With the days of US e-wallets numbered Poker Host offers one of the more comprehensive and successful cashiers in the market, which is surprising given the modest size of the poker room. Most US players will want to turn to a major credit or debit card, which, fortunately, is accepted at a very strong rate. Despite its lack of brand recognition this is actually one of the more-experienced outfits left in the market with many years of successful processing experience. The minimum deposit is very low at $20 for credit cards and no fees are added.
Deposit backups for players unable to use a credit card include both major cash transfer services, physically mailing in a cashier’s check, and bank wire. Poker Host makes the cash transfer process as seamless as possible, guiding players through an online system that accepts credit cards. Cash transfer services should never be declined by your credit card’s issuing bank. Physical cash transfer kiosks are also located in just about every square mile of the US.
Visiting your bank to print a cashier’s check or initiate a bank wire may be more time-consuming but also highly dependable as last resorts. Poker Host is also excellent about refunding any fees involved with sending cash transfers, wires, or using a courier to send in a cashier’s check.
Loyal Poker Host players must feel a bit like nomads. The poker room has had to change networks seemingly every year since its inception in order to continue to accept US players. It is certainly a positive that the site makes such an effort to cater to the US market but it can be frustrating for players just getting used to the current skin. Fortunately, Poker Host has seemed to improve with each move.
Poker Host has now settled on the Merge network, which is seeming to attract a new skin every month after several quiet years. The biggest positive of being on a growing network is the increasing number of tables at every limit and the busier guaranteed tournament schedule. During peak hours there are active no-limit tables up to about the $5/10 level that, perhaps best of all, features some of the loosest competition remaining for US poker rooms.
Their new interface, software, and backend deserves improved scores over both the old SBG Global network and the more recent Microgaming client. Of course, one of the biggest draws for this site is that they’re still accepting US players. Overall, they do have a good number of unique promotions, including a large first-time deposit bonus and a Leader Board with payouts for top finishers in the Bounty tournaments. While it isn’t my choice for the top site on the network, Poker Host is still a quality long-tenured poker room with strong overall ratings across the board.
Bonus (200% up to $5,000) and Promotions: 4/5
One of the biggest selling points that Poker Host has had over competing skins on their various networks is the bonus size. New depositors receive a 200% bonus, which is valid up to a massive $5,000. The bonus is worked off by earning Loyalty Points, which are given out for each dollar of rake at the table. As it takes 100 points to earn $1 of bonus money most middle-stakes and above players can earn about $1-2 of bonus per hour per table. While that isn’t an exceptional rate the enormous $2,000 bonus cap makes up for it for larger players. Poker Host releases the bonus after every 10% of the total bonus amount has been worked off.
The other main promotions come in the form of the Loyalty Store and freerolls. The Loyalty Store works very similarly to other player rewards programs and allows you to trade in Loyalty Points, which are earned as you clear your bonus, for electronics or poker media. Poker Host also offers our new players a private $200 freeroll entry as well as a few $50 crapshoots throughout the week. They also offer an interesting “sponsorship” program that awards bonus money for live tournament players who cash in any event while wearing their logo. Finally, there is an extra 100% bonus for casino games and a 100x big blind bonus for hitting a Royal Flush.
One of the main draws of the Merge network and Poker Host is the collection of loose players that populate the tables. This network is one of the only US poker rooms that still features a flop percentage of more than 40% at every table. This indicates a loose-passive playing style, meaning that you’ll often run into several calling stations at each table with the occasional maniac tossing in all his chips preflop with a mediocre hand.
To maximize this style of play, I would recommend to play a straightforward strategy of betting for value and raising your premium hands strongly. Most players here seem to put little thought into the possible strength of your hand so I recommend that players simply try to bet out strongly with top-tier hands. As many of the players have a tendency to either make weak calls or blindly raise you, there is little use in slowplaying your monster hands or trying to trap with big pocket pairs.
As Poker Host features a large majority of the cockiest US players, you should find plenty of gamblers willing to over-commit to pots. My personal experience has shown that these players are much more likely to become attached to mediocre hands and bluff accordingly. Overall, I feel that these are weak players that can be extremely profitable with the proper strategy.
