Major Online Poker Networks
Poker networks have become an important part of online poker. There are still a few large independent poker sites around, but a big percentage of the action can be found on networked sites these days. There are several major networks in operation and a number of smaller ones too.
In this section of our poker guide we have provided information on the biggest and most popular networks. We look at their history, the games they have to offer, their tournament schedules, and much more. You can see a brief overview of each network we cover below. Further down the page, you'll find an introduction to online poker networks, an explanation on how they work, and answers to some frequently asked questions on the subject.
The Major Online Poker Networks
Launched in 2004, iPoker has grown to become one of the best known online poker networks around today. The software is provided by Playtech and it's widely considered to be some of the most user-friendly and functional poker software available. Several gambling sites have their poker rooms on iPoker, including some of the larger brands such as William Hill and Coral. The only downside is that this network isn't currently available to players from the United States.
The Microgaming Poker Network, known as the MPN, has a well-established history. It was formerly known as Prima Poker and has been in operation for well over a decade. The MPN has won a number of coveted industry awards including "Best Poker Network" and "Best Poker Software." The software is high quality with plenty of useful features and the network operates a popular international live tournament tour. There are no US facing sites on the MPN though.
The Merge Poker Network is one of the longest running networks that continue to welcome players from the United States. It was launched back in 2007 and has been a consistent favorite among American players ever since. Although it doesn't get as much traffic as it used to, there's still plenty of action going on. There's a great range of different games and stakes available, plus the software has a number of innovative tools and features designed to enhance the playing experience.
PartyPoker was one of the forerunners in the early online poker industry and was once the largest poker room on the internet. They lost a lot of traffic when they stopped taking American customers back in 2006, but they have remained popular in Europe and other parts of the world. They merged with Bwin in 2011 and hence the Bwin Party Poker Network was formed. Although there are only a small number of rooms on this network, the tables are usually very busy.
The 888 Poker Network is operated by 888 Holdings, which first made its name in online casino games. The company expanded into poker in 2002 and has continued to grow ever since. They now have one of the busiest networks and some of the best software around. The main network doesn't accept players from the United States, but 888 does operate a licensed and regulated site in the state of New Jersey.
The Revolution Gaming Network used to be the Cake Poker Network. It has what one would call a checkered history due to its association with some sites that have had issues with paying players, but there are still some sites on the network which appear to be operating ethically and looking after their customers properly. Juicy Stakes and Intertops are the two leading Revolution Gaming rooms and they both accept US players.
This is one of the newer online poker networks, having launched in 2013. There are only a few sites on the Equity Poker Network (EPN), the majority of which wouldn't be considered major brands. However, the network does include Full Flush Poker, which is one the fastest growing US friendly poker sites. Full Flush has helped increase traffic to the EPN and has great potential for continued growth.
The Winning Poker Network started out as the Yahatay Poker Network back in 2001. It struggled to gain much of a player base, largely because of its outdated software, before changing its name in 2012. The software was upgraded and more sites have since joined, which led to some significant growth. It is now one of the largest networks that still accept US customers.
Online Poker Networks – What They Are & How They Work
The fundamental concept of online poker networks is really quite simple. The details relating to how the technology and software actually works can be very complex but it's unnecessary to understand all of it. All you need to know are the basics of what an online poker network is and how networks work compared to independent poker sites. We explain these basics for you below.
Online Poker Networks: An Overview
Any poker site that's part of a network is referred to as a skin. Each skin on a network recruits and manages its own players in the same way that an independent site would, but all skins share the same software and the same tables. Basically the player pools from all the different skins are combined into one when it comes to actually playing.
A poker network tends to be operated by a single company, usually the same company that has developed the software being used. This company is responsible for maintaining and upgrading the software. It also handles all the online communication between the players and the game servers that's required for the games to run appropriately; everything else is dealt with by the skins.
Comparing Independent Poker Sites to Networked Poker Sites
The basic mechanics of an independent poker site are very simple. Once a player opens an account with a site he can log in at any time to access the various games that will be running. Generally speaking he'll first be required to download some software, but some sites use software that can be accessed directly through a web browser. The process is the same either way; players log in and then join a table that they want to play at.
All the games running at an independent poker site are exclusive to that site. That means that when a player joins a table, he'll be playing solely against other players from the same site.
The mechanics of networked sites are very similar and just as simple really, as players still have to open their accounts and log in when they want to play. The main difference is that all of the sites on the network are sharing the same tables, allowing all players that log in from different skins to have access to the same choice of games.
What this means is that when players join a table, they can be seated with players from a number of different skins.
The fact that players are facing opponents from different skins doesn't make any practical difference at all to the way the game is played. All it really means is that players are likely to face a wider range of different opponents, rather than competing against the same players all the time.
This is because a whole network of sites will generally have more players logged in at any given time than a single independent site will. There are some exceptions to this rule, as there are a couple of independent sites that have player bases large enough to rival even the biggest networks but that usually isn't the case.
Online Poker Network FAQ
Why Do Poker Site Join Networks?
One of the two main reasons a poker site may decide to join a network is simply because they don't want to develop and maintain their own poker software. This can be an expensive and time-consuming exercise, and even some of the biggest gambling sites have no desire to have their own unique software. It's a much easier option for them to join an existing network that already has high quality software in place.
Some sites will join a network after having limited success, or complete failure, with their own poker software. This isn't always due to having poor software though. Even with good software, it can be hard for a poker site to attract enough players to keep the tables busy. Any players that they do manage to attract won't stay around very long if the tables are quiet and they can't find a suitable game to join whenever they want to play.
Keeping the tables busy is one of the biggest challenges a poker site faces, and this is the second main reason why they may decide to join a network. Doing so will give their customers access to tables which are shared by other sites and therefore should be getting plenty of traffic. This gives the site the opportunity to focus more of their attention on looking after its existing customers and trying to attract new ones rather than worrying about how busy their tables are.
How Are Skins On The Same Network Different From Each Other?
Although skins on a network share the same software and the same tables, there are still a number of ways in which they differ. For example, skins can customize the way the software looks. This enables them to use their own branding and color schemes and it's the reason why skins on the same network can often appear quite different graphically.
The level of customer service can also differ from one skin to the next and that means the bonuses and rewards available can differ too. You'll find that on some networks most skins stick to fairly similar structures in terms of the extra value they give their customers, but that's not the case with all of them. This is why it can be a good idea to do some research into the various skins, to see which one has the most to offer.
Can I Join More Than One Skin On The Same Network?
Yes, you can. You can't log in to two skins on the same network at the same time, to prevent cheating, but there's nothing to stop you from having accounts at different skins to use at different times.
Can I Play At Different Networks?
Yes, you aren't limited to a single network.
Are Networked Sites Better Than Independent Sites?
This isn't a question that has a definitive answer. Some independent sites are very good but some should probably be avoided. There is probably an equal amount of good and bad networked sites out there.
From a player's perspective, neither networked sites nor independent sites have an inherent advantage over the other. Obviously a player wants to play where there are enough active tables for them to find regular action but that doesn't mean they have to join a networked site. Some independent sites have enough action to satisfy their customer's needs.
Which Is The Best Poker Network?
Again, there's no definitive answer to this. It depends on a range of factors, including where you live. The best network for an American player, for example, may not be the best one for a European player.
When it comes to choosing where to play, you should be looking for the best site according to your needs rather than the best network. This is something we can help you with, as we recommend the top sites in a number of different categories.