Best Online Poker Sites

Online Poker versus Live Poker

Having been in and around poker for 10 years I always thought I preferred live play over playing on the internet as that’s how I learned the game before there ever was internet poker.  However, I’ve been playing quite a lot of poker recently, both live and online, and I have to say I now think I prefer to play online. Let me tell you why:

  • The speed of the game. With Online Poker you can play a minimum of 60 hands per hour on a 10 handed No Limit Hold’em table. Compare this with about 30 hands per hour in a live game. And that’s with a good dealer.
  • Live you can only play one table, although I have on occasions seen players try and play two! Online you can play up to 8 tables at once.
  • There are no dealer errors online. No misdeals, no exposed cards and you always know exactly how much is in the pot and how much the other players have in front of them. And you don’t have to tip the dealer!
  • The rake is a lot lower online. Land Based Casinos have to charge more because they have more costs and not as many tables.
  • Tournaments start every 10 minutes as opposed to only one or two per day in a real casino.
  • You can play naked if you want! And if you haven’t done this you really should try it!
  • The online poker room is always open and in a very convenient location. You don’t have to worry about driving to your local casino or trying to get even before they close at 4am.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, is the number of players in an online cardroom compared to a real cardroom. How many players can your local cardroom accommodate? 100, 200 or even 500, it’s nothing when you have online rooms with 50,000+ players. What this means is that you can always get a game at the time you want and at the limits you want. There are always new players to keep the games going and fill the empty seats.

Finding a Good Online Poker Site

Listed at the directly underneath are those online poker rooms which I currently recommend. All of the poker rooms which are featured provide players with good liquidity in terms of the number of players active and a great variety of different poker games to choose from.

These reviews are small in number and currently do not cover poker rooms available to play for US players, but this is an area we hope to introduce in the near future. Likewise, other territories we will be focusing on will include those Australian Poker Rooms and also poker sites which cater to Canadian players.

In addition, all the poker rooms which are reviewed and recommended also feature tables for all players, inclusive of no limit and limit games to choose from. If you like partaking in tournaments you will also be pleased that all the poker rooms listed run numerous tournaments throughout the day, 7 days a week.

Poker is not a hard game to learn how to play. It is, however, a difficult game to master.

In poker, for the most part, there are only a few rules to the game, so playing ‘perfect strategy’ in terms of what hands to go for and whether or not to stay in on a pot really isn’t the hard part. Getting good at poker means learning how to use the intricacies of the game to your favor, like reading your opponents, using your bluffing skills and knowing when to cut your losses or feed the pot.

What Players Want: Lessons from Full Tilt Poker’s Comeback

You can learn a lot about developing an elite poker site from the biggest failure online poker has ever seen.

It would be easy to write an article about what Full Tilt Poker did wrong. One could fill untold issues of CEM with even a casually detailed account of the once-mighty online poker room’s epic collapse. What often gets lost is that Full Tilt developed one of the most innovative and, for a time, successful products in the industry.

Emulating Full Tilt feels counterintuitive. But with the U.S. online poker market evolving in a highly fragmented and hyper-competitive direction, any opportunity to skip a step or two on the learning curve is worth investigating—and Full Tilt turns out to offer a better opportunity than average. Following are five things that Full Tilt got right, and that any other operator ought to, too.

1. Online poker is not just live poker played online.
Full Tilt excelled at leveraging the unique characteristics of online poker (primarily a player’s ability to occupy multiple seats simultaneously) into wholly new and exciting ways of playing the same old game. Rush Poker, where players are drawn from a cloud and tables are formed on the fly, generated intense interest among players and spawned an industry of imitators. Smaller twists like multi-entry tournaments were more novelty in nature but were still evidence that Full Tilt was always thinking about ways to embrace—heck, to assert—the online in online poker.

American operators will do well to adopt a similar attitude, eschewing attempts to simply recreate the live poker experience in a virtual setting. Effectively free of constraints like place and space, online poker is astoundingly more flexible than live poker. The rooms that test this flexibility to the fullest will be the rooms providing players with the most engaging overall experience.

2. Poker players want to feel cool.
A significant part of poker’s appeal is the (highly idealized) archetype of a successful poker player: an autonomous risk-taker relying on wit and courage to carve out a living on their own terms. What Full Tilt understood better than every other room was the power this image holds over a broad spectrum of players.

At Full Tilt, pros weren’t just successful—they were extremely cool. Aided by the steady aesthetic of Full Tilt’s marketing materials (a mashup of noir, old Vegas and Reservoir Dogs), photogenic site pros such as Phil Ivey, Gus Hansen and Patrik Antonius provided a veneer that made the whole outfit seem closer to Patek Philippe than to PokerStars.

