If you’re deciding whether to join a mining pool or not, it can be helpful to think of it like a lottery syndicate – the pros and cons are exactly the same. Going solo means you won’t have to share the reward, but your odds of getting a reward are significantly decreased. Although a pool has a much larger chance of solving a block and winning the reward, that reward will be split between all the pool members.
In bitcoin’s case, the current difficulty level is so high that it’s practically impossible for soloists to make a profit mining. Unless, of course, you happen to have a garage full of ASICs sitting in Arctic conditions. If you’re a beginner, joining a mining pool is a great way to reap a small reward over a short period of time. Indeed, pools are a way to encourage small-scale miners to stay involved.
What to mine?
Of course, bitcoin is not the only currency out there – we sort out a lists of mining pools for your chosen cryptocurrency in 2014 under SHA-256 algorithm :-
Bitcoin(BTC), amkoin(AMK), arkhash(ARK), AsicCoin(ASC), battlecoin(BCX), ben(BEN), Betacoin(BET), bonuscoin(BNS), bitpeso(BTP), coin2(C2), cryptoeagle(CREA), continuumcoin(CTM), dem(DEM), devcoin(DVC), ferengicoin(FER), FireFlyCoin(FFC), freicoin(FRC), fastcoinsha(FSS), hongkongcoin(HKC), IXCoin(IXC), cryptoloot(LOOT), mazacoin(MZC), Namecoin(NMC), orobit(ORO), OpenSourceCoin(OSC), pmc(PMC), PPCoin(PPC), ptcoin(PT), pwnycoin(PWNY), scotcoin(SCOT), shacoinnew(SHA), speedcoin(SPC), STLcoin(STL), takicoin(TAK), teacoin(TEA), Tekcoin(TEK), Tigercoin(TGC), terracoin(TRC), unbreakablecoin(UNB), Unobtanium(UNO), version(V), wearesatoshi(WAS), Joulecoin(XJO), creds(XXC), Zetacoin(ZET), zimstake(ZS)
When deciding which mining pool to join, you need to weigh up how each pool shares out its payments and what fees (if any) it deducts.
There are many schemes by which pools can divide payments. Most of which concentrate of the amount of ‘shares’ which a miner has submitted to the pool as ‘proof of work’.
The most basic version of dividing payments this way is the ‘pay per share’ (PPS) model. Variations on this puts limits on the rate paid per share; for example, equalised shared maximum pay per share (ESMPPS), or shared maximum pay per share (SMPPS). Pools may or may not prioritise payments for how recently miners have submitted shares: for example, recent shared maximum pay per share (RSMPPS).
Here is the list of popular Mining Pools for your information :-
Reward types & explanation:
- CPPSRB – Capped Pay Per Share with Recent Backpay. 
- DGM – Double Geometric Method. A hybrid between PPLNS and Geometric reward types that enables to operator to absorb some of the variance risk. Operator receives portion of payout on short rounds and returns it on longer rounds to normalize payments. 
- ESMPPS – Equalized Shared Maximum Pay Per Share. Like SMPPS, but equalizes payments fairly among all those who are owed. 
- POT – Pay On Target. A high variance PPS variant that pays on the difficulty of work returned to pool rather than the difficulty of work served by pool 
- PPLNS – Pay Per Last N Shares. Similar to proportional, but instead of looking at the number of shares in the round, instead looks at the last N shares, regardless of round boundaries.
- PPLNSG – Pay Per Last N Groups (or shifts). Similar to PPLNS, but shares are grouped into “shifts” which are paid as a whole.
- PPS – Pay Per Share. Each submitted share is worth certain amount of BC. Since finding a block requires <current difficulty> shares on average, a PPS method with 0% fee would be 25 BTC divided by <current difficulty>. It is risky for pool operators, hence the fee is highest.
- Prop. – Proportional. When block is found, the reward is distributed among all workers proportionally to how much shares each of them has found.
- RSMPPS – Recent Shared Maximum Pay Per Share. Like SMPPS, but system aims to prioritize the most recent miners first. 
- Score – Score based system: a proportional reward, but weighed by time submitted. Each submitted share is worth more in the function of time t since start of current round. For each share score is updated by: score += exp(t/C). This makes later shares worth much more than earlier shares, thus the miner’s score quickly diminishes when they stop mining on the pool. Rewards are calculated proportionally to scores (and not to shares). (at slush’s pool C=300 seconds, and every hour scores are normalized)
- SMPPS – Shared Maximum Pay Per Share. Like Pay Per Share, but never pays more than the pool earns. 