The Poker Host tournament traffic has really improved from the barren events that used to plague this smaller network. I like the value in the Sunday biggie, which currently has a $50,000 guarantee. While that is on the lower end of what is available at the largest rooms the buy-in is new-player friendly at $100. If you’re looking to play in one of the big Sunday tourneys but don’t have enough of a bankroll to invest several hundred dollars this is a good event to look into.
Other than the big weekly event, there are a fair number of guaranteed tournaments with buy-ins of $20 or less throughout the week. Highlights include the daily $1,250 guarantee for $5.50 and a daily $3,000 guarantee for $11 with rebuys. The largest daily event is a $3,750 guarantee for $60 with rebuys. Sit and Gos have low wait-times up to the $10 level with one of the most popular variations is the interesting Double-Up. This structure awards half the table prizes of twice the buy-in.
The software, which is just a slight variation of the Merge master package, Poker Host has one of the most unique and efficient packages online, in my opinion. While the overhead view and table graphics are extremely familiar there are numerous small unique touches that make the entire experience feel fresh. Some of these additions include stars, ribbons, and trophies next to a player’s name to denote experience or tournament wins, a Deal it Twice option, rabbit-hunting, animated smilies, and average winning percentages displayed for all-in situations. I’m surprised that larger poker rooms haven’t emulated some of these great little quirks.
Other positives include a quick game speed at 80+ hands per hour for standard tables and a spotlight system that makes it easy to tell who the action is on. The lobby is also organized well with subsections for different limits and pot statistics on each table. There is also now a filter to easily view only the type of games that you wish to. I also especially like the hand history system, which is laid out in an easy-to-see graphical form.
US Payouts: 4/5
Poker Host largely operates under the US online poker radar and runs an impressively efficient cashier for both deposits and withdrawals. While there aren’t a multitude of options available the 2 that are offered (paper check and cash transfer) arrive fairly quickly without excessive hassle. The minimum for both methods is $100 with most check withdrawals being sent via courier. This helps to trim snail mail delays and allows for potential tracking if necessary. This site offers both major cash transfer services with a modest fee for picking up funds as cash at a retail location.
Customer Service: 4.5/5
Even on their old network, I’ve always been impressed by the support at Poker Host. In fact, I’ve never needed to e-mail them because of the live chat option. You can speak with a manager that can handle most issues from the home page. Usually, I’ve waited less than 5 minutes to connect to a live person. They also publish their phone number, which I respect.
Overall, you should be able to find several no-limit shorthanded cash games up to the middle stakes with a couple of 9-handed tables mixed in at each level. As this is becoming one of the larger US-supported networks comprised of many poker rooms you benefit from the established player traffic that each new skin brinds. With many larger sites closing to US players, sites like Poker Host have benefited from even more players migrating to the network. Tournament traffic is slightly below average with most events attracting about 80-100 players.
Trusted network. I have played on the Merge network from its inception and have appreciated the support, quick cashouts, and unique software.
High level of fish. You should experience plenty of action here even at the higher limits.
Large maximum bonus. If you play larger games, the maximum bonus of $5,000 is significantly higher than most other rooms.
Game Selection: Hold’em, Omaha, Stud, Draw
Limits: Limit: 2c/4c up to $50/100 No-Limit: 2c/4c up to $50/100
Deposit Methods: NETeller (non-US), Moneybookers (non-US), cash transfer, major credit cards, wire transfers, and cashier’s checks.
Minimum Deposit: $20
Tips: As I have mentioned throughout this review, the players here are extremely sub-par overall. While that may help to built large pots and loose action, many players become frustrated by wild tables when their premium hands get cracked. There is nothing that I can say that will realistically take away the pain of getting your Aces cracked for a big pot, but I can try to give you some simple tips to avoid the situation in the future.
When you run into a bad beat, take a look at your actions in the hand rather than shrugging it off to bad luck. Did you bet/raise enough before and on the flop? These players like to see a cheap flop with trash cards so forget about disguising your hand preflop. Raise and reraise whenever you get the chance. Also, no one is forcing you to call down the fish who sucked out on the flop. If your Aces or Kings don’t improve and you’re facing a re-raise and third player going all-in beyond the flop, you should become comfortable with mucking your hand without much hesitation.