But putting good-looking people in black suits is hardly revolutionary. The secret sauce was not giving players a vague aspirational goal à la “I want to be Phil Ivey.” It was giving them a multitude of ways to, at least theoretically, advance toward that goal. You want to be Ivey? Well, you could dress like him—just purchase his jersey from the Full Tilt rewards shop. Or you could learn to play like him—hop on Full Tilt’s virtual rail for a front row view of Ivey and his opponents swapping six-figure pots. You could even learn to think like him—just watch Full Tilt’s commercials featuring Ivey’s internal monologues. And the ultimate step in the mythic journey was often hovering only a few clicks away: you could challenge the man himself.

“Learn, chat and play with the pros.” Full Tilt’s original slogan says it all. After all, to be the best, you have to challenge the best. And Full Tilt was where the best played. That was the highly persuasive, if not altogether accurate, narrative the old Full Tilt Poker advanced at every opportunity.

The takeaway for operators: A brand that incorporates an idealized version of the professional poker player is a good first step, but providing players ways to engage with and adopt that image for themselves is what elevates the brand into a culture.

3. High-stakes games are highly leverageable.
No online poker room made more out of its nosebleed action than Full Tilt Poker. The benefits of steady high-stakes action at an online poker site are largely obvious, but worth repeating nonetheless:

• Just like Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio, high-stakes online games provide a tangible aspirational target for players at lower stakes.
• High-stakes games generate storylines for the narrative-starved poker media. The best of these arcs (such as Guy Laliberté’s rumored stint at the Full Tilt nosebleeds) can dominate the conversation for weeks at a time.
• On occasion, high-stakes games produce marketable stars (such as Viktor “Isildur1” Blom or Tom “durrrr” Dwan) with a very compelling pitch: “I got here, and so could you.”
• High-stakes games provide the closest thing online poker has to a highlight reel, a key component for garnering mainstream interest.

High-stakes games aren’t all upside and may prove more difficult to support in a tightly regulated market. But their benefits are too substantial to ignore outright.

4. There is no liquidity without risk.
It’s easy to forget that Full Tilt Poker was a mid-tier room before the UIGEA passed, battling now-defunct networks like Paradise and Cryptologic for Party Poker and PokerStars’ leftovers. Staying in the U.S. market post-UIGEA—a risk that competitors like Party Poker deemed excessive—nearly doubled Full Tilt’s market share overnight and sparked a growth spurt that lasted right up until April 2011.

The battle for players in a post-regulation U.S. market will be fierce. A solid product combined with a strong brand and high-level celebrity endorsements won’t be enough to win the day. Obviously, I’m not suggesting operators charge aggressively into the darker-shaded gray areas of the law (although PokerStars might disagree on that point). What I am saying: Operators with a minimum-risk plan for online poker that relies on strong fundamentals to drive steady player base growth over the long term are already in trouble.
To put it in motivational poster speak: Go big or go home.

5. Be many rooms for many people.
Full Tilt Poker did a good job of building a room that simultaneously appealed to players of many skill and experience levels. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Build a room too obviously targeted at casual players, and you turn off those who view themselves as “serious” players. Build a room too centered around hardcore players, and you might overwhelm and alienate the casual crowd.

There are a number of ways to solve this riddle; Full Tilt did it primarily through a combination of upfront simplicity and readily accessible depth. Their lobby was a good example. You could easily jump right into games with a few clicks, but you could also access powerful filters and additional tools for a more customized, and more complex, lobby experience.

A less direct, but still interesting, example of how Full Tilt catered to multiple audiences with conflicting desires simultaneously is player avatars. At Full Tilt, players could choose from a range of cartoony avatars ostensibly aimed at recreational players (such as a ninja, a Venus fly trap and a mummy) with a selection of expressions (angry, confused, happy, etc.) that could be used in-game. The avatars were free, easy to use and easy to ignore.

But Full Tilt also used the humble avatar to appeal to the hardcore player. If you won a special tournament event, you were rewarded with an exclusive avatar, and custom avatars were available in the rewards shop only to players who had paid massive amounts of rake.
Full Tilt Poker is likely to remembered for Black Friday above all else. And while that is a part of the site’s history—not to mention a valuable cautionary tale—the legacy of a business is generally not a zero-sum game.

American operators looking to mine online poker’s past for valuable insights would be wise to keep this fact in mind. Failing to do so risks wasting time and resources relearning crucial lessons one could easily glean by analyzing the first incarnation of Full Tilt Poker.

Real Money Poker Game Rules

This might seem like common sense, but it’s surprising how many people sit down at a real money table and aren’t even sure what a hand is worth. It’s also surprising how many people have no idea how to play a particular type of poker, yet happily lose money at it without knowing the rules in full. If you need help with hands and/or game rules; read up first: How to Play Poker for Beginners

Learn the Odds of Making Your Hand

Make sure you know not only what hand beats what, but how likely a hand is to come up at any given time. It’s one thing to know that two pair isn’t as good as a Flush – but it’s just as important to know what the chances are that your opponent actually has that Flush dealt. This will help you read a bluff.

