How to Make Sure Your Money is Safe When Enjoying Online Poker
Before you enjoy real money poker, you need to make sure your bankroll will be safe. While most poker sites are reputable – avoiding the rogues should be a top priority for all players. This page covers the key factors involved in making sure you can enjoy online poker safely and securely.
Poker sites have a big reason to treat players fairly, and to ensure that funds are secure. It only takes one scandal or payment issue to make people wary. This applies to the fairness of the deal, implementation of bonus terms and ensuring that players are paid out quickly.
The information on this page will help you enjoy online poker with complete peace of mind. Here is what you will find:
After these factors are explained, you will find a list of the biggest and best poker rooms for US and International players – with an overview of the safety measures in place for each.
One of the biggest concerns players have about online poker is whether the deal is fair. When you are on the receiving end of a bad beat, it can feel like the online poker site is rigged against you.
While this is a common concern, the math does not back up the many claims. Since online poker began there have been billions of hands dealt. Large scale testing, player databases and tracking services are unanimous in acknowledging that the shuffle is random.
To back up their claims, the most trusted poker rooms regularly use independent auditing companies. Games are tested over millions of hands, and any discrepancies highlighted. Good sites have their deal checked regularly – and will display certificates or links to their results. Look out for the following names:
Despite the claims (of mainly bad players), poker is unilaterally fair when it comes to the deal – you’ll get your fair share of aces at all the major rooms.
If you still have doubts – think of this from the perspective of the poker rooms. Their business model means that a fair deal is essential. Any site caught cheating (including with ‘Super Users’) would lose most of their players overnight. With a fair deal they keep players coming back – and keep taking the rake and tournament fees which fills their coffers.
Of all the elements which go into making online poker safe, website security is the easiest to check. All browsers use the ‘Secure’ tag to show sites which have valid security certificates. SSL is only the start of it. You can check the ‘about us’ information at all the main rooms for information on how your personal data is held. At the time of writing, there have been no data breaches at legit online poker sites for personal or payment data.
You’ll have a lot of options for depositing at poker sites. Which you choose will depend on your location (US sites have fewer options due to banking restrictions) and your personal attitude to risk.
Credit cards and debit cards are the easiest way to deposit for both US and international players. Using these is the same as shopping online – and very fast. Many players are reluctant to share their credit card information with poker rooms. This can be due to the perception of risk, or because of a desire to keep gambling transactions away from your bank statement.
Alternative deposit methods which are even safer include the following:
This is not an exhaustive list. You will find many local options around the world, and more brands which fit into the categories above. From a safely perspective, you can choose the method which suits your attitude to risk the best.
The mark of a good reliable poker site is that they administer their bonuses in a fair and straightforward manner. Good online poker sites have clear terms and will not void bonuses for small things like playing the wrong games.
Play-through or points requirements to clear bonuses are very different across the sites. You need to ensure that that excellent bonus deal is not impossible to clear due to slow point accumulation or limited time.
Reputable brands have ongoing rewards and promotions to boost the bankroll of loyal players. If you see a big headline bonus, and no promotions, it is possible that that room is not somewhere people hang around for long.
In addition to the bonus terms, look for a responsible gaming policy. This shows how seriously the safest online poker sites take problem gambling. The best sites have self-exclusion and deposit limits, which players can volunteer to have in place.
Operating licenses are a great sign that you have found a secure and reputable room. There are very few reputable sites without a license. For US players, only Bovada / Ignition does not have one. Fortunately, these sites have a reputation going back many years – and are among the best for fast withdrawals.
Jurisdictions that license poker rooms will depend on the market they are serving. Big international sites do not accept players from the US. These sites are licensed in Malta, Gibraltar or the Isle of Man. In addition, many countries have their own site licensing setup. The UK Gambling Commission is among the strictest. A poker site licensed by them is more likely to be safe.
For US sites, licenses are awarded by Caribbean nations and Central American countries. Jurisdictions include Antigua, Curacao and Panama. You will also find sites which are licensed by the Kahnawake tribe.
While the lack of an operating license should not stop you playing at a site – it should mean your checks on reputation, RNG testing and security need to be more through.
Since the big shake-up of Black Friday in 2011, a new group of sites has taken over serving the US market. These sites operate legally from the Caribbean or Central America – and have growing player bases. The question is, are these online poker rooms safe?
Bovada / Ignition Poker: These sites are part of a network which share players. Bovada is the single biggest US friendly poker room by a wide margin. They voluntarily gave up their license (from Kahawake) in 2016. Fortunately, other factors show that this is a very safe poker room. This site has a very long track record of looking after players well – and paying out winnings quickly. Their site is secure, tested (by iTech Labs) and a wide range of deposit options, including Bitcoin, are available. You can find out more in our detailed Bovada Poker review.
America’s Cardroom: This site is part of the Winning Poker Network. They hold the biggest poker tournaments, and regularly hold events known as the ‘Online Super Series’. ACR Poker are licensed by the government of Curacao. Their games are tested and their website secure. With more than 8 years online – this is considered a safe online poker site by US players and are open to international markets too.
BetOnline / Sportsbetting Poker: This site recovered from some historical payment scandals and are now under new management. They are part of the ‘Chico Poker Network’. Both rooms are licensed in Panama. While this is a smaller network, the games are considered soft – thanks to a lot of cross over traffic from the big sports betting brands.
International players have a pick of some huge and long-running brands. These rooms have built a reputation over decades in many cases. Some are listed on the London Stock Exchange. This brings a new level of financial oversight – in addition to any security measures they put in place individually.
It is hard to choose one international site which is ‘safer’ than the others. PokerStars, Party Poker, 888.com and Bet365 are all huge brands with everything covered above fully in place. If you want to enjoy the games at a smaller international poker site, it is worth doing some extra checks to make sure that they comply.
Document / Id checks are something which divide players. Many reputable sites will ask for ID. This can happen when you make a deposit, and if not, it will always happen when you make your first withdrawal. Typical requests include a picture of your photo ID, and proof of address. Some sites also ask for a picture of both sides of your credit card (you can black out some of the numbers).
My view on these is that they protect you as much as they do the poker sites. Without them, poker would be the target of fraud and money laundering – making the games unsafe for regular players.
If you want to ensure that your withdrawals are quick, you should prepare for the ‘KYC check’ in advance.
The good news is that online poker is extremely safe. You’ll be protected in many different ways by sites which have a huge interest in maintaining their reputation. This includes regular testing of deal fairness (remember, after billions of hands, no proof of rigged deals has ever been produced).
Payment security is increased by the large number of options available. If you feed uncomfortable sharing your credit card info, then cryptocurrency, eWallets and local bank transfers are all safe and secure options.