Online poker has seen a surge in popularity in recent years as online gamblers make use of specialist poker casinos to play a thrilling, relaxing and rewarding game. A game of strategy, skill, and luck, poker has been popular for decades in real-world casinos, but now players can enjoy the same experience from the comfort of their own homes.
To get started playing online poker, check out our list of the very best online poker casinos. Keep scrolling to read our ‘how to’ guide to poker and to find out all you need to know about how to become an online poker pro.
The Best Online Poker Casinos
How To Play Online Poker
The rules of online poker are identical to the real-world game, just with a computerised version of the table, cards, and chips. Typically the display will show you who you are playing with, either with just a name or a player-chosen avatar and will allow some form of chat. Many casinos also offer ‘live’ poker games where players can see their dealer via video chat, bringing a touch of real casino experience to online players.
As with the real game, there are many different types of poker games to choose from. The most popular is Texas Hold’em, played by millions of people online each day. In that game, plays follow this pattern:
- Each player is dealt two face-down cards – cards which only they can see.
- The player to the left of the dealer bets the “small blind” – an amount equal to half of the game’s minimum bet – while the next player along bets the “big blind” – the minimum bet amount.
- The dealer now lays three cards face-up in the middle of the table – this is known as the “flop”.
- The players now bet on the selection of cards in front of them, with the winner being the player with the best hand, made from their cards and the cards on the table.
- The dealer lays two more cards, bringing the total on the table to five, with a round of betting after each card is laid.
- Once each player has betted on the fifth and final card, players take turns to reveal their best five-card hand, with the winner taking all of the money remaining on the table.
At any of the betting rounds, players can either check, raise or fold. Checking, sometimes referred to as ‘calling’ means to increase your bet to match what others at the table have already bet on that round. Raising means increasing your bet above what others have already wagered, and folding is when a player forfeits the game.
Winning Poker Hands
At the end of a game of poker, the winner is determined by the remaining player with the best hand. Knowing the possible hands is key to playing and winning a game of poker, so familiarise yourself with this list of hands before you get started:
- One pair or less – A hand containing two cards of the same rank
- Two pair – A hand containing two cards of the same rank plus another set of cards of the same rank
- Three of a kind – A hand containing three cards of the same rank
- Straight – A hand containing sequential cards in at least different suits
- Flush – A hand containing five non-sequential cards of the same suit
- Full house – A hand containing three matching cards of one rank and two matching cards of another rank
- Four of a kind – A hand containing four cards of the same rank
- Straight flush – A hand containing all of one suit in continuous sequence
- Royal flush – A straight flush including an ace, king, queen, jack, and 10 of the same suit
Types of Online Poker
There are many different types of poker played around the world – too many to mention here, in fact. Here are some of the most common ones you’ll see online:
- 5-card Stud – Unlike Texas Hold’em, players here are dealt five face-down cards to construct a winning hand from
- 7-card Stud – Similar to the five-card version, only with seven player cards and no community cards
- Omaha Hold’em – A similar game to Texas Hold’em except players are dealt four cards at the beginning of the game instead of two
Glossary: Important Poker Terms
Just as important as knowing all of the possible hands in poker is knowing the jargon and terminology that goes with the game. Dealers and players routinely use the game’s own language to describe the play, so learning the lingo is the only way to keep up:
Ante – A wager placed by players before the game begins
Blinds – Mandatory bets placed at the start of some versions of poker
Chips – A small disk with a cash value used for betting
Small blind – Half the game’s minimum bet
Big blinds – A mandatory bet equalling the game’s minimum bet
River – The last card dealt in games with ‘community cards’
Check – Passing your turn, usually because the bet has not increased since your last turn
Raise – A player increasing the minimum bet in a game
Fold – When a player forfeits their hand during a round of betting
Community Cards – The cards dealt face-up on the table
Winning Real Money Online
Many casinos offer both free and real-money online poker games. Free games allow players to get into the game instantly without any cash deposits, and provide a space for new players to learn the ropes and develop their own strategy before wagering real money.
Games which allow real-money betting are popular among players looking for a more exciting and rewarding experience, allowing players to bet on games and hands to win themselves money. Some games will have minimum and maximum amounts that can be bet by players, but players can usually find a game that meets their budget if they look through a casino’s game list.
Many online casinos also offer bonuses to poker players. These can sometimes include deposit matching, boosting the amount that players have to spend, sign-up bonuses, no deposit bonuses and free tournament entry tickets. Keep an eye out for these bonuses when you play as they can provide a big boost to your casino wallet.
Many poker casinos run tournaments for players. In these tournaments, a large number of players all start with the same number of chips and are divided into tables to play against each other. Play continues until one player is left at the end holding all of the chips.
The rewards for winning a poker tournament can be enormous, and many also offer prizes for other places too, so entering can be very lucrative. Novice players will want to brush up on their poker skills before entering, as tournaments attract some of the best poker players from around the world.
Whether you’ve played poker before in a real casino or against friends, or you’re only now developing an interest in the game, online poker is a fantastic way to unwind, win prizes, and test your skills against other players.
Take a look at our list of the best poker casinos online at the top of this page to start playing.