You should be able to determine the likelihood that you will improve your hand (before it’s completely dealt) and the chances of your opponent having a hand that beats it. If you don’t, how do you know when to stay in the round and when to fold?

Learn to Calculate Pot Odds

Every time you’re required to feed the pot you should be asking yourself – what’s the pot value versus how much money I have to put in? It’s simple risk management – if you have a 1 in 10 chance of taking a pot, but a 1 in 20 chance of having the winning hand on the table – fold!

Over the long run, you’ll win more money if you stay in on games where the chance of taking the pot outweighs the risks.

Don’t stay in every hand!

It goes along with assessing the amount in the pot, but starts earlier than there. If you’re dealt a hand full of crap – fold! Provided you’re not bluffing, why put in any more money than you have to when the odds are against you. The reason most people stay in on a bad deal? ‘Because it’s boring to fold and wait for the next hand.’ That’s not something you’ll hear a professional player say, ever.

The exception to this is the occasional bluff. It’s still not wise to stay in without a decent hand if someone else has initiated the raising and appears to have a hand. However, if you never put any money on the table without having 4 of a kind first, people will eventually figure it out. When that happens, the pots will be small on your winning hands because people will know to fold.

Find people that aren’t as good as you!

It’s simple, there are people at different skill levels for every game – why play against the pros? If you can find a table full of people that you can beat – play there! Poker’s about winning money, not trying to match your skills for the biggest challenge.

Bluffing in Poker

Bluffing is the act of raising the pot in a round of poker in the hopes of making other players fold, without actually having a good hand to back up the bets and/or raise(s).

For example, playing with a group of friends you’re dealt a pair of two’s – but there’s no-one else raising on the table, so you raise the maximum amount and fake a quick smirk as if impressed with your hand. The 2 people left on the table decide to cut their losses rather than feed the pot and fold. You win with a lowly pair and rake in the pot. That’s bluffing.

Why Should Someone Bluff?
Assuming proper poker strategy is played, bluffing is actually the one factor that turns poker into a true game of skill. It serves two main purposes:

It allows you to win hands even when you’re not dealt a ‘winning’ hand.

It allows you to win bigger pots when you are dealt a winning hand.

Lets explain. As in the example above, you can see how it’s possible to win a pot even when you’re dealt squat – there are times when the players around you don’t have much of a hand either and would rather fold and cut their losses than for the win. Of course, you don’t have to have an awful hand to bluff – you’re just assuming that you don’t have the best hand at the table (if you think you have the best hand, you’re not bluffing now are you? :).

You’ll need to bluff occasionally to get bigger pots out of the table. It’s simple actually if you only raise when you’ve got a good hand – it doesn’t take long for other players to notice and act accordingly. Sure, your good hands will still win the pot, but if everyone folds on your first raise you won’t be winning much – so players need to believe you’re at least capable of bluffing.

But that’s the beauty of bluffing – you can do it so many ways. You can act like someone that doesn’t bluff and then turn into one that does, and watch people fold on your worst hands. You can intentionally bluff too much then watch everyone feed the pot not knowing you have four aces in your hand.

No single bluffing technique will work at any given time, it depends on who you’re playing with and whether they’ve caught on! Try to mix up your strategy before people get wise to you.

Don’t be too predictable. In some cases, you’ll want to appear predictable to get players doing what you want, but if you don’t change your habits from time to time you’ll start losing fast.

Bluffing doesn’t usually work when there’s a packed table of people still in on the hand. Don’t expect 5 other players to fold on your pair of 2’s, chances are someone has a good enough hand to stay in.

People are less likely to fold in split pot games like Hi/Lo because they’ve got a better chance of winning half the pot than they would in a ‘winner takes all’ game. This is especially true for Hi/Lo, when many players will qualify for a low hand. Bluff accordingly.

Know when to fold ’em. It’s inevitable that you won’t win every hand that you’ve bluffed on – sometimes your opponents will have strong enough hands to stay in no matter how much you raise. It’s a bad habit to fold every time a player raises your bluff (unless you want people to know every time you’re bluffing). At the same time, it’s bad for your stack of poker chips to follow all your hands through when it’s obvious you’re going to lose.

Bluffing in Online Poker

There’s no denying that there’s more intricacies to bluffing when you’re playing with people face to face, as your gestures, demeanor and what you say can all play a part in your bluffing strategy (or determining other peoples bluffing habits). When playing online poker you don’t get to ‘see’ people, so bluffing is reduced to your actions on bets and raises throughout multiple hands. Still – it plays an essential part of any poker game, so be sure to make it part of your game, online or off.

