If you’re sitting on a few hundred pounds, ready to deposit on a poker site and hit the tables, it seems like your choices are endless.
Luckily, the passing of the 2005 Gambling Act granted UK residents total freedom to choose to play online poker on whichever site they wish; and at the same time established a regulatory process to make sure player funds are safe.
In addition, later legislation allowed offshore companies to apply for UK licenses as well, further broadening the selection of rooms.
So everything is going well for UK gamblers – compare that to the US, where the vast majority of the states don’t even offer legal online poker. But with all the freedom comes the burden of choice.
Here, we list some of the most popular and some of the lesser known poker rooms available for UK players with a thorough review for each so you know what to expect when you register on one.
You may be looking for different things based on where you are at your poker career, or based on how you approach the game – you may be a rakeback grinder, or you may just look to gamble a little for the fun of it – that is why you should read through this article before making your first deposit.
PokerStars has been dominating the market for many years– they’re number 1 in traffic in the United Kingdom as well.
Yet, if you look online you’ll find more than just positive reviews of the biggest online poker room.
This is because recently the management made some questionable decisions. It all started in 2016, when they decided to eliminate their VIP system’s highest tier, the Supernova Elite without any prior notice to the players – many pros depended on the rakeback they got from there for their living.
Then they started developing and heavily marketing new game types where skill has a lower effect on the outcome. These were, among others, the “Beat the Clock” and the “Spin & Go” – where you start with a 25BB stack and spin a wheel for the prize pool – games.
On top of all that, they raised the rake at their cash table multiple times – this is where their ambassador, Daniel Negreanu’s infamous “more rake is actually better” comments came from – and changed the tournament lobby so now the tournament fees aren’t displayed separately from the money the that goes to the prize pool (normally, you’d see £ 10+£0.10 for a tournament registration fee; now, it only shows £10.10).
Evidently, many speculated that this latter move was made so they can raise tournament fees without being noticed.
Their new revamped rewards system has garnered much criticism online as well – instead of steady, reliable rakeback percentages, you get to open so-called “chests” with randomized rewards.
Each of these decisions serves the losing recreational players more than the winning regulars. To be frank, that is what’s in PokerStars’ best interest – if losing recs enjoy themselves while playing, they’re going to come back and deposit over and over again, pumping more money to be raked into the PokerStars ecosystem.
By offering low-edge games, such as Spin&Go’s, bad regs have more winning moments and lose their bankroll slower.
On the other hand, they’ve developed new features that benefited their entire player pool, winning regs and losing recreationals alike: one of which is the so-called “Zoom” or Fast Fold poker, which has been adopted by other major rooms as well.
In Zoom poker, you get moved to another cash table on the same stakes as soon as you fold your hand. It makes the poker playing experience much more enjoyable, cutting out the waiting till the hand you are not in ends. On the other hand, it does make it less likely that recreational players play junky hands against you.
Since they don’t have to wait around either, the bad regs’ pre-flop ranges tighten up too, making them less profitable to play against.
But please keep in mind that just because these game types are being offered, you don’t have to play them.
There’s plenty of action at the regular cash tables and in the tournaments.
Rewards and Promotions
As we discussed, the new rewards system wasn’t met with the greatest of enthusiasm from their player base, but that doesn’t mean there is no value to have there.
For every £1 you pay in rake, you get 100 Reward Points – 100 points are needed to open up the lowest value Chest, the red one. Technically, it’s 150 points but you start the quest for each chest at 50 points.
You can see how many points you’ve accumulated and how many are needed for next Chest on the Progress Bar, visible in the top right corner of the client.
Once you open a Chest, you get randomized rewards – these can be tournament tickets, so-called “boosts” – a bonus that allows you to gain more Reward Points for the same amount of rake –or simply cash credited to your account.
As for other promotions, make sure to use the code “TWENTY” when making your first deposit to get £20 in Spin&Go tokens.
The Rake System
As we mentioned, PokerStars was subject to heavy criticism online for the raising the rake in their cash games.
However, at the lowest stakes cash tables, the rake is actually lower than the industry standard – 5% is what a room charges usually, while Stars charges 3.5% on £0.01/0.02.
The cap – the maximum amount they can take from a pot – is also reasonable, £0.20. That means if a pot is bigger than £4, the rake is even lower than 3.5%.
