Beginner’s guide to online poker

The online poker world has essentially appeared back in the late 90s, when not only did the technology make it available, but the internet grew in popularity, and online poker was an inevitable next step. What was once a casino game, played in only a few places around the world, came in everyone’s home, becoming somewhat of a family game.

But online poker practically exploded back in 2003, when an unknown (until then) Chris Moneymaker won the world championship – the World Series of Poker. He had entered a $39 online satellite tournament and managed to transform it into two and a half million dollars. Ever since, everyone has learned that they can easily follow in his footsteps and become a poker professional while only investing a minimum amount of time and money.

How to begin

First of all, get your hands on an online poker software. You can check out some of the websites below to see some reviews and choose the room that is most to your liking.

Site US Bonus Code Bonus Visit
1. Bovada Poker Bovada Poker US Allowed Use Link $1000 Play Now
2. BetOnline Poker BetOnline Poker US Allowed Use Link $900 Play Now
3. 888 Poker 888 Poker   Use Link $400 Play Now
4. Titan Poker Titan Poker   Use Link $2000 Play Now
5. Bet365 Poker Bet365 Poker   EASY1000 $1000 Play Now
6. Carbon Poker Carbon Poker US Allowed Use Link $600 Play Now

If you’re a novice, it doesn’t really matter which online poker room you choose, all of those that are listed at Internet Gambling Sites are good. The only thing to keep in mind is that you should choose a large one, with lots of players, for multiple reasons: security, lots of players on each level and lots of bonuses and promotions for later on, when you’re going to play for money. If you are really undecided then try the  poker roomwhich is the number one site that we recommend.

If you’ve chosen a website, you’re good to go. Log on to their website and you should find a download button somewhere really visible. Get the software and install it. When you first run the software you will be prompted to log in or create an account. Proceed to registering for a new account. If you plan on depositing some money into your account, first check out our reviews. While registering, enter the bonus or promotion code that you will find – most websites offer first deposit bonuses for their new players. This means that, for your first deposit you will be credited with a match of the amount that you decide to upload – so if invest $100 in your account you will be credited with $100.

Getting started

Once you downloaded the software, take some time and check it out. If you have never played online poker before, join a few tables and just sit back and observe the general layout and dynamics of the game. Check out the different game types out there, decide on what level you want to play, and try to get a general idea of what online poker is about before you jump into playing at a table.

Which game to play?

There are a lot of different online poker variations out there, and mastering all of them is nearly impossible. So what you should do is pick one that appeals to you the most and start playing. There are some poker variations that are present on nearly all poker rooms: Omaha, Texas Hold ‘em and 7 Card Stud are just a couple of them. By far, the game that gained the most notoriety in the online world (largely due to Chris Moneymaker, as we’ve said before) is Texas Hold ‘em. Although all games rely on the same principles, this is the easiest to start with and it doesn’t lack many opponents on any level.

Another advantage of Texas Hold ‘em is the fact that the internet is abundant in strategy articles, tips, tricks and advices from professionals everywhere, so if you want to learn, this game is one of the easiest. After you have a general knowledge of the game, you can start learning a slightly less spread one (such as Omaha). Many Texas Hold ‘em players tend to try out other games as well, so if you know your way around Omaha you’ll have a steady stream of beginners ready to practically give you their money.

Let’s say you start off with Texas Hold ‘em, so our next tips will cover this game.

So you’ve found your game. What next?

Now you should find some really basic strategy articles for the game that you have chosen. Learn the basics of poker – such as the hand rankings, the movement around the table, what are terms such as the “Big Blind”, “Turn”, “Flop” or “River”. In fact, here are the basics of the game right now:

On the table, there is a player which is called the “Button” (represented by a round “B” button), which is the “Dealer” (although in Casino games he doesn’t actually deal the cards). This player is the last to act in each round. To his left are two players who must place a specified bet on each round – the Small Blind and Big Blind (in $1/$2 games, for example, the Small Blind is $1 and the Big Blind is $2). After each round, the button is moved to the left of the current button, so the Small Blind becomes the new button in the new round. In a preflop round, the first player to act is the player to the left of the Big Blind, and after the flop the first to act is the Small Blind.

In Texas Hold ‘em, players are dealt two cards each, face down. Each player looks at his cards and makes an assumption on how good they are. Then a betting round starts, with players taking their turn (which moves around the table clockwise) and making one of four moves: raise, call, check or fold. Checking is letting the game continue without placing a bet. Folding means you get out of that hand. Raising is actually placing a bet, and calling means you bet the exact amount that a player ahead of you has just raised. After this first betting round, if there are more than 1 player left in the game, the round advances (if there is only 1 player he is declared the winner and he gets to keep the pot). Now comes the “flop”. Three cards are turned face up on the table, and another betting round follows. After this, if, again, there is more than 1 player left in the game, we go on to the “Turn”, where another card is turned face up. The last round is called the “River”, followed by another betting round. Then comes the “Showdown”, where players show their cards and the one with the highest made hand is declared the winner. If, however, there is one clear winner, players have to option to not show their cards and “fold” – this act is called “Mucking” the cards.

How much should you invest?

That is entirely up to you and how good you are at the game. If you have never played poker, or online poker, and you’re just getting the hang of the game, you should only consider playing for free. Each online poker room has a “play money” option, where they issue virtual cash, which cannot be exchanged to real money.

This is a great way to play, as you gain valuable experience by taking no risk of losing any of your money. When you play for free, you will get to see a lot of poor players willing to go ahead with many weak hands. Once you have learned the game and built up some experience and your own strategy, it is best to move on to playing for real money, but until then this level will be great for you.

