While there are many games that you can play at an online casino without a doubt the most famous and popular of them all is poker. With millions of poker enthusiasts playing the game all over the world, it is only going from strength to strength online as new players join the game every day.
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Online poker is now the preferred way to play as poker players can now access sites from anywhere that has an internet connection, which opens the door to players who don’t have the opportunity to play at land-based casinos.
Online poker can be played at all different levels from the hobby player who is looking for an entertaining game to play on the weekend and make a bit of cash on the side to the high stakes professional poker players that earn life-changing sums of cash in big tournaments.
We all have to start somewhere so if you feel intimidated about understanding and playing poker then don’t worry we are going to show you all need to know to get started and start enjoying this wonderful game.
What Is Online Poker?
When you play poker either online or offline there is little difference in the rules Texas Hold’em or 5-card draw played online has the same rules as you would play at home or at a land-based casino but in a virtual setting. With online poker, you get the option to play on any device that is connected to the internet and you are not limited by the time of day or location.
What Are The Benefits of Playing Online Poker?
While there is nothing wrong with visiting a land-based casino and having fun playing poker the online option has a lot more benefits.
Online poker players have access to a much wider variety of games and they can join a poker room any time they want 24/7. Online sites don’t have the big operating costs that the land-based casinos do so the betting minimums are kept much lower as are the rake fees so poker players of all budgets are catered for. With the vast range of games available to play online poker players can find plenty of options to play at the stakes that suit them any time of the day.
For the more experienced poker player, the ability to play more hands in a shorter length of time is a big draw. If you are playing a virtual game of poker you’ll get twice the amount of hands in as you would at a real casino. Online poker players can also multi-table which allows them to sit at several games at the same time switching from screen to screen.
The convenience factor is obviously the biggest advantage of going online. If you have an internet connection and are signed up to an online casino you are guaranteed to be playing a game of poker within minutes. You don’t need to travel, dress up, or consume the precious time and money that is required when playing at a real-life casino. If you make use of a mobile device you can even play poker on the go.
Did you know that you can play free poker games at online casinos? While the real money games will give you the most thrills and excitement the free games are extremely useful. If you are a novice player and do not have a good grasp of the rules it’s a great way of getting to understand the intricacies of poker. You can then build up to low stakes poker games as you build confidence. This soft immersion is not something that is available when playing in a real-life poker room. For experienced poker players playing for free also offers you the chance to try out variations that you are not familiar with for free.
Some poker players do miss the physical and social aspects of real-life casinos. As you are not able to see the other players it stops you from being able to read their emotions or tells. Of course, this works both ways, and any physical actions that might betray you are also eliminated. For the novice poker player, this is a definite advantage. Online you can read another poker player’s gameplay to some extent by just observing how they play and what they write in the chat box.
Best Online Poker Sites
Chances are if you picked a random online casino to deposit your cash and play poker for real money it would all be perfectly OK. But assuming that you are a gambling man you’ll know that luck isn’t always on your side and that site you just deposited your funds in could be one of the small percent of rogue casinos online. If you don’t want to risk your money then we are going to share the best online poker sites with you.
To decide on the best sites to play we have employed a team of gambling experts who look at every aspect of the online casino before adding them to our top-rated poker sites list.
These are the factors we explore for each and every poker site that we list:
Safe and Secure – It is paramount if you are sharing personal and financial information such as your credit card details at an online poker site that they have secure encryption technology installed. At the best online poker sites, you don’t need to worry about your financial data being compromised.
Licensed and Regulated – All the best and well-known poker sites will take licensing and regulation extremely seriously. They will be licensed in a reputable jurisdiction such as Gibraltar, Isle of Man, or Malta. Additionally, they will be regularly audited by an independent regulator such as eCOGRA. These details will usually be linked in the footer menu of legitimate online casinos.
Deposits and Withdrawals – The best online gambling sites will have a wide range of popular payment methods to deposit and withdraw with. Payment options usually include credit, debit and prepaid cards, Neteller, Skrill, Bank Transfer, and more online poker sites are offering cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin as an option.
Bonuses and Promotions – To compete in the competitive market of online poker sites will offer impressive bonuses to new sign-ups and ongoing promotions to loyal customers. This is great for poker players who essentially are increasing their bankroll for free. Do make sure that you read the terms and conditions to fully understand the wagering requirements.
