The offshore poker industry is going from strength to strength while the individual states argue about the fine print of their legislation. There are several brands offshore with 10+ years of experience – along with some newer entrants to the market which are bringing a fresh approach to the online poker experience.
What I like best is that the focus of these sites is not on the ‘online pros’ that used to play 12 tables on the big international sites to eek out a living. Instead the focus is on giving recreational and part-time players the best experience. Bovada is the best example of this – with their ‘recreational player model’ keeping the number of pros down.
To say that this model has been a success is an understatement.
Bovada is now around 4 times bigger than their closest rival.
Here is the order of the most popular US poker sites in the Summer of 2015. Data comes from Poker Scout – though the comments and pros / cons of each site below are entirely mine.
#1 – Bovada 1700 Average Cash Game Players
#2 – Chico Network (BetOnline) 475 Average Cash Game Players
#3 – Winning Poker Network (America’s Cardroom) Average Cash Game Players
#4 – Merge Network (Carbon Poker) 280 Average Cash Game Players
#5 – Equity Network (Full Flush) 140 Average Cash Game Players
Popular US Poker Sites – Summary and Pros / Cons
This is the US facing site which is part of the wider Bodog brand. This is a trusted site, and players at the poker tables, casino and sportsbook tend to become very loyal. The recreational player model keeps the number of pros down. This involved restrictions on software tools, limits on how many games you can play at once (4 for cash / sit n goes) and anonymous play rather than screen names.
Pros: Biggest site, best choice of tables and excellent tournament events.
Cons: Anonymous tables take a little getting used to!
#2 – Chico Network (BetOnline)
Another old and trusted brand. BetOnline has been offering one of the biggest and best Sportsbooks for US Players for more than a decade from their base in Panama. They have more recently started offering poker via the Chico network. This is growing fast, and has the softest games of any US facing site (all those recreational players coming over from the sportsbook!).
Pros: Soft games, fast growing network + long list of player promotions.
Cons: Smaller tournament selection at the moment (this is growing, though has some way to go).
#3 – WPN / America’s Cardroom
The Winning Poker Network does appeal to the small stakes pros, and is the only major US network to offer a rakeback deal. Players at America’s Cardroom get 27% of their fees returned each week, through the cashier system of the site (no 3rd party). There are also 2 progressive leaderboards which reward a higher volume of play. ACR is also the home of the single biggest US poker tournament, the $1,000,000 guaranteed which comes around every 3 to 4 months.
Pros: Generous player rewards, particularly for higher volume players + big tournament events.
Cons: Tighter / Nittier tables than some other sites.
Just a quick mention for the other networks. Merge are in trouble at the moment, with payment delays and a huge dip in player numbers. I recommend a wait-and-see strategy for now. Equity Network need to show some more growth before they become a serious contender. I will take another look at them in the fall.
Bovada grew to be 4x the size of their closest competitors for good reasons. I recommend you check them out over at (link removed)