After you move on to higher limits, remember not to stretch your luck, always play where you feel most comfortable. You should pick a limit that’s not too low, so you don’t care about losing (which can lead to huge losses, over time), and not too high, so you’ll be scared to take any chances, and end up playing badly and losing your money very quickly. Either way, when you first start playing for real money, start off small – look for the smallest level possible, deposit some cash into your account and start playing. If you reach about 50 big blinds in your account, it’s time to move up. If, on the other hand, you find yourself at one point reaching less than 25 big blinds in your bankroll, move down a notch and play at lower limits. This is key to maintaining a healthy bankroll and making the most out of your game.

Which games should you play?

In general, online poker rooms all offer three types of play: no limit tournaments, limit cash games and no limit cash games. In tournaments, you pay an entry fee and receive a certain amount of chips, which is the same for all players. You try to knock out your opponents, as only the first few spots get paid (sometimes only the first spot). In cash games, you decide how much money you bring to the table (set, however, in a specified limit range), and you decide when you want to leave the table. No limit cash games allow you to place a bet of how much you want, whilst limit cash games, well, limit the bet.

There is a large difference between tournaments and cash games: in tournaments, you see far less hands and you fold much more than in cash games. And, in general, players who opt for cash games win much more than those who play in tournaments. They win constantly, but in small amounts, while tournament players have a much lower win rate, but when they do they turn in a much larger profit (winning $500 from a tournament where the buy in is $1 is not that uncommon in tournament games).

You can also play both types, but for the usual beginner the best choice is playing limit cash games (especially if you play for cash). In this type of play the fluctuations of your bankroll are far lower than in others. This means that if you win, you win a small amount, but if you lose you can also lose a small amount.

Any other short tips?

Sure. Here are some of the tips that any online poker beginner must have printed out and must look at at all times when playing:

  • Don’t play too many hands. You should only play very solid, very strong hands. This is because at low levels you will find very poor players, who will think any two cards are worth playing – it’s not uncommon to see players going all in without having anything, not even suited or face cards. So carefully pick out your starting hands, and fold all of the rest. Remember this old saying: in poker, you don’t win the most money by winning hands, you win the most money by avoiding losing any!
  • Play position. Check out your position at the table – if you are among the last to play in a round, you have the advantage of seeing what other players have decided to play ahead of you. This can give you a huge advantage, allowing you to play weaker hands if many players fold, or fold hands that you first thought are strong if there are many players who have gotten into the game.
  • Don’t call too much. Calling is a very poor move. In a game where attitude is very highly regarded, so if you call too much you set a very poor image of yourself on the table. If you want to be the one that dictates the rhythm of the game, you should either raise or fold every time. As one of the legends of the game, Chris Ferguson, once said: if you find that it’s worth calling a hand, then it’s definitely worth raising.
  • Don’t get distracted. Always keep your concentration, keep focusing on the table and don’t let the small details distract you from the game. Always see what cards are turned on the table and try to figure out three things:

1. What you have.

2. What your opponent has.

3. What your opponent thinks you have.

If you manage to get a grasp on these three aspects, you have an advantage on your opponents.

  • Don’t get revenge. If you start losing, get a break immediately! Most players get into a vicious circle – they lose a small amount and try to win it back immediately. When they do this, they get distracted and often lose far more.
  • Bluffing. Bluffing is, essentially, acting like you have a great hand when you are holding a much poorer hand. Instead of folding, you play more aggressively, in order to make your opponents believe that they’re beat, and make them fold. When bluffing, the key is to scare them out of the pot before the showdown, or else you risk losing with that bad hand, and you certainly don’t want to do that! Without the bluff, the game of poker would be much simpler, much more straight up. Be careful when bluffing – too much of it and your opponents will start to figure out your angle, too little of it and you will be eaten by the blinds. Keep the bluff at a minimum, especially if you’re a beginner!

Where exactly to play

If you’re still not sure which online poker room will suit you best, let’s have a short view on several of the most well known poker rooms in existance. They’re all equally entertaining, secure and overall good, which of them you will choose is entirely up to you from now on:

  • PKR easily distinguishes itself from all other online poker rooms. Apart from the games of Texas Hold ‘em or Omaha, and the standard play style, which is widely spread throughout the online poker environment, it offers something else: a poker community. PKR has a 3D play style, where you play through your avatar, which you can fully customize. For those who are more picky, there is an option to suit the avatar with just about everything, but it all comes with a price. These avatars are so lifelike that people have figured out “tells”, those gestures that can give somebody away when they’re bluffing. You can also use your 3D character to participate in the community – forums, discussions, contests, it’s just like Second Life if it would be about poker. Apart from this, it’s the same routine: bonuses, promotions and extras. For example, you will get up to $2,000 as a bonus. To collect this huge bonus you just have to register and enter “pkraces” as the promotion code. However, you do have to deposit $1,000 to benefit from that promotion. If you want to participate with less, just enter “igsbonus” and you will get another 100% bonus for up to $800.
  • Party Poker is another great website. In fact, it was the largest online poker room in the world up to 2006, when, because of its withdrawal from the United States market, it came in second after Poker Stars. Even with one continent down, Party Poker still manages to gather several tens of thousands of players at any given moment, so you’re never lacking opponents. Their software is as simple as they come, with many players choosing Party Poker as their first online poker room especially due to its simplicity. They also feature promotions, so if you decide to register, enter “just500″ in the promotions field and you will get a 100% bonus for your first deposit of up to $500. Good luck!

In conclusion

I hope this has been helpful for you. If you decide you want to pick up online poker, following these advices and steps will get you in the right direction. Hopefully, you’ll become a skillful and respected player.

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