Online Poker Networks
PokerStars Software (Independent)
PokerStars is the largest poker network by volume of players, but the software is only used at a single site. While PokerStars has had to split its player pool due to some European countries changing their poker regulation, the main PokerStars brand available to the UK and USA has an average number of active cash players of about 30,000.
Why does PokerStars have so many players? Well, it is considered to have some of the best software in the industry, it has a pro team featuring many famous players, and it has the richest online poker tournaments. That's not to mention its major television advertising presence and heavy sponsorship of players at the WSOP Main Event.
Okay, the fact that PokerStars is one of the few major sites that accepts players from the USA is probably also a major factor in its popularity, but it is legitimately one of the best poker sites online.
Full Tilt Poker Software (Independent)
Full Tilt Poker is the second biggest poker network by player volume, but it still lags a fair way behind PokerStars with about 17,000 active real money players on average. Most players think it has very decent software, with some pros preferring Full Tilt Poker software to even that of PokerStars.
Full Tilt Poker has a reputation for good software and fantastic tournaments, but it is also known for having a slightly harder player base than average. While that might be a plus for most competitive sports, a successful poker career is based on playing against less skilled players the majority of the time. Some players find that playing on the Full Tilt Poker network isn't as profitable as at many other sites.
Full Tilt Poker is another major site that accepts players from the USA, but its player base is formed from poker aficionados from all over the world.
PartyPoker Software (Independent)
Party Poker is a massive force in the European online poker market, and it used to be massive in North America before it pulled out of the USA. Casual players tend to like the PartyPoker software, as it is somewhat simplified and aimed more at those who are playing for sheer fun.
The PartyPoker network usually only has about 4,000 active real money players, but they are renowned for being extremely easy to beat. Pro or semi-pro players may not be welcome there for long.
iPoker Software (Network)
iPoker is the largest of the true multi-site poker networks, though it still only sees about 3,000 to 4,000 active real money players on average. A benefit of iPoker rooms is how they offer tables in different currencies while not restricting players to only playing at tables in their base currency. Aside from that, the software is good for the minor poker networks, but it still doesn't compete on the level of the major online poker rooms.
The iPoker network includes poker rooms such as Bet365 Poker, Titan Poker, William Hill Poker, SportsInteraction Poker, and Winner Poker. You will notice the large number of sportsbook and casino brands, which makes for a fairly amateur player base. While the iPoker network is very friendly to the bankroll of pro players, they usually let regular winners go eventually due to regulations the network provider imposes on its poker room operators.
OnGame Software (Network)
OnGame is another big multi-site poker network, and it too only boasts around 3,000 active real money players on average - less than a tenth of PokerStars. This may be due to the fact that most dedicated poker players avoid the OnGame network due to its software having a shaky reputation. Recent upgrades have improved performance, however, so you should give it another try if you haven't played at an OnGame poker room recently.
Some of the most recognisable OnGame poker rooms are Betfair Poker, Betsafe Poker, Red Kings, and Gala Poker. These are mostly sportsbook brands and thus the player base is very weak. OnGame generally hasn't had to force out winning players, as they get frustrated and leave. Improvements in the software may lead to a change in the overall level of challenge for the OnGame network.
Cereus Software (Network)
Ah, the Cereus poker network. It hasn't had the best run of things in the latter part of the last decade after being involved in the biggest online poker scandal ever. This is amply demonstrated by the fact that the Cereus poker network tends to boast just 2,000 active real money players.
The two poker rooms on the Cereus poker network are Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker. You'll find that Absolute Poker has a decent reputation, but Ultimate Bet is another story entirely due to its handling of a cheating scandal that cost players millions.
The Cereus poker network is one of the few poker networks that accept players from the USA.
Entraction Software (Network)
The Entraction poker network covers a fairly massive number of poker rooms, but they are all lesser known names or the poker rooms of sportsbooks. Nevertheless, the sheer number of rooms means that Entraction has an active real money player base of around 2,000. None of the poker rooms would manage anywhere near this number individually, so Entraction is a good example of the strengths of the poker network model.
Some of the skins on the Entraction poker network include Victor Chandler Poker, Devilfish Poker, Betsson Poker, You Win Poker, and Fjordbet Poker. While there is a lot of mumbling from players that Entraction's random number generator is faulty, there isn't anything to it - it's just the usual complaining from players who've had a bad beat.
