There are more than 50 different online poker networks in the world that have emerged since the inception of online poker. The majority of them are standalone meaning there is only one online poker site on the network, and most are available to online poker players who are residing outside of the United States. On this page we give a brief overview of each of the prominent online poker networks, both open/closed.
Planet Poker, which was endorsed by Mike Caro, opened its doors in 1998, allowing players to join real money tables and bet on poker games. Rather than players being required to trek to gambling establishments, online poker games could now run in real time across a wide variety of stakes to suit all bankrolls.
The first real money online poker games were revolutionary but considering the slow connection speeds the games were pretty slow and players would sometimes drop out of hands. Also keep in mind these were the first GUI-based online poker gaming applications, which obviously weren’t as good as the apps on the market today.
Dozens of other online poker networks exist but this is a list of the most popular ones. Additionally, online poker networks have come and gone over the years. With the regulation that is taking place in different jurisdictions, one of the pitfalls is that players on these online poker sites can’t sit and play with players residing in other jurisdictions, and this is one of the main reasons that online poker tournaments and cash games have declined since the Party Poker glory days more than a decade ago now. Due to the segregated online poker pools, online poker sites have a difficult time generating enough traffic to service their games. PokerStars, even after leaving the US market, is the one exception to this rule.
US Poker Networks – Ignition/Chico/WPN
Ignition Casino acquired Bovada Poker in 2016 and became the biggest US facing online poker network overnight, quickly becoming a viable alternative to Full Tilt and PokerStars for American online poker players. The poker software was provided by the Bovada/Bodog Poker Network, and hence features anonymous tables, which completely ensures that all cash game and tournament play is anonymous and therefore can’t be tracked by opponents you’re playing against. Recreational players prefer this, and this is what keeps the games at Ignition poker softer over its competition.
The Chico Poker Network is the second biggest network for American players. BetOnline Poker is on the Chico network along with two other skins: Sports betting Poker and Tiger Gaming. The BetOnline gambling group opened its doors in the early 90s but BetOnline Poker has been servicing players since 2010. There is a good selection of tournaments and ring games, especially for micro stakes no-limit Hold’em players.
Winning Poker Network (WPN) is the third largest US-friendly online poker network and Americas Cardroom is the flagship skin. The traffic on this network has grown quite a bit and the games on offer include No Limit Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha, the two most commonly played games. Tournament players will be glad to know that ACR’s tournament schedule includes the Million Dollar Sunday tournament with a $1 million GTD prize pool.
Microgaming Poker Network (MPN)
While Planet Poker is recognized as being the first online poker site, the Microgaming Poker Network (MPN), which was formerly known as the Prima Poker Network, was the first gaming company to be revolutionary in its concept and offerings and changed the way in which online poker rooms and games were perceived.
This long-standing online poker network has been around since 2003. Since its inception, the range of games increased and the quality of their online poker software improved. Microgaming also co-founded eCOGRA (eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance) in an effort to promote fair gaming which helped in building the trust of players.
Pacific Poker was launched shortly after Planet Poker. The site was one of the leading online poker networks when it launched, however, like Microgaming and several other major poker sites, it was forced to exit the U.S. market back in 2006 following the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and was re-branded to 888 Poker.
Party Poker was another major online poker network and still but not to the same extent even to this day. This online poker site got a head start against all the other online poker rooms since through its partnership with the World Poker Tour, Party Poker was able to get airtime on TV and also did a series of TV ads which further helped it reach the peak in the online poker industry. This was also the same time that an amateur poker player going by the name of Chris Moneymaker takes down the WSOP Main Event for a cool $2.5 million from a $39 online satellite entry, which resulted in a flock of new players to the virtual felt of online poker sites.
The iPoker network is operated by PlayTech, the world's largest casino software and services provider, and is home to one of the largest multi room online poker networks. It operates through several skin partners such as TitanPoker, which is the biggest skin on the network, PaddyPower and Bet365, which all use the software provided by Playtech for their online poker gaming offerings.
The ring games and tournaments are virtually identical on the different skins. Dozens of online sports books have partnered with iPoker to be able to offer online poker games. With the demise of Full Tilt, iPoker has jumped to third in the online poker traffic ranks, just behind PokerStars and 888 Poker.
Full Tilt Poker
Full Tilt Poker was launched during the heights of the online poker boom in 2004. The poker room had some unique features, and it recruited a lot of high stakes poker pros like Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan to play at the site, so players could have the experience of testing their skills against a professional. Their software was perhaps the best in the industry, it was well designed, fast and had a cartoon like and feel, which differentiated it to some of the other online poker networks. However, this site had some of the toughest games out there. Full Tilt Poker closed its doors and migrated to PokerStars platform in early 2016.
PokerStars is the largest and most trusted online poker operator in the world with upwards of 100,000 players online at any one time especially during the major Sunday tournaments. It is generally accepted that PokerStars has the best software platform of any online poker network.
PokerStars was founded by an Israeli senior programmer for IBM Canada, Isai Scheinberg, and his son, Mark Scheinberg. Isai had begun to write the software for PokerStars in the late 1990s. He was intrigued to create an online poker app, especially one that could facilitate large field tournaments, which Stars became renowned for. He decided to quit IBM so that he could focus on his online poker startup.
Ultimate Bet/Absolute Poker is now closed but UB and Absolute Poker merged to form the Cereus Network back in 2008, which consistently ranked in the top 10 most popular online poker networks for both cash games and tournaments. Unfortunately, this network became infamous for the Super User scandal that plagued Absolute Poker first and then Ultimate Bet. These two online poker scandals changed the way players looked at the online poker industry, however, thankfully there have been no other major incidents reported.
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