Beginner’s Guide to Online Poker
This beginner’s poker guide is intended for people who are brand-spanking new to online poker. Note that this is not a strategy guide (we’ll be adding one of those later); this is a quick-start guide for people who want to try online poker for the first time. Inside this guide, we’ll talk about finding a poker room, we’ll explain poker bonuses and just generally get you situated with the current state of online poker.
Some of this information you can find in other sections of CasinoFYI.com, but we wanted to make a quick start guide with all the important information in one place. So if you’re new to online poker, read on for an introduction to the wonderful world of poker on the internet.
A Brief History of Poker
The first online poker rooms appeared in the late 1990s. According to a Wikipedia article, the first hand of real money online poker was dealt in 1998. Since then, online poker has exploded in popularity. The ease of poker, increasing technology and increased confidence in computer security have all contributed to the growth of the industry.
In 2003, online poker entered what we now call “the online poker boom.” The catalyst of the online poker boom was the Main Event of the 2003 World Series of Poker. An accountant named Chris Moneymaker won the Main Event and took home more than $2.5 million in prize money.
This was a significant event because it quickly became known that Chris Moneymaker was just an average guy who happened to win a seat through a $39 online poker tournament. Not only did this expose millions of people to the idea of online poker, but it also showed that average Joes can compete with the pros.
Since then, both online and live poker have continued to grow in popularity. The WSOP grows a little larger every year and online poker rooms are gaining countless new players every day. As online poker expands into new markets and new countries, things will only get better from here on out.
Getting Started with Online Poker
The very first step in getting started is to familiarize yourself with the rules of poker. Once you know the rules of poker, the next step is to find an online poker room. We have a few recommendations here at CasinoFYI.com, but there are many out there to choose from. In the next section, we’ll explain what to look for in an online poker site.
Finding an Online Poker Site
There are hundreds of poker sites out there vying for your business right this very moment. Choosing just a single room out of hundreds can be a daunting task but there are a few things you can look for to help make it an easy process.
The most important thing of all is finding a poker site that you can trust. It is absolutely vital that you only play at safe and well known online poker rooms. Most poker rooms are safe and trustworthy, but it just makes more sense to play at places that have established reputations.
With that in mind, we recommend any of the following poker sites:
200% up to $5,000 Signup Bonus
Carbon Poker is one of the most reliable online poker sites on the internet. The poker site was established in 2006 and has quickly grown to become a top-tier poker site.
- Feature-rich poker software
- Soft cash games
- Big variety of real money tournaments
110% up to $1100 Signup Bonus
Bodog Poker is operated by one of the most trusted brands in the industry - Bodog. This medium-sized poker site has cash games at all levels and a monthly $100,000 guaranteed tournament.
- Cash games at all stakes
- Healthy selection of tournaments
- Massive deposit bonus
Player traffic is also an important factor to consider when choosing an online poker room. The best poker sites to play at are ones that have enough players online to keep the games running all the time. We know from firsthand experience how frustrating it is to sign up at a poker room, make a deposit and only then realize that the tables are dead.
The poker sites that we list above are a combination of medium and large poker sites. Medium poker sites are good to play at because the competition is soft. Large poker sites do not have as soft competition, but there are many tables to choose from. In all actuality, it just comes down to a matter of preference.
Security and traffic are the two most important factors of all. Once you have those things established, you can look at other factors such as software and promotions. As far as poker software goes, you’ll learn pretty quickly what you like and don’t like in poker software.
For the most part, poker players prefer simple software that does the job quickly. Simple graphics are preferred over complex graphics because players like to be able to glance at each table and quickly see what’s going on and whose turn it is. Most players also prefer software that moves quickly and minimizes time spent waiting between hands.
Promotions can also come in handy. Poker sites are always hosting various promotions to encourage their players to stick around and play poker. Most poker sites host a variety of promotions such as deposit bonuses, tournament leaderboards, cash giveaways, VIP programs and more.
Poker Bonuses Explained
Poker sites offer deposit bonuses as an incentive to get new players to sign up and play real money poker. This is one of the main ways in which poker sites compete with one another for your business. It’s not uncommon to find poker bonuses that give out $1,000 or more to new players.
The basic idea behind poker bonuses is that you make a deposit and your poker site matches that deposit on a percentage basis. For example, a 100% bonus means that for every dollar you deposit, that poker site will match with $1.00 of its own. So if you deposit $200 under such a bonus, you’ll get an extra $200 to go along with it.
Online poker sites can afford to give out bonuses because every bonus has “clearing requirements.” These requirements basically state that you have to play X number of real money hands per bonus dollar. As you participate in real money games, the money is released to your account in $5 or $10 increments.
As you play in real money games, you also pay rake to the poker site. A little bit of money is taken out of every pot in ring games and every tournament has a small entry fee that is kept by the poker room. That’s how they make their money. By requiring you to play poker to clear the bonus, the poker site is able to make sure that you help pay off at least some of the bonus.
Clearing requirements also help the poker site by keeping players active at the tables. The more active players there are, the easier it is to attract even more players. So the end result is that poker sites are happy to give out deposit bonuses to all new players.
Legality of Online Poker
First of all, let’s clear something up here. We are not lawyers and nothing we say here counts as legal advice. We only speak from our own experience and research regarding the legality of online poker. If you plan on playing poker for real money, it’s up to you to check your own laws and come to your own conclusion.
We have to use that disclaimer because the legality of online poker varies from one place to the next. In the UK, online poker is completely legal and regulated. Poker fans in the UK can choose from a wide variety of licensed poker sites and play for real money.
In the United States, online poker occupies a legal gray area. On one hand, there are no federal laws that target individual players. We’ve never heard of anyone being prosecuted or arrested for playing poker on the internet in the United States. It’s ridiculous that adults even have to ask that question, but that’s our good old government trying to look out for our own best interests (laugh).
On the other hand, online poker isn’t exactly endorsed by the US government. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 told banks that they have to stop processing transactions to poker sites. Some banks have complied, other banks have fought the orders. The good news is that there are still plenty of deposit methods that US players can use to fund their poker accounts.
The laws vary widely around the rest of the world. We simply do not have the resources to even try to explain the vast myriad of laws that govern online poker around the rest of the world, so that is up to you. What we can tell you is that people around the world enjoy online poker, and we have yet to see the world end because people are able to play poker on the internet.
Safety of Online Poker
New poker players are understandably skeptical of the safety of online poker. The thought is that because you cannot physically inspect the poker facility, it would be too easy for the poker site or other players to cheat the game. Although we must admit anything is possible, we feel that online poker is as safe as (if not safer than) live poker.
First of all, you always have to put a little trust in your poker venue whether it be live or online. Any time you involve significant sums of money and human beings, you will find the occasional bad apple. It doesn’t matter if it’s live poker or online poker.
The good thing about online poker is that millions of hands can be checked for statistical anomalies. There are several poker tracking programs out there that record every hand of poker played on your computer. With millions of players using these programs and logging billions of hands, it is easy to determine if the actual results mirror the expected results.
Another nice thing about online poker is that collusion can be detected much easier on the internet than in a real poker game. On the internet, poker rooms use technology to detect suspicious play patterns. If a potential act of collusion is noticed, the poker room software flags that table for manual review.
Small online poker rooms have been known to shut down with little warning. That’s how it goes with anything in the business world – small businesses have a tough time establishing themselves. That’s why we recommend you only play at large and well known poker sites.
And one last advantage we would like to mention is that when you play online poker, there is no chance that someone is going to kick in the front door and stick a shotgun in your face and demand all your money. Live poker games get robbed from time to time because people know there is a lot of cash at such games.