There are few important factors you need to take into consideration when choosing where should you play poker:
- How big is the rake ( fee you pay to casino )
- How big is the rakeback (% of rake given back to player)
- Is this place safe ? ( your money is safe and secure)
- Integrity of the game ( how likely is that you are getting cheated)
- Field ( are there many weaker players in the game)
- Traffic ( how many players are regularly in the game )
- Quality of the software ( can you easily multi table and add labels and notes )
- Are the trackers allowed (Holdem Manager, Poker tracker, Hand2Note…)
1.How big is the rake
Rake is percentage of pot from every hand that goes to casino. This is a fee payed to provider of the game. In a private home games it is common to play only entry fee . In casinos both live and online rake of 5% and cap is a common practice. Cap is very important and many times overlooked factor. It is a limit of maximum rake per hand. So in a NL50 game where pot is 100$ with 5% rake and 2$ cap instead of raking 5$ casino will take only 2$.
It is worth noting that rake and rakeback will impact much more cash game players than tournament players. You pay rake in tournament only when you register.
In live games rake is usually between 3-7%. Highest rake I ever encountered live was 10% in a shady island casino in Caribbean 😀
2.How big is the rakeback
Many online poker games will give rakeback to players as a part of promotion. Depending on the volume of play and room you are playing at rakeback will vary from 2%-65%. This can be a huge factor when deciding where should you play poker. For example I rake around 2000$ a month. So if I get 3% rakeback (like on Pokerstars until recently) or 40% rakeback (on many other rooms) I will make 800$ more monthly. So it will impact winning a lot.
It is worth noting that biggest room online GG poker have very shady rakeback system. They promote 30% rakeback on some level but than you end up receiving much less without any notice. They introduced quietly PVI (Player Value Index) system. You can not see it anywhere or promoted anywhere. It is all somewhere in a small print. But the point is the better you are and more money you make your PVI goes down. So if you PVI is lower than 1 (for example 0.5) than iff you rake 1000$ and you should receive 300$ rakeback now that is multiplied with PVI and you will receive only 150$.
Live rooms usually do not offer rakeback but other promotions as free drinks and food, transportation and accommodation.
This is a rake comparison from great website primedope. Here you can compare rake on many different sites and different limits. This is one of the first stops when deciding where to play.
3. Where should you play poker – Is this place safe
Many players think that bigger rooms like PokerStars, GG poker, Party Poker, etc. are safer. Well they are to some degree but I would not think your money is 100% safe ever. There were many frauds in big rooms. One of the biggest rooms in the world in that moment “Full Tilt Poker” stole money from many players. PokerStars payed back some part of the money when they acquired FullTilt. Few big online rooms had a super user scandals where rooms was involved in cheating.
These are mostly isolated events through online poker history. I would assume most bigger rooms are quite safe. I am just realistic at what did happen and what could happen in the future.
If you plan to make a big deposits and play bigger limits than for sure go with one of the more trustworthy companies like PokerStars. They even have smallest rake atm. But if you are playing some lower limit games and slowly build your bankroll maybe some smaller app games will give you better value. They often offer higher rakeback and in some situations softer field. At the moment most popular apps are PPPoker, PokerBros and Club GG. Your best protection when playing at the apps is entering the app club through a poker affiliate. They will give you guarantee that your money is safe. Always contact affiliate who is in business for a long time and needs to protect their reputation. One of the best affiliates for poker clubs are “The Poker Agent”.
4. Integrity of the game
Nowadays there are many ways you can get cheated. Hacker can access your computer and place software that will leak information or even reveal hole cards. In order to protect yourself do not play from public computers and use antivirus. Other way of cheating is placing programmed bots to play as if he is a human. There were bot scandals on many big rooms, luckily online casinos are using a lot of resources to track and ban those accounts. Some bots are even discovered by players who reported suspicious accounts but most of them are discovered by room security team. The bigger the room the better is security. So that means best protection against bots and use of other cheating software will provide GG poker, Pokerstars, 888, Party Poker, etc.
Many small apps do not have security team and protection at all like Pokerrr. This is one of popular poker apps based on club systems like many other apps. Anyone can make a club and invite players. Players pay the rake and play in the game through the agent. Here we come to the one of the biggest cheating problems recently.
Cheating on smaller apps
Two or more players play together against the rest of the table, they share knowledge of hole cards and get big unfair advantage. Big rooms can easily detect this but small clubs do not have this type of security.
If you are playing on a smaller app like ‘Pokerrr’ and you sense that something unusual is happening, such as getting called or raised in unexpected situations, the best course of action is to avoid playing in that game. Best security at this moment ( on apps) is on PokerBros and Club GG.
In live situations players can get cheated by dealer, players collusion or like in famous recent scandal on televised poker game with inside job and leaked revealed hole cards. Mike Postle a big winner in the game made many right decision that did not make any sense. Joey Ingram and Doug Polk led the investigation and reveal that he was receiving information on his phone.
5. Where should you play poker – Field
When deciding where should you play poker one of the most important factors is field. In order to beat the game you need to be one of the better players in the game. In many cases this will also not be enough because if you make 100e a day playing but in the same time frame you rake 150e you are loosing 50e in the end. So your edge needs to be bigger in order to beat the rake. You can achieve this by playing in game with weak players. Depending on the game type and limit field will vary on different casinos. If you are playing very low limits below Nl25 (25$ buy in) than field will be very weak everywhere but as you progress to bigger limits you would like to search for weakest field for your desired game.
If you wish to play large tournaments with few thousand players you have to play only on big sites with huge traffic. If your interest are cash games you will find limits up to Nl10o on also many smaller sites and apps. Bigger limits nl200 and higher are usually harder to find. Even the biggest sites rarely have more than 10 tables running on NL200 in prime time. For high stakes NL5000 and higher only place at the moment with traffic is GG poker. You can also find some action at PokerStars and occasionally PartyPoker.
7. Where should you play poker – Quality of the software
All online casinos and apps use different software. Some of them I will not recommend like WPT Global where you can not make a note or label on the player. Some of them tend to be buggy and glitch after you open few tables, but most software nowadays are pretty good. Pokerstars and GG poker have by far the best software as they are also industry leaders but apps like PokerBros and PPPoker also have great quick reliable intuitive software. It worth noting that PokerBros still does not have version for PC and if you wish to play on computer you need to use android emulator.
8. Are the trackers allowed
On many rooms you can not use trackers or some of their functions.GG poker as biggest room at the moment banned HUD completely. From one point of view it is giving professional smaller edge on the recreational players but from other point of view there is no guarantee now that game is legitimate. For example, we can not check how many times we have been dealt aces compared to a player whom we frequently play against. GG made some kind of alternative that seems very shady called Poker Craft. You can see your winrate there (very inaccurate as it doesn’t include the rake) and you can also download your hands without the names of your opponents. Party Poker also banned trackers and HUD completely but many other rooms like PokerStars, 888 and Ipoker still support them.
On the apps it is some kind of gray zone. You can use HUD and tracker with converter or emulator even if it not officially allowed.
I personally do not play seriously anywhere without tracker. If you play 6-10 tables simultaneously it is impossible to remember all players or put note on all players. It would be same as removing body tells from live play games. Could you still win ? Sure but your edge is much smaller.
Choosing where to play should be very important to any serious player. Is you money safe ? Can you find enough weak players at you limit? How much will you leave to the casino? You should ask yourself these questions and many more when deciding where should you play poker. Pick your game wisely and good luck grinding 😉
To continue reading start with learning poker preflop charts and positions.
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