Online Poker Networks – What Are They & How Do They Work?
Most Online Poker Rooms are Part of Networks: This is How They Work
Most online poker rooms are part of networks. This simply means that one or more brands share a pool of players. Whichever room you join, you might find opponents from completely different ones at your table.
Poker networks make a lot of sense. With bigger pools of players, the rooms offer much more choice – and often bigger tournament guarantees and better promotions. This page takes you through everything you need to understand about both poker networks and stand-along rooms:
- How Poker Networks Operate: An overview of how both big and small networks are set up.
- Pros and Cons: A quick overview of the pros & cons of playing at poker networks.
- US Poker Networks: A look at the biggest networks of poker sites welcoming US players.
- International Poker Networks: The biggest brands around are often part of established networks.
- Poker Network FAQ: Your questions on deposits, multiple accounts and bonuses answered.
How Online Poker Networks Operate
To run a successful poker room, a lot of players are needed. Not only does a room need to offer a choice of games at different buy-in levels, the tournaments and poker variations need action too. Without enough games (and big enough tournament prize pools), players look elsewhere. In short, real money online poker rooms need a critical mass of players to become viable.
This is where networks come in. Many brands looking to open a poker room opt to join an existing pool of players.
There are many advantages. Not only can a new brand ‘hit the ground running’, with plenty of games on offer, they can use established software. Development costs can be high for new poker rooms who go it alone.
Sports betting sites often join poker networks. They want to offer these games for their players, without the overhead of starting their own software. Internationally, you’ll find brands like Bet365 and BetFair pooling players on the iPoker Network. For the offshore US brands, BetOnline and Sportsbetting.ag are part of the Chico Poker Network.
You will find some brands are big enough to offer exclusive tables within the network infrastructure. They still share tables with other sites – and ringfence certain games for their own brand only.
Pros and Cons of Playing at a Poker Network
From the players’ perspective, you have a choice between joining a network or sticking to a stand-alone poker room. Here are the pros of joining a network, compared to the benefits of a stand-alone brand?
Benefits of Poker Networks:
- Bigger Choice: You’ll find more games and bigger tournament guarantees compared to if that brand had created its own poker room.
- Switch Easily: If you enjoy the games, though find the service is not up to scratch at your site, then you can switch brands quickly. If you choose another room on the same network, you will still be able to play against the same opponents.
- Cross-Over Traffic: This applies to the poker networks linked to sports betting sites. These rooms often contain more players who are recreational gamblers compared to the number of poker pros. Networks linked to sports brands can be the softest poker games online.
- Multiple Bonuses: There is nothing to stop players clearing a bonus from multiple members of the same network. Note that security will stop you logging on to the same network more than once on a single device.
Drawbacks of Poker Networks:
- Slower Pace of Innovation: with the big stand-alone rooms, innovations and new developments may be easier to implement. On networks, up to 20 separate brands need to be involved in the decision making.
- Brands Incentivizing Grinders: If one ‘Skin’ on a poker network starts to reward high-volume play, the whole group can suffer from nitty games. This happened a few years ago with the iPoker Network. A split, then a ban on volume-based incentives eventually solved the problem.
- Older Software: Networks tend to have older, downloadable software clients. With the brands not in direct control, you’ll need to play on ‘plain yet functional’ clients to get the benefits of joining a network.
What Are the Biggest US Poker Networks?
All the major offshore sites are networks. This does include sites where the owners (or at least chain of companies involved) are linked.
PaiWangLuo: This network has a strange name, though is more popularly known as the Bodog (or Bovada) poker network. Here you will find players from the Canadian Bodog.eu, Bovada and Ignition Poker sharing a back end. This is the single largest US poker network by a huge margin.
Winning Poker Network: With brands like America’s Cardroom and Black Chip Poker combining forces, the WPN is large. They are known for their tournament events – including the popular ‘Online Super Series’ of big buy-in tournaments. WPN does incentivise higher volume players, making the games tighter than at the other big US networks.
Chico Network: This is a back-end poker network for Sports Betting giants like BetOnline and SportsBetting.ag. It is a smaller network, though the cross over traffic means that you will find recreational players at the tables.
