One of the big winners from the online revolution was online poker. The game has been around for almost two hundred years but finding a table full of like-minded players was never easy. The Internet made it simple and by the start of the 2000’s tens of thousands of people were playing or discovering one of cards most skilful games.
Poker has a strange position in both live and online casinos as players are not tackling the house and the house has no edge. It makes it profits from a tiny share of turnover, known as ‘rake’, and players aim to win their money from rival players.
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In Texas Hold’em, poker’s most popular variant, players are dealt just two cards, these are ‘hole cards’ and only the players they are dealt to can see them. However, another five cards are dealt face up and, as anyone can use them to make-up their best five-card poker hand, they are known as ‘community cards’.
The glory of this game is the significant fact that player’s do not need the best hand to win. They can, and often do, ‘bluff’ in order to make their opponents pass their hand.
However, having the best hand certainly helps and in ‘showdown’ situations the best hand according to the ‘poker hand rankings’ wins the chips.
Here’s a run-down of the official poker hand ladder from top to bottom:
- Royal Flush: 10, J, Q, K and A of the same suit.
- Straight Flush: Five cards in sequence of the same suit, e.g. the 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of hearts.
- Four of a Kind: Four cards of the same value, e.g. four 7’s.
- Full House: Three-of-a-kind plus a Pair, e.g. J,J,J,5,5.
- Flush: Five cards of the same suit.
- Straight: Five consecutive running cards, e.g. 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6
- Three of a Kind: Three cards of the same value, e.g. three 8,8,8.
- Two Pair: Two cards of the same value twice, e.g. 9,9,2,2.
- One Pair: Two cards of the same value.
- High Hand/Card: It’s unlikely but if no player has one of the above it is the player with the highest value card in his hand that wins
How to play Texas Holdem
Players begin by receiving their two face-down cards from the dealer, followed by a round of betting. The player to the left of the dealer will have already placed a “small blind” bet and the player to his left would have placed a “big blind,” which is twice the small blind and equal to the minimum bet. A round of betting will follow with players electing to ‘pass’, ‘call’ or ‘raise’.
Once this is complete the dealer will expose three of the five ‘community cards’ which is known as The flop – another round of betting, starting from the left of the dealer will follow. Players will now decide to ‘check’, ‘bet’, ‘call’ or ‘raise’ based on the strength of their hand or the potential they have to ‘make’ a bigger hand.
Once this is complete the fourth community cad is dealt, it’s known as The Turn and, once again, another round of betting ensues, as it does after the final community card is dealt The River.
If more than one player is left in the hand after this final round of betting, the remaining players hole cards are exposed and the ‘pot’, minus a small percentage for the house (the rake) is awarded to the player with the best poker hand.
Casino Bonuses & Poker
The leading online poker sites will offer bonuses to players for joining their poker community and playing regularly. Similarly, online poker sites will hold special free-to-enter tournaments called Free rolls. These cost nothing to enter but offer cash prizes or entries into bigger competitions.
Free roll tournaments are a great way to learn the game and are proven to attract new customers to online poker rooms while keeping their players loyal once they have joined their poker community.
No Limit Texas Hold’em, made famous by the fabled ‘World Series of Poker’ and films like ‘Rounders’ is the most commonly played poker game by far. However, other games and even variations of Texas Hold’em are available to online players.
- Omaha – a very popular ‘cash game; which is similar to Texas Hold’em apart from players being dealt four hole cards and they must use two of them when declaring their best five-card poker hand.
- Razz – a form of stud pokerthat is normally played for ace-to-five low (lowball poker). The object of Razz is to make the lowest possible five-card hand from the seven cards you are dealt.
- 7-Card Stud – the classic game in which players are dealt three cards face down and four up. There are no community cards in play.
You may have heard of Caribbean Stud Poker but, by definition, this is more like a traditional casino table game, akin to Blackjack, as players are tackling the house, and not other players using a lot of skills.
Tournaments vs Sit and Go
There are two basic key types of online tournament poker: Multi Player Tournaments (MTT’s) and Sit-and-Go’s (or STT – Single Table Tournaments).
Tournaments: In most online poker tournaments each player begins with the same amount of chips, and player continues until one players has collected all the chips. Naturally they win the main prize and between 10/15 percent of the ‘last men standing’ also receive a cash return.
Sit and Go: While MTT’s can take several hours to complete Sit and Go games are much shorter. That’s because they are limited to just one table featuring anything from 4 to 10 players. Depending on the number of players in this ‘mini-competition’ anything up to three players will receive a prize.
Casino Poker Games
If you have even less time on your hands, there is a great selection of Casino Poker Games. Just like Blackjack and Roulette you can up and leave these games at any time with your chips, unlike in a tournament environment, exchangeable for cash. These games against the house are a little less skilful and so appeal to the recreational casino players more so than poker diehards.