Your head is probably spinning from encountering so many poker rating sites that claim to have found the best or the top real money poker sites. But how do you know when a site that evaluates and rates online poker sites is sufficiently experienced, rigorous, and ethical to deserve your respect and trust? After all, you’re going to be putting good real money on the line based on their recommendations and picks. How do verify that they know anything more about it than you do?
PokerSites.us understands your concerns. We’re painfully aware that a lot of self-proclaimed experts in the field are merely throwing together click-bait honeypot sites as hastily as they can in order to line their pockets with online poker site affiliate cash, with no regard to whether good people like you wind up with a safe, honest, and fair online gambling experience.
Security and Safety
The convenience of the Internet comes with the price of staying ahead of hackers who would like to treat the Internet as a goose laying golden eggs in the form of your personal information. Our networking experts look at areas of potential breaches like encryption, website vulnerabilities, and insufficiently restricted database access, especially for identity and banking information. Sites that fail any of these tests have no chance of becoming one of our top picks.
For example, online poker sites should use SSL encryption that itself leverages the highest number of encryption key bits as possible. In other words, 2048-bit SSL is stronger than 1024-bit SSL. The use of the ‘https’ protocol (not merely ‘http’) indicates that SSL encryption is being used between a site’s servers and your device. It’s important that all accessible site pages from login to logout use the https protocol. Sites must also guard against webpage vulnerabilities like unvalidated inputs, buffer overflows, cross-site scripting, injection flaws, and unsecured database storage.
Regulation and Licensing
Online poker sites recognize the role that regulation plays in setting standards and increasing customer trust. Regulation is a feature of online gambling site licenses, which in turn originate in specific regulatory jurisdictions. This means the quality of regulation and site transparency that a license requires is a function of the jurisdiction in which a site obtains its license. A better jurisdiction means better regulation.
We’ve found that sites that openly display how they’re licensed have less to hide than those that don’t. We always look for a site’s licensing, which the top sites generally display on their home page. Then we verify that the licensing claim is valid. We favor licensing from better jurisdictions, such as the UK Gambling Commission, Isle of Man, Gibraltar, Malta, and Alderney. Jurisdictions whitelisted by the UK Gambling Commission should be considered high quality given the UK’s commitment to gambling excellence.
Transparency and Fairness
Speaking of transparency, nothing speaks louder about online poker site trustworthiness than their willingness to submit to third party auditing and certification of their operations and software. Extending such independent rigor to a site’s RNGs (Random Number Generators) says a lot about a site’s fairness, because only a truly random RNG delivers game outcomes that are as fair as those determined by time-tested mechanical mechanisms.
We look for site and software certification from internationally acknowledged auditing experts such as the prestigious eCOGRA (eCommerce Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance). RNG certification from an organization like GLI (Gaming Laboratories International) is important when we consider site fairness. If a poker site offers other casino games like slots, we also favor those willing to publish their slots payout percentage, which is an important measure of how loose their slots games are.
A related topic is whether a site advertises that they use an independent dispute resolution service. That comes automatically with eCOGRA, including ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) for UK-licensed sites, and their “Safe & Fair Dispute Resolution” facility for sites licensed elsewhere. But other online poker sites might (and should) use a service like CDS (Central Disputes System). In the unlikely and unfortunate event that you disagree with a site about an outcome, you’ll feel much better knowing someone not directly employed by the site is looking into and arbitrating the matter.
Bonuses and Promotions
Fierce competition between online poker sites has led to incredible bonuses and promotions for players. A vast array of bonus types go by names like “signup”, “deposit”, “no deposit”, “free”, “refer-a-friend”, and “loyalty”. Ongoing varieties like free, refer-a-friend, and loyalty bonuses are important because they can really add up over time. Some sites also offer special bonuses on a weekly or monthly basis. But the real measure of a site going out on the bonus limb for you is the quality of their signup, deposit, and no deposit bonuses.
However, online poker sites still want evidence of your commitment to their site. So these bonuses come with stipulations, which include signing up for the bonuses (usually via promotion codes), and meeting playthrough and time expiration requirements. We’ve been around the bonus block many, many times and know how to dive deeply into the minutiae of the restrictions in order to compare apples to apples between sites, and to recognize when a bonus is worth your while.
