How to Play Poker Online

Emily Kingsley
August 27, 2023
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How to play poker online

If you’ve found your way here, chances are you’ve got a keen interest in poker. The digital era has given this classic game a fresh twist, making it more accessible and dynamic. Through this guide, you’ll discover the nuances of online poker, whether you’re an experienced player adapting to the online world or you’re just shuffling into the scene.

Introduction to Online Poker

Before you immerse yourself in the world of virtual cards and chips, let’s clarify what online poker truly entails. It’s not just about replicating the game in a digital format; it’s a dynamic realm with its own set of nuances.

What is Online Poker?

Online poker is the digital adaptation of the traditional card game of poker. Unlike its physical counterpart, where players gather around a table, online poker allows players from different parts of the world to compete against each other in real-time through the internet. These games are hosted on specialized platforms or websites, which often simulate the feel and aesthetics of a real poker room. 

Advancements in technology have made the online poker experience immersive with features like multi-table tournaments, webcam tables where you can see your opponents, and the ability to chat or take notes on players. This virtual format not only makes the game accessible to those who might not have a local casino or home game but also offers a range of stakes and variants that might be hard to find elsewhere.

How Does Poker Work?

At its core, poker is a game of skill, strategy, psychology, and luck. The primary objective remains consistent across all its variants: to win chips or money by either having the best hand during the showdown or by convincing other players to fold their hands. 

Players are dealt cards, both private and shared, depending on the poker variant. Betting rounds occur between these card dealings, during which players can bet, check, raise, or fold based on the perceived strength of their hands relative to the cards on the board and the actions of their opponents. Players utilize strategies and try to read their opponents to anticipate their moves. 

Poker isn’t just about having the best cards; it’s about outthinking and outmaneuvering the competition. Whether you’re relying on a solid hand, a bluff, or reading a tell, the game combines mathematics, psychology, and intuition in a thrilling blend of strategy and chance.

A Quick Guide: How to Play Poker Online

  1. Step 1: Choose a reputable online poker platform. Ensure it is licensed, secure, and has good user reviews.
  2. Step 2: Register an account, ensuring you have verified any necessary personal details.
  3. Step 3: Decide whether you wish to play for real money or virtual chips. Deposit funds if playing for real money.
  4. Step 4: Select a game and table. This can be based on poker variant, stakes, number of players, etc.
  5. Step 5: Familiarize yourself with the platform’s controls—know how to bet, fold, raise, and check.

Poker Hand Rankings Explained

Here are the hands in poker, in order of least rare to most rare, including the probability of having each in a hand of Texas Hold’em after all five community cards have been dealt:

High Card

When no player has a pair or anything stronger, the winner is determined by the highest card. Probability: ~17.4%

High card poker

One Pair

Two cards of the same rank, e.g., two eights. Probability: ~43.8%

Pair poker hand

Two Pair

Two different pairs of cards, e.g., two eights and two aces. Probability: ~23.5%

Two pair

Three of a Kind

Three cards of the same rank, e.g., three eights. Probability: ~4.83%

Three of a kind

Straight

Five consecutive cards of different suits, e.g., 5-6-7-8-9. Probability: ~4.62%

Flush

Five cards of the same suit, but not in sequence, e.g., five hearts. Probability: ~3.03%

Flush poker hand

Full House

A combination of three of a kind and a pair, e.g., three eights and two aces. Probability: ~2.60%

Full house

Four of a Kind

Four cards of the same rank, e.g., four eights. Probability: ~0.168%

Four of a kind

Straight Flush

Five consecutive cards of the same suit, e.g., 5-6-7-8-9 all of hearts. Probability: ~0.0279%

Straight flush

Royal Flush

The highest possible straight flush, consisting of the A, K, Q, J, and 10 all of the same suit. Probability: ~0.0032%

Royal flush

It’s worth noting that the above probabilities are based on a player staying in until the end of the hand, i.e., seeing all community cards without folding. The likelihood of any player being dealt cards that develop into these hand strengths by the river in Texas Hold’em varies due to strategic decisions, bluffing, and betting patterns.

What Types of Poker Can I Play Online?

There are several variants including Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Seven-card Stud, and more, each with its own rules and strategies.

Poker Rules to Remember

When you’re playing poker, whether it’s online or offline, you’ll encounter certain terms and rules. If you want to familiarize with what those are before you head to a poker room, you can continue reading below.

Small Blind and Big Blind

Before the cards are even dealt, two players must make mandatory bets to start the pot. These bets, called the small blind and big blind, rotate clockwise around the table after each hand. They ensure that there’s always something to play for on every hand.

