Poker is my favorite card and casino game. The luck and skill elements combined when you push all in, make a successful bluff or difficult call based on a read make for such a huge rush. In fact, despite playing for real money throughout 2010, and being able to play live now, I still play for play (fake) money on PokerStars (I’m in the USA) when I’m bored at home watching TV. I just can’t get enough of poker.
Betting on Poker for Real Money Online
If you talk to a lot of (semi serious) players, there is a difference from playing live poker to online. As it holds true for any casino game, the game of poker is the same. The variations, game types and rules will be the same. The key differences more or less lie in the tactics and strategies used, as well as the overall difficulty of the game(s).
For example, the biggest difference between live and online poker is the fact that you can’t see your opponents. In live poker you might notice that your opponent smiles every time he’s dealt a premium hand. So what if he smiles online. He could dance on his chair and you wouldn’t be any wiser. Online poker totally removes the physical element from the game.
Something else I’ve noticed is that the overall style or flow to live games are loose. Much looser than what they are online. From what I understand a $20 tournament online (skill-wise) is the equivalent to playing a $200+ tournament live. Players have no sense of basic betting fundamentals, how to read hands or put players on ranges. So when you jump online you’ll notice that the games are a little harder. That said, it’s much easier to table select online.
Finally, I couldn’t write this section without commenting on financial aspect of playing online poker. Because online poker (and you could even say the internet) is still in it’s infancy, and because the laws are so different from one country to the next, the majority of poker sites out there can screw you out of your money with little to no repercussion. Needless to say deposits aren’t too difficult to make, even for US players, but withdrawals can be a major pain. They could take days, weeks or even months to make it to players.
The best advice that I can give to you is to make sure you stick to the most reputable rooms, and if you’re in the USA, it’s probably not in your best interest to deposit and play poker for real money online.
When you sign up to a poker site and deposit for the first time you’ll be given a deposit bonus. I would say that about 95% of all poker sites offer a “match” bonus where the casino matches a percentage of your deposit up to a specified amount. The most common deposit bonus is a 100% match up to $600, although less popular rooms that are trying to make a name for themselves will sometimes offer more, like $750 or $1000.
Once you have your bonus you’ll need to clear it in order to cash out your winnings. Online poker sites do it a little different than casinos or bingo halls, although at the end of the day it all just comes down to betting some money before cashing out. That way gambling sites can avoid the ‘hit and run’ type players.
In order to play through your bonus you’ll be asked to earn points. And the points are awarded based on how much rake you pay. Each room will do it differently, but once you hit a certain threshold of points you’ll have so much of your bonus money released into your account. It’ll work like this until you clear your bonus money, or until it expires. Expiration dates is something that some poker sites have attached to their bonuses to encourage players to make all of their deposits, play and generate rake (quickly).
There are simply too many poker variations to list. Pagat has a comprehensive list. And you can find most of them online at one site or another. I’ll try to cover the basics though.
For the game of poker itself, you’ll be able to find and play variations such as texas hold’em, omaha, stud, razz, 5-card draw and badugi. Texas hold’em is one of the few games available in all betting limits (pot, fixed and no limit). Omaha is generally available in pot and no limit, and stud games are usually fixed limit. Betting limits range from freerolls to $.01/$.02 to as high as $2/$4k.
In regards to formats, you have cash games and tournaments. Of course it goes much deeper than that. With cash games you have different table sizes, as well as buy-in caps. So you’ll have short stack games (40bb), standard buy-in games (100bb) and deep stacked games (100bb+). Tournaments will also have different table sizes, and will also have multi-table, speed and starting stack variations.
Nearly every poker site will resemble what I explained about. On top of that many of the leading poker sites create their own poker games and rules, as well as develop new software. The “Rush Poker” from Full Tilt was a good example of this. PokerStars “Zoom” is another.
All in all, you have a ton of options for what games to play online.
Poker Software Providers
Unlike online casino and bingo halls, you won’t find a ton of software providers for poker sites. Many sites develop their own software, so you truly have a unique look, feel and overall experience from one site to the next.
There are upsides and downsides to this. Not every site will have the best looking software or offer features like hand history replays or extensive note taking. This can be a pain when you want to check out other poker sites. You won’t know what to expect. 3rd party programs like HUDs and hotkeys may not work on every poker site either.
With that said, there are networks of sites that utilize the same software, at least at it’s core. Most of the sites on these networks do very little to the core software though to distinguish it from other rooms. But most are nice looking sites that operate well. They do have more limitations though (multi tabling and 3rd party programs) than in-house software.
The last thing worth noting is that online poker sites are more accommodating when it comes to Mac computers. Most sites have separate software for Mac users. So if you have a Mac you’re in luck, and shouldn’t have any problem playing poker online.