PokerSites.us understands that game variety is the spice of online poker life. Each poker variant comes with its own intriguing ways to bet and strategize. Betting formats like limit, no limit, pot limit, and spread limit bring additional challenges and excitement to the table. Tournaments up the ante on winning potential and competitive thrills, not to mention peer recognition and bragging rights.
But there’s more. Free/fun/practice mode play lets you learn new games and improve your skills. Live dealer games remove the lingering doubt that some players have about RNG fairness. And the presence of additional online casino games like slots, table games, video poker, and specialty games like Roulette or Baccarat can provide a vacation of sorts from intense real money poker action, not to mention ways to win real money and work down your bonus playthrough.
All told, game variety helps make an online poker site more of a “one stop” destination, which cuts down on your overhead of creating and maintaining multi site memberships. More importantly, it broadens your opportunities for fun and winning, and thus weighs heavily in our poker site evaluations.
Software and Game Play
One of our goals is to connect you with poker sites that work on all your gaming devices and operating systems. That includes obvious environments like PC and Mac, and mobile devices like iPhone, iPad, and Android phones and tablets. But we know some of you are techies who swear by Linux, and who knows what systems the tech future holds for us all. The more devices an online poker site supports, the better.
Whether you conduct your online poker craft through software downloads, no download (aka instant play) options, or mobile instant play, our evaluations take into account a plethora of game experience and usability aspects. Game play should be smooth even when you don’t have the fastest Internet connection. Game interfaces should be intuitive, with a lot of easily accessible and detailed help available to you. Games should also play efficiently on your devices so that other device functions remain useable.
Banking Options and Payout Speed
You shouldn’t have to change the way you prefer to work with your money in order to patronize a great online poker site. With that in mind, we look for online poker sites that partner with the most banking options that are easy to use, safe, and secure. Both deposit and withdrawal transactions should process quickly, with minimal – if any – fees being tacked on by the sites themselves.
While we all wish withdrawals could be instantaneous and without limits, the reality is that a certain amount of due diligence is required for online poker sites to verify that withdrawals truly derive from honest winnings. In the end, everyone benefits from not allowing potential fraudsters from walking off with everyone’s winnings.
Site Organization and Usability
Online poker site web pages reflect the operational philosophy and attitude of site operators. When the site is seemingly incompletely or difficult to navigate, you can’t help but wonder whether overall security, safety, games management, or bonus redemption processes are similarly subpar. Think of the importance of making a first impression in human interactions.
PokerSites.us prefers online poker sites that make getting information easy, and moving around the site straightforward. We look for extensive game help, regularly updated blog/news sections, clear tournament listings, detailed FAQs, and terms and conditions for bonuses and site use that don’t require a lawyer to understand.
Sites serving international players should have multi-language support. Email notifications whose level of detail you can opt in and out of are a plus. We believe that a site that explains and presents itself well and keeps you in the loop is one worth your time and business.
Given the amount of real money you put on the line at online poker sites, you should never have to wonder about how something works, or experience frustration when you need an issue resolved. That’s why PokerSites.us fully exercises site customer service, looking for speed, accuracy, helpfulness, and respectful friendliness 24/7. The sites we favor are prompt, courteous, and embody the notion of service whether you’re interacting with them by phone, email, or chat.
We visit sites regularly to see how many players are active throughout the day and night. Strong site traffic means discerning players like you have likely found a pretty good situation. We’re especially on the lookout for sites with the fishiest tables so we can have you quickly off and reeling them in.
Online poker site players are a savvy bunch that isn’t afraid to sing praises when sites do things well, or make noise when they don’t. That’s why an important aspect of our research is polling social media outlets for discussions about sites. When players are talking up a site in droves, it’s a strong indication something good is truly happening there. Negative reports lead us to deeper investigation in case rants are merely the sour grapes of a poor loser.
As you can see, rating online poker sites is a lot closer to rocket science than you might have imagined. There are numerous important features to consider, and the entire industry is in state of perpetual flux. Researching a site once doesn’t cut it. That’s why the PokerSites.us team goes back again and again and again, revising our reviews and ratings from our latest findings.
Contrary to what the Rolling Stones have noted, you can always get what you want when it comes to online real money poker sites that we evaluate and recommend. And for you it’s as simple as returning to PokerSites.us on a regular basis, where we’ll always be directing you to the very best online poker sites at any given moment.