Now, we’re going to introduce you to the major US-available online poker sites so you can decide exactly where you’re going to send that money, and where you’re going to make #ElitePoker a name to be feared.
Make sure everyone at your table knows you’re in the #EliteMafia by adding this image as your avatar! Just right click & select “Open image in new tab” in order to see it full-size, then save it and upload it as your avatar wherever you’re playing!
I’ll start off by saying this: Unless you live in NJ, DE, PA, or NV, there are really only 3 or 4 sites you should be considering for your online poker play: Ignition, Bovada, BetOnline, and America’s Cardroom.
I say “3 or 4″ because 2 of them, Ignition and Bovada, are the exact same site, only with different “skins” on top and different special promotions like deposit bonuses. They have the exact same game selection and use the exact same player pool.
The next important thing to understand is there really isn’t a poor choice among them. They all are trustworthy, have a reasonable amount of player traffic, and offer cash games, sit ‘n’ gos, and tournaments at plenty of different stakes and buy-in levels.
Because these 3 sites (for our purposes, I’ll be treating Ignition and Bovada as the same) are similar in almost every way, this review is going to focus on the reasons you may want to choose one over the others.
I could give you a chart of pros and cons for each site, but it would be useless: Every chart would look almost identical and it wouldn’t help you one bit (trust me, I’m staring at one I created right now).
The HUGE one is that all play on Ignition/Bovada is anonymous. That’s right, when you sit at any of their tables, no matter the stakes or format, you are only identified by a number assigned to you by the system. Leave that table and go to another? You get a new number. There is no way for you to track or keep notes on your opponents from session to session or table to table, which effectively levels the playing field between the experienced grinders and the just-there-to-have-fun newbies.
Note: If you’re playing in a multi-table tournament, every player is assigned a unique number at the beginning of the event, and they keep that number the whole way through. This way, if you get a read on a certain guy early on and he’s moved away from you later, but then you meet him again at the final table, you’ll still be able to take advantage of those early observations.
This leveling of the playing field is a fantastic move by Ignition/Bovada, and it has led to their network of players being the largest, and softest, of all the US-available sites. As you can imagine, serious professionals have one of their most significant advantages (being able to use software like PokerTracker combined with different HUDs to track stats and keep notes on every player they’ve ever sat with) taken away by the anonymization, which has led to most of them migrating to other sites and the Ignition/Bovada player pool being filled with recreational guys like VFW Joe.
Another cool feature that sets Bovada/Ignition apart is called “Zone Poker“. I won’t go into too much detail here (just check out the link), but it’s basically a way to eliminate all of the downtime associated with playing on a single cash game table. As soon as you fold a hand, you’re immediately taken to a different table that is just about to shuffle up and deal. You play that hand however you’d like, and as soon as it’s over (or you fold), you shoot over to yet another table. This continues indefinitely, allowing you to play far more hands/hour than you would at a single table, but without the occasional “Shit, I’m involved in five pots at once!” panic of multi-tabling. Zone Poker is also the perfect companion to the next feature unique to Ignition/Bovada: Mobile play.
You’d think online poker sites would be on top of the idea of mobile capability, but it seems (at least, for the US-available sites) that isn’t the case, except for Ignition/Bovada. They not only have iOS and Android apps you can download and use, but you can also simply access their web-based client from any mobile device and sit at a table. The convenience of this cannot be overstated, as combining mobile capability with the constant action of the Zone Poker tables creates a “play anywhere, any time you want” attitude that goes perfectly with most of our lifestyles. Instead of that mobile game you use to kill time during your commute, lunch break, or “morning constitutional” (I highly recommend Smashing Four, btw), jump online and get in 10-20 hands of Zone Poker!
The things I’ve mentioned so far are features common to Ignition and Bovada: You can register and play at either of them and everything I’ve said above will be available. The two sites aren’t completely identical, though, and here are the things that may make you want to pick one over the other:
If you choose Bovada, you’ll have the ability to use your bankroll for poker and in Bovada’s sportsbook. Seeing as you’re an Elite Sports Betting VIP sub there’s a decent chance you already have some cash on Bovada, which may make your decision extremely simple.
If you choose Ignition, though, you’ll get access to a lot of additional bonus opportunities not given to Bovada users. There are weekly freerolls, reload bonuses, and other promotions popping up regularly that are intended to get people to choose Ignition for their poker play, even if they already use Bovada for its sportsbook. The first-time deposit bonus is also better at Ignition, giving you 100% up to $1,000 as opposed to the 100% up to $500 you get at Bovada. Ignition also rewards you with an additional 25% bonus (so you really get 125% up to $1,250) if you use Bitcoin.
