Online Poker Reviews
Safest Poker Sites reviews all of the major poker rooms and many smaller ones. We go beyond most poker review sites that only tell you how wonderful each site is. We include balanced information about the good and the bad.
All of the poker sites we cover are listed below. We start with the US poker sites because many players in that country need a safe place to deposit. The next section includes all of the relevant sites available to players outside the United States. These online poker rooms accept players from Europe, Canada, Mexico, Australia and parts of Asia.
Best U.S. Online Poker Rooms
Given their self-regulated status, choosing a reputable U.S. online poker room is extremely important. In determining top poker rooms, we want to see a poker room that has delivered consistency through the years – whether it be a track record of treating players fairly, fast payment processing or healthy traffic that can sustain a poker room. The poker rooms below are your currently your best choices as a U.S. player.
Other US Online Poker Rooms
US Regulated Poker Sites
Best European Online Poker Rooms
European online poker players have many more options than Americans. These sites are more competitive with better bonus and VIP terms. The games are typically looser than many US sites. Most of the European poker sites listed below also accept players from Canada, Australia, Mexico and some Asian countries.
Other International Online Poker Rooms
About Safest Poker Sites Ratings
Our poker sites are ranked by our resident pros. Our expertise dates back more than 15 years in the industry. We know the ins and outs of every online poker room and network and are happy to share it with you.
Online Room Ratings
The overall online poker ratings take several aspects of a site’s business into consideration. These include the number of deposit and withdrawal options, the fees involved with those transactions, tournament guarantees each week, cash game selection and volume, the speed and quality of player support, number of promotions and value of the first deposit bonus.
We rank every US site’s ability to process withdrawal requests to players. We publish this information around the 15th every month. The grades that you see reflect the speed of withdrawals, the number of options available and fees involved with each transaction.
SPS Safety Score
We rank four major aspects of an online poker room to come up with the ratings. They are the frequency and severity of past scandals, previous cashout problems, stability of the site and the customer service and platform of the site. We averaged the rankings given by our resident experts to come up with the rating.
How to Choose the Best Poker Site
Safest Poker Sites is managed by poker players. All of our content is updated frequently as poker sites change bonuses, VIP programs and promotions on a regular basis.
Our reviews are full of information about the best deposit bonuses and loyalty programs. We suggest new players find the best bonus for their bankroll. This will often be the one with the fastest clearing requirements. This means the fewest number of hands and least amount of rake to clear a bonus.
The best poker site is not always the largest one. There are plenty of reasons not to choose PokerStars. These include promotions, quality of games, availability of games based on your schedule, deposit bonuses and support quality. It is also important to check out a poker site’s history. We’ve done that for you and include past scandals in our reviews, as well as promotional information and game options.
Best Loyalty Programs
Some sites offer rakeback while others have an internal VIP program. Rakeback is a flat percentage of rake paid returned to the player. VIP programs tend to include cash back and freeroll tickets. The best loyalty programs tend to be on the Microgaming and iPoker Networks. Our favorites are Americas Cardroom, Intertops, Betsafe, and Bet365.
It does not matter how great the promotions at a poker site are if the games are full of tight players. We advise going with online poker rooms that are tied to sportsbooks and large networks. Our favorites include BetOnline, Ignition Poker, Bet365 and Unibet.
Rakeback and VIP programs are not the only forms of promotions offered by sites. All offer first deposit bonuses. This is where a deposit is matched. The player must pay a certain amount of rake to release the bonus. Some sites offer reload bonuses. These are identical to first deposit bonuses. They are just given to existing players. There are often freerolls players may enter without investing any money. Other promotions include tournament leaderboards and rake races.
Concerns with Today’s Unregulated Poker Sites
There should always be concern about the safety of funds at online poker sites. With that said, the sites available these days are far safer than their predecessors.
Online poker has come a long way since Planet Poker dealt the first real money hand in January 1998. The industry has moved from being run by poker players with little business experience to ones managed by publicly traded and expert gaming companies.
The online poker industry suffered from substantial growing pains in its early years. The issues ranged from a cracked random number generator and server crashes at Planet Poker to employees stealing from players at the tables at Absolute Poker, Ultimate Bet and Pit Bull Poker.
UIGEA created hardship within online poker industry
The U.S. online poker market suffered adversities that did not affect most of the world. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) passed in October 2006. This forced all publicly traded poker sites out of the U.S. market. The remaining sites were mostly the lower tier in terms of quality and reputation. PokerStars was a notable exception to that. Bodog was another.
The first rogue act by a poker site related to UIGEA was committed by Jet Set Poker. It closed several hours before President George W. Bush was expected to sign the UIGEA into law. Jet Set Poker closed with five minutes of notice. It ran off with all deposits.
All of the insider cheating scandals mentioned were exposed after the UIGEA was enacted, although some of the thefts took place before it became law. It still shows the types of companies that remained in the market.
Full Tilt Poker was thought to be one of the good guys. The Black Friday indicted included Full Tilt, as well as PokerStars and Absolute Poker. It turned out that Full Tilt Poker was a “Ponzi scheme”. That was the phrase Preet Bharara of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York used at the time. Full Tilt was running e-check schemes where it would give players funds based on deposits from bank accounts. The company was unable to access the U.S. banking system to get these funds. More than $100 million was missing when the site failed in June 2011.
The online poker industry changed drastically after Black Friday. Most poker sites still operating in the U.S. were subsidiaries of sportsbooks. This included Intertops, Winning Poker, Sportsbook.ag, Bodog, BetOnline and eventually Carbon Poker.
Blue Monday was an indictment unsealed in by the U.S. Attorney in Maryland against the Winning Poker Network and related sportsbooks. The same office later indicted Bodog and its founder, Calvin Ayre, among others. Ayre found himself on the ICE 10 Most Wanted list for a brief time. His case ended in 2017 when he settled with the US Justice Department in exchange for a fine.
None of these sites missed a beat after running into legal trouble. Bodog already moved its U.S. players to Bovada at the time. The Blue Monday sites moved to domains registered outside the U.S.
Lock Poker was the only scam site still left in the U.S. market after Blue Monday. It eventually ran off with about $15 million in funds under the power of Jen Larson. Equity Poker launched after Blue Monday. It failed and never paid players.
Why today’s online poker sites are safer
Respectable sportsbooks operate the three largest U.S.-facing online poker sites. Each has a stellar reputation. All are properly bankrolled and managed.
The experience of these operators contributes to the success of these sites. Bovada/Ignition Casino and Winning Poker have ties to companies that have been in the online gaming business since the 90’s without any scandals. BetOnline had some growing pains in its early days but has since shown it deserves its hard-earned reputation.
What to look for in a safe poker site
Safest Poker Sites publishes a monthly payment processing report. It is a great resource for showing which sites are able to pay players in a timely manner and which ones cannot. A Google search involving the poker room and words like cashouts, scam or fraud are other great indicators. Do not believe every complaint but if a thread in a poker forum has dozens of replies with players reporting the same experience it should be a red flag.
Contacting support before depositing is another great step. Ask questions support employees should know the answer to and see if they are knowledgeable. A quality site will properly train employees. A fly-by-night one will not. Email response times can be another way to see if a site takes customers seriously.