Online poker really took off in 2003 after the World Series of Poker was won for the first time by a player that had qualified through an online tournament. Suddenly, everyone wanted to follow in his footsteps, so they began piling into online poker rooms.
Eighteen years later, the world of online poker is very different. Many of those early players have developed much more mature and sophisticated strategies. Thus, the overall standard of play is significantly higher than it ever was.
That doesn’t stop new players from wanting to get involved. Online poker has become one of the most popular ways to play card games online as it offers a much greater challenge than other options.
After all, in poker, you’re playing against a table of other people and not a dealer who must abide by a strict set of rules that dictate what action to take for each card combination.
If you’re totally new to the world of online poker, you may be wondering where to get started. Thankfully, there are plenty of guides online that discuss the ideal strategies for beginners. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help players that haven’t got as far as entering a game yet.
So for those players, we’ve come up with a quick and straightforward guide to get you up and running in no time!
Find the Right Poker Site
Now that you’ve made the decision to try out online poker, you need to find a site where you can play. Depending on where you live, there could be anywhere from just a handful to several hundred options available to you.
Most sites will offer the same basic features and game types like Texas Hold’em and Five Card Draw. If you have an interest in a less popular variant, then you may need to shop around to find a room that offers what you’re looking for.
Another thing to consider is that most online poker sites offer a welcome bonus to new customers as an incentive to join them over a competitor. The same is true with online casinos, which will give deposit bonuses and free spins when you sign up and/or fund your existing account.
Bonuses and promotions from online poker sites work in an almost identical way. The most common offers are sign-up bonuses and deposit bonuses.
A sign-up bonus is usually much smaller, but it doesn't require you to hand over any of your own cash. In contrast, a deposit bonus usually matches the amount that you deposit, so a deposit of $/£/€50 would see a total of $/£/€100 credited to your account.
Be sure to check if the site is licensed and regulated. In the US, each state has its own regulator, like the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
In Europe, there are several major regulators, including the UK Gambling Commission, the Malta Gaming Authority, and Sweden’s Spelinspektionen. The poker site should display its license information at the bottom of its website, and you can double-check this on the regulator's website.
You can also search online for reviews if you want to find other players’ opinions of the site before you choose to sign up.
If you intend to play poker from your smartphone or tablet, you’ll also want to check that the site offers an app compatible with your device. Thankfully, almost all of them offer apps for both iOS and Android, so nearly every modern mobile device should be compatible.
Practice with Play Money First
Once you've chosen an online poker site and created an account, it's time to start playing. If you're new to playing poker, you may want to practice with “play money” first. Play money games are identical to those where you wager real money in terms of rules and mechanics. However, they don't cost you anything, and there is no real money reward for winning either.
Practicing with play money first is a good way to get the first-hand experience of implementing the strategies you've likely already read about. It also helps you to get to grips with the poker site's software without the pressure of playing with real money at the same time.
Even experienced poker players may want to take advantage of play money games first, especially if you haven’t played poker online before or you’ve just joined a new site.
This is because online and live games have a slightly different dynamic. You may need to adjust your approach slightly. Plus, because each online poker site has its software, the user interface will be different.
Take Advantage of Freerolls
Freerolls are another way that allows you to play poker for free, but they work a little differently to play money games.
Firstly, freerolls are a type of a freezeout poker tournament, while play money can be used for cash games, too.
Secondly, freerolls, while free to enter, offer some form of prize to the winners. This is usually a small pot of cash and/or entry into a larger online or live poker tournament.
These free entries are often offered as part of promotions for major events like the World Series of Poker that the site is sponsoring. The prize is incredibly valuable since buy-ins for these events can run into thousands of dollars.
Many online poker sites offer freerolls specifically for their newest players, giving them a chance to play against each other without more experienced opponents getting involved. Entry may be included as part of a welcome bonus.
Freerolls are a great way for new players to get a taste of what it’s like to take part in a poker tournament, again, without having to risk their own money.
While this is incredibly valuable, it is also worth remembering that freerolls that are open only to beginners may be somewhat more unpredictable than other tournaments. Novice players are often known to play more aggressively.
Manage Your Bankroll
When you’re ready to start playing with real money, it’s worth remembering that bankroll management is an important skill when playing poker.
Set a budget for how much you intend to play with each day, week, and month. Then manage how high you play to make it last over that period. This approach will allow you to develop your skills over time and slowly grow your initial bankroll.
Never Stop Learning
Finally, it’s worth remembering that you’ll never stop learning as a poker player. There will nearly always be a lesson you can take away from a table, whether it be a critique of your own decisions or that of a fellow player.
Either way, these lessons can be incredibly valuable in making you a better poker player. Never disregard the value of good poker tips, and always think of ways to improve your game. This strategy will pay dividends in the long run.