|Name||Location||TH/s||Merged Mining||Reward Type||Transaction fees||PPS Fee||Other Fee||GWK||STM||GBT||Launched||Variance||Forum||Website|
|50BTC||Germany/USA/Russia||No||PPS or PPLNS||kept by pool||6%||1.5%||Yes||Yes||2011-11-11||User||link||link|
|ABCPool.co||USA||No||PPS||kept by pool||5%||Yes||No||No||2011-08-02||Diff 1||link||link|
|alvarez.sfek.kz||Kazakhstan||0.06||No||PPLNS||kept by pool||0%||Yes||2012-04-19||Diff 1||link||link|
|BitClockers||USA/Europe||NMC||PPS||kept by pool||8%||Yes||2011-05-27||Diff 1||link||link|
|BitcoinMining.Co||USA||No||kept by pool||kept by pool||2%||Yes||2013-08-13||Diff 1||link||link|
|BitcoinPool.com||USA||No||Prop.||kept by pool||0%||Yes||2011-03-08||Diff 1||link||link|
|Slush’s pool (mining.bitcoin.cz)||France||677||No||Score||shared||2%||Yes||2010-11-27||User||link||link|
|Blisterpool||USA/Europe||0.4||Devcoin + bonus||PPLNS||shared||2%||Yes||Yes||Yes||2014-02-01||User/Dynamic||link||link|
|BTC Oxygen||Europe||No||PPS||kept by pool||2%||Yes||Yes||2012-11-01||Diff 1||link||link|
|BTCMine||USA||0.1||No||Score||kept by pool||0%||Yes||2011-03-11||Diff 1||link||link|
|BTCDig||USA||7||No||DGM||kept by pool||0%||Yes||2013-07-04||User/Dynamic 20SPM||link||link|
|BTCmow||Europe||No||PPLNS||kept by pool||2.5%||Yes||2013-05-31||Diff 1||link||link|
|btcmp.com||Germany||1.4||No||PPS||kept by pool||4%||Yes||2011-06-28||Diff 1||link|
|BTCWarp||USA||No||Score||kept by pool||0%||Yes||2011-07-29||Diff 1||link||link|
|Coin Miners||USA||No||PPLNS||kept by pool||0%||Yes||2014-02-27||Diff 1||link||link|
|CoinLab Protected Pool||USA||No||PPS||kept by pool||2-5%||Yes||2012-08-09||Diff 1||link|
|Coinotron||Poland||No||DGM||kept by pool||0%||Yes||2011-07-06||Diff 1||link||link|
|DeepBit||Germany||0.1||No||PPS/Prop.||kept by pool||10%||3%||Yes||2011-02-26||Diff 1||link||link|
|Eclipse Mining Consortium||USA/Europe/Australia/Asia||246||No||DGM/PPS||kept by pool||5%||0%||Yes||Yes||Yes||2011-06-14||User/Dynamic||link||link|
|Eligius||USA||4000||NMC105% PPS||CPPSRB||shared||0%||Yes||Yes||Yes||2011-04-27||Dynamic: 32 shares/m||link||link|
|Give Me COINS||USA, Europe||25||NMC||PPLNS||shared||0%||No||Yes||Yes||2013-08-12||Dynamic||link||link|
|MaxBTC||USA||NMC||DGM||kept by pool||0%||Yes||2012-03-15||Diff 1||link||link|
|Merge Mining Pool||USA||50||NMC, IXC,Devcoin||DGM||shared||1.5%||No||Yes||No||2012-01-08||User||link||link|
|Multipool||USA, Europe||40||NMC, IXC,Devcoin||Prop.||shared||0%||Yes||Yes||No||2012-03-15||User||link||link|
|Ozcoin||USA/Europe/Australia||4||No||DGM/PoT||shared on DGM||1%/2%||No||Yes||No||2011-06-07||User/Dynamic||link||link|
|PolishPool||Poland/USA/China||5||NMC IXC DEV||PPLNS/PPS||shared||0%||0%||Yes||Yes||Yes||2013-07-07||User/Dynamic||link||link|
|Triplemining||Europe||7.5||No||PPLNS||kept by pool||0%||Yes||Yes||Yes||2011-06-28||Diff 1 for getwork/GBT, dynamic for stratum||link||link|
Shares are a tricky concept to grasp. Keep two things in mind: firstly, mining is a process of solving cryptographic puzzles; secondly, mining has a difficulty level. When a miner ‘solves a block’ there is a corresponding difficulty level for the solution. Think of it as a measure of quality. If the difficulty rating of the miner’s solution is above the difficulty level of the entire currency, it is added to that currency’s block chain and coins are rewarded.
Additionally, a mining pool sets a difficulty level between 1 and the currency’s difficulty. If a miner returns a block which scores a difficulty level between the pool’s difficulty level and the currency’s difficulty level, the block is recorded as a ‘share’. There is no use whatsoever for these share blocks, but they are recorded as proof of work to show that miners are trying to solve blocks. They also indicate how much processing power they are contributing to the pool – the better the hardware, the more shares are generated.
The other factor to consider is how much the pool will deduct from your mining payments. Typical values range from 1% to 10%. However, some pools do not deduct anything.
Starting to mine with a pool
Having decided which currency to mine and which pool you’ll work for, it’s time to get started. You need to create an account on the pool’s website, which is just like signing up for any other web service. Once you have an account, you’ll need to create a ‘worker’. You can create multiple workers for each piece of mining hardware you’ll use. The default settings on most pools are for workers to be assigned a number as their name, and ‘x’ as their password, but you can change these to whatever you like.