Online Poker Sites in Canada
A visit to a brick-and-mortar casino has long ceased to be the only alternative to playing poker at home with a few friends.
The internet has made it possible to enjoy the game any time day or night with nothing else than a computer and a solid internet connection.
Don’t get us wrong; we’re not recommending that you try one of RNG poker products that barely resemble the real thing and force you to fight against unfavourable house edge.
An online poker room in which you’re being challenged by real humans rather than a computer is an ideal alternative to a physical casino plus it offers a number of benefits unavailable in the physical world.
Poker fans are nowadays spoilt for choice in terms of virtual venues willing to welcome them but too many options can also make the selection process rather difficult.
Do you know how to pick a good online poker room without having to test dozens of mediocre ones? If not, we’re here to help.
What Makes a Great Online Poker Site?
Like with everything else in life, there’s no one-size-fits-all; players’ preferences as well as the available budget can make the same poker room perfect for some and disappointing for others.
However, the best online poker sites do have a few things in common.
Great Software & Features
Even though many players still don’t rate it as hugely important, the quality of poker software has a massive impact on the overall user experience.
With the advancements made over the recent years, there’s simply no excuse for offering buggy, sluggish and visually unappealing software yet many poker sites still do it.
The best online poker rooms provide an easy-to-manoeuvre lobby with good search functions, pleasant graphics and a good number of customization options such as a choice of different table styles and avatars or ability to play multiple tables at once.
You should also look for features like preferred seating, automatic top-up, auto rebuys in tournaments, buddy list, hand history replay tool and so on.
It’s just as important to know whether the site allows Heads-Up Display software or supports anonymous play.
Very few online poker sites offer an instant-play option along with the usual downloadable software.
Providing that graphics, game choice and gameplay are identical, the no-download version can be a major benefit in certain situations, such as when using someone else’s computer or smartphone or when limited space makes you reluctant to install yet another app.
Player Traffic & Round the Clock Game Availability
Player traffic is important for obvious reasons: we all want someone to play with.
Having to wait for an hour or longer to place the very first bet or start playing in a tournament can be extremely frustrating so the ideal online poker room will have games running 24/7 with plenty of traffic across all available games and formats.
Be aware that peak traffic may happen at different times depending on the core market. Some sites will hit it during European hours while others peak according to the North American time zones.
Player volume may also vary across different game types as well as stake levels.
Some poker rooms get the majority of traffic in micro/small stakes and some generate most of their real money player traffic at high-stake tables.
Large Guaranteed Tournaments
Some of the best online poker sites feature tempting high-prize-pool events.
If lady luck happens to be by your side, you might walk away with full pockets and a new-found confidence born out of outperforming some serious tournament players.
However, the size of the prize shouldn’t be the only thing to judge the site for. One should also look at the number of events per hours, game and buy-in variety, the guarantees ratio and the number of tournaments which allow rebuys/add-ons.
So, what’s acceptable? We’d give a good rating to a site which hosts 15-20 events per hour with 300-500 players per tournament and advise you to avoid events with a modest guarantee for a sizeable buy-in.
You should also look for online poker rooms that offer a good number of tournaments free of the rebuy option.
Rebuys increase luck-to-skill ratio during the early rounds owing to wild players that keep going all-in and continue to rebuy until they get fed up with busting out.
Fast Withdrawal Processing
Would you want to wait for 72 hours (or more) before the money is finally sent on its way? Probably not.
Operators willing to approve payout requests within 24 hours or less demonstrate that it’s possible to meet all legal requirements without holding the client’s cash hostage for days.
Those that impose long pending periods do so to give players time to succumb to temptation, cancel their withdrawal request and spend the money to gamble some more at the same website.
Payout speed is important but so is convenience and security of money transfers. The ideal venue will provide a diverse choice of payment options and among them one or more which mesh well with your needs and preferences.
Many of us still like to transfer funds via credit or debit cards even though eWallets and cryptocurrencies work much faster.
Either way, the client should be able to decide rather than be forced to pick among a few unfamiliar and inconvenient payment tools.
Playing the game can be fun regardless of the outcome but we’d obviously all prefer to win while at it.
Since we’re betting against fans like ourselves rather than the house, our opponents’ skills can have a major impact on whether we win or lose.
It’s therefore opportune to challenge weaker players rather than experienced amateurs or poker pros.