4.15% is taken by the house on £0.02/£0.05; the cap depends on how many players are at the table. If it’s 2-4, the cap is £0.30, if it’s 5+, the cap is £0.60.
4.5% is charged on £0.05/£0.10 and £0.10/£0.25 with £1 and £1.25 caps, respectively.
On £0.25/£0.5 above, the rake is 5%, raised from the former 4.5%. The cap increases with the stakes, maxing out on £5 at £50/£100 and above.
In the tournament lobby – this is another thing we mentioned earlier – the buy-ins no longer show how much you pay in tournament fees. Before registering for a tourney, make sure to check the number of players who already bought in and the current prize pool – from that, you can tell how much of your money is going to Stars.
Yes, you can use tracking software on PokerStars – but you have to make sure to turn “Save Hand History” on in your settings. Otherwise you won’t be able to import your hands into your tracking software later. Once you opt in for hand histories, HUD works on the site as well.
PokerStars is the number 1 most played on poker site in the world, that is a plain fact. At any given time of the day there will be tens of thousands of players online.
For cash games specifically, their 7-day average is 8,600 as of the writing of this review, according to PokerScout.com.
While that means plenty of action on all stakes, it may not be as good as it sounds: many times, you have to get on a waiting list as there are no empty seats at any of the cash tables – unless it’s one or two players at a 9-handed table.
There’s certainly a lot more game types available to choose from than in most online poker rooms – 5-Card Draw, 2-7 Triple Draw, Stud games – although action is scarce at those tables.
The best chance you have to play a game other than NLHE or PLO is NL 5-Card Draw – however, the smallest stakes cash table for that is £0.25/£0.50. That means you need to risk £50 to get a 100BB stack, and if you’re a casual player who deposited a couple hundred dollars or pounds, that may be too much of a risk to try out something new just for fun.
However, their classic Sit&Go tournaments fill up fast. Also, there are plenty of MTT’s to choose from, the most famous being their Sunday Million series. Every fall PokerStars hosts the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) a tournament series whose biggest winners are reported in the poker press around the world.
Every spring, a similar event takes place, the Spring Championship of Online Poker, better known as SCOOP.
Unfortunately, despite the massive traffic, there is no chat support available for all the players from the .EU and .UK market.
It may be available to you “depending on prior real money deposit history, location, language preferences and settings” – this is a direct quote from their website.
PartyPoker has been seen as the real alternative to PokerStars for European players. When Stars were viciously cutting down on rakeback, PartyPoker decided to revamp their VIP program, offering up to 40% cash back to their most diligent grinders.
As a result, their reputation online is the polar opposite of that of PokerStars, and initially that resulted in a bump in player traffic after the new VIP system was rolled out.
However, the enthusiasm eventually died down; and while some were eagerly waiting for PatryPoker to dethrone PokerStars on the number 1 spot, that never happened.
PartyPoker also gained positive attention from the poker fans by hosting “Trickett’s Room” games – these are super high stakes PLO cash games streamed live, featuring some of the poker world’s biggest stars, such as Patrik Antonius and Viktor “Isildur1” Blom.
On the other hand, there are rumors of PartyPoker engaging in shady activities online as well.
According to some, the room seated players staked by them in live tournaments with prize pool guarantees where there was likely to be overlay.
Rewards and Promotions
As we mentioned, PartyPoker’s classic, tiered weekly rakeback system, which was introduced in May 2017, quickly became very popular with the players.
Here’s the breakdown on how it works exactly.
You need to opt in, then you start collecting points – 1 for each $1 you produce in rake. You need to reach at least 25 points by the end of the week in order to be eligible for rakeback, the lowest tier is 20%. If you reach 150 points, you get 25%, if you reach 600, you get 30%, while the highest tier, 40% is reached at 1,200 points.
In addition, if you manage to accumulate 100,000 points over a 12 month period, you get to join the Diamond Club – a VIP program very much akin to the late Supernova Elite on Stars. Members of the Diamond Club get 50% rakeback and other special perks like 24/7 VIP Skype support.
PartyPoker does not offer a classic First Deposit Bonus; however, you get $22 worth of tournament tickets with your first transaction.
You can also take part in a so-called “rake race” if you play fastforward poker (see a few lines below). A rake race is a monthly leaderboard where players are ranked by how much rake they produced.The top 300 spots are rewarded with satellite tickets, the first prize being a $530 ticket for the $5,300 MILLIONS Online.
