We have tested and rated the best online poker sites and poker providers. All big poker providers have been tested in 12 categories and rated on a scale of 1 to 5. The table below shows which sites had the best results in our poker site test.
There are quite a lot poker rooms online. Where are most players? Where are the most fish? Who offers the best bonuses? Which software is the best? We strive to answer all these questions honestly and help you pick the best poker provider.
The best online poker sites (as of January 2021)
Please note that we list Full Tilt Poker at the bottom solely because it’s (apart from minor software differences) the same platform as PokerStars.
Best Online Poker Sites – Our Comparison Criteria
It’s not that easy to find your way around the jungle of online poker providers. There are dozens of different sites that invite you to play. Some are larger, some smaller, some have good software, others seem rather prehistoric. For most players it’s not just about finding the poker site with the biggest player pool or the most beautiful interface. The key factor to the best online poker site is to find out which one suits you best and, above all, at which you play most profitably.
Virtually all poker providers offer a variety of bonuses and loyalty systems to reward regular playing. In addition, the level of competition is different at various sites. At some you are surrounded by fish, at others you might just be eaten by the sharks.
In the list above you will find all online poker sites we currently recommend. We have thoroughly tested the poker sites and compiled detailed information on bonus systems, promotions, loyalty programs and the quality of the software.
We rated the poker sites on a scale of 1 to 5 and used 12 criteria.
This is each poker room’s detailed rating:
Those are the main criteria we use to evaluate online poker sites:
Number of players & poker site traffic
The larger a poker room is, the more opponents you will find at your preferred variant and limit. If you mainly play lower stakes up to a maximum of $100 buy-in and Texas Hold’em cash game, you will always find enough opponents and active tables at virtually every online poker site.
For low-limit cash game players, the number of players on a poker site is not the most important factor, as there are always more active tables than you can play at. However, if you play higher limits, other variants or multi-table tournaments, the number of players is a decisive factor.
For rating purposes we considered the cash game players, more precisely the peak number of concurrently active real money cash game players (over the period of one week).
Please note that many sites will list higher number of active players, but those number usually include play money players and players that are in the lobby without playing a game.
Traffic numbers via pokerscout.com.
Best Online Poker Site Software
You should feel at home at your poker platform and be able to find and use all the features you need. A good-looking software that offers extensive functions and is easy to use is essential for most players.
All of the best poker sites in 2021 have an acceptable design and you will find all the games and necessary function easily.
All providers also allow you to play via a mobile poker app on your phone or tablet. You can also test all the providers with play money first, which is a decent way to get to know the software.
However, before you deposit larger amounts, you should take a closer look at a poker site in terms of the functionality.
When rating a poker room, it is not necessarily correct to assume that “more players” is the same as “weaker opponents”. While it’s true that with more players, there are more fishes (i.e. weaker players) at the tables in absolute terms, there are also more good players at the tables hunting the fishes.
In terms of opponent strength, the poker rooms vary considerably. On 888poker for example, you won’t find as many cash game tables as you do on PokerStars, but the players at 888 are almost legendarily weak.
Overall, unfortunately, it has to be said that in 2021 there is no such thing as a particularly soft poker site. At all games beyond a certain limit (and this limit is usually anything beyond the $20 buy-in level) most players at the tables know what they are doing – at least to some extent. The glory days of super whales spewing millions (literally!) at the highest limits are long since gone. But at the lower limits, you’ll still find juicy games.
Tip: Avoid the second lowest limits
Absolute beginners and players who play for fun almost always start to play at the lowest available limit. Weak players who don’t care too much about the money are often found at higher limits. But the second-lowest limit is chosen almost only by players who are trying to work their way up the limits. You will usually not find too many very weak players at those limits.
Poker is played in very many variants. There is classic Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Seven Card Stud and slightly more exotic variants like 6+ Hold’em, Badugi or Razz.
Online Poker these days is mostly confined to the two most popular variants: NL Texas Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha. Basically, all poker sites offer cash games and tournaments for those variants.
If you plan to play a lot, you should definitely take a look at the bonuses and loyalty programs of the poker rooms. Through these, the poker sites redistribute a (for some players significant) portion of the rake and reward players for regularly playing at the tables. For many professional players, these bonuses make up a large part of their profits.
In the poker scene there is a type of player that is jokingly referred to as “bonus whore”. These players can be formidable opponents (although they are only rarely truly excellent players) and they jump from poker room to poker room and play just as much to be able to unlock the maximum bonus. There is nothing dishonorable in it, this type of player simply consistently exploits the possibilities offered by the poker sites. In most cases, the money won is then withdrawn and reinvested on other sites to unlock a new bonus.
Many strong match bonuses can still be found on sites that belong to the iPoker Network (Betsson and bet-at-home) have more than decent deposit bonuses which clear at rates of 20% additional cashback.
Low stakes players and beginners usually don’t play nearly enough to profit from those big match bonuses though. Many of the best online poker sites have bonuses specially aimed towards recreational players. Those bonuses usually come in the form of free tournament tickets or a little bit of extra cash on the first deposit. While those bonuses usually are smaller (often only up to $30), they are much easier to clear and thus usually better for new players. PokerStars for example hands out tournament tickets and cash worth $30 once you deposit at least $20 – no strings and play-through requirements attached.
Quick note regarding the 888 “free” bonus
The 888 bonus ($88 free without deposit) looks really good on paper. But unfortunately this bonus is incredibly easy to clear. Players only receive the first $8 for free (and only in small installments over multiple days). The money can only be withdrawn after generating a certain amount of rake. The rest of the bonus has to be unlocked by generating hundreds of dollars of rake (which is more or less impossible at the lower stakes).
