Online Poker Sites to Avoid

By Chris Mitchell
Published on September 13, 2017
online-poker-to-avoid

Online poker has many great things to offer and is an industry I will always promote. On the individual level, it gives us players not only a great deal of fun, but a way to make some decent money right from the comfort of our own living room.

On a grander scale, it can generate tremendous tax revenue depending on the region or country where players are playing and the sites are operating. All of the top sites give players great incentives to keep logging in and taking a seat, without ever giving us the slightest reason to feel hesitant.

Much like with anything in an industry with a lot of competition, not all online poker sites are created equal. There are some amazing online poker sites that create great experiences for their players. On the other side of the coin, there are some sites out there that aren’t so player friendly.

While it’s not my place to bash or speak ill of any poker site, as some are doing the best they can, I can at the very least discuss some of the characteristics that you want to avoid when choosing an online poker site to take a seat at.

Keep in mind, you should never go into a poker game online with any sense of trepidation. If you’ve read our section, then you know which sites are the best ones and you can play without any worries.

With that said, first I’ll tell you about some of the poker rooms you should do everything to avoid under all circumstances. Then, I’ll cover some of the characteristics of those poker rooms, so if you come across some I haven’t mentioned, you know to avoid them as well. New rooms pop up from time to time so it’s important to know what to look for.

While we all have certain preferences for any given site that we play on, those are not quite the same as faulty characteristics. I said I wouldn’t bash any rooms, but I can still lay out the facts.

Sites to Avoid

Later I’m going to discuss the characteristics of bad poker sites and how they can affect you, given that new rooms may pop up from time to time. But it is also important to touch on the bad ones that are out there now so you know who to steer clear of. These following rooms should be at the top of your “Do Not Download” list.

Lock Poker

Lock Poker has a long history of bad customer service and excessively slow cash-out times. When it split from the Revolution Gaming Network back in 2013, the network accused Lock of owing it a large sum of money. Likewise, most of its player clientele was waiting to be paid. Lock still operates at a very scarce level last time I checked, and I would steer clear of this site.

Dollaro Poker

Dollaro Poker operates a casino, sportsbook, and poker room. Dollaro has often been the subject of non-payment claims from its players. In 2016 Italian police busted an illegal online gambling ring that was linked to organized crime and Dollaro Poker. It’s safe to say it’s best to stay away from this site.

Betcoin Casino

Betcoin Casino boasts an array of casino games, from slots to table games, as well as poker and a sportsbook. It is plagued by very low traffic and a poor cash out record. The site accepts deposits in the form of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, and while having an eye on the future, it’s severely lacking in the present. Until it is able to increase its player traffic and Bitcoin becomes a more viable deposit option, it’s smart to pass on this site.

Odds Poker

Odds Poker has been accused of stealing funds from its players, the cardinal sin of any online poker room. The site is on the Gametech/Futurebet network which also has Vegas24, PokerOne, and Prosbet, all sites I would also avoid.

SwC Poker

The bitcoin-only poker site that replaced SealsWithClubs ran into some trouble when its founder was arrested for running an unlicensed gambling site in the U.S. Until it finds a way to resolve its issues and become a licensed site it is one I would stay away from.

Chico

Formerly known as the Action Poker Network, Chico contains sites still operating in the U.S. despite not licensed to do so. It fell in some serious hot water when it was unable to honor cash outs post-Black Friday. Chico has managed to fly under the radar by remaining fairly small, and I would under no circumstance want to deposit money on one of their sites.

Pay No Rake

Don’t let the name fool you. A more honest name for the site would be Pay No Player. Not only are payments constantly egregiously late, but after your first free withdrawal, the site charges $50 per withdrawal. That is just unacceptable.

Million Minds

While they may have a million minds, one thing they don’t have is a million dollars. Payments are either very slow or simply do not process at all. Their customer support staff is also frequently unavailable and unhelpful even when you can reach someone.

Dynamic Gaming Systems

While Dynamic Gaming Systems has folded, some of the sites that operated on it are still floating around with massive holes in their boat. Skins like DollyPoker, PantherPoker, KingFishPoker, and a few others with janky names should never be considered when looking for a place to play.