(Incidentally, I once was in a hand where another player and I both had the same two pair on the flop. I went all-in, he called, and when the cards came up, he started to complain sarcastically about the random number generator not being random enough. If he complained that much about a split pot, how obnoxious would he be about a real bad beat?)
Microgaming Software (Network)
Microgaming is one of the biggest online casino software providers, but it is a fairly small player as an online poker network. As you might guess, many of the Microgaming poker rooms are connected to bookies that are also using Microgaming software casinos, but this still only leads to an average number of active real money players around 2,000. Most players find Microgaming software to be perfectly usable, just not as polished as some bigger poker networks.
Some of the better-known Microgaming poker rooms include Unibet Poker, 32Red Poker, GNUF Poker, Ladbrokes Poker, and Nordic Bet Poker. There used to be more sites on this network, but many of them left Microgaming once this software provider pulled out of the US market.
International Poker Network (Boss Media)
The International Poker Network has a pretty good reputation, so it's strange that its active real money player base is only about 1500 to 2000. The software is very well designed for a minor network, but it still can suffer from the occasional instability that minor networks are prone to.
Some of the sites on the International Poker Network include Paradise Poker, Virgin Poker, Mr Poker, Canada Poker, and Bet Click Poker. Winning players may find themselves unwelcome at International Poker Network sites if they get too aggressive.
888 Poker Software (Network)
You have to give 888 Poker credit for the efforts of their marketing department. Despite that, 888 Poker is still one of the smaller poker networks, with about 1500 active real money players on average.
In recent months, the 888poker has received a massive upgrade that has brought many players back to this network, and the software is now used at more sites than just 888 Poker. For instance, some other sites on this poker network include Lucky Ace Poker, the WSOP online poker room, and Lex Poker.
Everest Poker Software (Independent)
Everest Poker is mostly known for the French side of its brand, but it still caters to the more international market with the original Everest Poker room. You can expect around 900 active real money poker players at any one time when playing at Everest Poker.
The only room on this poker network is Everest Poker, and the quality of its software is about as good as the average small independent poker room.
Merge Gaming Software (Network)
Merge Gaming is a poker network that has been around for quite a long time now, with peaks and troughs in its player numbers. These days the average number of real money players sits around 800 to 900.
In the early days, Merge Gaming had some of the best software out there, but it now has software that's a bit better than most small networks but not quite as good as the software of the largest poker sites.
The Merge Gaming poker network includes sites such as Aced, Carbon Poker, Play Aces, Poker Nordica, and PDC Poker. Merge Gaming accepts players from the USA.
PKR Software (Independent)
PKR has some of the most advanced poker software online in terms of graphical sophistication, but many serious players do not care for it. Fully 3D virtual environments, customisable characters, animations and more make PKR the home of around 800 active real money casual players and mostly keep out the professionals.
Only PKR is on the PKR poker network, which is a bit of a shame given how unique and advanced the software is. We would really like to see PKR open a few other poker rooms catered to more than just casual players.
Cake Poker (Network)
Cake Poker has had a bit of a mixed reputation as a poker network that seems to accept practically any operator. This leads to a wide range of experiences for players on the Cake Poker network, but it seems to have cleaned things up in recent times. It still only has about 600 active real money players at any one time, but these players are known for being extremely soft competition.
Some popular poker rooms on the Cake Poker network include Cake Poker, SportsInteraction Poker, Only Poker, Unabomber Poker, Guts Poker, and Victory Poker. The Cake Poker network accepts players from the USA.
Bodog Software (Independent)
Bodog has been known for a long time as a poker network for beginners to cut their teeth on before going elsewhere. The player base is notoriously soft and players only hang around the low limits, but Bodog truly is the perfect place to start out. These days the average number of real money players on Bodog is maybe a couple of hundred but rarely over 1,000.
Only Bodog operates on the Bodog poker network, and Bodog accepts players from the USA.
Everleaf Software (Network)
The Everleaf poker network is no major player in the market, but it covers a surprising number of little known poker sites. Despite so many sites covered, Everleaf still only has about 400 to 500 active real money players on average at any one time.
Some of the Everleaf poker network sites include Everleaf Poker, You Win Poker, XPT Poker, and Land Shark Poker. The Everleaf poker network accepts players from the USA.