Horizon Network: This is a small network, made up of Intertops Poker and Juicy Stakes poker. While the games here are relatively soft, it is currently too small to recommend. Things do change fast in the world of poker networks – so watch this space!
What are the Biggest International Poker Networks?
Outside of the US, online poker is dominated by 3 huge brands. These are PokerStars, 888 and Party Poker. While none of these are networks in the sense discussed here, PokerStars does share a player pool with Full Tilt Poker. They own this site, and only allow an individual to have an account at one site. The games reached through each site are exactly the same, with different graphics the only difference.
The biggest true network is known as ‘iPoker’. This uses back-end software powered by PlayTech. It allows many (mainly sports betting) brands to offer a pooled poker room for their users. These include Bet365 and BetFair. Many other high-street bookmakers have ‘skins’ on the iPoker Network.
MicroGaming (known as MPN) is one of the oldest poker networks. This also powers many sports betting brands. These include BetSafe and Red Kings. The MicroGaming has had scandals in the past, involving rogue ‘skins’ that disappeared without paying players. These were many years ago, and with many big named brands supporting this network – your money is safe these days.
Poker Network Frequently Asked Questions
#1 Is it Legal to Play at (US) Poker Networks?
Yes. Federal laws concerning online gambling apply only to banks and the site operators. The poker networks welcoming US players are legal in their own locations (Caribbean / Central American nations). State laws may vary, though even in the strictest states (Utah for example) nobody has even been indicted for enjoying real money online poker.
#2 How Can I Deposit at Online Poker Networks?
The methods available to you will depend on your location. US players can use Credit Cards, Bitcoin, Money Transfer services and sometimes bank wires. Outside of the US, many more deposit options are available. These include eWallets, voucher systems, virtual credit cards and local bank wire services.
#3 How Can I Withdraw from Poker Networks?
US players who deposited with credit card will be sent a paper check, usually by courier. Bitcoin can be used for both deposits and withdrawals. If you are international, the default is to return the money back to the method you deposited with. If this is not possible, a local bank transfer usually works.
#4 Can I Join Multiple Sites on a Network?
Yes. There is nothing to stop you having accounts at more than one site. What you will never be able to do is play on more than one account at the same time. This will be blocked if you try it on the same computer. With different computers, security will quickly spot that the log-ins come from the same location, any interaction / collusion like play between accounts will result in them being blocked – and possibly your money frozen.
The main reason people would join multiple sites on a network is to enjoy extra bonus offers. Note that networks which offer rakeback may restrict this to your first account.
#5 Which Poker Networks are Compatible with Mac / Linux Devices?
Mac users will find software to download on many of the major poker networks. For Linux users, there is no dedicated software. You’ll either need a Windows Emulator like WINE or stick to the ‘Instant-Play’ client instead. With a limited game selection, instant-play is not ideal – though it does allow you to access the games at the major networks on the go.
#6 Which Poker Networks Support Mobile Play?
For US players only Bovada / Ignition (the PaiWangLuo network) support mobile play. You will have access to Zone Poker via their instant-play mobile client. Outside of the US, you’ll have many more choices, including bigger sites with dedicated mobile apps for both iPhones and Android devices.
#7 Which US Networks have the Easiest Poker Games?
Bovada are considered the easiest place to enjoy poker games for US players. Their recreational player model keeps grinders and recreational players in balance. There is also a lot of sports betting traffic crossing over from the huge sportsbook.
#8 Which International Network has the Easiest Poker Games?
At the lower limits, you will find a lot of easy games on the big international sites. The PlayTech-powered iPoker Network has an additional advantage. Most of the sites on this network are the big high-street bookmakers. This means many new poker players find their way to the tables after placing a bet – keeping the games loose and lively.
#9 Where Can I Find Out More About the Individual Brands on Poker Networks?
The reviews section here at GambleOnline.co has detailed overviews of the biggest sites on both US and international poker networks. You’ll be able to compare the games, bonuses, deposit method and security of each site side-by-side,