Poker is one of the most enduringly popular games in existence, from its early days as a simple game played at traditional land-based casinos, right through to its new lease of life courtesy of online casinos. Whether you’re looking to play the relatively simple Five-card Draw or more complex options such as Texas Hold ’Em, you should have no problem finding an online casino that suits your exact needs – but first, you’ll need to know how the game is played.
The first step to playing online poker is simply finding somewhere to play. There are plenty of old and new casinos online, all of which offer a wide range of different types of poker. There are many different versions of poker, and each has its own rules, so be cautious and ensure you select a game that you’re familiar with.
Having found the best online casino you can, the next step is to join a game. If you’re new to the style of poker you are about to play, it’s worth starting with a free game. This will allow you to learn while you play, without having to worry about losing your stake while you’re still learning.
Once you’ve become more familiar with the type of poker you are playing, and understand how players win and lose (and therefore how to maximise your wins and minimise your losses), you are then ready to “buy in” to a cash game. Buying in means paying the entry stake. This gets you a set number of “chips” – small tokens which represent a cash value – that you can use to bet with during games.
Games may be timed, with players awarded winnings depending on the value of chips they have at the end of play. Alternatively, the game may run until one player has won all of the chips from the other players, who can no longer bet as a result.
There are three basic types of Poker, and while they all share some common rules, the types are differentiated by various factors. The primary difference – although not the only one – between the forms of poker is how the cards are “dealt” – that is, handed to the players.
- Draw poker is the form of the game that might be most familiar to casual players. In this form of the game, a full “hand” is dealt to players, who then have the choice to discard and replace some of the cards they have been dealt. The most common version of Draw poker is Five-card Draw.
- Stud poker involves dealing a combination of cards face-up (visible to all players) and face-down (not visible). It will usually start with a single card in each of these categories, and proceeds in “rounds”, where new cards are dealt face-up and players can place bets based on what they see. Three- and Five-card Stud are the best-known versions of this form.
- Community card poker is perhaps the most popular online form of the game. Its versions include Hold ‘Em and Omaha. Each player is dealt a number of hidden cards, which can then be combined with shared “community” cards, visible to the whole table, to make the best hand.
In each version of the game, there will be a set number of “rounds”, where players can make initial bets and raise them if their cards look like winning. If their hand isn’t good enough, they may “fold”. If a player folds, they essentially sit out the hand, which is preferable to continuing to play and losing due to a poor hand.
A standard poker tournament may require you to “buy in”. Your stake will entitle you to a set quantity of chips, which you then bet on sequential rounds of poker. Tournaments will have multiple, timed “levels”, and if you have chips left at the end of a level, you move on to the next one. In most cases, progressing through the rounds means you will experience continually higher stakes and potential winnings.
The range of tournaments you can play in depends very much on the online poker provider you are using. However, the most common types of tournament are as follows:
- Sit and Go (SNG) tournaments are games which begin when there is a set number of players at the table. You opt in (sit), and when there are enough players to start, the game begins (go).
- Cash tournaments are usually more lucrative than SNG play, and there are several different versions to become familiar with. These will usually involve “buying in”.
- Freezeout tournaments are the most basic example of a cash game, and the crucial rule here is simple – if you lose all of your chips, you will be “frozen out” of the tournament.
- Rebuy tournaments follow the same rules and process as a Freezeout, but with one crucial difference. For a defined period – set by the casino itself – once you are frozen out, you have the option to buy in again if you wish to do so. After a certain level, this option will be closed off to you.
- Turbo contests are tournaments in which the levels are time-limited. Where levels usually last for twenty minutes or more, a Turbo tourney can limit this to ten minutes or even fewer. This speed element will change the way players approach the game, with the format primarily suiting players who are able to make good decisions while under pressure.
- These buy-ins may also be called Super Turbo tournaments, either because the time limits are shorter, or the promoter wants to create more of a buzz around the game.
- Some of the best online casino providers offer Guarantee tournaments, where the prize pool is guaranteed even when the tournament is undersubscribed or some players don’t show up. As there are fewer players, the casino has to make up the shortfall itself, and every player stands a better chance of winning. When this happens, it is described as an “underlay”.
- Finally, Satellite tournaments are competitions where the winning players are rewarded with entry to a higher-value buy-in tournament. These tournaments are far more lucrative, and by winning entry to them, you avoid having to fund the buy-in from your own bankroll.
The above covers the core fundamentals of playing online poker, but – as we have mentioned – different games and tournaments will have rules of their own. Due to this, it’s important to read through the specific rules of every game you wish to enter, just to be sure you know exactly what to expect. Only when you’re aware of the rules and have perhaps managed well with free rounds, should you consider buying in and playing for real.
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