Online Poker Networks

online poker networksThere are more than 60 different online poker platforms in the world. These come in several forms. Most are available to players in countries outside the United States. Some are restricted to specific countries or U.S. states. A total of 14 of the 60 sites accept players from the United States as well as most other countries.

Many of the online poker sites are independent. This means that there is only one site that has access to the player pool. This is the case with PokerStars and 888, the two largest online poker rooms in the world. Others are parts of a network. This is where many brand names come together and send players into the same poker pool.

The tournaments and cash games are typically identical between skins on a network. The main differences include promotions, support and banking. It is important to research a skin that you are interested in playing. Some are safer than others, even on the same platform. That is because the network rarely handles the payment processing. The individual operators do that.

The Largest Online Poker Networks

Poker networks come in several forms. Some are comprised with skins all owned by the same company. Others are more traditional where dozens of sportsbooks and online casinos share an entire software platform that includes poker. Others are specific to a state or country. We have the top 10 poker networks listed below that accept players from at least one country.

888 Poker Network
# of Rooms:3
Established:2002
Traffic:3,000
Network Size:#1

The 888 Network is the 5th largest online poker network in the world. 888 and its skins specialize in attracting casual players through their social media and strong brands such as the World Series of Poker, 888 and Pacific Poker.

Bodog Network
# of Rooms:3
Established:2004
Traffic:1,150
Network Size:#2

The PaiWangLuo Poker Network, previously Bodog, is the largest US online poker network. Players must access the platform through a country specific skin. Players in the US have Ignition Casino. Other North Americans use Bodog. Countries in Asia that permit poker use Bodog88.

iPoker Network
# of Rooms:30
Established:2004
Traffic:950
Network Size:#3

iPoker is operated by Playtech. It is the largest traditional network. That means it has skins owned by multiple owners. Players may sign up at any skin that accepts their country.

Other Online Poker Networks

Party Poker Network
# of Rooms3
Established2001
Traffic:1100
Size:#7
Microgaming Network
# of Rooms35
Established2003
Traffic:950
Size:#8
Winning Poker Network
# of Rooms9
Established2009
Traffic:800
Size:#9
Chico Poker Network
# of Rooms3
Established2005
Traffic:600
Size:#13
Merge Gaming Network
# of Rooms4
Established2006
Traffic:160
Size:#29

Online Poker Networks Explained

poker networks explainedOnline poker networks use a single software program. There are multiple partners on this network. These are known as skins.

Each skin on the network uses a version of this platform. The only difference between the look of each skin is the color scheme and logo. The backbone and design of the tables, lobby, tournaments and websites will generally be nearly identical.

The reason why some operators feel the need to join a network is the lack of ability to generate enough players for a single platform. Poker is not the main business for most poker sites. Casinos and sports betting are generally far more profitable. Joining a poker network allows these companies to offer a different product without having to make any investment. This can improve the profit stream and help retain players.

Poker networks increase liquidity by bringing multiple operators together to create a unified player pool.

An operator that wanted to offer a standalone poker site would have many challenges that a skin owner does not have. The standalone site would need to buy or develop software. It would need to be unique and competitive. This would cost money in development or leasing. Many leases require revenue share. Entering into partnerships with software providers can be dangerous. There can be a bankruptcy or dispute that causes the software developer to break or not renew the agreement.

Pros and Cons of Online Poker Networks

There are several positives and negatives for players when it comes to poker networks. A network with a single provider allows for creative marketing plans that do not require approval from a central group of skin owners. The site owner can decide if rakeback can be offered. This prevents a dispute from within that has been known to split up networks.

Standalone sites do all of the banking. This means the responsibility to pay players falls on one company. Skins that handle their own payment processing have been known to cause problems when cash gets tight. This can include stiffing the network for funds that player lose to other skins or not paying their own players. This can cause a poker network to implode.

The network model has some advantages. Players may take advantage of a first deposit bonus at all skins on a network. If the support or banking at one skin is unsatisfactory, it is easy to move to another. Skins often compete against each other. This makes promotions easy to claim at multiple sites on a network.

Poker networks often have more players than individual ones. That is because many sportsbooks and online casinos get together and send players to a central point. This creates more cash game tables and tournament entries. PokerStars is the only exception to this rule. It built a standalone model that created the largest brand in the online poker world.

Pros of Poker Networks

  • More players
  • Better promotions
  • Ability to move from one skin to another
  • Better 24-hour game selection
Cons of Poker Networks

  • Possibility of rogue skins
  • Possibility of skin failure
  • Skins often move from one network to another
  • Network can close and leave skins stranded

Defunct Online Poker Networks

There are two types of defunct poker networks. One is a company that decided to cease operations in an orderly fashion and pay all players. The other is where the operator squandered all of the funds or ran off with it. Players do not get paid in that scenario.

