Guide to Playing Poker Online

The game of poker has experienced a great surge in popularity in the early to mid 2000s, after an anonymous (at that time) amateur, named Chris Moneymaker, won an online satellite to the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event for just $100 and walked away with a cool million.

All of a sudden, thanks to the media coverage, everybody wanted to play poker.  More precisely, No Limit Texas Hold’em is the most popular game variation in existence. Online casinos quickly picked up on this trend and before long, all reputable brands added online poker to their repertoire.

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Basic Poker Rules (No Limit Texas Hold’em)

Texas Hold’em is often described as a game that takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. The statement holds true, because basic rules of Hold’em are really quite simple.

The game can be played with just two players (heads-up) and up to ten players seated at the same table at the same time. Most games these days are played with either six or nine seats.

Every player participating in the game receives two cards, face down. These are known as hole cards. The dealing starts with the first player seated to the left of the designated dealer and continues clockwise, with every player first receiving one card in the first round and then the second card in the next round.

To force the action, Texas Hold’em uses the concept of blinds. These obligatory bets are posted by the first two players to the left of the dealer: small blind and big blind, respectively. The big blind is twice the amount of the small blind.

First betting round, usually referred to as pre-flop, begins with the first player seated to the left of the big blind player. Based on his two hole cards, he or she can decide to either:

  • Call – matching the amount of the big blind
  • Fold – surrender the hand and give up for the deal
  • Raise – Raise an amount that is at least two times the big blind; there is no maximum allowed amount, as players can wager all the chips they have in front of them at any point - hence the no limit prefix

After the first player makes his move, the play continues clockwise, with the next player opting to call a bet or raise in front of him, fold his hand, or make another raise. Same rules apply for all players when the action gets to them.

Once the first round is over, all players still in will proceed to see the flop. The flop represents the first three community cards, dealt face up in the middle of the table and all players can combine one or both their hole cards with the three cards on the flop to make the best hand.

The action now starts with the player who posted the small blind or, if he is no longer in play, the first still active player to his left. Options on flop and all consecutive streets are:

  • Check – if there was no bet in front, player can check, indicating he is passing the action to the next player
  • Bet – if no bet was placed before, any active player can place a bet of any size they want,
  • Call – matching the bet made by another player
  • Fold

The same rules apply on the next two streets, turn and river, but in these instances, only one community card is dealt each time.

Once all betting is done and all five community cards are on the table, still active players will proceed to the showdown. Of course, if someone manages to bluff other players, forcing them to fold before the showdown, he wins the hand and the pot immediately.

During the showdown, all active hands are turned over and the player who has the best five card hand, created using any of his two and five community cards, will win the pot. Hand strength is determined using standard poker rules, with high card being the weakest and straight (royal) flush the strongest hand.

Online Poker Variations

Although Texas Hold’em is by far the most popular online poker variation, there are other poker games which can be equally as fun, especially if you feel a bit fed up with Hold’em.

Omaha is one such a game. Although it plays similar to Texas Hold’em, it is a much more exciting game, due to the fact that it is played with four, rather than two hole cards. There are still small and big blind, as well as flop, turn, and river, but the number of potential combinations is much bigger.

Another important difference is that you have to use exactly two cards from your hand and three of the community cards to make the best five-card hand. This is unlike Hold’em, where you are allowed to even play all five community cards.

Aside from Omaha, there are also different Stud games, like Seven Card Stud and Razz, which is something old school poker players will certainly appreciate. Texas Hold’em hasn’t always been the game of choice in casinos around the globe.

Playing Options for Poker Players

Not all poker players enjoy the same type of action. Luckily, online poker rooms offer a number of viable options to meet everybody’s needs. From cash game tables to sit and go’s and tournaments, as well as some novel hybrid variations, there is plenty of action to be had.

Cash games are better suited for those looking for some fast-paced action without fear of elimination. You can reload at any time, so the only real limit is the size of your bankroll. Tournaments, on the other hand, are better suited for players with a methodical and patient approach, as they can take quite a while to complete and one wrong move can easily cost you all of your chips.

 Casino Poker Games

Online casinos did not only recognize the potential of online poker but they had also realized that they could offer table games revolving around different poker variations, enticing poker players to try something new.

Some of the poker-themed games found at various online casinos include:

  • Caribbean Stud Poker
  • Four Card Poker
  • Pai Gow Poker
  • Casino Hold’em

All these games feature poker elements like hand strength, special bonuses for strong hands, etc., making them a great pastime for poker players looking for something just a tad bit different.

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