The Best Small Poker Networks Online
When most people think of online poker a few big brands stand out, namely Pokerstars, 888 and the iPoker network. While these sites have their obvious benefits and should be in most if not all players site list there are a lot of smaller sites and/or networks operating that certainly warrant looking into.
In this article I’m going to go through the pros and cons of playing on these smaller networks. I’ll also try to give examples of what I think are the best ones to choose should you decide to give them a go.
For a general overview of how these networks work, check out this article.
Why Choose Small Poker Networks?
While there are definite advantages to smaller sites or networks there are also disadvantages. In most cases the former outweighs the latter. Let’s consider some of the factors in relation to larger poker sites.
Atmosphere: Whether you play cash or tournaments you will definitely notice a considerable difference in the atmosphere between a larger network and a smaller. In my experience the smaller sites tend to foster more of a friendlier recreational vibe. The larger sites are the home of professionals and grinders alike, mass multi-tabling and using HUD’s to get reads doesn’t really lend itself to a sociable or friendly atmosphere overall.
The small sites, normally the smaller the better in this regard, tend to focus of the enjoyment factor. Some even bar the use of software aids and limit table counts to combat the grinders. This leads to much softer games and a better playing experience all round
Tournaments: As primarily a tournament player myself I feel it I need to mention how much better I find it at smaller networks. If you’ve played in any tournaments on the bigger sites player pool sizes in the multiples of thousands shouldn’t be a foreign concept to you. The length of time and sheer luck factor it takes to win big money in these in verging on ridiculous.
On the smaller networks the tournament pools are much smaller, think in the hundreds rather than the thousands. It doesn’t take 12 hours to reach a final table plus as mentioned above the quality of the average player is a lot lower.
A disadvantage of the smaller sites however is that they are simply unable to come close to the guaranteed prizes the bigger networks boast. This is a function of their size and the number of entrants of course but is something to consider.
Bonuses and Benefits: This is where the larger sites really fall short in comparison. With their vast customer base and massive marketing budgets they know they will attract most of the new players whatever benefits they offer.
Smaller sites can’t be so flippant. They need each and every player they can get. Their main draw for these players is in their bonuses and loyalty programs. Not only do the smaller sites need to better the larger sites when it comes to this but they need to practically give money away. A quick browse by anyone reading this will show that initial deposit bonuses and the terms attached to them on the smaller sites a far larger and better than those of their large competitors. For more on the easiest poker bonuses around, check out this article.
Safety: Is it safe on these smaller poker networks?
For the larger poker networks this is not a concern. Most if not all are listed on stock exchanges or their parent companies are. They have to comply with rigorous financial regulations and reporting requirements.
Smaller sites are in a slightly different world. There are some registered in offshore tax and legal havens (this is for the US sites - see this article on how the US Offshore poker sites work for more). Most of these outfits are completely legitimate and have long track records of fast payments and great service. What you lack is recourse to any authority should things go wrong. Many of the smaller Worldwide networks are owned by the bigger regulated companies, making them extremely safe.
Recommended Smaller Poker Networks
The sites below have all stood the test of time and have solid reputations for great service and for having some of the softest and most entertaining poker games you'll find online too. There is a suggestion for US readers in the form of the Winning Poker Network - which is represented by America's Cardroom. I would like to add BetOnline Poker to my list of recommendations for US readers too.
Red Kings - Poker (NYX - OnGame Network)
Ongame certainly falls into the smaller network category and Red Kings is the longest running and easily the best site on this network.
Red Kings share their network with many bookmakers and therefore have some pretty soft games running. They offer small to mid-stakes cash and a varied schedule of tournaments, which attract decent but not massively oversized player pools.
When it comes to initial deposit bonuses Red Kings actually has six for you choose from. Each varies in the amount you receive and the terms attached but all are very good propositions. Their highest fixed bonus is a hefty $2.5k, their incremental bonuses could mean you get even more than this should you play enough within the time allotted.
One great extra, you'll get a €300 bonus (which you'll need to clear) the first time you get dealt the 2 red kings in a real money cash game - which goes up to €500 if you lose at showdown with them. Check out the soft OnGame tables via Red Kings Poker now at www.redkings.com.
Terminal Poker (Hive Network)
Both Terminal Poker and the Hive network are relatively new on the poker scene but are quickly making a name for themselves.
Originally designed for the mobile market you can play on Terminal Poker from any iOS or Android device. They only offer fast poker as this has become the accepted online variant. Fast poker means that you can quickly fold as soon as you see you cards allowing you to play more hands.
Because Terminal and Hive were developed for Mobile play HUD’s are not supported. This is great as fewer pros and grinders are likely to play.Their bonus is a very generous 200% up to €400 which you should have no problem clearing on their exclusively fast poker tables.
Americas Card Room (WPN Network)
ACR for short is a solid site on a small network. They share the Winning Poker Network network with popular US sites and attract a lot of recreational players. Their cash games can be ridiculously soft in the evenings at at weekends. I also recommend you check out their long running promos: The Beast is for cash game fans and 'Sit N Crush' covers Sit N Go tournaments. This site has a reputation for accepting many US Poker Deposits first time as well.
They have a great bonus of up to $1,000 and an even better loyalty program. See www.americascardroom.com for the latest promotions.
32 Red - MIcroGaming Poker Network
My last recommendation is 32 Red who are a part of the MPN network. MPN is part of the online gambling giant MicroGaming - which has been around a long time. It’s because of this that they have such a good reputation and are considered a super-safe network to play on.
32 Red shares the MicroGaming Poker Network with some large Sports Books. Namely 188Bet, Bet Victor and Stan James. This leads to another commonality in that there is a very regular influx of recreational players, and casual poker fans. Soft competition is the status quo with really good players being the exception not the rule.
Their bonus is another generous $1k max plus they offer exclusive freerolls with nice prizepools attached.A little differently to some sites 32 Red offers every player 30% rakeback from the get go. Other sites generally have loyalty programs which reward you in a different way but 32 Red will give you cold hard cash.
Check out their latest deals at www.32red.com!
Finding Soft Games at the Small Poker Networks - Summary
There are many benefits to smaller sites and networks over the larger ones. I really feel the advantages far surpass the disadvantages. If you do go and try out a smaller site I’m confident you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the lack of 'grinders' and more entertaining (softer!) poker games.