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What is Online Poker?
Online poker is simply the traditional card game of poker played over the Internet. There are a variety of different online poker sites that all offer different variations of poker with a wide range of games and stakes available (including completely free games!).
Online Poker vs. Live Poker?
The rules of poker are identical whether you’re playing a live poker game in person or against a random person on the internet. There are some key differences, however.
Online poker generally tends to be faster, comes with less risk (you can play for smaller amounts) and more accessible (you can find a game anytime, anywhere you are in the world).
On the downside, you’ll usually be playing against strangers and won’t be able to look anyone in the face. It takes a little getting used to but there are still many ways to figure out if someone is bluffing.
A Brief History of Online Poker
For years poker existed primarily in the back of smoky bars or casinos but that all changed in the early 2000s when the internet and an accountant from Tennessee elevated poker to primetime.
Prior to 2000 most poker played on the internet was done in chat rooms and, understandably, was just recreational.
That changed when technology advanced and secure online poker sites launched that was able to safely hold players’ cash and let them wager against others.
People started taking online poker sites more seriously in 2003 when an amateur poker player named Chris Moneymaker qualified for the World Series of Poker Main Event through a $40 tournament online.
Moneymaker ended up taking down $2.5 million for winning the tournament and single-handedly revolutionized the game.
It wasn’t long before poker was being showcased on ESPN and hundreds of thousands of players flocked to play online poker.
Why is Online Poker So Popular?
Online poker is popular for many of the same reasons that people love to live poker. It’s a fun, easy-to-play, intellectual game that can be thrilling. The game rewards actual skill unlike slots or the lottery.
It’s also something you can do at any time, for as long as you like, for any stakes you’d like from the comfort of your own home.
Is it Possible to Win Real Money?
Absolutely. Winning real money playing poker is one of the main reasons people are attracted to the game no matter how small the stakes!
2. Getting Started with Online Poker
What You Need to Play Online Poker
The requirements for online poker are very minimal and there’s a good chance you can play on the same device you’re using to browse this website.
Online poker isn’t particularly taxing on computer systems and if you have a laptop or desktop that was built in the early 2000s or later you should have more than enough processing power.
These days there are even apps for smartphones and tablets so you can play on the go. That includes iPhones and iPads in most regions.
How Much Money Do I Need?
Not very much. You can actually start by playing free play-money games on a number of sites. After you’ve had your fun with that most people deposit in the range of $50-$200 and that’s generally enough to keep them going for a very long time.
The key is playing games that don’t exhaust your online account in one go. For instance, if you have $50 online then you should probably stick to $1 tournaments until you accumulate a few more bucks.
It’s also possible to play as low as $.01/$.02 when it comes to cash games, which makes $50 a massive bankroll where it would be very hard to go broke. There are plenty of ways to save your online poker bankroll.
How to Play Online Poker
The first step is downloading online poker software, which is quite small and shouldn’t take very long to download on even the most archaic Internet connections.
Once the installer package has been downloaded just double click it to install the software.
At this point, you’ll have to create a user account (on some sites it’s done before you download the software).
You must be at least 18 years old or the minimum legal age in your jurisdiction, whichever is higher. There will be age checks so don’t expect to get in if you are under age.
Depositing money on an online poker site usually requires a credit card or some sort of prepaid card but there are some exceptions. Most sites accept major credit companies such as Visa or MasterCard.
You should also be aware that some online poker sites are only licensed for certain jurisdictions so you may be unable to play on them.
What Types of Poker Games Can I Play?
There are numerous poker games but every version has some element of betting, bluffing and hand values.
The most popular poker game is Texas No-Limit Hold’em, which Doyle Brunson once called “The Cadillac of Poker.”
In No-Limit Hold’em you are only given two cards and you try to combine them with five community cards to make the best possible hand.
Hold’em is simple to learn but very difficult to master making it a great intro to the world of poker.
Online Poker Tournaments
In tournament poker, you pay your buy-in and get a stack of chips. The moment you have no more chips you are out of the tournament while the eventual winner is the player who collects all the chips.
Tournaments are wildly popular thanks to tours like the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour.
Online poker tournaments are the cheapest way to potentially win a big prize. There are several $10 buy-in online tournaments that have awarded over $200,000 for the first place.
It’s easy to find big online tournaments over the weekend that bring more players than even the biggest live tournaments thanks to the online site’s ability to host thousands of players with no physical space needed.
The famous PokerStars Sunday Million runs every week and offers a $1 million prize pool for a buy-in of just $215.
Sit & Go
Sit & Gos are basically just smaller tournaments, sometimes only one table or less, that startup as soon as enough players are seated at the table(s). Sit & Gos start all the time on online poker sites thanks to the massive volume of players. Sit & Gos take much less time than massive multi-table tournaments but the rewards are also smaller. Once you start playing Sit & Goes make sure you check out our Sit & Go Essentials series for some great strategy tips.
Cash games, or ring games as they are sometimes called, are an even older form of poker where you play with chips that have real value. Once you have your chips you can cash out at any time, meaning you can play for 10 minutes or 10 hours. Many poker players enjoy the flexibility of cash games compared to tournaments where you are generally locked in for a decent amount of time.
3. Finding the Best Online Poker Sites
Which Poker Site is Right for You?
Online poker is hardly a monopoly and there are plenty of poker sites to play on.
What’s the best one?
Well, that depends on a lot of factors. The biggest sites tend to have the most players and have the most games running.
On the other hand, some of the smaller sites have worse players and more aggressive sign-up bonus (more on that below).
Some poker sites also offer more variants of poker (such as PLO, Seven-Card Stud, Five-Card Stud, Lowball) while others are limited to Hold’em.
Decide what you want in a poker site and just go for it. Sites like PokerListings list all the various features of each poker site in comprehensive reviews.