Note: If you’re depositing on Ignition, you’ll be able to choose the bonus you want from a drop down on the deposit screen. If you’re on Bovada, you’ll need to use the code “PWB500” to get the 100% up to $500 bonus.
The two remaining rooms we’re going to discuss, BetOnline and America’s Cardroom, are far more similar than they are different. Anyone who is familiar with the sites of the 2003-2011 “poker boom” will feel right at home at either of these guys, as their interfaces, lobbies, and game selection are effectively unchanged.
BetOnline sets itself apart by offering quite a few different promotions and “jackpot”-type games. Its flagship “special” game is the Jackpot Sit ‘n’ Go: A 3-player, winner-take-all tournament with a hyper-turbo format and a randomly-sized prize pool. There are buy-ins at levels from $3-$30, and the prize pool is determined randomly at the start of the contest. Obviously, most of the prize pools end up being either 1.5x or 3x the buy-in (about 82% of them, actually), but occasionally the pool ends up being 5x, 10x, 20x, or even 5000x! That means you may end up in a $3, 3-man SNG where the prize pool is $15,000, lol!
BetOnline, overall, is a great site to choose (just like the others on this page), but it’s not without its faults. I’d say its multi-table tournament selection could be better, and it’s kind of annoying that, even though BetOnline is also a popular sportsbook, the money you deposit there has to be classified as either “Sportsbook” money or “Poker” money.
If you open your account screen in the poker client, you’ll see options to “Transfer to Poker” and “Transfer to Sport”. If I have $1,000 in my poker account, but I want to place a bet on a sporting event, I have to go in there and move some money from my poker account to my sportsbook account, and only then can I go place the bet. It only takes a couple of clicks, and it happens instantly, but it’s still kind of irritating if you’re someone who may frequently be playing poker AND placing bets.
BetOnline’s poker deposit bonuses are fairly standard: You get 100% up to $1,000 on your first deposit with the code “NEWBOL”. If you’re not a new customer, you can get a 50% reload bonus up to $250, or a 35% reload bonus up to $1,000 if you use Bitcoin and the code “CRYPTO35”.
America’s Cardroom (ACR)
ACR is a solid site with a nice interface and lobby, a good selection of games (especially tournaments), and a few unique formats (“The Beast“). The thing that sets it apart, though, is its loyalty program (interestingly, called “Elite Benefits“). The link right there will take you to the page that explains everything, but the best way to summarize it is to say that if you plan on playing regularly and for an extended period of time, ACR will likely give you the best loyalty bonuses of any of these sites.
Another (subjectively) nice thing about ACR is that they’re kind of like the Apple of poker sites: They haven’t done anything impressive in awhile, but they’ve managed to stay successful by copying and implementing the things actual innovators have created. BetOnline created the popular “Jackpot Sit ‘n’ Go”, and ACR followed soon after with their “Lottery Sit ‘n’ Go”. Ignition/Bovada came up with the genius idea for “Zone Poker”, and ACR then (conveniently) created “Blitz Poker”. They’ve taken great ideas from around their industry and combined them into one package, and the result is a sleek, well-rounded product that offers something for all types of players.
ACR is far from perfect, though. It does have decent traffic in non-NL Hold’em games, but unfortunately, that usually means the player pool is a bit sharper and more experienced. You have to consider that, when Ignition and Bovada implemented their “anonymous” features, many sharp players had to take their business elsewhere, and with few other options in the USA, and ACR’s fantastic loyalty program for high-volume players, it seems that “elsewhere” was ACR.
Another negative for ACR is the lack of a web-based client, meaning you’ll need to download the software and install it on your desktop to play.
As far as deposit bonuses go, you get 100% up to $1,000 or, if you use Bitcoin, 200% up to $1,000. Both of those bonuses are applied automatically when you deposit, so you don’t need to enter any kind of code!
I’ll keep this short and sweet: Any of these 4 sites are great choices for your upcoming play.
If you’re a casual or inexperienced player, or just want the softest competition, and you plan on playing somewhat regularly, you want Ignition.
If you’re just like those above, but you only plan on playing sporadically because you spend more time focused on sports betting, you want Bovada.
If you already have some money on BetOnline, or if you’ve been interested in checking it out for its sportsbook, or if you’re a more serious player who wants the advantage of using a heads-up display and/or software like PokerTracker, BetOnline is a good option.
If you’re like the serious player above, and you plan on playing regularly, ACR and its Elite Benefits program are probably for you.