REVIEW OF ONLINE POKER ROOMS
They're not all alike...find out which is best for you!!
PARTY POKER

Party Poker was the largest and most successful Internet poker room until their decision to not accept any more US customers.  If you are not based in America, you will want to consider Party Poker even though its business suffered greatly when they closed their doors to the US market.

At any given time you will find thousands of players logged in. They provide Party Poker with such a large player base that it can offer many varieties of poker at every level from play money games to the highest dollar levels.  As their customer you can probably find a game you like--and at a monetary level you find comfortable. In addition, you will have this choice at most any hour of the day or night.

Like the other rooms, Party Poker offers a deposit bonus if you open a real money account. The bonus program means that if you download their software from my site or from another affiliate site you will earn a bonus on your initial deposit. These bonuses are typically in the range of 20% to 25%. Naturally, there is some fine print involved. You can't just deposit your money, collect a bonus, and withdraw it all. You do have to play a certain minimum number of raked hands to "earn" the bonus, but the requirements at most sites are not really onerous. Note, too, that "playing" a hand usually only means being dealt in at the beginning of the hand. You can fold your hand and it will still count as being played.

Party Poker is like most other Internet poker rooms in that it offers a number of promotional events. There are so many, and they change so often, that the player must make an effort to be aware of all the various events going on at the different rooms. Generally, though, the promotions provide incentives to play at that room and offer special tournaments and other rewards to those who play regularly.

Party Poker is your best source for one-table tournaments (often called SNG or "sit and go" tournaments). These are offered for limit Stud and Stud/8, and for limit and no-limit Omaha/8 and HEM. The buy-ins for these tournaments range from $5 to $100, and usually last about 90 minutes. The winner gets half of the prize pool, second place pays 30%, and third place gets 20%. HEM tournaments are the most popular and at peak times one will be starting every minute.  Other sites now offer these single table tournaments but Party Poker has the greatest variety--especially if you want to play some of the less popular games such as Omaha and Stud.

Party Poker offers a lot of multi-table tournaments but the great majority are for various versions of HEM. If you prefer Omaha or Stud, you will probably need to look elsewhere.   If you are feeling particularly lucky you may want to try the HEM games offering Party's "bad beat" jackpot.  Jackpots have gotten as high as a half-million dollars and more.  These jackpots are funded by an extra $.50 being deducted from each pot.  Unlike your neighborhood brick and mortar poker rooms, at Party Poker you have the option of playing in jackpot or non-jackpot games.

There was a time when its rapid growth caused Party Poker's tech support to be the object of many jokes, but it is now considered to be on a par with other Internet rooms. Fortunately, most of the rooms have a fairly straight forward interface and problems are fairly rare. The tournament lists in the Party Poker lobby often take a moment to download and display, with the result that at peak times it is easy to get shut out of a fast closing tournament.

Although Party Poker was somewhat late in entering the Internet poker race, they quickly vaulted to the industry lead, overcoming Planet Poker, which was the first such site, and Paradise Poker, which once had a dominant lead over all other rooms. A part of Party's success was its decision to buy ads on televised poker programs. These shows attracted a much larger than anticipated audience and Party benefited greatly from this marketing strategy. There are dozens of rooms to choose from but if you are not a U. S. resident Party Poker remains an obvious choice due to its size and variety.


 
PACIFIC POKER....

like Party Poker, had risen rapidly in the last year or so to become a major player in the online poker industry.  It, too, suffered a major hit when it decided to close its site to Americans.

Unfortunately for those who like Omaha and Stud, Pacific Poker has chosen to specialize in HEM.  You can find a game just about anytime and at just about any level from two cents on up.  Pacific also offers many tournaments with different formats and buy ins but remember that they are all HEM tournaments. 

In my opinion, the software is rather clunky compared to some of the other sites, but if HEM is your true love and you aren't interested in setting any speed records, you should like this site.



PARADISE POKER....

Paradise Poker has also decided to not permit Americans to register and play real money games.  Until a couple of years ago, Paradise was the most popular of all Internet card rooms.  As explained above, Party Poker cashed in on the boom in televised poker tournaments with timely, effective ads and soon relegated Paradise Poker to an also ran position in the Internet poker sweepstakes.