The good thing about rake races is that if few people take part, you can earn much higher rake back (in this case, paid in seats in a satellite) than if it were a fixed percentage.
PartyPoker automatically saves your hand histories for a limited period of time. So unless you wait for weeks, you can import your hands into your tracking software.
HUD’s are allowed by the poker room so you can use that too while playing.
The Rake System
PartyPoker is pretty much in line with the industry standards when it comes to rake at their cash tables. They charge 5% of each pot in low to mid stakes – to be exact from $0.01/$0.02 to $30/60.
The cap is increasing with the stakes, form $0.50 at the lowest level to $5 at the highest. At the highest stakes table, $200/$400, the rake is only 1%, however, with a $2 cap if there’s 2 players at the table, and a $5 cap if there’s 3 or more playing.
As for tournaments, whether they be MTT’s or S&G’s, the tournament fee is properly displayed in the lobby, separate from the prize pool money – unlike on Stars.
PartyPoker is currently ranked 4th among the poker networks in terms of traffic, which translates to around 10,000 players online at any given time, 1,000-2,000 of which are playing cash games. This means you don’t have to worry about finding action, especially on low to mid stakes.
You also won’t have to worry about finding empty seats, unlike on Stars – they keep adding tables if it’s necessary. You can find cash tables from the $0.01/$0.02 stakes all the way up to $100/$200. On $200/$400, only heads-up tables are available.
Party’s version of Stars’ “Zoom Poker” can be played on the site, it is called “fastforward”, usually a few hundred users are playing them on different stakes (from $0.02/$0.05 to $2/$5).
As for tournaments, you can choose out of hundreds running every day from centrollers to high buy-in events with millions guaranteed in the prize pool. Their bounty tourneys are popular on the site – these are the tournaments where you get prize money for knocking out an opponent.
PartyPoker has its own semi-annual tournament series, although not as well known as ‘Stars’ WCOOP – it’s the POWERFEST, which features dozens of events and more and more prize money guaranteed year after year.
If you wish to play a game of “Sping&Go”, you can do that on Party as well – it’s called “Sit&Go Hero” over there, though. The buy-ins range from $0.25 all the way up to $250.
Where PartyPoker definitely has PokerStars beat is customer service. Unlike on Stars, you get access to 24/7 live chat customer support regardless of your deposit history through their website.
And you don’t even have to wait for long to get connected to a representative, you get an answer usually within 10 minutes.
Sky Poker is one the five core brands – the others being Sky Bet, Sky Vegas, Sky Casino and Sky Bingo –of the Sky Betting & Gaming Company, which is owned by PokerStars’ parent company, The Stars Group since 2018.
Formerly Sky Bet and its sister sites were affiliated with Sky plc, the British media and telecommunications company which is the owner of all the Sky television networks.
Sky Poker TV still airs every Tuesday on Sky Sports – a show which features poker strategy and a showing of the biggest cash game pots played on the site every week, with commentary.
As for the client, before installing it, you need to download the Adobe AIR Installer. This is because the program installer is a .air file, not a .exe as for most poker clients. An .air file is a compressed installer package for an application that is run by Adobe AIR – so basically the poker client runs in Adobe Flash.
Rewards and Promotions
Every new member on Sky Poker receives £10 in tournament tickets, as well as a 200% bonus up to £500 with their first deposit.
Your first deposit bonus is released in £10 installments, the £10 being credited each time you reach 250 Poker Points. You can earn Poker Points by playing cash games, Sit&Go’s or tournaments. £1 contributed in rake at a cash table, or paid for a tournament fee gets you 6 Poker Points. That means you need to rake around £42 in order to clear £10 of your bonus, which translates to around 25% rakeback.
Sky Poker also offers classic weekly and monthly rakeback rewards, on top of your FDB. You don’t need to opt in manually, everyone is automatically signed up for this promotion.
The exchange rate is the same, 6 Poker Points for £1 in rake or tournament fee.
There are six levels of the weekly loyalty scheme. You need to reach 50 points within a week to reach the lowest one, where the reward is a ticket for a £1K prize pool freeroll tournament.
If you reach 100 points, you get the same freeroll ticket as well as £2.3 in tournament tokens. The next, the bronze level is 500 point. It gives you the freeroll ticket and 1 penny for each Poker Point you earn with rake. Since one Poker Point is worth 1/6 of a Pound, that is around 17% rakeback.