You may have noticed that the average skill level varies from site to site. Those that attract bad players are referred to as “soft” poker rooms and they’re filled with “fish”, “maniacs” and “rocks”.
Fish keep hoping for a miracle, playing far too many starting hands and relentlessly chasing flushes and straights.
Maniacs also tend to play lots of hands and they do so aggressively to force their opponents to fold even when they have a better hand.
Rocks are super-tight and will not bet, call or raise unless they have a very strong hand. If you can’t win money at the softest poker sites, it may be a good idea to consider an alternative form of entertainment.
Low Rake / Great Rakeback
Online poker sites have to make profit in order to stay in business and they do so via the rake – a cut taken from each pot.
For you, this is the cost of being able to play the game against live opponents and you’ll obviously want it to be as low as possible.
The rake is normally calculated as a percentage of the pot and comes with a cap so make sure to take both of these figures into consideration.
Most (though not all) online poker rooms use the weighted contribution formula to assign rake to individual players, calculating the cost based on the amount each player has contributed to the pot.
Some of the best poker sites offer rakeback incentives which means they’re giving some of their fee back and thus allowing players to earn money from every hand played.
Rakeback percentages vary but one can on average receive 30%-50% of the monthly rake. The player doesn’t have to take any action as rakeback earnings are deposited directly into their poker account.
Major Poker Networks & Sites
The online poker world features standalone rooms and those that are part of a network. A poker network can consist of just a few rooms or dozens of individual ones sharing the same software, games and basic promotions. Joining a network is beneficial as it eliminates the need to develop one’s own software and the fact that all networked sites share the same tables makes it much easier to generate good traffic.
Run It Once Poker is one of the newest contenders launched by poker star Phil Galfond. It features an innovative rakeback system StreamR which rewards players who broadcast their gameplay via Twitch or other streaming sites and makes it possible to receive over 100% of the rake back.
Splash the Pot system randomly adds money to pots, thus returning 50%+ of all rake. The site is just as innovative when it comes to avatars which give an indication about your opponents’ play styles.
For example, a tight player will have a sleepy avatar while a maniac can be recognized by tilted glasses and dishevelled hair. The site currently offers only NL Hold’em and PL Omaha cash games but we know the team is already working towards adding SNGs.
iPoker is Playtech-powered poker network and one the leading service providers with reputable members such as Betfair, Bet365, Paddy Power, Ladbrokes and William Hill. They all boast high traffic, user-friendly software with tons of functionalities and diverse choice of cash games including Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Omaha Hi/Lo, Seven Card Stud, Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo and Five Card Draw. Though mainly hosting micro to medium stakes, iPoker also has a fair share of high-stake games. In addition to useful features such as real-time game review and advanced hand history replay, players can enjoy fast action thanks to Speed Poker which allows them to jump from one hand to the next as soon as they fold.
Party Poker was one of the first to offer poker to general public and it has remained a leader until the passing of the UIGEA prompted it to ban American players. The network is nowadays made up of only few rooms with Party Poker and bwin Poker being the most popular ones. It uses excellent software, runs cash game and tournaments round the clock, offers high rakebacks and tons of other promotions. Anonymous heads-up cash tables, fold & show and numerous multi-tabling tools are some of the features that set it apart from the competition. Party Poker is considered to be one of the softest poker sites owing to a large pool of fishy players.
888 Poker is an international poker network operational since 2002. It has a very good reputation, smooth, fast and reliable software, plenty of action at tables playing cash games, great choice of tournaments and numerous bonuses. NL and PL Hold’em tables feature a wide range of stakes, Omaha is available in many different formats though action mostly takes place at micro and low-stakes PLO and PL Hi/Lo tables, and you’re also able to play both standard Seven-Card Stud and Stud Hi/Lo. In addition to the download client, 888 Poker is also available via an instant play version.
MPN is Microgaming’s award-winning poker network using high-quality software with plenty of useful features. It was launched in 1999 and revamped in 2018 but still finds it difficult to generate good traffic and attract serious players owing to fishy games. However, it does support 20+ languages, offers a choice between standard and anonymous tables and hosts exotic games like 5 Card Draw and Razz. Blaze Poker was added in 2010 as a fast-fold alternative.
GG Poker which targets mainly Asian markets uses fast and modern software, has plenty of traffic and offers a wide range of interesting features. Players can protect their hand with All-In Insurance, polish their skills with PokerCraft analysis tool, share noteworthy hands via Hand Moments and use several other cool options. There’s a good choice of cash games and tournaments including daily guarantees available round the clock, rebuy tournaments at peak times and a number of main events with big guarantees.