Poker VIP Program
Playing a lot at a single poker room is worthwhile in most cases, as almost all sites allow you to earn some sort of player points through frequent play, which can be turned into extra cash or bonuses.
Many poker rooms offer player points for each played hand that generates rake. These points allow players to climb up a VIP status ladder, which will then provide additional benefits.
In the past PokerStars offered the best VIP program, but these days ended a couple of years ago. Nowadays the best VIP program can usually be found on iPoker skins like bet-at-home.
Banking Options for the best online poker sites
Most poker providers have a variety of payment options available. By default, credit cards (VISA, Mastercard), online wallets such as Neteller or Skrill and modern options such as Trustly or Zimpler are accepted by most poker sites.
Deposits do not cost any fees and are usually credited within seconds.
Withdrawals, on the other hand, almost always take a few days and some poker providers also take fees when making withdrawals.
Tip: Stick to one currency
Make sure to deposit and withdraw in the same currency that your account has. Otherwise the poker rooms will charge you an exchange fee which can be up to 3% of the transferred amount.
Rake and Fees – How Poker Sites earn money
Poker rooms earn money through the so-called rake.
Rake is the commission charged by a poker site. In general, this is between 2% and 5% of the pot in each poker hand, up to a certain maximum amount. Poker sites don’t take rake when a hand doesn’t have a flop. This is called “no flop, no drop”.
Poker is a player-versus-player game, and the house does not bet against its players (as opposed to blackjack or roulette), so this fee is the main mechanism for poker sites to generate revenue.
To make a long-term profit in poker games, the player must not only beat the other players at the table, but also overcome the rake.
For cash games a percentage rake is used. The rake for poker tournaments will be charged as an entry fee. Usually this fee is between 5% and 10% of the buy-in and is displayed when looking at the tournament structure.
For the purpose of our rating we focused mainly on cash game rake. A better rating implies lower percentages and lower rake caps. The following table shows rake percentages and caps for 4 different limits: micro stakes (NL10), small stakes (NL50), mid stakes (NL200) and small stakes heads-up (NL50 HU) for all operators.
Tip: These games have notoriously high rake
In recent years, many poker sites have launched super fast poker variants where the rake is too high to beat the games in the long run. Almost all jackpot sit and gos (Spin-and-Go at PokerStars, BLAST at 888poker or Twister Sit-and-Gos on the iPoker Network) , for example, are too expensive and you virtually can’t win these games in the long run.
Online Poker Site Review Criteria
We used those criteria to rate each poker room:
|Criteria||Positive Factors||Negative Factors|
|Software||– customizable feature-rich desktop app|
– easy to use mobile app
|– antiquated software|
– too many necessary features
|Cash Games||– many active cash game tables|
– different variants & limits
– fast-fold tables
|– limited to NLH and low stakes|
|Tournaments||– tournaments with substantial guarantees or overlays|
– freeze-out tournaments
|– too many re-entry-events|
|Other Games||– unusual variants like 6+ Hold’em, Stud, Draw or Chinese Poker|
|Rake and Fees||– less than 3% / $3 cap cashgame rake|
– less than 9% tournament fees
– clear announcement of rake and fees
|– more than 5% / $3 cap cash game rake|
– more than 10% tournament fees
– hidden fees
|Bonus||– good first deposit bonus |
– easy play-through requirements
|– bonus too difficult to clear|
|VIP Program||– substantial effective rake-back via VIP program|
– consistent VIP programm
|– luck based rewards|
|Player Pool||– many cash game players|
– many tournament players
|Softness||– many recreational players|
– external HUDs and trackers banned
|– too many grinders or bots|
|Reputation||– licensed in reputable territories|
– independent audits
– legitimate company
|– shady past|
– missing key licenses
|Support||– phone support|
– quick responses
– friendly & competent staff
|– slow or generic responses|
|Banking||– quick withdrawals|
– no fees
|– few options|
– long withdrawal times
– hidden fees
The best online poker sites – FAQ
Which poker sites offer real money poker?
You can play for real money on all major poker sites. Providers such as 888, PokerStars and Bet-At-Home offer online poker for real money. The game can be played directly in the browser or via a desktop or smartphone app.
Is online poker still profitable?
Online poker can still be profitable if you find the right games and play at the right poker sites. The higher limits are very difficult to beat at all sites, but lower limits and especially tournaments can still be played profitably.
Which is the best online poker site?
There is no single “best poker site”. Each poker site has advantages and disadvantages. We can all recommend the poker sites we list above. In case of doubt, you don’t do much wrong by choosing a big site like PokerStars or 888.
Which is the best online poker site for beginners?
The best poker site for beginners is 888poker. The rake is a little bit higher than at most other sites, but the players – especially at the low limits – are very weak. On 888 you don’t have to fear to be eaten by sharks at the lower limits.
Which poker site has the most players?
The most players can be found at PokerStars, the current industry leader. About half of the world’s online poker events and the biggest tournaments take place on PokerStars.
Which poker sites are rigged?
None. Online poker sites use a physical random number generator to shuffle the cards. All sites we recommend are regularly tested and reviewed by independent authorities. To date, no irregularities and manipulations of the shuffle algorithm have ever been found in more than 20 years of online poker.
Can I trust online poker rooms?
In general, you can trust all poker sites we recommend. The sites all belong to companies traded publicly on stock exchanges. 888poker, for example, is traded on the London Stock Exchange, PokerStars on the NASDAQ. The companies have to report to their shareholders and are generally very trustworthy.
Do have questions? Agree, disagree with our rating? Please leave a comment!