On the Silver Level (starting from 1,000 points), you are rewarded with 21% rakeback, on the Gold Level (1,500 points <), you get 25% back, while on the highest, the Platinum Level, you get 33% rakeback, Evidently, you also get the freeroll ticket on each of these levels.
On top of the weekly rakeback rewards, you can grind your way into having a “Monthly Priority Badge”. This is just an additional rakeback program.
You need to earn 10,000 points in month to be eligible for the Bronze Badge (10% extra cash back), 20,000 for the Silver (12.5%), 30,000 for the Gold (15%) and 50,000 for the Platinum (20%).
Unfortunately, Sky Poker does not allow HUD’s to be used on their site. They have their built-in hand history viewing feature that you can find under “My Sky Poker” on the top menu bar; however, you can’t import those hands into your tracking software.
Only players from the United Kingdom and Ireland are allowed on Sky Poker, which evidently means a smaller player pool.
According to PokerScout, the daily average is 220 players online, while the 24-hour peak is at 420 online players as of the time of writing this.
You’re still able to get reasonable amount of action in the room, especially on their low stakes cash tables, the lowest being £0.02/£0.04. The highest level is £10/£20. The vast majority of their tables are 6-handed, with a very few full-rings that have low action.
You can choose from 3 game types for cash games, tournament and Sit&Go’s as well: Hold’em, Omaha and Omaha Hi-Lo 8-or-Better (although you’ll struggle to finds players at the O8 tables). Furthermore, you can choose to play the no-limit, pot-limit and fixed limit versions of all these games.
There are dozens of multi-table tournaments running on Sky Poker on any given day, almost exclusively No-Limit Hold’em. The buy-ins range from £1.10 to £55.
Sky Poker’s online tournament series is called UKOPS, the UK Online Poker Series. They’re currently at the 23rd edition, with a combined £400,000 in guaranteed prize money across 64 events. You can satellite in to one of the tourneys for as low £1.20.
There’s no version of the “Spin&Go” available on the site. However, there is another S&G type, unique to Sky Poker: it’s called “double your money”.
The top 50% of the field will win twice the buy-in in these mini tourneys.
Unibet was founded as an online sportsbook. They haven’t started offering poker to their customers until 2004 – to this day, their brand is mainly associated with sports betting.
Therefore a large section of their player base is casual players dabbling in poker, making their player pool a bit softer than that of the big poker rooms.
It’s one of the two rooms on this list whose client can run in your browser, you don’t have to download the software itself. This may be another factor incentivizes casual players.
Rewards and Promotions
Unibet offers their new players a €200 first deposit bonus – regardless of the size of your first deposit. It’s released in 6 installments.
You will receive €1 after the first €2 rake you generated
You will receive €4 for €10 raked
You will receive €15 for € 50 raked
You will receive €40 for €150 raked
You will receive €140 for €588 raked
You will receive €200 for €800 raked.
As you can tell, the total bonus amounts to 25% rakeback.
As for permanent rakeback, there is none on this site. However, you can complete different missions for prizes such as tournament tickets.
A unique promotion they’re running is called the “King of Flips”. As a reward for your rake you get a token to enter a heads-up flip match against the house, where you get to choose whether or not you’re going to risk the amount you won for another flip.
Unfortunately, Unibet doesn’t save hand histories therefore tracking programs like PokerTracker4 cannot be used.
You can ask for your hand history from their support, but they only give you an overview instead of the specific description of each hand.
For the same reasons, HUD’s can’t be used either.
Unibet, running as an independent poker room, is currently ranked 13th in terms of traffic – but please note that they’re up against entire poker networks, not just rooms on that list. Their daily average is 500 players online.
There’s usually a few hundred cash players online, you won’t have any trouble finding a game, especially at the lower stakes.
The cash tables range from NL€4 to NL€400 for Hold’em and from PL€4 to PL€400 for Omaha. “Banzai Texas” poker is also available on the site.
Banzai poker is nothing but a 10BB short-handed Texas Hold’em cash game – this may not sound very inviting, but keep in mind that they only charge 1% rake in that game.
However, you cannot play any version of fast fold poker or Spin&Go.
There’s also dozens of MTT’s running each day – although most of them are very low stake, the biggest ones are the €20,000 prize pool Supernova tournaments.
Much like Unibet, Bet365’s main profile is still sports betting. However, the big difference is that while Unibet is a stand-alone room, Bet365 is part of the iPoker network. A poker network is a collection of poker rooms, so-called “skins”: they share a player pool and their clients share the software they are running on.
