How to choose a site for online poker
So you've decided that you want to play poker online and your hunt for the perfect site has begun. But alas, there are literally hundreds of poker sites on the Internet. How do you distinguish between all these available sites to find the one you want? There are several key criteria that you need to know about in order to find a poker site that is perfect for you. Understanding these criteria and being able to use them as a basis for comparison will greatly simplify the selection process:
Free poker. If you want to play online poker for pure relaxation and not for the money, make sure that the site you are interested in has “free” players. Most online poker sites cater to free players.
Software download or website. Most, if not all, poker sites require you to download their poker software to your computer in order to work. If you do not approve of downloading such software to your system, you can check to see if the poker site has an alternative poker web interface that allows you to play poker on the site from your browser. When installing software, there is a potential risk of viruses and/or adware being loaded onto your system (although most well-known companies would never do this), but installing software on your computer is usually much faster than sessions over the Internet. Software installations use the power of your local PC's CPU, whereas web interfaces rely on downloading any screen state updates over the Internet while playing a game. This can be slow, especially if you have a slow internet connection (like a phone line). Hence, if you need speed, select local software installations; If you are concerned about the security of your computer or cannot afford the disk space used to install the software, choose a poker website.
Deposit / Withdrawal Methods - If you are planning to play poker for money over the Internet, it is very important to consider the deposit and withdrawal methods that the poker site supports. Many of these sites allow the use of major credit cards, which seems to be the most preferred universal deposit mechanism. Others allow bank transfer, ACH transfer, checks and wire transfers from banks. Most poker sites also support some form of third-party e-wallets that act as an intermediary between banking institutions and the poker site itself. The main criteria to look out for are: 1) What deposit/withdrawal methods does the poker site support, and how many of these methods are supported in your country ?; 2) Is it legal to deposit/withdraw funds to/from the poker site in the jurisdiction where you play? 3) What fees are charged by third party e-wallet companies that you can use and how reliable are they (this last question can be found on some of the poker message forums)?
Local restrictions - Some poker sites restrict gambling (and sometimes even free play) depending on your region and the laws governing gambling in your region. You should check the laws of your local jurisdiction and check on the poker site if there are any restrictions on playing depending on your region.
Support - you should definitely look into the support methods that the poker site offers. Poker sites usually provide one (or more) support methods, which include: phone support, fax support, email support, and live chat support. The more a poker site offers, the better. For phone support, check if the poker site offers free support from your gaming jurisdiction.
Variety of Games - Depending on your level of poker experience and your interest in variety, it is important to determine what types of games the poker site supports. Almost all sites offer Texas Hold'em but depending on your level of interest, you should check to see if they offer games such as Five and Seven Card Stud, Omaha Poker (and all its variations), Blackjack (not poker, but often included as a variant of the game), stud (and its variants), poker withdraws, support for tournaments, and games with a limit and a pot-limit. In particular, tournaments are very popular on online poker sites, and some tournaments offer very large prize pools.
Bonuses - Most, but not all poker sites offer the player some form of bonus when they first register with the site. The bonuses of each site are slightly different, but for those offering a bonus for the first time, it is usually based on a minimum initial deposit. Many bonuses are also calculated based on the amount of money deposited and spent on the site. In addition, many sites offer deposit bonuses, which are bonuses that are offered to existing customers in addition to their initial deposit bonus and as an incentive to keep you a customer.
Graphics and usability are very important considerations. Each poker site looks different. If you are going to play poker for money, it is important that you feel comfortable with the graphics on the screen and your ability to navigate (using your mouse or keyboard) through the poker program. If you feel uncomfortable with a poker site, you definitely shouldn't think about gambling on it. You should always test a poker site first in “free” mode before considering it for real money betting.
Game Features - You should always consider the game features available on this poker site. Game features such as hand history, multiple concurrent windows, player notes, audio and visual indicators, player statistics, connection status indicator, player chat, turbo games, and screen options should always be considered.
Rake - Rake is the amount of pot that the poker site takes (as part of its reward for doing business) from each hand. You should always know how much rake a poker site is taking (compared to another site). Poker sites usually use the Weighted Contribution Method or the Average Contribution Method when calculating rake. Obviously, the lower the rake, the more money you will take home as winnings, but this criterion alone should not determine which poker site you use, as all of the above factors must also be taken into account. As such, the above criteria should always be used when deciding which poker site is best for you. Depending on your preference, some of these criteria should be given more consideration than others. Happy hunting for the poker site!!