Note (July 2014): This sections needs updating. Poker rooms often jump from one network to another, and the networks themselves change names. The information here is interesting, but it isn't fully up-to-date. I'll update this section when I get the chance. - Greg.
Instead of creating their own software and building a unique base of players, some poker rooms become part of a network that shares the same software and players.
Below is a table of the top networks in the world of online poker. There is also a further explanation of how poker networks work and a little bit of information about poker networks in general.
Top poker networks.
What are poker networks?
- Poker network: A number of poker rooms sharing the same software and players.
- Skin: A poker room on the network. e.g. Bet365 is a skin on the iPoker network.
A poker network is simply a collection of poker rooms that share the same software and players to help keep the tables active.
Each skin on a network has its own unique colour scheme and logo, but the poker clients use the same engine and you will find the same players at the tables regardless of which skin you play at. It is also possible to sign up for an account at more than one skin on a network.
For example, Tower Poker and Betsafe are both on the OnGame network. You will notice that they use the same software and share the same players, the only difference between the two is the logo and colours. They also have their own customer support departments.
Why do poker rooms join networks?
If you were to set up your own poker room today, you would have the task of developing your own software and the even bigger burden of trying to get enough people to play at your room. As you can imagine, this would be a very difficult undertaking and you would have very few players at your room at the start.
Developing good software and getting enough players to keep the tables busy from the beginning would be very difficult for any new poker room.
This is the exact same problem that big companies have when attempting to start their own poker room. However, there is the option of joining a network of existing poker rooms that share their software and players, which means that from the start they will have good player traffic to offer to new players and a poker client ready for them to work with.
Some poker rooms like PokerStars and Full Tilt have managed to accumulate enough active players to keep their tables busy, so they do not need to be a part of a network. However, for new rooms it makes sense to become part of a larger network like iPoker, OnGame or Cake.
Which poker network is the best?
Top overall network.
However, iPoker does not accept US players. There is a built-in casino on this network, which is handy if you fancy a dabble in online slots or something like that when taking a break from poker.
Poker networks vs. independent rooms.
There is nothing wrong with poker rooms on poker networks. Online poker is very competitive, so joining a network is one of the best ways for a new room to get a foothold in the world of online poker. Some very big name rooms like Titan Poker and Bet365 are all part of larger networks.
The one good thing about networks is that they tend to have similar bonuses and clearing rates. This means that if you like a bonus at one skin, the chances are that there is a similar one at a different skin on the same network, so you can scout around and see what bonuses you can take advantage of.
At this moment in time, independent rooms like PokerStars and Full Tilt have superior software and greater player traffic, but that is simply because of the way things have transpired over the years and not because networks are held back in any way.
Independent rooms like PokerStars and Full Tilt are currently a little better than rooms on networks.
I don't consider any room to be weaker than another simply because they are independent or on a network. Take each room for what it is and go from there. Choose a room you like playing at the most regardless of whether it is on a network or not.
Go back to the Texas Hold'em rooms.