Longevity – While some great sites haven’t been online that long the track record of the site is something that is worth looking at. Some of the online poker sites that are on our list have been around for 10 years or more without any major issues. They have thousands of players who keep on coming back which is always a sign of a great poker site.
The Rules of Online Poker
There are plenty of different poker games that you can play online but one of the best and most popular is Texas Hold’em. This is a poker game that you will find available to play at the majority of online casinos. Hold’em is also one of the easiest poker games that you can learn to play so we decided this is the best version to teach the rules to.
How to Play Texas Hold’em
Texas Hold’em is what is known as a community poker game. In this type of poker game, each player is dealt a specific number of cards and the community cards are shared amongst all the players in the middle of the poker table. With Hold’em each player is dealt 2 cards and 5 community cards are dealt over a number of betting rounds.
Before any action takes place on the poker table two forced blind bets must be placed to kick off the proceedings and ensure there is some betting action. In Texas Hold’em these are called the small blind and big blind. Typically the small blind will be half the size of the big. There will be a dealer button or disk that indicates the position of the dealer. The player to the left of the dealer button is the small blind and usually, he will wager half the minimum bet. The player on the left of the small blind is the big blind and he will wager chips equalling the minimum bet.
Cards are Dealt
Once the big and small blinds have been posted the players will be dealt two cards each face-down. These cards are known as hole cards.
Now all the players have seen their hole card the preflop round begins with the player that is left of the big blind having the option to either call, raise, or fold.
Call – Bet an amount equivalent to the big blind
Raise – If you like the look of the 2 hole cards you can bet a larger amount than the big blind.
Fold – If you don’t believe you have a winning hand you can fold and your cards will be removed from play for this round forfeiting your chance to win the pot.
This round starts getting exciting as the first 3 community cards are dealt this is known as the flop. Any of the players at the table can use these face-up cards that are dealt to the middle of the table to begin forming the best poker hand. The betting continues with the player left of the deal button making the first action to either call, raise or fold, followed by all the other players who haven’t yet folded.
For ‘The Turn’ a fourth community card is dealt face up and another round of betting takes place similar to the previous round. The betting once again starts with the first player left of the dealer button who is still active in the game. The betting continues around the table.
This is the final betting round that proceeds as the previous three. In this round, the final community is dealt making a total of 5 in the middle of the table.
Now is the time to find out who the winner is. All the players that are still in the game will reveal their hole hands. The poker player with the best 5 card hand made up of their 2 hole cards and 3 of the community cards will win the pot.
Poker Hand Rankings
Below is a complete list of poker hands from the lowest to the highest ranking. If you are a beginner then learning the different cards is your first step to crushing it at poker.
This hand had five cards that are from different ranks and suits and don’t run in sequence. It is the weakest of all the poker hand rankings. If on a rare chance that the final two players in a showdown don’t have a card hand that ranks above a pair or better then it is decided on the high card. The player who holds the highest card wins, for instance, if one player holds an Ace which is known as Ace High and the other player holds a King as their highest card then the Ace would win. If both players hold the same high card then the next highest card will determine the winner.
This poker hand consists of a single pair of the same rank, for instance, two Queens and three other cards which are known as Kickers. When it comes to the showdown and two players both hold a pair the one with the higher pair will win. If both hold the same pair then the player with the highest kicker will win.
Two pairs with two cards of the same rank for instance 6 of Clubs, 6 of Hearts, Jack of Diamonds and Jack of Clubs. If the showdown comes down to a two pair outcome the player with the highest-ranking pair will win. If they both have the same high pair then the lower pair will decide the outcome. If they both have the same low pair then the remaining unpaired card will determine the winner.
Three Of A Kind
You don’t need to try hard to guess this poker hand; it’s three cards of the same rank such as three Kings and two unpaired cards. Just like with previous examples the highest hand will win so Kings would beat anything except three Aces.
When you have five cards in sequence this is called a straight, they don’t need to be from the same suit so 3 of Hearts, 4 of Diamonds, 5 of Clubs, 6 of Spades and 7 of Hearts would qualify. If two players both have a straight the winner will be the one with the highest consecutive cards.
Any 5 cards from the same suit make up a flush so 3, 6, 8, 9, Jack of Diamonds would make up a flush. If two players both have a flush in the showdown then, as usual, it will be the one with the highest-ranking cards that will win the pot.