The layout is different and they can run different promotions for their players.
Other iPoker skins include Betfair, William Hill, Everest and Coral. We chose Bet365 because it’s the most known brand among them.
iPoker is owned by PlayTech, a British gambling software development company founded in 1999. Bet365 Poker launched as a part of the Microgaming Network in 2004, then joined the iPoker in 2007.
Rewards and Promotions
As we mentioned above, promotions can make the real difference between the skins of a poker network.
Bet365 offers every new player of theirs a Welcome Package. This includes €5 in tournament tickets, and 10 free spins on a casino game of your choice.
In addition, you get a 100% First Deposit Bonus up to €100. The bonus is released in €2.5 increments, except for the first one, which is a €1 after the first 10 Status Point you earned. The remaining €2.5 installments are cleared after 150 Status Points.Ten Status Points are gained for €1 produced in rake. This means that you get a 100% rakeback for the first €1 you grind out, then 16.67% rakeback for the rest of your bonus.
You can also complete the “Welcome Mission” for an additional €5 in tournaments on top of the tickets you automatically receive with your first deposit. This is quite an unusual promotion, but if you feel like it, give it a try.
Here, we quote the Bet365 website, where you can also find more information if you need to.
Create a Nickname to qualify for the Welcome Mission
Do all the following (…): log in twice (only Poker software counts, both on desktop and mobile); deposit/transfer €10 or more to Poker; play two Sit&Go’s, with three entrants or more, during two different qualifying periods. (…)
Tournament Tickets can only be used to enter tournaments of the relevant type with the corresponding buy-in amount and, if unused, expire seven days after they are credited.
If not completed, the Welcome Mission expires 28 days after creating your Poker Nickname.
Once you took advantage of all the welcome bonuses, you can still earn rewards with your volume on the site – although not as profitable as the classic cash back schemes that are available, for example, on PartyPoker.
You can collect Status Points for the same amount of rake as in the first deposit bonus, 10 for €1. Bet365 will assign missions to you. You have to collect a certain amount of points within a certain amount of time.
Once you manage to complete that, you are rewarded with Bet365 coins that can be used as currency in the Bet365 store. The store sells tournament tickets, both MTT’s and S&G’s, as well as “bonus euros”, cash credited to your account.
If you download the client, Bet365 saves your hand histories. They can be imported to your tracking software and HUD also runs properly.
On Bet365, you can play against the entire iPoker player pool, or you can choose to filter for Bet365 players only at the so-called “Premium Tables”. If you opt to do so, you’re going to get the same benefits as though you were playing on Unibet: a large section of the players are sports bettor trying out poker for fun – especially on low stakes.
Also just like on Unibet, you can play poker from your browser without installing the software.
As for the whole iPoker network, they are currently ranked 10th in terms of traffic by PokerScout. Their daily average is 700 cash players, while their 24-hour peak is 1,446 players as of the time of writing this.
Cash game stakes start at €0.02/€0.04 but only go up to €5/€10 – this may not be the place for high rollers. However, you can get reliable action even at the highest stakes in the room.
The latest alternation of No-Limit Hold’em, short-deck poker cash tables are also available in the lobby, but only up to €0.50/€1. This is something they actually beat PokerStars and PartyPoker to – both major sites showed interest in adding the new game to their selection, however, neither of them did so far, unlike Bet365.
You can play the other fairly new game type, the fast fold poker as well. On the other hand, NLHE is the only game available, both for tournaments and cash. PLO fans need to find another site.
Their version of the “Spin&Go” is called “Twister”, just like on all the other iPoker sites. Buy-ins for this type of mini tourneys range from €1 to €100, with an option to play for tournament tickets for only €0.50.
You can choose from over 100 tournaments to buy into each day, from freerolls to €100 events.
Bet365 is running its Bounty Hunter Festival: €1-€100 bounty tournaments are running each day. You can buy into them directly, win a seat in a satellite or win a seat through one of the Bounty Hunter Festival missions.
The total guaranteed prize pool for the series is €200,000. It ends on November 11th, 2018 – however, these types of promotions tend to be repeated if they’re anywhere near successful.
This post was written by Marton Magyar, the Beating Betting poker strategy contributer. Marton has also written for sites like HighStakesDB and PokerTube.
Image source: Flickr