A parallel success story to that of online casinos as a source of online entertainment for players around the world has been that of online poker sites. Liberated from smoky backrooms in licensed (and indeed, unlicensed) clubs, poker has proliferated on the Internet – an environment, for the most part, where a well-practiced ‘poker face’ is of absolutely no use to psyching out your opponents! If you’re already well versed in the ‘flop’, ‘turn’ and ‘river’ then we’ve some rather fine places to play below. For newbies to the draw of poker, we hope this article will shine a light on what this classic card game has to offer.
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In truth there are quite a few games that come under the umbrella of ‘poker’, however in the online poker universe, one version reigns supreme – Texas Hold ’Em. As this is the most likely game new online poker players will cut their teeth on, here are the basic rules of this five-card poker:
Poker Hand Rankings – Before getting into the mechanics of play it’s important to understand the hand rankings that determine the results in five-card poker games. These are in descending order of strength:
The Beginning of Play – Every player at the table is dealt two cards ‘blind’ (face down). These are each player’s ‘hole cards’. At his stage – sometimes called the ‘pre-flop’ – the player to the left of the dealer must stake the ‘small blind’. This is an ante bet, valued at half the minimum bet allowed for that game. The player to the left of the ‘small blind’ player must then stake the ‘big blind’ of the full minimum bet. With the small and big blind bets on the table, play cycles clockwise around the remaining players at the table. Each in turn must decide to ‘call’ (match) the largest bet placed so far on the table, raise it or fold their cards.
The Flop – once all the players have made their decisions in the ‘pre-flop’ stage, three shared community cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table. Players still in play then enter a further round of betting, considering how the community cards could meld with their personal hole cards to create the strongest ranking poker hand.
The Turn – with the betting round on the flop complete, another card is drawn and added to the community cards in the middle of the table. This is the ‘turn’, and another round of betting follows.
The River – once betting on the ‘turn’ is over, one final card is drawn to complete a full draw of five community cards, This card is called the ‘river’, and triggers a final round of betting.
Result – with the final round of betting concluded, all players who haven’t folded reveal their hole cards. The player who can form the highest-ranking five-card poker hand from their hole cards and all or any of the community cards wins the game. They are paid all the bets staked on the table, minus the ‘rake’ – a commission deducted by the house for running the game.
Whilst Texas Hold ’Em poker has become the primary weapon of choice for new players at the best sites, if that game floats your boat it’s worth expanding your poker horizons with some other variants found online.
Omaha Hold ’Em – This is played much like Texas Hold ’Em except each player receive four rather than two hole cards. The player must also use exactly two of their hole cards with three of the five final community cards to build their best hand at the conclusion of the game.
Omaha Hi Lo – This variant of Omaha Hold ’Em splits the winner’s pot 50/50 between the best high and low hands around the table. The low hand is determined by the five lowest cards in the player’s hand, with Aces counting as ‘1’.
Razz – This is like the ying to Texas Hold ’Em’s yang. Here your aim is to build the lowest ranking five-card hand you can from your two hole cards and five community cards.
5-Card Draw Poker – Draw pokers differ from Hold ’Em type games in that there are no community cards. Each player in 5-Card Draw Poker receives five, rather than two blind cards. After a round of betting, each player who hasn’t folded may then discard any or all of their cards to receive new replacements from the deck (the ‘draw’). After the ‘draw’ a final round of betting follows after which players must reveal their hand.
Sites generally offer seats at their virtual tables in two basic formats:
Tournaments – All the players at the table begin by buying in with the same amount of chips. The game continues until one player at the table has won all the chips, knocking out all other players. That may end the tournament, or qualify the winning playing into a further round.
Sit and Go – Sit and Go games are better suited to casual players who don’t want to commit the time to see out a tournament game. Players make take a seat at the table at any time with whatever chip stack they choose to fund. They can similarly exit at any point after a game has finished, taking any unused chips with them.
Because traditional games pit players against each other, rather than against the house, games like Texas Hold ’Em are not found amongst online casino’s table games. They are considered a separate class of game, usually under a separate tab if a site has a poker product at all. However, you will find many of the best online casinos offer ‘casino pokers’.
Casino Pokers – This class of game changes the players aim to simply beat the dealer by holding a better ranking poker hand. The rules of play ensure a house edge is built into the game, and rarely require the skills needed in traditional poker games. Examples include Caribbean Stud Poker and Casino Hold ’Em.
Video Poker – Video poker games are arcade-style casino machines which play a simplified from of draw poker. The player’s aim is to build the best five card poker hand they can with one opportunity to discard all or any of the first drawn cards for fresh cards. Final hands with a minimum qualifying rank (usually a Pair of Jacks or better) are paid according a fixed paytable, with higher pays for higher-ranking hands.
The rise in interest in online poker has also stimulated interest amongst many players in casino and video pokers too, so you’ll increasingly find a broad range of these games at many of our recommended casinos.