Natural8 Poker Review
Written by: Mark Patrickson
Anyone who can remember the 2003 poker boom will no doubt be more than a little excited at the prospect of something similar happening again. Well, that time may be not so far away. Maybe not in terms of pure numbers just yet, but if you know where to find games that play like they did 10 years ago, then what’s the difference?
The Asian poker invasion is here, and it looks like it’s here to stay.
Why Is Natural8 Worth a Try?
Natural8 Poker isn’t one of the big hitters out there so far. With the likes of Pokerstars and 888 Poker dominating the market share battle for a long time, what reasons are there to trust your money with an unknown quantity?
Choosing where to play your poker isn’t always a straightforward decision. There are many factors to be considered. Although it has to be said, I imagine that the vast majority of recreational players end up at the same place as their friends, or wherever had the trendiest advertising campaign at th
Anybody thinking that bigger is better when it comes to security of funds should think back to Black Friday when Full Tilt Poker vanished one morning. The latest scandal came only 18 months ago, with the frustrating case of Lock Poker who managed to stay trading for two years after it was obvious they were no longer solvent. What was incredible, was that the internet was teeming with stories that nobody had been able to successfully cash-out for a couple of years, and yet people were still depositing funds.
My point though, is that anybody doing their due diligence will realise in a flash that Natural8 is as safe a place as any other poker platform to keep funds online. Check for yourself; Google is your friend.
Ok so you’re happy that your money is safe, but now you’re concerned about being able to take it off when you like, as well as depositing in an instant. Well, just as with all the major networks you’ve heard of, credit/debit cards, Neteller, and Skrill work just fine. The only issue I can predict at this point, is that maybe you don’t trust your details with a non-major network.
This reminds me of my grandad refusing to have direct debits on his bank account, because he’s convinced that means anybody can come along and start taking money out of your account. It’s 2016, and I know about the dangers of identity fraud, but in cases of using cards and ewallets online, known gambling sites are probably among the safest places to trust your details. These guys are dealing with fraudsters every day when they’re trying to upload with a stolen credit card.
It’s also important to note that many of the leading poker affiliates consider Natural8 a safe investment; they wouldn’t take the risk of knowingly putting their customer’s money at risk ,when reputation is everything in this business.
Of course, being an Asia focussed website, there are many options for China based players to upload as well.
Supporting the World on Their Shoulders
This leads us straight on to Natural8 support. The online poker industry has matured a lot, over close to 20 years of existence. One thing which hasn’t matured and improved along with it is the customer support we have to deal with. The only exception, until now, is Pokerstars.
Pokerstars has fantastically efficient email support, staffed by people knowledgeable in the systems they have in place. Every single other platform I have played on in the last 11 years has provided a completely disinterested service. It’s one extreme to the other. This is what has kept me at Pokerstars for 99% of my volume until last week.
After joining the BankRollBoosters team to make a micro stakes blog detailing my experiences at Natural8, I decided to do a test withdrawal for $200, just to see how efficient the process was, and if there would be any problems. For English speaking customers, the fastest way is to contact support on the Natural8 Facebook page. Here I was amazed with how fast everything was taken care of, by a member of staff who was able to answer any questions I had, quickly and confidently. 48 hours after the conversation the $200 was sat in my Skrill account. Test passed with flying colours.
Is it Rigged?
GGNetwork, which Natural8 is a member of, has taken the unusual step of having their random number generator tested by a compliance company, and has published the results online. You can read for yourself at this link
It is provable by simple statistics that not all RNGs are created equal. We can be sure that an online poker provider who goes to all this trouble for transparency’s sake, has nothing to hide on that score.
Everything discussed so far is a matter of confidence, but deep down we all know that if there’s a risk, then it’s going to be the same no matter which network we choose. I have looked high and low through the internet forums for issues, and found nothing but consistent and fair reports when it comes to Natural8.
At the end of the day, apart from the Ultimate Bet scandal where a ”superuser” could see everybody’s cards, there hasn’t been any credible evidence showing that the site itself is exhibiting shady behaviour.
So, What About the Upside?
Let’s consider all the positives now. Once we are confident about game integrity nothing makes our day better than finding a table full of fish. We can harp on fun, and nice software, but at the end of the day you’re going to feel a whole lot better if you sit down to play against people who don’t have any idea what to do, and go home 10 buy-ins up.
