Toughtest Poker Sites

Find out which poker sites have the most competitive games

There's a classic poker saying that goes something along the lines of: "If you can't tell who the sucker is at the table, it's you."  The same could be said about an online poker room as a whole - if you're playing at a room that's much tougher than average, you could be bleeding money despite being a relatively solid and experienced player.  While online poker players don't always think about it, the fact is that simply moving from a tougher room to an easier room effectively makes you a much better poker player - without any other action required on your point.

Let's talk a bit more about toughness with regards to online poker rooms.  What makes a site tough?  What sites are the toughest for particular games?  We'll answer those questions and a good bit more in the course of this page.

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Lists the Toughest Online Poker Sites
Rank Poker Room USA Mac/Linux Description Bonus Visit Site
1 BetOnline Accepts USA Players
  • Receive a 25% Bonus on All Deposits
  • Over $150K in Guaranteed Tournaments
25% INSTANT BONUS

What Makes an Online Poker Site Tough?

It seems like a question with a simple enough answer - too many good players and not enough bad ones.  The reality, however, is that the answer is a bit more complicated.  While we can't cover every single thing that could potentially cause a room to be tougher than average, we can highlight a few key considerations:

Toughness is Highly Relative to the Player - People talk about game toughness as if it were an absolute sort of thing, but it's actually quite relative.  Tough games are always going to be tough relative to your individual strengths and weakness; for example, games that would be very tough for a loose player might be easy for a tight player.   Other games that might reward a patient player could easily tilt someone who craves constant action.  

The Most Difficult Poker Site is a Constantly Shifting Target - Rooms don't tend to stay too tough for too long.  At some point, rooms get to a level where the games are so tough for the average player that the player base shrinks dramatically - or someone develops a good counter-strategy for whatever play style has made the room so tough in the first place.  Don't fall into the trap of thinking of one room as forever tough and another as inherently easy - these are not fixed characteristics, but dynamic ones that are always evolving.

It's Not Just the Opponents That Make a Site Tough - When you pull back your view a bit, you realize that lots of things besides your opponents can make a game tough.  If you have trouble depositing enough at a site to play the stakes you prefer, that can make games at that site tougher for you.  If the software is always crashing and making you frustrated, that can effectively make the games tougher, and so on.  Consider your overall environment when you're evaluating whether or not the games at a particular online poker room are tough - not just your opponents.

Toughest Site For High Stakes Poker Games

As indicated above, it's difficult to proclaim one room as inherently tougher than another due to how quickly games at a given site can change.  With that said, the general consensus of the poker community and media seems to be that PokerStars is home to the toughest high stakes online poker games. 

Part of the problem is that Stars hosts the most high stakes games, resulting in a stronger group of regular players than one might find at a room where the action was more sporadic.  Part of it might be that PokerStars offers only poker - no casino games or sports betting - making it a bit tougher for a random player with gobs of cash to wander into the games.  Whatever the full explanation might be, those looking for easy money at high stakes poker games online might do well to keep looking when they get to PokerStars.

Hardest Poker Site for Mid and Low Stakes Games

There are a number of rooms that could compete for this title, but a survey of online poker communities suggests that, in the current environment, Party Poker has the stiffest competition at low stakes and mid stakes games.  There is a dedicated core of regulars that populate many of these games, leaving little room for weak players (and making quick work of what weak players do find a seat).  None of this to say that the games at Party can't be beaten, or that they're always be the toughest games online for these stakes, but in the status quo players could probably find better game selection for low-to-mid stakes at other rooms.

Toughest Site Among US Online Poker Rooms

As often is the case for these rankings, the title is a close contest between Carbon Poker and Lock Poker.  Both draw from a similar player pool, but we believe that Lock is home (by a slight margin) to tougher games on average than Carbon Poker.  The logic: Lock offers a higher rakeback rate than Carbon, which appears to attract a slightly tougher player on average, and Lock has simply been more present in the poker media (although not the mainstream media) over the last few months, resulting in a traffic spike that one can only surmise consists largely of players with more experience and skills than average.

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