IDN Poker is the second biggest poker network in the world although it caters exclusively to Asian players. There’s plenty of action at Texas Hold’em and Omaha tables as well as those playing unique Chinese game variants such as Capsa Susun. The network has hundreds of member sites with the largest one being ShenPoker.com. Players can use in-browser and mobile software, enjoy attractive and easy-to-use interface, benefit from huge traffic and win massive jackpot prizes.
OnGame Network is one of the leading European networks with a downloadable client as well as a no-download version. It groups 25 solid brands and among them Betsson and RedKings. Traffic levels may not be huge but there’s a good amount of action at low-stake cash games as well as decent guarantees. In addition to the usual Hold’em, the OnGame Network also offers Omaha Hi and Hi/Lo, Seven Card Stud and Five Card Draw.
Merge Gaming Network, initially launched as Poker.com in 2005, offers super-fast software with incredible graphics and customizable features. Members are able to use functionalities such as Quick Start menu, Expose 1 Card, Play it Twice and Rabbit Hunt but also benefit from a diversified portfolio which includes HORSE, HOSE, Razz, Badugi, Lowball and Draw Poker. This is one of the softest options with high viewed flop percentages but doesn’t have as much traffic as the leading alternatives.
PokerStars has by far the biggest traffic. It’s been operating since 2001 and nowadays pretty much guarantees you’ll find enough opponents to play against at all times and across all stakes and game types. An impressive range of real-money games includes No Limit and Limit Hold’em, Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, 7 Card Stud, Open-Face Chinese Poker, HORSE and more. PokerStars also offers a large number of tournaments ranging from freerolls to massive high-roller events. Competition can be stiff though not as much as prior to the change of ownership; since the takeover in 2014 (by The Stars Group/Amaya), it’s trying to attract casual players rather than focus primarily on professional ones.
The Biggest Yearly Online Poker Tournaments
The most iconic poker tournament series, the World Series of Poker (WSOP), has online qualifiers and virtually every major poker site runs its own branded events.
PokerStars sponsors several online tournament series – The World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) which was established as an online equivalent of the WSOP and takes place in September, the Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP), MicroMillions and Turbo Championship of Online Poker (TCOOP).
WCOOP 2019 with a total prize pool worth $115 million was offering low, medium and high buy-ins for most events, had two Main Events ($55 buy-in with $1.25 million GTD and $5,200 buy-in with $10 million GTD and at least $1 million for the first place) as well as phased events and daily satellites.
SCOOP 2019 which took place in May ran at least one tournament a day with a guaranteed prize pool of $1 million, three PL Omaha Main Events sharing $1.75 million, and special Spin & Go’s with 3 buy-in levels and a chance to win tons of cash as well as Main Event High entries.
MicroMillions took place in November 2019 and included a Phased Event with a buy-in of only $4.40 and a $500,000 guarantee, followed by a massive $1 million GTD Main Event.
Finally, there’s the TCOOP in February with 100+ fast-paced tournaments and two Main Events with $3 million in total guaranteed prize money.
888poker XL Series, originally launched as a yearly event, now takes places 3 times a year so that one can compete in XL Blizzard, XL Eclipse and/or XL Inferno.
XL Blizzard tournaments lead to the $500,000 Main Event and players can qualify via free daily XL Blizzard Qualifiers, buy-in directly or work their way up through satellites starting as low as $0.10. The other two are pretty much the same except for the fact they run at different times of the year.
PartyPoker PowerFest offers $20 million in guaranteed prize money to play for via events split into Low up to Super-High Roller levels. Buy-in starts at $0.55, game variants include NLH and PLO plus there’s a variety of formats including 6-Max, PKO and 6-4 Mix-Max.
Players can also qualify via satellites. Millions Online is another popular tournament series organized by PartyPoker. In 2019, the prize pool ended up bigger than the original $20 million guarantee and the winner took home a massive $2.2 million reward.
Players reluctant to pay thousands of dollars to enter the Main Event could buy their ticker for a much lower prize via satellites.
The Softest Online Poker Sites
You already know that soft poker sites are those frequented by weak players that are much easier to beat than skilled opponents. But how can you tell if a poker room is soft or not?
Well, there are a few fairly dependent indicators of a pond filled with easy prey and one of them is the amount and type of advertising.