It’s no exaggeration to say the $25NL cash games look to be softer than $2NL games elsewhere. This is a 10-year trip back in time. I’ll save the hardcore salesman act for another time, but if you’re playing poker to make money, what excuse do you have for not trying to play in the softest games available? Assuming of course, that there’s no other problems.
An exercise you can try yourself is to compare what percentage of players see the flop on average, between all the places where you play, or are considering playing there. 65-70% in a 6-Max cash game is a regular occurrence. This is crazy compared to the 17% you might see on 888.
Games run from $10NL up through to $1000NL, with at least one table running at the higher stakes most of the time. PLO is available, it’s just not as busy as the Holdem lobby. The same applies to tournaments; while you will be impressed with how soft the games are, you’re not going to get in a massive amount of volume. But of course, that can change in the future, as the site is growing fast.
The whole ethos of Natural8 is geared around keeping recreational players enjoying their down-time. They don’t want predatory behaviour one little bit. In keeping with this idea, any kind of a HUD is banned, and your account will be closed if you are caught using one. There is a beta version of PokerCraft built into the client, which provides some basic statistical analysis, but it’s no match for Holdem Manager 2 or Poker Tracker 4.
The software client itself is extremely sleek, with a clearly laid out lobby. The tables are customisable with different colour schemes, and the usual tile/cascade option. Four colour deck, auto re-buy, and bet size buttons are all there too. The only complaint I have, after spending so long on Pokerstars, is the absence of hot-keys. This does slow me down, considerably, but I keep trying to remember that Natural8 is a fun orientated site, and my $/hour is no concern of theirs.
Straddling, all-in protection insurance, and run it three times are available on all cash tables. Another quirk which I haven’t seen anywhere else is the option to see what further board cards would have come. If you fold pre-flop and no flop is seen, you have the option to see what cards were coming. If you fold on the flop ending the hand, then what the turn and river would have been can be seen at your request. It sounds like a recipe for frustration tome, but I’m sure that many players would love this.
The site is also fully mobile and tablet friendly, so you can play on the move.
All in all, Natural8 strikes a good balance between attracting new players to the game, and somewhere for experienced players to grind.
As you might expect with a business ethos directed at fun, there are some additions to the platform which are not usually found elsewhere.
Similar in style to the Spin n Go three man tournaments found on Pokerstars, Natural8 have tweaked the format a little.
Three different buy-ins are available: $1, $5, and $15. When all three players have bought in, the wheel spins with the following results possible.
- Fortune Cookie – 50%
- X4 the Buy-in – 42%
- X8 the Buy-in – 8%
If a Fortune Cookie is collected, then no game shall be played. Each cookie contains a card; when all 10 different cards have been collected they are redeemable for x10 the buy-in. Otherwise the three players will battle it out for the single prize in a fast-paced short-stacked format.
All-In or Fold
This is the ultimate gamblers way to play NL or PLO cash games. Each player buys in for only eight big blinds, and only has the choice of all-in or fold
pre-flop. Sounds simple, right?
Armed with a Nash-Equilibrium table or similar you should be able to
beat these games nicely, even before the rakeback is taken into account. As a sweetener, there is also the All-in or Fold Jackpot for added value. Any straight flush for Holdem, or a royal flush for PLO immediately wins a percentage of the current jackpot size.
Looking at how these games are playing right now, it will be a long time before they are anything close to tough to beat. Well worth trying your hand at when you’re not in the mood for deep-stacked play.
- Rake Method: Each player is given a score called the Player Value Index for each game type. Natural8 operate a loser takes all contribution method for rake. This means a player who wins 100% of their pots would have $0 of rake assigned to them and they would get no rakeback.
- Licenses: Natural8 is a fully licensed company based in the Philippines, operating in full compliance with all legal requirements. It is free for players to join and there are no hidden fees.
- Payment options: Neteller, UnionPay, WeChat Pay, China Online Payment, China Local Bank Transfer, Thailand Local Bank Transfer.
Skrill is not listed as an official payment processor, but customers can contact live support on the Natural8 Facebook page – www.facebook.com/natural8dotcom – where different options are possible.
- Tournament poker – NL Holdem & Pot Limit Omaha
- Cash games – NL Holdem & Pot Limit Omaha
- Fortune Spins – NL Holdem
- All-in or Fold – NL Holdem & Pot Limit Omaha