Poker Basics: What To Know Before You Play Online

Online poker has been popular in the United States since its inception. The nature of the game has shifted over time, as has its legal status. But it’s never gone away, and ever since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic it’s been surging. Thanks to both the temporary shutdown of in-person poker rooms and the widespread embrace of online gaming as a social outlet during lockdowns, some reports have suggested that online poker demand surged by close to 30% in 2020. By this point, it’s believed that some 120 million people around the world are active internet poker players.

While the surge may subside as pandemic conditions continue to ease, it’s clear that a lot of people have become newly interested in online poker. Yet we also know that simply diving into this sort of gaming as a newcomer can be daunting. So for those who are interested, but may not feel equipped to play, we have a few tips regarding some of the basic things you should know before you start.

Poker Hand Rankings

Before you do anything else, take some time to refresh yourself on the poker hand rankings, which are essentially the foundation of most varieties of the game. Even if you’ve barely ever played before, you’re likely aware that a Royal Flush (10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace all suited) is the best possible hand, whereas the worst is a High Card. The reason the hand rankings are worth studying though is that it’s easy for less-than-regular players to mix up the hands in the middle. Before you start playing, it’s important to know for instance that Three Of A Kind beats a Two Pair, and a Full House beats a Flush (which beats a Straight) and so on.

Texas Hold’em Basics

There are numerous varieties of poker, and you can find most of them if you look. The most popular by a mile, however, is Texas Hold’em. So, naturally, you’ll need to know how to play this particular type of poker if you’re to enjoy active platforms. The good news is, it’s pretty simple. In Texas Hold’em, each player receives two personal cards, and five community cards are dealt (in a sequence of three, then one more, and then another). There are opportunities to bet or fold in between dealing stages, with the ultimate goal being to land the best hand combining your personal cards and three of the community cards.

Legal Status

When you’ve nailed down the hand rankings and Hold’em basics, the next step is to find out where you can actually play. That begins with learning which states have legalized poker, or its real-money version at least. At the time of this writing, those states are Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, Delaware, and Nevada. These are currently the only places in which you can legally play poker with actual money on the line. If you live elsewhere, you can still play online as much as you like –– you just won’t be able to play for real stakes.

Preferred Platforms

Once you know which forms of online poker are available to you, you’ll need to browse the platforms (both in your browser and via apps) and figure out where specifically you want to play. If you aren’t in a state that supports real-money games, or if you are and you still just want to play for fun, platforms like PlayWPT, Pokerist, and Zynga Poker are some of your best bets. These are all well-run sites and apps with reliably large user bases and plenty of playing options (though we might lean toward Pokerist in particular for its sleek look). If you have the ability to play for real money however, and you feel so inclined, you may want to look into platforms like 888Poker, GGPoker, and, all of which support a high volume of cash games and tournaments on a daily basis.

How To Set Up Your Bankroll

Finally, if you’re able to play for real money, you’ll also need to figure out how you want to set up your bankroll. One article on figuring out online poker recommends setting aside a small sum of $20 to $100 as your “test” or starting bankroll. With this sum, you can then open an account with a third-party money management system (such as PayPal). This way, you quickly establish a bankroll that is separate from your main bank account, and which will help you to manage your deposits and winnings with clarity.

We hope this has been helpful for those who might be looking into the online poker scene! Please check back on our gaming articles for more useful guides and updates on games of all kinds.