Partypoker Review

Sorry, No US Players

For around 8 years now the growth of online casinos has been phenomenal - a Google search for the phrase "online casinos" returns over 4.2 million results. However, there is now a new kid on the block that is destined to be even bigger than the online casino craze - online poker.

Online poker is becoming ever more popular with gamblers as it combines the opportunity of big winnings with a game that, if played well, can keep players continually in profit - with poker a player's skill level determines his success, as opposed to a lucky run of cards as experienced at online casinos. Plus the game is played against real people instead of the house, so many people see it as a more trusted form of online gambling.

One of the biggest sites offering access to this new poker experience is Party Poker. The site first launched in 2001, and since then the site, in PartyPoker's own words, has "been serving lots of fun and excitement to poker players worldwide". To begin playing poker, players much visit the PartyPoker site and download the 3.2mb client software. This is not a huge file size, and should take no more than 25 minutes even on a slow dial-up connection.

Once downloaded and installed, a player must register an account. After completion, a player is able to log in and visit the cashier to make their first purchase. PartyPoker accepts a variety of funding options, but I found that there seemed to be a minimum $50 purchase amount for all the funding options I tested. This is quite a high minimum compared to most online gambling sites - where $20 is more usual.

However, despite the relatively high $50 minimum, I purchased this amount and was ready to play some poker.

Partypoker offers a variety of poker games, which are presented in the main lobby area in menu form. A player first has to decide on the game they want to play, then chose the rules of the game (e.g. fixed limit, pot limit or no limit), and then finally chooses the betting range of the game.

Being a big fan of Texas Hold'em no limit, I decided to sit at the $25 maximum buy in table. The table I sat at could seat up to 6 people, but there were only 3 others playing. For the first few hands I was forced to sit out - as with poker you have to be 'in position' before initially being dealt in. This is to stop it being unfair for other people at the table.

However, after a couple of hands I was required to put in my big blind bet and was dealt cards. If you don't know how the game works, it is relatively easy to explain - it has been said that the game takes a minute to learn, and a lifetime to master! Basically, every player is dealt two cards known as hole cards. There then follows a round of betting, after which 3 more cards are dealt (the flop). This is followed by another betting round and another card being dealt (the turn). Finally, a further round of betting is followed by a fifth card (the river) being dealt. At this point, a last round of betting takes place - after which all players reveal their hands. The winning player is the one who can make the best hand using 5 of the 7 cards. A player can use all, 1, or none of their hole cards in forming their best hand.

After getting used to the controls of PartyPoker, I really began to enjoy myself. The player can pre-select a playing option before their go (e.g. fold, bet etc.) or can actually wait until it is their go before deciding what to do. Of course, if someone bets in a manner to alter your game play (e.g. you have pre-selected 'check' but the person before you bets), the game de-selects your option and forces you to reconsider. This is a good feature, as you don't want to pre-select 'bet' only to have the person before you raise the bet amount to $50!

The game play itself is very easy to follow. Cards are dealt nice and smooth with subtle sound effects adding to the experience. Occasionally the software does seem too slow, but this is usually because of the huge numbers of people playing at any one time. However, this should not be a major problem, especially if players are using a high-speed connection.

At this point, one major feature of PartyPoker that must be mentioned is the progressive bad beat jackpot. A bad beat is the name given to a hand that is almost certain to win, but that is beaten, usually by a lucky river card. For example, if I were dealt a pair of 8's and two more came on the board, my four-of-a-kind is very likely to win. However, should the winner reveal a pair of 10's matching the two 10's on the board, my hand would be considered a bad beat.

At Partypoker, 50 cents is deducted from every hand to fund this ever-climbing jackpot. This is quite a large amount, but it means that the jackpot grows by around a dollar a second! At the time of playing the bad-beat jackpot stood at just under $70,000. However, I have seen this jackpot reach over $350,000! A percentage of the jackpot is awarded to the hand winner, the bad beat holder and to every other player at the table. So as the phrase says, it can 'pay to play'!

