Online poker made its triumphant return to the consciousness of North American players during the pandemic, hitting levels of popularity not seen since its glory days of the mid-2000s.
While the sports betting world has long now resumed its normal calendar and money has flowed back elsewhere, playing poker online can still be a way to earn some extra money while having fun, for those who know what they’re doing.
How does one get started learning the basics of how to play poker online, what are some common online poker strategies, and what are the best online poker sites? Let’s take a closer look at all of the above, and get you started on your online poker journey.
What Is Online Poker?
Just like the traditional card game played in casinos for decades, online poker pits players against one another, with the only difference being it’s done over the internet with no face-to-face interaction.
While Texas Hold’em reigns supreme in online poker, just as it does in person at casinos, there’s a variety of poker games you can play online which we’ll get to in a bit.
Online Poker vs. In-Person Poker
While the rules of the poker games you can play online are the same as playing poker in person, there are a few main differences you’ll want to be aware of when learning how to play poker online.
For one, online poker moves at a faster pace, as many players can decide what they are doing with the check of a box before it’s even their turn. For example, if a player draws a two-three offsuit out of the gate, he/she may elect to automatically fold when it comes around to their turn, whereas in person there might be added delay.
Second, you can play on some of the best online poker sites for fractions of a dollar, whereas in casinos there is often a minimum bet of at least a dollar or two. I’ve seen Texas Hold’em some blinds in online poker set as low as $0.05 (small)/ $0.10 (big).
In this example, you would just need to risk $0.10 in order to get in on a hand. By the nature of risking smaller amounts, the overall risk tends to be much lower when playing online poker; especially when starting out as a new player.
One of the downsides of playing online poker, however, is you are playing against complete strangers and on the other side of a computer, with no ability to look them in the face. This is in comparison to in-person poker when you can visually feel a person out to better determine if they are bluffing, or legitimately have the hand they are posturing to have.
How to Start Playing Online Poker
All you need to play online poker is an internet connection and for a website operator to be legalized in your state. While the latter will depend on the state in which you live, there are basic poker 101 principles that you will want to be aware of.
As a basic rule of thumb, your hand in poker is made up of the best five cards at your disposal. When playing Texas Hold’em as an example, you’ll receive two cards, and then the three best the dealer puts down to make up your five-card play.
While it varies by the type of online poker you are playing, there are different rounds/times in which you can bet based on the cards you have (or don’t have, i.e. bluffing).
In our Texas Hold’em example, bettors are offered a round of betting when they receive their cards (pre-flop), when the first three communal cards are displayed by the dealer (the flop), when the fourth communal card is displayed by the dealer (the turn), and then one final time when the dealer flops (you guessed it, the flop) the fifth communal card.
It’s also worth noting that in order to play online poker, you must be at least 18 years old, with some jurisdictions requiring you to be 21 years old.
What Types of Online Poker Can I Play?
The far and away most popular online poker game is the classic Texas Hold’em, which exploded in popularity with the rise of the World Series of Poker being broadcast to the masses on ESPN. Specifically, no-limit Texas Hold’em as this version, as the name suggests, puts no upper cap on the amount of money you can wager once in the game.
With Texas Hold’em there are two types of games you can play, cash games and tournaments.
Online Cash Games
In cash games, there are no set time frames in which blinds or raised or the play ends, it is a continuous game that players can come (and go from) at any time. There are, however, maximums in which a player can buy into the game, based on the pre-determined blinds.
This is put in place to avoid players sitting down with more money than the combined rest of the table, giving that player an advantage when it comes to betting size and risk exposure.
Online Poker Tournaments
Just as the name would suggest, online poker tournaments feature a tournament style of play with a predetermined buy putting all players on the same playing field. After a set amount of time, however, blinds are raised to force action and eliminate players who are slow playing things.
If you are starting with a small amount of money, online poker tournaments are a great way to multiply your money as they feature high payouts sometimes in the six figures
Online Poker Strategies
While online poker strategies can vary depending on the player, a good early player rule of thumb is to not be playing more than 20% of hands, and to be aggressive when you have pairs, especially when face cards.
While new players might be tempted to employ online poker strategies that involve heavy bluffing, it’s more difficult online when not being able to see what the other players may, or may not, be working with.
Best Online Poker Sites
While there’s no shortage of options, the best online poker sites are often determined by what a player is looking for and which state they are located in. For my money, WynnBET is at the top of the list for best online poker sites, as it features 15 different variations of online poker, including live Texas Hold’em.
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