What are Online Poker Networks – and How Do They Work?
You’ll hear both poker networks and poker sites used interchangably a lot in articles online – though to the best of my knowledge the differences are very rarely explained for newcomers to the game. Add to this terms like ‘skins’ and ‘liquidity’, and things can easily come across as more complex than they really are...
This page explains the differences between poker networks and sites – busts the jargon – and shows you which poker networks are best, depending on whether you live in the US or not.
The Quick Version – What Is a Poker Network?
Here is how a network works. Several brands get together, and share the same software for their poker games. When the players from any of these poker sites log on and play, they meet players from all the other brands on a shared back end system. The log-in, rewards and cashier is handled by the individual brand (poker site), the software and game / tournament list is the shared part.
Here is an example using iPoker – the single biggest network.
I log on to Titan Poker and sit in a cash game (losing my money most probably!).
You log on to NetBet Poker, another poker site on the network, and are looking for a table to join. You’ll see me sat there and can join the table and play. The other players at this table can be from several other brands, for example Coral, Ladbrokes or Betfair.
The same thing happens with tournaments, and sit and goes.
What Are the Advantages of Joining a Poker Network?
The biggest advantages are the number of games and tournaments on offer, and also the bigger and better promotions.
Individually, each site may well be able to offer a few cash game tables and the occasional tournament. By joining together, the tournament list can be huge, there are a lot more cash games to choose from – and novel games like lottery Sit N Goes and fast-fold poker can be offered.
Something similar happens with promotions. Individually a poker site might be able to offer some guaranteed tournament prizes and the occasional free buy-in. Together they can offer a lot more. Promotions giving away trips to live events or good old fashioned cash are bigger and better when there are several sites together. Sometimes the individual sites will have their own promotions, though to prevent these sites competing amongst themselves, most promos are poker network-wide.
Which Poker Networks Welcome US Players?
There are some excellent networks offshore which welcome US players. The 2 biggest are the Winning Poker Network and the Chico Poker Network. Smaller pools are the Equity Poker Network and the Horizon Network.
Winning Poker Network: This is home to some highly regarded sites including America’s Cardroom and Black Chip Poker. If you enjoy tournaments, the WPN is the place to head. This network organize the only $1,000,000 guaranteed online poker tournaments available to US players (these happen every 2 months on average), the OSS (Online Super Series) events and have a packed schedule of regular tournaments too – many with solid mid-range guarantees. There are cash games, sit n goes, jackpot poker and satellite qualifiers for big events too. You can check out the latest events and specials (there is always something good going on!) at www.americascardroom.eu
Chico Poker Network: This is a big pool of players, and unlike WPN it is the cash games which take priority here. The single biggest site is the Panama based BetOnline Poker. This is primarily a sports betting site, and the poker room has a recreational feel, with many players crossing over from the sportsbook to enjoy the poker games. BetOnline offer some excellent bonus deals, and you can check them out at www.betonline.eu
Which are the Biggest International Poker Networks?
To find the giants, you have to look at the international poker sites. The very large ones are iPoker and MPN (the MicroGaming Poker Network).
iPoker Network: This poker network uses the famous PlayTech software. The brands which come together to use it are the giant betting names from the UK and Europe. Think Ladbrokes, BetFred, BetFair, Coral and others. The cross over traffic is huge, giving iPoker a reputation as one of the softest poker networks you’ll find… once you check out the tables and see how many novices there are, you’ll wonder why you played at ‘tighter’ poker sites for so long. My favourite iPoker site is NetBet. This is a big betting brand with a ton of experience (they used to be called Poker 770) and some of the best promos and player offers around. Check out those soft games at www.netbet.com now!
MicroGaming (MPN) Network: This network has had its ups and downs, and is currently making a big comeback. MPN will certainly benefit from the recent closure of another network – OnGame. There are a lot of well-known betting brands on MNP, and also many poker specialist sites. I like Red Kings (tons of experience and very reputable), BetSafe (part of the giant Betsson group) and 32red on this network. The software is also worth checking out – very colourful with a slightly side-on 3D effect. Check out www.betsafe.com for the latest promos.
Can I Join More Than One Site on a Poker Network?
Yes, there is nothing stopping you having accounts are all of the sites on a particular network if you feel so inclined. What you will not be able to do is to play on more than one account at the same time. Even with multiple devices this is a common idea and something that security systems will find very quickly – your money will be confiscated if you try.
The way that loyalty schemes work (rewarding you more the higher in the points / tiers you get) I prefer to focus my play on one site for each network.
What Other Poker Network Terms Should I Know?
The word ‘Skins’ is often used when talking about poker networks. This refers to the sites. An ‘iPoker Skin’ is simply a poker site on the iPoker Network. This is not so commonly used for the bigger and better known sites, and came into use at a time when many small white label sites were being created on different networks.
Liquidity refers to the number of players in a given poker pool. For example if a small site only has a few hundred players (not all of which were online at any one time), then their liquidity would be low. This means few games at each buy-in and not much scope for decent tournaments. Conversely, having tens of thousands of players in a poker network means good liquidity, allowing the network to offer a lot of different types of poker, and some big prize tournaments / jackpots too.
Check out the following reviews of sites on different poker networks to get an idea of what to expect from each one:
- Titan Poker Review (Titan Bet Poker for UK residents)
- BetOnline Poker Review (Chico - US Friendly)
- America's Cardroom Poker Review (WPN - US Friendly)
- Ignition Poker Review (Another US friendly poker room, this one is stand-alone)