Big poker gets sites get all the glory. They have the most traffic, biggest tournaments and best marketing teams all pushing to keep them at the top of the poker food chain. They often have the most frequent promotions as well because they have so much more money to throw around.
So this begs the question. Why would anyone want to play at a smaller poker site? Small poker sites do have their charm. They may not be as big and impressive, but they do offer some advantages. On this page, I’m going to explain why you might want to try a small poker site and why you might not want to. Once you know the pros and cons, you can make the right choice for you. Let’s begin with a look at a few smaller poker sites.
These sites are all considerably smaller than the PokerStars and Full Tilts of the world. These sites aren’t completely dead, but they’re definitely not top contenders in terms of traffic numbers. The above sites are ranked in order according to each site’s 7-day average of real money ring game players as reported by PokerScout.com. For comparison’s sake, PokerStars has a 7-day average of 19,000 ring game players.
One of my primary objectives in choosing these sites was to strike the right balance between recommending sites that are acceptably small but not sites that are so small that there’s absolutely nothing going on. There has to be at least some minimum level of traffic to keep the games running and make it a worthwhile experience.
Why You Should Play at Small Poker Sites
The smallest poker sites have some pros and cons. We’ll start with the pros and then get into the cons in the next section. It’s important to understand both sides of the coin so you can make sure that a small site is indeed what you want.
The single greatest advantage to playing at small poker sites is the soft competition. Smaller sites are not attractive to grinders and high stakes pros because there isn’t enough traffic to make it worth their time. The pros need huge, high traffic sites that can support them running 8+ tables all day, every day.
Multi-tabling sharks are tough to beat. They may not be insanely talented, but they play a tight game and are generally hard to extra money from. Smaller sites don’t have nearly as many grinders, and that leaves you with a higher percentage of casual opponents.
Second, smaller poker sites have bigger bonuses on average. They don’t have the player numbers and marketing budgets, so they look to other means. Bigger bonuses are relatively inexpensive and have the added advantage of taking longer to clear, which in turn helps keep the tables busy. Bigger poker sites almost always have less impressive bonuses than small poker sites. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but overall the smaller sites tend to have bigger first deposit bonuses and more frequent reload bonuses.
Next, some smaller poker sites work harder for your business than larger sites. If you think about it, you represent a larger percentage of that site’s total player base. A poker site with 30,000 people online at any given time won’t bat an eye if you suddenly stop showing up. A site with a daily average of 400 people needs every single player it can get.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get ultra luxury VIP treatment, but it does mean you’ll get better customer support, faster responses to questions and so on. It’s sort like the difference between shopping at Tesco and going to your neighborhood grocer. Tesco may have everything you could imagine, but the personalized service offered by the small business owner is hard to beat.
The best small poker sites tend to have more tight-knit communities. At a bigger site, you will constantly play against strangers and just be another face in the crowd. Smaller sites have more of an actual community. You can get to know the other players and carry conversations with the people you see night after night. And if you’re the type who likes to take notes and play a psychological game, smaller sites give you an opportunity to really get to know your opponents’ tendencies.
With all that said, I’m not a believer that small poker sites are the best thing since sliced bread. Different types of online poker rooms are better for different types of people. It’s an individual choice. So in the interest of giving you an unbiased view, let’s take a look at some of the downsides to playing at smaller sites.
Just as there are good small poker sites, there are also bad ones. Some sites are small because they don’t provide a positive experience. It could be poor software, terrible customer support, problems processing payments or any of a number of other issues. Always do your research and make sure that any site you’re considering has at least some sort of reputation that you can verify.
To be more specific, the number one disadvantage to small poker sites is the lack of traffic. You’re not going to find nearly as many tables at all levels. If you’re the type of high volume player who needs to have eight tables running at a time, smaller sites are not for you. Only the lowest games have enough traffic to support serious multi-tablers.
High stakes players should likewise avoid small poker sites. In any poker site, the action tends to congregate at the low stakes tables. Large, high-traffic sites have the player base to support bigger games while at smaller poker sites, the high stakes tables are more likely to be ghost towns.
Additionally, you’ll find smaller tournaments at less-popular poker rooms. Those big $1,000,000 guarantees do not take place at sites with low traffic. They take place at sites that can support massive prize pools. Sometimes it’s nice to play in smaller tournaments where you actually have a chance of winning, but the top prizes aren’t as life-changing.