Closed Poker Networks Where Players Got Paid

# of Rooms20
Year Active2004-2014
Traffic at HeightModerate
Reason ClosedPoor software and exodus of skins
# of Rooms40
Year Active2004-2012
Traffic at HeightMedium
Reason ClosedPoor software, few known brands on network, owner banned players from too many countries
# of Rooms30
Year Active2003-2016
Traffic at HeightHigh
Reason ClosedOnline poker market declined combined with poor business decisions
# of Rooms10
Year Active2004-2009
Traffic at HeightMedium
Reason ClosedPoor software and loss of U.S. players caused skin and player attrition
# of Rooms8
Year Active2004-2004
Traffic at HeightExtremely Low
Reason ClosedInability to market site, low traffic

Poker Networks That Failed to Pay Players

# of Rooms2
Year Active2008-2011
Traffic at HeightModerate
Reason ClosedPlayer funds were stolen and used for operations.
# of Rooms6
Year Active2013-2016
Traffic at HeightLow
Reason ClosedBad management that squandered player funds and had terrible policies
# of Rooms40
Year Active2004-2013
Traffic at HeightModerate
Reason ClosedMisappropriation of player funds

History of Online Poker Networks

History of Online Poker Networks

2002Ongame launches poker network

Ongame launches poker network that started with PokerRoom

2005Party Poker removes skins

Party Poker, sick of under the table rakeback deals, kicks all skins off the network.

2006UIGEA passes in the US

UIGEA passes in the US. iPoker, Ongame, Entraction, Boss Media and 888 are among the poker networks that left the market.

2009Cryptologic closes

Cryptologic closes, players paid

2012Everleaf Gaming bans US players

Everleaf Gaming bans US players

2013Everleaf Gaming closes

Everleaf Gaming closes, stiffs players

2016Ongame closes

Ongame closes, skins move to Microgaming

2001First online poker network

Dobrosoft starts first online poker network with Americas Cardroom and Fabulous Poker

2004Party Poker creates a Poker Network

Party Poker gets into the network market.

2006Party Poker Expands

Party Poker acquires Empire Poker and brings it back on the network

2008Cereus Poker Network is created

Absolute Poker and UltimateBet combine to create Cereus.

2011Cereus indicted

Cereus indicted, players not paid

2012Entraction closes

Entraction closes, players moved to Microgaming

2014Boss Media partially closes

Boss Media closes its International Poker Network, players paid

2016Equity Poker closes

Equity Poker closes, players not paid

Now

Online Poker Networks Now

The impact of poker networks have both been a godsend and hindrance to the online poker world. Despite their drawbacks, poker networks continue to be one of the most effective ways to handle industry consolidation and smaller player pools.

The key appears to be good management and/or regulation, which helps level the playing field between poker rooms on the same network, which helps maintain a healthy poker “ecosystem.”

The Future of Online Poker Networks

future of poker networksIt is no secret that online poker is slowing as an industry. It is plausible that we will see more consolidations and failures. The top three networks continue to thrive and attract more and more players while the others, for the most part, are in slow decline. It will take a second poker boom for there to be enough demand for all of the poker networks available today.

There are some bright spots among well managed networks. 888 has shown an ability to appeal to recreational players. MPN created a strong brand among casinos and sportsbooks. While iPoker is not what it used to be, it remains competitive in a tough industry.

Despite their drawbacks, online poker networks may be necessary as the online poker industry consolidates.

One of the potential dangers for poker networks in the regulation of the industry in new countries and states. That is because these markets tend to be ring-fenced. That means players in those countries cannot sit at tables with opponents outside the borders. This is part of the reason why the online poker industry has declined over the years.

The days of standalone poker sites in the international online poker industry appear to be over. Poker sites have a difficult time drawing a large number of players under one brand. The exception to this rule is PokerStars. That site continues to dominate the world market.

On the other hand, networks in ring-fenced markets will continue to be difficult due to the lack of players in a state or country’s pool. This gives skins little reason to market in these small geographical areas. Most poker networks in segregated markets are operated by the software owner with little or no involvement of the brand names offered on the comparable international platform.

Some Predictions for Online Poker Networks

We feel that online poker networks will continue to consolidate as the industry contracts. This will mean some poker networks will merge with others, while a few may close altogether. This will likely hold true for both ring-fenced and international poker networks.

Online Poker Networks FAQ

What is an online poker network?

An online poker network is where multiple operators use the same platform and player pool.

What is a skin?

A skin is a member of the poker network. It is an individual site.

What are the differences between skins on a network?

The differences between skins on a network include color schemes, logos, support departments and promotions. Some skins process payments without help from the network.

What is the largest online poker network?

888 is the largest poker network.

Why isn’t PokerStars the largest poker network?

There are no true skins under PokerStars.

What is the largest poker network that accepts US players?

The PaiWangLuo Network (previously Bodog Poker Network) is the largest online poker network to accept US players.

What US skin is on the PaiWangLuo Network (formerally Bodog Poker Network)?

Ignition Poker is the US-facing skin on the PaiWangLuo Network.

Are online poker networks safer than standalone sites?

Online poker networks tend to be safer than standalone sites because a single skin failing does not usually take the entire platform down with it. That is not always the case. It is still important to research a skin on a network before depositing.

Does the poker network handle payment processing for all skins?

Skins are typically delegated with the handling of all player deposits and withdrawals.

Are all skins on a poker network licensed in the same jurisdiction?

Yes, if the network handles all transactions. If individual skins are processing payments then it is common to see these sites licensed in different jurisdictions.

What parts of a poker network are often shared between skins?

Cash games and tournaments are typically shared between all skins. Exceptions may be freerolls that are held by an individual skin. Banking is typically independent between skins. Each site will offer its own promotions.