Merge Gaming Network
Merge Gaming is a longstanding network, at least in terms of the igaming space. They got their start as Poker.com in 2004, which because a standalone site a few years later when they decided to create the network. Shortly following the launch of the network, they started their flagship site (even to this day) Carbon Poker.
Like many players I’m fond of the software at Merge. Even when PokerStars accepted American players I would still play at Carbon because their software looked and functioned better than Stars did (at that time). The colors were richer and reminded me of a video game. On top of that, they had neat features, side casino games and real money freerolls.
They’ve continued to improve over the last couple of years, adding new skins to the network, as well as casino games and a sports betting section to Carbon. So when you sign up to a Merge Gaming site, you don’t just get a great poker experience, but you get a great all-around casino experience as well.
Below I highlight their software attributes.
All of the sites on the Merge Network have native downloads for both PC and Mac operating systems. Both work the same – download the installer to your computer, double click on it, click run and the software will install to your computer within a few minutes.
Mobile is a miss. The closest the network is to having mobile poker is Carbon Poker. They came out with their beta in the beginning of 2013, and just released their real money beta to select members of 2+2 in August 2013. I predict seeing a release within the next 6-9 months.
In the meantime, you can play casino games or bet on sports from your mobile device. Carbon Poker is all set there. Other sites will be hit or miss.
Available Games & Stakes at Merge Gaming
My favorite thing about the Merge Network is their huge selection of games. Most US facing sites stick to holdem, omaha and maybe 7-card stud. They don’t have enough traffic to justify having tables for other games.
Merge carries those games, and then some. In addition to Holdem, Omaha and stud, you can also play razz and a variety of draw and mixed games. Stakes for these games start at .02/.04 and peak at 20/40 for cash, and are as high as $215-$530 for SNGs and MTTs. Variations for tournaments include 4 and 6-max, turbo, hyper turbo, deep stacks, knockouts, double or nothings, guarantees, live package qualifiers and more. You’ll find everything under one roof.
That said, the biggest challenge here is the lack of traffic. Not to the site overall – Merge is one of the leading networksin that category. But even before Black Friday they struggled to funnel players to the lesser popular games. They still do today. However, if you want to play draw, razz or mixed poker, this is the US network to do it on.
Compared to other networks Merge has far and away the most games. The stakes and variations are similar though. One thing that stands out about their guarantees is that some sites, like Carbon Poker, guarantee big numbers every month ($10 million). I can’t think of another network or skin in the US that can make the same claim.
Other than poker the Merge Network is known for their side games. You can play video poker, blackjack and Caribbean stud. Of course, that’s less of a big deal now that many sites on the network offer sports betting and casino games too. So the icing on those cakes would be the jackpots you could win while playing them, something the network is known for.
Lobby and Table Software Features
From an aesthetic and usability point of view, Merge Gaming is sleek, beautiful and great for all players – US or international.
Starting with the lobby – the filter is incredibly useful. The setup is similar to Iginition Poker in that you’ll start from the left-hand side and choose the type of game (cash or tournament) you want to play. Moving to the right you’ll choose the poker game, stakes, limit and variation. Then those games will be shown below. For cash game players there is a detailed filter that lets you narrow down your choices based on the average pot size, number of players to the flop, hands per hour and more. Although hidden, there is a quick seat feature too.
From the lobby you can also track ‘friends’ or, in my case, track the fish. This is noteworthy if anything because of sites like Bovada and Lock Poker going out of their way to segregate or protect their recreational players. Carbon Poker is grinder-friendly like that.
And depending on where you play (I prefer Carbon), you’ll also have access to the casino and sports betting section from the poker lobby. You can also track sports lines from the bottom (of the lobby).
Now the games are where you’ll see the software shine. The default graphics look good, but you have hundreds – possibly thousands – of combinations. Some sophisticated, others cartoony looking. All look better than what you’ll find on the Chico Network. Anyway, you’ll be able to choose different backgrounds, table rails, felt and card backs.
The standard options are available too. Things like stacking, tiling and cascading your tables, 4-color decks, automatic topping off of stacks, sounds off/on, etc. There are handy buttons for betting too, in various fractions like 1/3, 1/2 or 3/4 the pot or multipliers like 2x, 3x, 4x, etc.
What’s not so standard are the features exclusive to Merge. This includes things like rabbit hunting, showing one card (to your opponent when you fold) and the option to run the hand twice in a heads up, all in situation. There are animated emoticons too, that you can use to taunt your opponents.
Last – Carbon Poker allows and is compatible with programs like Holdem Manager and Poker Tracker. Grinders have a place to play.
What I Like
There are several things I like. But what I like most is how clean, good looking and simple the software is. There is a good balance between looks and functionality.
That’s closely followed by having tons of options for what games to play, even if the traffic is scarce to those sections at times. But not just to the poker games, but to the casino and sportsbetting games as well.
What I Don’t Like
The only thing that stands out to me is the lack of a poker app. However, it sounds like Carbon Poker is well on their way in delivering that.
All in all – the Merge Network is possibly the greatest network for US players. A mobile app would solidify that position