How Does Online Poker Work?

Are you interested in playing poker online but don’t fully understand how it works? Perhaps you’re reluctant to deposit your money and disclose your details. Or, you might be unsure about joining a table where you can’t see the faces of the other players.

This short guide will give you an overview of how online poker works. We’ll look at the different kinds of games and tournaments, as well as show you how to tell if an online casino is a safe and secure place to play. Once you’ve grasped these essentials, you’ll know if playing poker online is right for you and have an idea of the best places to play.

What’s the difference between networked and independent poker sites?

Networked sites are individual poker sites that are part of a wider network of online casinos. Networked sites use the same software to run their poker games and ‘share’ players. As a result, you can sign up on one site and play against players on every site in that network.

The advantage of playing at a networked site is that you have more choices of games to play. Plus, it’s more likely that a game is running when you want to play. However, you’ll occasionally find that the site running the game has poker bonuses reserved for its members only. If you notice that one site runs more promotions that the site you’ve joined, you might want to sign up with them too.

Independent poker sites tend to be larger and don’t accept players from elsewhere. The largest independent poker site in the UK is PokerStars, who offer a range of tournaments including freerolls and sit & gos.

What’s the difference between cash games and tournaments?

When you’re playing in a cash game, you can come and go when you like and buy-in for as much as you like (within the table limits). Cash game buy-ins will usually be somewhere between 20 and 100 times the big blind. These games will fall into one of the following three categories:

Fixed Limit: the value of bets and raises is fixed by the casino
No Limit: the value of bets and raises is not limited (buy-ins for these games are typically 10-40 times the big blind)
Pot Limit: you bet or raise any amount between a specified minimum bet and the current value of the pot

Buy-ins for tournament games are set and range from £5 to £100. The entry fees make up the prize pool, which the casino divides amongst the winning players.

There are various types of tournament available. Four common online poker tournaments include:

  • Multi-table tournaments: These tournaments attract hundreds of players and offer large payouts. How much you get paid will depend on where you finish; if you make it to the top 20 you’re likely to see some cash.
  • Sit & gos: In Sit & Gos there are a set number of spots available. Once the set amount of places are filled play begins.
  • Bounty Hunters: Bounty Hunter tournaments pay players for knocking others out of the game. Sometimes you’ll have to knock out a specific player while at other times you can go up against anyone.
  • Re-buys: Re-buy tournaments let you buy back into the competition if you’re knocked out.

What games are there in online poker?

The answer to this might well be all of them. The internet is a big place and you’ll find a larger variety of poker games online than you would in a single in-person poker room. In fact, online gambling sites played a key part in revitalising the game of poker, which had been waning in popularity since the ’90s.

The most popular types of online poker include:

• No Limit Texas Hold’em
• Pot Limit Omaha
• H.O.R.S.E.
• Eight-Game
• 7 Card Stud
• 5 Card Draw
• Open Face Chinese Poker

How do the mechanics of online poker work?

A random number generator (RNG) shuffles and deals the cards at an online game of video poker. As a result, the cards are even more random than they would be in a hand-shuffled deck.

During play, sophisticated encryption algorithms make sure the content of your hand is for your eyes only. Encryption ensures that other players and poker room staff don’t see your cards until the game has played out and you show your hand by choice or in a showdown.

What is the ‘Rake’?

In cash games, money is moving from player to player. So, what’s in it for the casino? Of course, online casinos take their share and this is known as the ‘Rake’. The Rake is a capped amount (usually around 5% of every pot) that’s raked off by the casino on hands that reach the flop.

How do you make deposits and cash out?

Once you’ve signed up, poker sites will hold the money that you deposit with them in an account or virtual wallet. Money moves between the players’ accounts as they win and lose, just like it does at a real table.

You can deposit using various payment methods, including Debit and Credit Cards, Cash Vouchers or E-wallets. Always check a poker site’s deposit options and withdrawal speeds before choosing to play with them.

What do you look for in a reputable online casino?

There are lots of reputable online casinos out there offering a secure and fun environment for poker players. Sadly, there are also some unreliable providers in the market, but you only need to do a few checks to suss them out. Look into the following to ensure a casino offers a safe place to play:

Regulation and licensing: Only consider casinos that display the UK Gambling Commission seal of approval.
Deposits and withdrawals: Check out their payment policy. A good casino will promise to transfer your cash within 24 hours of a withdrawal request.
Online reviews: Consider how other players have rated the casino. If a disproportionate number of people have had issues with a site, give it a miss.

How online poker works: some parting advice

Online poker is one of the best table games to play at a casino. Because there are so many different kinds of poker available online, you’ll never get bored of playing the same game. What’s more, there are plenty of bonuses and freerolls to take advantage of, so you can make your cash stretch further too.

If you’re new to online poker, try a few different poker sites before sticking with one you like. Only by experimenting with different venues and seeing how their poker is set up will you know which kind of game you most enjoy.