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What is online poker ?
EDDIE PR Offline
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What is online poker ?
What is online poker ?

Online poker is not something that you play by yourself. Although you may be sitting at home all alone, you're connected to a game server via the internet. Every online poker game has at least two real people, while most have eight to ten. The larger tournaments have several thousand people all playing at once (at different tables, of course).

When you play online poker, you aren't playing against the "house". You don't make bets with the poker site. You make bets with the other people playing poker. The house (that is, the poker site) makes money by collecting a small fraction of each pot before awarding it to the winner. The house never gambles at all. This is very different from an "online casino", where the player and the casino are natural enemies. In the case of online poker, the house is a neutral third party.

Here's how it works. The ingredients are:

the poker web site - where you can find information about the games hosted by the site, the rules, promotions, upcoming events, and the place from which you download the poker client.

the poker client - the program you install on your own PC. It has a graphical display of the poker game showing the players and cards and has buttons you use to bet and fold. When you run it, it connects to the poker game server.

the poker game server - the central computer that hosts the poker games. The game server runs a computer program that acts as a dealer (shuffling and dealing cards and awarding pots), floorman (helping you find a seat) and cashier (handling chips and money). The game server ensures that all rules are followed correctly. The game server is the hub for all communication with and between the players.

the players - the people who are playing poker with each other. Each person is sitting at their own computer, running their own copy of the poker client, connected to the poker game server via the internet.

You can play online poker for play money or real money. When you play for play money, you are just playing for "play chips" or "free chips". When you first sign up you start out with some number of play chips. If you lose them all, you can simply ask for more, though some sites limit how often you can get more play chips. When you play for real money, you are betting real dollars, euros or pounds. Real money stakes range from tiny (in some games you can bet as little as a penny) to large (in other games the minimum bet could be several hundred dollars). The sites make their profit by collecting "rake" from the real money pots, but they are happy to host the play money games as a promotional expense.

Where real money is involved, the obvious first question is whether the site is trustworthy. Before you can play real money games, you have to deposit money with the site. How do you know you will ever be able to get that money back? Some sites have established track records of 5 years or more and have earned the confidence of thousands of players. But others have failed and gone out of business without returning the players' money. We'll show you how to choose a site with a solid reputation so that when it comes time to cash out you won't have any worries.

Getting started

The first decision you need to make is which site to try first. You can have accounts at more than one site if you want, but you might as well start off at one of the better sites. There are a number of factors you want to consider. Depending on which things are important to you personally, one site or another may be the best choice for you.

Choosing a site – how sites differ

Popularity. This factor is more important than you might think. The more people that play at a poker site, the greater the choice of games. At the largest sites, you can connect any time day or night and find hundreds of tables to choose from. Also, a site with a large player base can afford to spread a lot of different kinds of poker games, including less popular games that might be your own favorite. A smaller site can't do this because it would drain players from the other games, possibly causing another game to "break" (that's when all the players leave a table) because it has too few players. Another advantage of playing at a popular site is you can be assured that they are making a lot of money and will be operating far into the future. At a small site that is just getting by, you never know. Finally, a large player base means large turnout for tournaments, which means large prize pools. That's important if you want to win big in a multi-table tournament.

Ring game vs. tournament traffic. Some sites specialize in tournaments and others in ring games (that is, regular non-tournament single-table poker games). Depending on your own tastes, you'll want to choose a site that is tailored to your interests.

Game variety. Some of the biggest sites don't have a wide variety of games, even though they have a large enough player base to support it. For example, some sites do not have multi-table tournaments. Others do not have no-limit holdem ring games. But every site has limit holdem ring games. Check the site's web pages for listings of which games are offered.

Game selection and profitability. Although we mentioned this in the section on popularity, it's worth calling out separately. One of the most important skills of a winning player is the ability to find the most profitable game. But even the best player will do poorly if all the games are bad. Some sites tend to attract stronger players than others. Even within a site, some games will be much better than others. If profit is one of your motives, you want to play at a site where the other players are less skillful than average, and also where the site gives you the tools to distinguish a good game from a bad one. We'll talk about that more later.

Client software experience. The different poker clients vary widely in the graphics, lobby organization and overall ease of use. But since they all do the job, this is mostly a matter of personal taste. In later sections we'll point out how some of the clients provide special tools (such as the ability to keep notes about the other players) that can help give you an edge over opponents who don't know how to use them.

Customer service. Some sites are famous for taking care of player problems quickly. Others are just as famous for caring less about you than your cell phone company does. If you're not playing for real money, this isn't something to worry about.

Loyalty program. Every site has promotions aimed at retaining their customers, but some are more generous than others. Some sites hold freeroll tournaments, some have high hand jackpots, and others give you Frequent Player Points (like airline miles) that you can redeem for merchandise or tournament entries. Many of the promotions are available to play money players as well, in the hope that those players will some day decide to play for real money.

Financial reputation. This is a key factor if you are planning to play for real money. The last way you want to spend your time is worrying about whether your money is safe with the poker site. However, if you are only going to play for play money, then you don't care about this, since they won't have any of your money. In general, today's largest sites also have the best reputations.

12-02-2013 02:30 AM
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