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Poker has experienced a resurgence in recent years. It has gone from a game played in casinos and smoky backrooms, to a game played by millions of people for billions of dollars, and most of that resurgence is thanks to online poker.
It has never been easier to play the game, and since the early 2000s it has grown exponentially, drawing in hordes of new players from all over the world.
But where are those playings plying their trade, which sites do they play the most and which ones are the best?
The Most Popular Forms of Poker
There are many different varieties of poker. In most cases, you will find just 3 or 4 of these on the average online poker site, but some of the bigger sites have as many as 6 or 7.
Here is a list of variants ranging from the most popular to the most obscure.
- Texas Hold’em: This is the superstar variant of the poker world, but that wasn’t always the case and for many decades it played second fiddle to Draw and Stud varieties. In games of Texas Hold’em players get two cards and must make the best 5-card hand from these cards and 5 community cards, with multiple rounds of betting.
- Omaha: This game plays out exactly the same as Hold’em, with one major difference and one minor one. The major difference concerns the total cards, as players get 4, not 2, although they can only use 2 of these to make their hand. The minor difference is the fact that most games of Omaha are Pot-Limit, as opposed to No-Limit.
- Five-Card Draw: In games of Draw players get 5 cards and must choose how many they want to exchange, before undertaking a round of betting.
- Stud: This is an older game that often uses 7 cards and several rounds of betting. It is rare on modern online casinos.
- Badugi: A somewhat rare game where players get 4 cards and must try to make a hand that contains the lowest possible cards from each suit, with A, 2, 3 and 4 from different suits being the best possible hand.
- Mixed Games: These games cycle through several variants of poker, including HOSE, HORSE and more.
Understanding Online Poker Sites
There are a few basic rules to keep in mind when it comes to online casino sites:
- PvP: You are playing against other players, not the house. The house takes a small share from each pot, known as a “Rake”, but they have no interest in the outcome of those pots.
- Bonuses: The fact that the house is only earning a small share from each pot means they work on small margins and therefore don’t offer big welcome bonuses.
- Networks: Most betting sites have poker rooms attached, but these are often part of the same poker network. There are exceptions for sites like Pokerstars and Full Tilt, which use their own.
- High Rollers: Most poker sites have loyalty schemes, but these are only really beneficial if you are spending a lot of money or are playing real-money games on a regular basis. The more you play, the higher you climb, and eventually it may be possible to reach the top and get benefits such as sponsorship. In other words, you can be treated like a poker pro.
- Tournaments: If you really want to make it big playing online poker then you need to try your hand at major events such as the World Championship of Online Poker or the Spring Championship of Online Poker. These are huge events with regular massive jackpots to be won, and an overall leaderboard as well. Think of it like the Olympics of poker.
Play Online Poker for Free
A number of years ago a poker professional named Chris Ferguson did something that inspired many small-stake players. He went from $0 to $10,000, and he did it all playing online poker.
If you are disciplined and skilled, then you can do the same thing.
Most poker sites will give you a small bonus when you signup, usually in the form of bonus cash or free tournament tickets. There are also tournaments known as free-rolls. These are free-to-enter tournaments that have thousands of players, and typically have prizes ranging anywhere form $10 to $200 for the winner, depending on how big the tournament is.
It is possible to devote your time to playing these and to match Chris Ferguson in going from $0 to $10,000, but it’s not easy.
If your really want to match Ferguson’s challenge, then you should enter small stake events when you have won small amounts. By moving up by just a dollar or two you can drastically increase the total prize pool and, as a result, the amount of money you can win.
How to Find the Best Online Poker Sites
There are a number of great poker sites out there, and finding the best one requires a little due diligence on your part.
In many ways, it’s no different than when you are looking for top online casinos as you still need to focus on aspects such as reputation, security and accessibility, as discussed in our online casino reviews, but there are key differences. A top rating casino, for instance, is one that offers big bonuses, whereas a top rated poker site is one with a solid loyalty scheme.
The amount of games they offer is also important. Some networks have big tournaments just once or twice a day and you will struggle to find populated sit-and-go games. But this is not true for the major networks, where there are hundreds of games played every hour.
There are several types of site to look for:
Major Networks: These sites have their own network and can afford to because they have a huge member-base. They are big brands that also sponsor huge events, and the biggest of them is Pokerstars, who also own Full Tilt. In days gone by there was more competition in this department, but these days PS are in full control.
Betting Sites: Your average betting site, from Bet365 to Paddy Power and Unibet, tend to use the same networks, such as iPoker, OnGame and more. The layouts, setups and tournaments are the same and in some cases you will play against members of the betting sites.
Novelty: These sites can be good, like PKR, but in most cases they are not. They are often populated with low quality, small-stake players, and in most cases they don’t even play for real money and are simply extensions of apps.