the Jackpot Poker (lottery SNGs). This year saw a lot of WSOP Main Event seats awarded in this way.
The regular schedule is growing, though not too packed at the moment. Again the focus is on the lower ($10 and under) end of the buy-ins. If you want to play several tournaments starting at around the same time, then you will need to mix and match those sites. A nice addition to their welcome bonus is up to $50 in 'Tournament Bucks' which are awarded semi-randomly using cards. These are a free extra and can be used to buy into any tournament with the equivalent value.
Find out when the next OSS (Online Super Series) and / or $1 million guaranteed event is on over at www.americascardroom.com
#4 – Merge Network / Carbon Poker
Carbon are now out of the picture. This is a shame as this was an excellent site not too long ago.
#5 - Other Networks
There are some smaller networks, the closest to being in contention is the Equity Poker Network. As of 2018, they are not big enough to make the list of recommendations for poker tournaments though. As I mentioned in the intro the Horizon poker network (Intertops Poker) is making some slow headway. While I am optimistic over time, it does not look like this network will cross the point where there are enough player numbers to run bigger tournaments this year!
US Online Poker Tournaments – By Buy-In Ranges
Most of us are reasonably fixed with the buy-ins we are comfortable playing. If you know what band you are looking for, here are my thoughts on how the different sites match up.
Biggest US Online Poker Tournaments 2018
Here we are talking about the Sunday Majors and special one-off events where you have a chance of winning enough money to really make a difference.
America’s Cardroom has the biggest buy-in, and by a long way with their regular $1,000,000 guaranteed. There are sub-qualifiers for this (the majority of the seats are won this way). This event happens every 3 months or so, and has already rewarded several players with 6-figure prizes. Keep an eye on America's Cardroom for the next running. More recently, there was a run of 5 Million guaranteed tournaments, which are well served by satellite qualifiers (ensuring big fields).
Bovada Poker have a weekly $100,000 guaranteed (and Mad Mondays often feature bigger games too), ACR has $50,000 (boosted around once per month to $100,000) and BetOnline chase the pack with a $25,000 guarantee. Intertops can not really be said to have a Sunday Major just yet - their bigger buy-in tournaments are still more like Multi-table Sit N Goes.
Million Dollar Sundays: As discussed above in the ACR section, from now until early March, we have a $1 million gtd tournament every Sunday at ACR. See www.americascardroom.eu for more.
Mid-Range US Poker Tournaments – the $22 to $55 Range
Players who were used to grinding this range before the big international sites left will really need to have accounts at several offshore sites to make up the volume of games needed. You’ll find 1 or 2 each evening at each site (though if you include $11 rebuys this does go up). The downside is that you will often be facing less than 100 opponents. It feels like the main sites have a plateau at $33, with the bigger games reserved for the weekend and special events.
Bovada is your best bet here by a long way – though I am hopeful the increasing number of players on the WPN network will see some expansion in this buy-in range for BetOnline in the near future. At the weekends you will find some bigger tournaments in this range at ACR too.
Small Buy-in US Online Poker Tournaments – The $11 and Under Range
Once you get to the $11 and under games, you’ll have enough opportunities that you can afford to be a little selective. Since the 150 to 250 player games at the $3 , $5 and $10 level are common, my preference is to go for those sites where your average opponents are likely to be the least experienced.
Betting giant BetOnline fits the bill for me here too. They have been building their sports betting brand for many years, and you are more likely to find an average person that enjoys the occasional poker game here, compared to other sites which have more ‘small stakes pros’. The software is pretty basic, then again, I’ll swap flashy graphics for a better chance of making the final table any day of the week.
Best Site for US Poker Tournaments – Mark’s Overall Choice
This is a genuinely tough one, all of the sites have their positive aspects.
If I had to pick one and only one place to play, then it would be America's Cardroom. The reason is that this site really appears to want to move forward with their tournament schedule. There are regular events (the Online Super Series + the $1 million guaranteed games), monthly leader board contests and plenty of action every night at the lower end of the buy-in spectrum... I'm happy that Ignition have now come into the picture to provide ACR with some stiff competition, though as of 2018, ACR are still my strong top recommendation.
Check out www.americascardroom.eu for yourself now!
Here are my reviews of the leading US facing sites in 2018
SNG Tournaments For US Players (compares the Sit N Goes at the US biggest sites)
Don't forget to bookmark this page now - I'll update on the US scene as soon as any news comes in - especially with one-off tournaments or special promotions.