Unfortunately, during my play at PartyPoker I never saw the bad beat jackpot awarded. However, I did do quite nicely through normal game play. At Party Poker I found quite a few people who were bad players - although being dealt an A K is great, if the flop shows two 7's it only needs a player to be holding a further 7 for the AK holder to be well and truly out of the game. However, I saw a number of people betting when they shouldn't.

I also found myself being able to bluff quite nicely (e.g. I pretended to hold an Ace when one is flopped on the board). This meant that I did OK in my first few hands. In fact, I decided to move up to the $50 no limit table!

At this table I again found myself doing OK. However, it is harder to bluff - at this level a bluff can cost a good few $ and if someone really does have a good hand a loss can severely dent the bank roll. At this table, I also discovered the chat feature. This allows you to have real time conversations with the other players at the table. However, it is against rules to talk about cards held or previous hands (of course, congratulating a person's win or hand is fine). Watch out though, people tend to talk in riddles (e.g. NH = nice hand and WTG is way to go!).

After taking my Partypoker bankroll up to around $80, I decided to have a look at some of the other games available. Unfortunately I am no good at the other types of poker (Omaha, Stud etc.) so decided not to sit down at a table. However, it was fascinating just watching some of the players, especially at the high limits where people were happily throwing $100s in to the pot with each hand.

At this stage I decided to have a look at the Partypoker tournaments available. A tournament is bit different to normal 'real play'. Every player puts the same amount in to the pot and donates a little to the house (i.e. when a tournament says $20+2 this means everybody is putting $20 in the pot and giving the house $2). However, every player then is given play chips. The aim is to knock everyone else out. The last few players then split the initial buy-ins.

These Partypoker tournaments can be just a single table of 10 people ,or can be played across 100's of tables with 1000's of players. Of course, the more people play, the more you can win - indeed PartyPoker is home to the annual $1m competition where people can play to win huge cash prizes.

I decided to have a play at a few $30 Partypoker competitions. Unfortunately, I ended up losing all my money by doing this, partly because of bad luck and partly because of bad play. However, the experience was fun, and before I have been lucky enough to win first prize in a $50 + $5 competition (for a win of $250).

Unfortunately, this time I had nothing to cash in, but when I have cashed in previously I have been amazed at the payout speed - NETeller withdrawals have been put back into my account within 3 hours flat. This really is a good aspect of PartyPoker - if you win, you get your money fast.

Finally, I have to comment on support. Unfortunately, this is an aspect of PartyPoker that is not great. While support is offered by telephone, there is only a number for US players. This is disappointing. Similarly, when I did phone this number the person on the other end could not understand my British accent and I had to be passed to another person. Similarly, while I emailed PartyPoker on three occasions, I failed to get a single response. This really is poor, considering the high-standard of the other things PartyPoker offers.

To conclude, Partypoker has much to offer the poker player - a huge number of members means you can always find someone to play against, and at a monetary level you feel comfortable. Similarly, if you want to cash in, payouts will be rapidly processed. It is just a shamethat support is so lacking for an otherwise excellent site.

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Click Pictures to Enlarge

A semi-bluff pays off - A semi-bluff pays off

A lucky win - one more club and I lose

Partypoker review - A lucky win - one more club and I lose

The PartyPoker lobby

The PartyPoker lobby

Tournaments can reward huge prize pots

Online poker Tournaments can reward huge prize pots

High-rolling players in action

High-rolling online poker players in action at Partypoker

The cashier allows web-based deposits and cash-ins

The party poker cashier allows web-based deposits and cash-ins

Partypoker Strong Points:
  • Huge bad beat jackpot
  • Large number of tables
  • Good number of tournaments
  • Fast payouts
  • Small download
Things Partypoker Could Improve:
  • Terrible customer support
  • Minimum deposit and withdrawal is $50

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