Paradise was slow to recognize the popularity of tournaments and only introduced this option long after other sites became well-established in that area.  Paradise has also been fairly (I think) criticized for their attention to gimmicks at the cost of giving adequate attention to software changes that really matter to most players.  For example, at one time you could "order" a drink at Paradise, and a virtual beverage of your choice would appear on a serving table next to your seat at the poker table.  As I have never learned to drink--or appreciate--virtual beverages, the time they spent perfecting this little software "enhancement" was entirely wasted.  And, as if it isn't bad enough to waste talent on such silliness, it also made an unintended statement about the site's priorities--a statement that, in retrospect, has probably made Paradise uncomfortable.

Having finally developed tournament software, Paradise now offers a wide choice of tournament games and limits.  To their great credit they, also, offer more variety in game selection than other card rooms.  For example, you can choose from five card Stud, Draw, Pineapple, and Pineapple/8 as well as the usual offerings of seven card Stud, Stud/8, Omaha, Omaha/8, and HEM that are found on most other sites.

Although recognizing that such a matter is often a matter of personal whims and preferences, I happen to like the Paradise interface and software.  The site is easy to navigate but the game software is a real drawback as it can be quite slow and somewhat unstable.

Paradise permits you to play Blackjack with the funds in your poker account.  They have recently become a partner of Sportsbook.com.  Both sites are a part of Sportingbet PLC which claims to be the world's largest online gaming company.


POKER STARS....

was a strong second to Party Poker until the latters decision to close its doors to the American market.  POKER STARS DECIDED TO REMAIN OPEN FOR AMERICANS and has quickly become the dominant force in the market.  One of the guiding hands in Poker Star's development had been Lee Jones, the poker room manager.  Lee is not only a poker writer and authority but has had a long career in software design.  His recent decision to leave Poker Stars was disappointing to many.

Poker Stars offers numerous multi-table tournaments but somewhat lags Party in the number of single-table tournaments available.  As with most sites, they have an abundance of HEM tournaments but there are relatively few single table tournaments featuring Stud and Omaha.

Poker Stars has one unusual feature, that, unfortunately, is little used.  The site permits players to download small photos of themselves to be used as individual icons.  In this way, you could see what the other players at your table look like.  It seems a good idea in theory as most of us would rather look at someone else than to look at an avatar.  In practice, however, most players who have downloaded anything have chosen a comic strip character, a picture of their dog, or some other meaningless image.

Like many other card rooms, Poker Stars has a "frequent player point" program to reward their "regular" players with merchandise and with free tournaments.

If you are looking for a well regarded alternative to Party Poker, you should consider the popularity and variety offered by Poker Stars.


FULL TILT POKER....

has recently been formed by Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, and a number of other well-known poker pros.  It has become known as one of the fastest growing and most innovative of all Internet poker rooms.  IT WELCOMES AMERICAN CUSTOMERS, and has grown rapidly in the past year to become the number two ranking poker site.

While one could argue that some of the "innovations," such as being able to change the demeanor (i.e, happy, sad, angry, etc.) of your avatar, borders on the silly, it is still the case that the site does offer some meaningful improvements.  For example, the software permits you to change your orientation so that you can appear to sit at any seat at the table. 

The software is very fast and the screen shot of your table is neat and uncluttered.  You can easily access hand histories and statistics from your table.

If you are a fan of Razz (i.e., seven card Stud played for low only), you will certainly want to download Full Tilt Poker, as it is the only site I know of that regularly spreads this game.  It, also, offers an unusual tournament.  Known as H.O.R.S.E., the tournament rotates between rounds of HEM, Omaha/8, Razz, Seven Card Stud. and Stud/8.

As with some other card rooms, you can organize a tournament open only to your friends.  Full Tilt will host the tournament and only admit those to whom you have given the password.

Full Tilt offers what I believe to be the largest deposit bonus of any Internet room--a full 100%.  Be warned, though, that the amount of play required to earn the bonus is relatively high.


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More of the Old Professor's Poker Pointers

A final note...
Remember that you can download various poker room sites without making any deposit.  I suggest that you sign up and play for free at all of these major sites.  In this way you can see which site "feels" best to you.   

I am not an affiliate of most of the sites reviewed above, but if you wish to download and try POKER STARS, or FULL TILT POKER, I would very much appreciate your going to MY POKER PROFESSOR SITE and clicking on the appropriate banners.  I'll make a buck or two, and you will qualify for a deposit bonus if you should eventually decide to open a real money account.
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This page was last updated: April 11, 2007
IMPORTANT NOTICE:  The US government passed legislation in October, 2006, which effectively prohibits some types of online gambling, including poker.  As a result, some of the major sites, like Party Poker, have decided to close their real money games to American players.  Readers should realize that the business is in a state of rapid change and recent developments will need to be evaluated on an individual basis.  .