Poker Hand Rankings

Royal Flush
The five highest cards, the 10 through the Ace, all five of the same suit. A royal flush is actually an ace-high straight flush. Which suit it is doesn’t matter in poker. Two people with royal flushes would tie.

Straight Flush
Any five cards of the same suit in consecutive numerical order. Our example shows a five-high straight flush.

Four of a Kind
Four cards of the same denomination. Our example shows four jacks with a deuce kicker.

Full House
Any three cards of the same denomination, plus any pair of a different denomination. Ties are broken first by the three of a kind, then the pair. Our example shows sevens full of threes.

Any five non-consecutive cards of the same suit. Our example shows a queen-high diamond flush.

Any five consecutive cards of mixed suits. Ace can be high or low. Our example shows a six-to-ten straight.

Three of a Kind 
Three cards of the same denomination. Our example displays three of a kind, fours.

Two Pair 
Any two cards of the same denomination, plus any other two cards of the same denomination. If both hands have the same high pair, the second pair wins. If both pairs tie, the high card wins. Our example shows two pair, eights and fives.

Any two cards of the same denomination. Our example displays a pair of nines. In a tie, the high card wins.

High Card
If no other hand is achieved, the highest card held wins. In our example, the king of hearts is the high card.

How Casino Poker Tournaments Work

Casino Poker Tournaments are a great way to immerse yourself in an intense day of poker. Most tournaments operate by charging a buy-in and a fee generally noted like this: $100+$10 – which means you pay $100 toward the prize pot and $10 to the poker room for hosting the tournament.

Once the players have bought into the game, each player receives the same number of chips and regular poker play commences and goes on until 1 player has won all the chips. That player takes the prize pot.

To make sure the tournament progresses faster blinds increase at predetermined intervals, which range anywhere from 15-60 minutes depending on the structure of the tournament.

Fun Poker Facts

Whether you consider yourself good or bad at poker I’m sure you’ll enjoy these fun facts about poker.

Playing cards were invented in China

A fifth suit was added in 1937 but never caught on because people had to buy all new decks

At least 65,000,000 Americans regularly play poker

Dead mans hand is Ace’s and Eights

Getting dealt 10 , 2 is referred to as Doyle Brunson because he won back to back World Series with the hand.

In the 1800’s, 2,000 to 2,500 riverboat gamblers played poker on American Waterways, By contemporary accounts, no more than four of these poker players were honest all the time. A straight beat a flush at this time.

Las Vegas Casinos are not legally obligated to pay off there gambling debts

Due to French Influence, Spades represent Royalty, Diamonds represent Merchants, Clubs represent the peasants, and hearts represent the clergy.

Edmond Hoyle lived to be 97, but diesd 150 years before Poker was invented.

Playing cards were introduced in Europe in the 1300’s

When Columbus landed in 1492 in North America, his men plucked wide leaves from trees, drew pictures on them and played cards.

Historians generally agree that Bill Hickock was a lousy poker player.

Groucho Marx got his name from carrying his poker money in a “grouch bag”

Former President Richard Nixon won $6,000 playing poker in his first two months in the U.S. Navy during WWll. That’s roughly equal to $42,640 in 2004 dollars. He used that money as well as more poker winnings to finance his run for the U.S. Congress in 1946, for which he won.

The saying ‘a chip and a chair’ comes from tournament poker and means that so long as you’ve got a chip left then you have a chance to win.

It originates from the 1982 World Series of Poker where Jack Straus was down to only one $25 chip early in the tournament, but staged a remarkable comeback to win the event and become World Champion.

Thus the old ‘chip and a chair’ adage is now widely invoked by short stacked tournament players all over the world.

So if you do happen to be down to your last chip or chips in a tournament, here are some tips that might enable you to perform a Staus–like miracle:

  1. Although Straus was down to a single chip, that was because he lost a big pot where his opponent had one fewer chip than he did.  Try not to let yourself go that low. When you have only 3 big blinds it really is time to make a stand.
  2. Although a multi-way pot might give you a chance to treble your money or more, you are also more likely to go bust. Furthermore, your opponents are likely to check the pot down when you are all-in to try and eliminate you. (This is not collusion and is good tournament strategy) The best chance you have to get more chips and stay in the tournament is against just one other player.
  3. The hands you should be looking to go all-in with and try to double up are hands that can win on their own without any help from the community cards. For example an Ace-rag rather than a Jack-Ten.
  4. Position is still important, even when short stacked. If you choose to go all-in under the gun it is more likely that you’ll get one or more callers behind you, and someone will probably have a better hand.
  5. Keep your eye on the size of your stack in relation to the blinds at all times. Although you might be very short stacked one minute, a couple of double ups might allow you to adjust your strategy and not be looking to find an opportunity to go all-in and double up.

So next time you take a bad beat in a tournament and find yourself the low stack don’t lose heart and think of Jack Straus. Until next time.