If a poker site doesn’t advertise in mass media such as TV or magazines, it’s likely a destination for experienced players that already know what’s available on the online poker scene.
Poker rooms which invest a lot of money into advertising aim to attract people with little or zero online poker experience and the content of their messages will confirm they’re after casual players looking to have fun. Same goes for promotions designed to draw recreational soft players.
Presence of a casino and/or a sportsbook is another tell-tale of a soft poker site.
Its visitors are there to place bets on one or more sporting events or spin reels of slot games but occasionally drift over to the poker section. They usually know next to nothing about the poker strategy and play accordingly.
Last but not least, you can look at the flop percentages providing the site allows visitors to see the metrics. This percentage tends to be significantly higher at soft sites since players pay to see more flops than their hands would warrant.
Poker Training/Coaching Websites
Unless you happen to be an experienced pro who knows everything there is to know about playing poker, you’re likely eager to advance your skills and improve your performance. Fortunately enough, the internet is filled with courses and tools designed to help.
Raise Your Edge employs great coaches and among them one with world class tournament skills. The cashgame course will provide beginners with the fundamentals, teaching them about preflop openraise strategy via different preflop charts as well as betsizing, betting and checking ranges in postflop and showing them when bluffing makes sense and when it doesn’t . The same website offers the Tournament Masterclass and several other interesting courses for players with different skill levels.
PokerNerve is a training site owned by a professional tournament player and it offers The Road to Success MTT Poker Course which can turn a complete newbie into a top-level poker player. The course offers of a series of lessons which start with the basics of MTT play and loads of video content.
Upswing Poker is a Texas Hold’em training site which was also launched by a successful poker player. The course consists of 6 modules among which core and advanced strategies, MTTs and Live Poker. One major benefit is that it provides a hand range viewer telling you which hands to play in any starting situation for both cash games and MTTs.
Advanced Poker Training teaches clients by allowing them to play against AI opponents while receiving real-time advice and feedback. Players can practice on the weakest parts of their game and get weekly tailor-made reports which tell them which areas to focus on.
SplitSuit Poker, run by a renowned couch James Sweeney, teaches you to improve hand reading skills. In addition to The Hand Reading Lab, you’ll find loads of other great content including The One Percent video series which explains the math behind the game and applies to cash games of any limit.
Run It Once is a training site ran by another renowned poker expert, Phil Galfond. The offering consists of nearly 4,000 training videos with more than 1,500 in the essentials package. The content is excellent and so are the instructors though the specific structure of the website makes it a better fit for players with good poker fundamentals than for novices.
PLO Quick Pro focuses on Pot Limit Omaha rather than NLHE. “This is exactly the training a Holdem player needs to transition to Omaha quickly and if you play anything but the 2 or 5nl, this course will pay for itself in no time”, says the team. The website features a large number of free lessons as well as a range of products with a price tag.
Poker Tracking, Calculators and Analysis Software
Taking an online course is not the only way to improve your gameplay. Tracking poker software allows players to gather information about their opponents, calculators help them make right preflop decisions and show exactly how to play in every possible situation, and analysis software enables them to create easy-to-understand session reviews.
With the help of Holdem Manager 3, both casual players and professionals are able to make more informed decisions.
The heads-up display overlays key opponent statistics directly on the table while query tools and built-in reports facilitate post-session analysis.
Simple GTO Trainer can be used for analysing any imaginable situation plus it comes with a range of pre-built training drills. It allows you to repeatedly practice specific skills, provides real-time hand by hand feedback, and creates tables, charts and graphs which will help you analyse your play and identify improvement areas.
PokerSnowie is an AI-based software for NL Hold’em Poker with features designed to accelerate the learning process. While playing against PokerSnowie, you’ll be receiving real-time feedback via Live Advice feature. You can import hands from real money games and let the AI guide you, use the hand ranges advanced features and fix your leaks.
ICIMIZER is a Nash calculator with a wide range of tools designed to optimize your preflop Push/Fold strategy. It can be used to analyse SNG, MTT, Spin & Go, Knockout, and Progressive Knockout tournaments as well as calculate Nash equilibrium ranges.
PioSOLVER is a fast GTO solver for Hold’em which calculates optimal strategies and shows you which hands to bet on or check in every situation. Advanced Poker HUD, NoteCaddy Edge and the PokerStrategy.com Equilab are a few other excellent tools poker fans can use to take their gameplay to the next level.