A Full House combines three of a kind and a pair to make a very impressive 5 card hand. If two players both held a full house then the player with the highest three of a kind would win. If they both have the same three of a kind it would then be decided on the highest pair.
Four of a Kind
A poker hand of four cards of the same rank and an additional fifth card. Examples would be Four Kings, four 3s, and so on. If two players both have four of a kind in the showdown using our previous example four Kinds would beat four 3’s.
You will rarely see this card hand in a game of poker but if it’s your hand and you win it will be a day you never forget! This is a combination of a straight and a flush so five cards of the same suit in consecutive order such as 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack of Hearts. If two players have a straight flush in the showdown, then the highest one wins.
The hand that every player dreams of making in a poker game is a Royal Flush. This hand is similar to a straight flush with five consecutive cards from the same suit but consisting of a 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace.
Online Poker Variations
We’ve shown you the joys of Texas Hold’em and taught you the rules and it’s a great place to start especially if you are new to poker. Once you have a good grasp of that game you can easily transition to other poker variations. There are dozens of different poker games that you can play online below are some of the favorites with poker enthusiasts around the world.
Three Card Poker
With Three Card Poker you are pitted against the dealer rather than against other players. In the online version, it will be you against the virtual dealer. As you can guess this style of poker is played with three cards from a standard 52 card deck. The highest qualifying card hand you can make with Three Card Poker is a Mini Royal Flush which consists of a Queen, King, and Ace from the same suit. The game is really two games in one as you can bet on the ‘ante’ as well as a side bet called ‘pair plus’ where you can place a wager on if you will get a pair or better. The game is similar to Blackjack in some ways so if you enjoy that card game you’ll probably love Three Card Poker.
Omaha shares many similarities with Texas Hold’em and is just as exciting a poker game to play. If you’ve played Hold’em the Omaha rules aren’t that dissimilar. The main difference is that instead of being dealt two hole cards you are dealt four. You must use at least two of the four hole cards and three community cards to make your best poker hand.
Even though the only real difference is the four hole cards this completely changes the poker game dynamics. With four cards the chances of making a hand are much higher than in Hold’em. This results in more betting over the rounds and potentially a larger pot to win at the end. If you are looking for an action-packed poker game then we can guarantee you’ll find it when playing Omaha.
You’ll also find variations of Omaha to play including Omaha Hi-Lo where the pot is split between the highest and lowest qualifying hand. In Five-Card Omaha you are dealt five hole cards and you combine any two with three community cards to make the best hand.
Five Card Draw Poker
This is an easy poker game to play and Five Card Draw is one of the games that many poker enthusiasts play at home with their friends but there are many options to play online. The game is played with a standard deck with 52 cards.
Usually, the game begins with the players making an enforced bet which is called the ‘ante’ each player in the game must bet the same amount before the card action starts. Each player is dealt five cards face down, just as with the rules, we showed you with Texas Hold’em the players have the option to call, raise or fold. Once this round of betting is over the players are given the opportunity to discard any card or cards in their hands and replace them with fresh ones. This is followed by a further hand of betting and finally the showdown. All the players left in the game will reveal their cards, the winner being the one with the highest qualifying hand.
Pai Gow Poker
This is a poker variant based on an Asian tile game that is played with a 53 card deck, the additional card is a joker that can be played as a wild card. This is a game that does not involve other players; it is just you against the dealer. Pai Gow Poker is easy to play, you are dealt 7 cards and you have to make a 5 card hand and a 2 card hand from them. The five-card hand is a standard poker hand while the two hand card will consist of a pair or high card. To win you will need both hands to be better than the dealers. If one hand of your hands is better then it is classed as a draw. If both the dealer’s hands are better you lose. A tie will also result in you losing.
7-Card Stud Poker
Stud poker differs is often described as poker for purists and is a much older game. While it has some similarities to Texas Hold’em there are also a lot of differences. There are no community cards played in stud poker and blinds aren’t played instead you have an ‘ante’ and a bring-in bet. 7-Card Stud Poker also has five betting rounds.