Ante

In some poker variants, all players contribute a predetermined amount called an ‘ante’ to the pot before the start of each hand. This creates initial pot value and encourages active play.

Preflop, Flop, Turn, and River

These terms represent the stages of a Texas Hold’em game. ‘Preflop’ is the betting round before community cards are dealt. ‘Flop’ refers to the first three community cards, ‘Turn’ is the fourth, and ‘River’ is the fifth and final community card. Each of these stages is accompanied by a round of betting.

Dealer Button

A small disc that rotates clockwise after each hand. It indicates the player position designated as the dealer for that particular hand. The importance of the button lies in determining the order of play, especially who posts the blinds.

Call, Raise, or Fold

These are the primary actions a player can take during their turn. ‘Call’ means matching the current highest bet. ‘Raise’ means not only matching the highest bet but also increasing it. ‘Fold’ means to bow out of the current hand, forfeiting any chips you’ve already contributed to the pot.

Pot Odds

An essential concept for any poker player. Pot odds represent the ratio between the current size of the pot and the cost of a contemplated call. Knowing your pot odds helps determine whether calling with a particular hand is profitable in the long run.

Cards

Poker is typically played with a standard 52-card deck, divided into four suits: hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades. Each suit contains thirteen ranks, ranging from the lowest (2) to the highest (Ace).

Poker Chips

These are used as a substitute for real money during the game. Each chip color represents a specific cash value. Before playing, it’s crucial to know the chip values to bet accurately.

Rake

Most online poker sites make a profit by charging a commission or ‘rake’ from each pot. It’s a small percentage of the pot’s total value. Players should be aware of the rake as it impacts the game’s profitability.

Comparing Online Poker to Its Live Counterpart

Of course, online poker differs quite a bit compared to its live counterpart. In this section, we describe in detail the actual differences between the two.

Speed and Pacing

Online: Digital poker has a much quicker pace. Absent are the physical actions of shuffling, counting chips, and dealing cards, leading to faster hand rates. 

Live: The process is slower due to physical constraints. Players often have more time to consider their decisions, but games progress at a more deliberate pace.

Multitabling

Online: One of the unique advantages of online poker is the ability to play multiple tables simultaneously, which can increase your volume and potential profit. 

Live: In the live setting, players are limited to one table and must physically move to change games or stakes.

Availability and Convenience

Online: Games are available 24/7 from the comfort of your home. You can join and leave games at your convenience. 

Live: Availability is restricted to casino operating hours, and there may be waiting times, especially for popular games.

Analysis and Tracking

Online: Players can utilize software tools to track their play, analyze hands, and even use Heads-Up Displays (HUDs) to get real-time statistics on their opponents. 

Live: While live players can take notes or use apps during breaks, they generally rely more on memory and intuition for in-game decisions.

Comfort and Physical Distractions

Online: Players can choose their setting, be it a quiet room or a bustling café, and can play in any attire they prefer. 

Live: The casino environment can be distracting, with noise, lights, and other players. Dress codes might also apply.

Body Language or Betting Behavior

Online: Physical tells are absent, but you can still pick up on betting patterns, timing, and other online-specific behaviors. 

Live: A significant aspect of the live game is reading opponents: their body language, facial expressions, and physical mannerisms when betting can give away information about the strength of their hand.

Poker Games Using Cryptocurrencies

Different platforms now accept and reward players in various cryptocurrencies, offering a modern twist to the classic game.

  • Crypto Poker
  • Litecoin Poker
  • Bitcoin Poker
  • Ethereum Poker
  • Dogecoin Poker

Applying Your Online Poker Skill in Action

While the basics remain consistent, mastering online poker requires understanding the platform, adapting to faster gameplay, and leveraging digital tools to refine strategies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it easy to play poker online? 

Yes, with numerous tutorials and beginner tables available. However, mastering the game takes time and practice.

Are there any potential safety concerns tied to playing online poker?

While many platforms are secure, it’s crucial to choose licensed sites, use strong passwords, and be wary of sharing personal information.

Can I play poker online for free?

Yes, many platforms offer free games or practice tables to help players get accustomed to the platform.

How do I play poker online for real money?

After registering on a platform, you can deposit funds and join real money tables or tournaments. Always play responsibly.

Author Emily Kingsley

Emily is a huge fan of online casinos, and she's also really into writing. With her broad experience, she knows exactly what makes a slot or casino enjoyable when she's reviewing it. In other words, she's the go-to person whenever we need a thorough and honest review.