You only have to enter a couple of related poker words into Google to find a whole plethora of poker sites, with over 250 or so, offering various promotions, products and marketing strategies to tempt you into joining their games and becoming part of their poker community.

But if you are just about to set out, new to the game of online poker, what will you look for when you shop around for one of the many poker product sites available?

Well, of course the first thing you are attracted to is the label or brand name offering the product. Just like you may shop at your local store for common household goods, you may employ the same methods when shopping for an online gaming product, like poker. The brand name is what identifies the product. You may have seen the brand name being advertised somewhere, so if you are familiar with it, you are more likely to trust it.

Some of the more popular brand names like William Hill and Ladbrooks are familiar to us primarily for sports betting. But with sites like these now having a casino and poker gaming channel, they are beginning to establish themselves as trustworthy players in the online gaming world. With big sites like Party Poker and 888 also throwing a lot of money behind marketing campaigns and tournaments, it is easy to see how fast they have established themselves as forerunners in online casino and poker.

But just as we all like to purchase the more popular brand names, it is those great bargains that we like to shop around for. Spotting a great offer and walking away with a great product at a lower price fills us all with delight. And so just by digging a little deeper into Google or Yahoo, you will be able to find more variety of poker products, with more bonus offers and various tournaments available.

Shopping for online poker will begin just like normal, with a spot of window shopping. Enter a few words such as poker games, poker online or UK poker into Google and boom… lots of “shops” and products to choose from. However, just browsing a few pages deeper than the usual 2, 3 or 4, will result in far more sites than the usual big brand names. Sites like VIP Poker Club and Virgin Poker are also becoming more household names and beginning to establish themselves as places to play in a safe and secure environment. You may see sites like these popping up amongst results as they become ever more popular.

Once you have opened up a poker site to take a further look into the product, you are first attracted to the graphic/colour scheme and layout of the site. If these are not simple to understand, or pleasing to the eye (just like the labels on a product in the store), you are likely to be turned away. But don’t stop there. Why not try the product out before you buy it? Sites like VIP Poker offer an interactive poker school and also allow you to preview games before you start playing. This is a good way to search for a product and test it out.

One good way to shop is by going to a chain store. There you will find many brands under one roof. From the more popular established brands to newly available brands and niche products. Just like shopping at a chain store for electrical goods, you can shop at an online poker network for a variety of poker brands. Sites like IPNPoker provide a multitude of brands to suit your taste and needs. Whether you want to feel like a VIP club member or want to be part of a more fun-based brand, there is always a site and tournament available to suite your taste and level of play.

Playing as part of a network has its benefits over the single site products such as Party Poker or 888. While the numbers of players online are likely to be similar, the range of player (and language of player) is likely to be broader and more varied, and with a network, there will always be a tournament available for beginners and professionals alike. No more waiting around for a tournament to begin (“like waiting in queues to pay for your chosen product”).

St Minver, who operate the IPN Poker network, said its networks are now hosting 30,000 cash players a day, with up to 7,500 concurrent players on its sites at peak times. This is likely to be fuelled by the introduction of a number of high-profile household brands and launches into Sweden, Spain and Russia.

The International Poker Network site shows revenue growth of 20% in 2006. The number of poker players on IPNPoker increased by 27% in 2006. This shows that playing as part of a network is proving ever popular. Being able to meet players of different languages from all over Europe, test the product out before your buy and shop around for the great bargains all under one roof is a good reason to become part of an online poker network.

By Morgan Collins
Written by Morgan Collins for the IPN Poker Network. Operate by St Minver Ltd. This article may be reproduced in full with author’s name and links retained.