The game is played as follows. Each poker player places their ante bet and then they are dealt two hole cards face down and a door card face up. The player who has the lowest face-up card must make a bring-in bet. As with most standard poker games the usual betting actions are in place to raise, call, or fold. For the first round of betting each player is dealt with another face-up card which is called 4th street. Followed by a second round with a face-up card called 5th street and third round and with the 6th street card face-up. The final betting round is the river and this time the 7th card is dealt face-down. For the showdown, all the players in the 7-card stud poker game must discard two of their cards to make the best five-card hand.
For poker experts who have played all the popular variations and are looking for a challenge, Horse could be a suitable choice. Horse takes its name from the acronym of five popular poker games; Hold’em, Omaha, Razz, Seven Card Stud, and Eight or Better. Horse poker differs if you are playing at a cash game or a tournament. In the cash game once the dealer button has rotated around the table one time the game will change. In a tournament every time the blind is increased the game changes. You need to be proficient in all five games of poker to get the best from this game, if you are weak in one game it can hinder your chances of winning.
Online Poker Tournaments
An exciting opportunity for online players is the number of different poker tournaments that are available to compete in. The explosive interest in poker tournaments began in 2003 when Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event and has snowballed since then. There are poker tournaments for all levels of players and all budgets. Anyone can buy into an online poker tournament for just a few dollars and have the chance to come away with huge winnings. There are tournaments available to play 24/7 online so if you are feeling lucky you can always go online and join in the fun whatever the time of day.
Poker tournaments begin at a set time and players buy-in to the game purchasing poker chips at an agreed price, all players will have the same initial number of chips. When a player loses all their chips they are eliminated from the poker tournament. So the games don’t continue for too long forced bets such as blinds and antes are increased throughout the game. The tournament finishes when one player wins all the chips. The winner and a certain number of players who finished the tournament will be paid out from the pot with the winner getting the largest share and the rest paid out in descending order.
One thing that you should understand regarding online poker tournaments is that they can run for hours. You need to have time that is just dedicated to playing.
There are two main types of tournaments you can play. Multi-table tournaments are the most popular. A certain number of players join each table and as they are eliminated from the game players move to those with empty seats; eventually the last players will arrive at the final table for the nerve-wracking finale.
For poker newbies or those with little time Sit and Go’s are a fantastic way to get acquainted with tournament poker. The majority of poker sites will have Sit and Go tournaments starting every few minutes and they start as soon as all the seats are filled up. Sit and Go’s can have anywhere between 1 and 20 tables. It depends on the number of players but the top three usually receive a payout.
Can Online Poker Be Rigged?
The reputation of the major online poker sites has never been stronger. These sites earn huge amounts of money from gamblers participating in their poker games and tournaments. To risk this by breaking the law would be financial and business suicide. There are some rogue poker sites on the internet but if you follow our advice and choose one of our recommended online casinos to play at you can guarantee that you’ll be playing a fair game.
What is Rake in Online Poker?
The term rake is used at land-based and online poker casinos. With the majority of casino games there is a house advantage and as the odds are in the casinos favor they will make money on players gambling. With poker, there is no house advantage as you are competing against other players rather than the dealer. For this reason, a percentage of the money will be taken out of the pot which is called the ‘rake’ as a commission for the casino. The rake tends to be a lot less for online casinos as they don’t have the additional costs and overheads that the land-based versions have.
Can You Make a Full-Time Living Playing Online Poker?
Yes, it’s entirely possible and there are many poker players who make a full-time income playing online. The caveat is that it’s very difficult, you will need to put in plenty of time studying strategies and skills as well as play hundreds of hours of poker to have enough mastery to make a living from it.
Is There a Strategy To Online Poker?
Without a doubt, luck will only get you so far, the more strategically you play the higher your winnings will be. Poker isn’t a game that can be played and won by making decisions randomly.
Can You Play Online Poker For Free?
Yes, all the best online casinos and poker sites offer the opportunity to try their poker games for free. It’s a great way for poker newbies to learn the game and the experienced poker enthusiasts the opportunity to try new variations before they play for real money.
Can I watch an Online Poker Game before Deciding to Play?
Yes, you are free to watch poker games before deciding to sit in or not. Many poker enthusiasts like to view tables and it’s a good way to see other players’ card strategies and learn from them.
What Size Deposit is Required to Play Online Poker?
This depends on the casino but usually, they start at around $10 with a typical deposit being $20. Playing poker on the internet gives players the advantage of much lower stakes so you get much more mileage playing cash games and tournaments when playing online.