Carbon Poker

A skin on the Merge Network, which also housed Lock Poker at one point, Carbon has had a sketchy history when it comes to paying out its players. While the skin is still operating, affiliates were informed in 2015 that the site had shut down. Carbon basically gives me every reason to want to stay away.

UPN

The Uniq Poker Network is home to two skins, BetUniq.com and UniqPokerNetwork.com, and both have some of the poorest player’s pools I have ever come across. On top of that, word is that it’s license is a very flimsy one. I’m staying far away from this one.

How to Spot a Bad Online Poker Room

Now that you know which sites to stay away from, it’s important to expand upon some of the reasons to stay away. Not only does it help to better understand why the above rooms should be avoided, but it’s important to know what characteristics to look for when new poker rooms enter the market.

Poor Security and Player Protection

First, as online poker players we all want to feel safe. In a brick & mortar casino we can look the employees in the eye, we can see where the money is being kept, and we can see who the other players are. None of this is at our disposal online, however.

Now if you’re a first-time player, this can give you cause for concern before sitting down to play. With the top sites, this is never an issue. Online poker sites live or die by their integrity or lack thereof. We can be assured that the best sites in the business are not doing things like sharing our personal information with third parties or making our passwords available to individuals or sites that likely operate with any type of phishing or hacking type of activity.

A top tier site will always do its best to keep its players, their funds, and their personal information protected and safe. If anything seems off in any of those aspects, it is best to walk away from a site without that high level of integrity.

Improper Licensing

This is a big one. Every major online poker site on the market has gone through the proper licensing and regulation process. This is the first legitimate thing any online poker site should be doing prior to opening its proverbial doors.

Every brick-and-mortar casino must get a gaming license from the gaming commission in the state or province in which it operates. Online casinos are no different. The process of getting licensed, whether it be live or online, is a rigorous one. If a site passes the test, you know they are legit.

There are sites that are operating while not properly licensed, or licensed in a region that does very little due diligence during its licensing process, thus making the licenses they grant not worth much.

What happens if a site isn’t properly licensed? Literally anything.

I don’t want to liken it to the Wild West or a free-for-all because that would be a little misleading. But essentially, a site that’s either unlicensed or is holding a flimsy license, could essentially not be held accountable if something goes wrong.

If your cash-out is taking forever, or if you suspect players may be colluding, there really is no higher power to appeal to. That’s not to say that a site would ignore your grievances, but if they are unregulated or unlicensed they could get away with doing nothing about it since there is no one or nothing in place to discipline the site itself.

Not only that, but an unlicensed site can pretty much up and disappear like a thief in the night, leaving you and all of the players with money on the site heavily out of luck. A site that can’t be policed can be dangerous to jump into bed with.

If a site is unlicensed I would advise avoiding it at all costs. I know there are regions in which unlicensed rooms might be your only option, but in those cases, it is “Enter at your own Risk.”

Independent Auditing

Another thing I like to look at when deciding if a poker room is legitimate is if the online poker client is independently audited. If a site’s software is independently audited than you know that it has been combed through by a trusted third-party auditor to ensure the integrity of the site.

Of course, audits can be done internally, but often times with internal audits the findings may never be fully made public, or necessary changes might be made without the public knowing what they were. If you’re playing on a site, especially if you have deposited money, you have a right to know what is going on with the site.

Many poker sites will display an emblem on their main lobby page stating they have been independently audited by a trusted third party. If you do not see an emblem or other marking stating they have been independently audited, do some research online or simply e-mail their customer support to try and find out.

If you find that a site has not been independently audited it’s not the end of the world. Simply do the research on that site and talk to players that are familiar with it before deciding how to proceed. Ideally, I would look to avoid it, however.

Terrible Customer Support

Much like with any business of which you are a customer, poor customer service or support is a giant turnoff.  When it comes to anything online, especially if you have an important question or issue, we live or die by the customer support staff.

We have real money at stake on these sites, so it’s not too much to ask to have attentive customer service that responds in a timely fashion. Many of the top sites have 24/7 chat support.

Stay away from sites that do not have the 24/7 chat support option and that do not respond in a respectable time to e-mail requests.

When I come across a player support staff that takes a long time to answer my question or concern and then either fails to address it in a satisfactory way or asks unnecessary questions to draw out the process further, I am often suspect of their ability or willingness to handle problems.

Our prompts to support are almost always related to important issues like cash-outs or problems with our accounts. I don’t know about you, but I like to have questions about my money answered rather quickly. A site that won’t or can’t respond quickly and satisfactorily, might have further problems behind the scenes, and should be on you radar to avoid.

Collusion

Collusion is a very serious issue and should not be taken lightly. It is important to see how a site reacts or deals with a situation in which players are suspected of collusion. Usually, it is other players at the table that will complain about this problem.

If I bring the issue of players cheating to the attention of an online poker site, I would hope that they would take those allegations quite seriously and look into it immediately. You might come across sites that are a little too full of themselves and as such dismiss it as if that type of thing could not happen on their site.

This is an instance in which playing on an unlicensed site can be dangerous. Players could collude with little to no repercussions because there are little to no repercussions for infractions by an online site.

While games are not “rigged” from the standpoint of the software, players can collude and work together and could target sites they know aren’t regulated. If you catch a whiff of collusion on a site, leave the table and contact support. Avoid playing on that site again until a resolution has been reached or stop playing there altogether.

Money Problems

Slow to Pay

Most important to most players is making money. That money isn’t truly money until it hits our bank account. While most of the big boys have a solid system in place for getting their players paid in a timely fashion when they request a cashout, there are those sites out there that like to take their sweet time.

When I deposit money onto a site, I want to know that when I eventually withdraw money that it will be hitting my bank account just as quickly as it was taken from it. While that’s usually not the case, even for the best of sites, they at least won’t make you wait longer than a couple business days.

If you make me wait over a week for my cash-out to finalize, our relationship is most likely over. I would advise you to rethink your relationship with any site that holds onto your money for too long before letting it go as well.

Hard to Deposit

Believe it or not there are some online poker sites that actually make it difficult to deposit money into your account. There are sites out there that require you to go through a third-party site to deposit, while there are others that only take very few forms of payment methods. In some instances, you will see sites that utilize the rarest of deposit methods.

I am always suspect of any person or business that seems unwilling to take my money. If the deposit process isn’t easy and seamless, that is certainly cause for concern. Don’t play on a site that makes it difficult for you to get a game going.

Low Traffic

One element of a poker site that is never very attractive is when there aren’t many players at the tables. The last thing you want to do is go through the process of opening an account and depositing money only to find that the headcount is scarce.

Online poker sites with low traffic might run smoothly, but if no one is playing on them then there is very little incentive to want to do the same. Even if I’m only buying into a $5 tournament, if there is no prize pool guarantee the other 20-30 players adding to the prize pool doesn’t create a very good incentive or return on my investment.

Think of it like a restaurant. If there is never anyone there, can it really be that good?

How to Avoid Bad Sites

Now that we know what to lookout for, the question becomes how do we go about implementing our knowledge? I do plenty of research into an online poker room before opening an account and making a deposit. By visiting a number of poker news sites and forums I can find plenty of literature on the available sites on the market.

There are plenty of reviews as well as player input out there to help keep us off of bad sites. With forums, we can pose any questions or concerns we have prior to opening an account and get honest feedback.

Usually, we can also try a site out for free. While player security is a concern when it comes to poker sites that are closer to the bottom of the list, there are times it might be worth it to open an account and test it out FOR FREE if your research deems it so.

Staying away from unscrupulous and low paying sites can save you a lot of headache in what is supposed to be an otherwise enjoyable endeavor. Getting your Aces cracked causes all sorts of pain, but hey, at least you know where your money went.

Where to Play

I can’t talk about where not to play without offering some insight on the ideal places to open an account and deposit your money. Luckily, we can find a lot of literature on the top poker sites in the game to inform us of some of the bells and whistles of the more popular online casinos.

If you’re looking for which sites are right for you I recommend reading some of the reviews to get a better idea of who some of the top sites are then check out our recommended poker sites.

The last thing I ever want to do is put my money at risk on any of the sites mentioned above or any sites that bear the characteristics of a typically shady site. Do everything you can to avoid playing on those to save yourself a lot of heartache. Those with the top reviews, however, will offer you a great playing experience. Just do me a favor; take it easy on me when you see me at the tables.

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