There’s no shortage of fun to be had in the world of gaming today. Indeed, as alluded to in a guide to playing games posted here this past spring, there are all kinds of options –– from the trendiest apps to high-end video games, to the latest board games. There is one more popular option, however, that often seems to be left out of broader gaming discussions and set aside in its own category. We’re talking about online poker –– a game that is still played by an estimated 100 million people in the world, and 60 million in the United States alone.
As you’re likely aware, anyone interested in online poker can find a game online or download an app and get to it within minutes. In this article, however, we’re going to provide a few specific tips for how you can get the most out of your engagement with this ever-popular card game.
Nail down Texas Hold’em
There are more than a dozen varieties of poker in the world. That said, there’s no way around the fact that Texas Hold’em is by far the most popular, and the one you’re most likely to get into playing online. Because of this, it’s imperative that you learn the rules to this variety of poker inside and out if you’re going to have a good time.
Fortunately, the basics are quite simple! First, each player will be dealt two “hole cards” of their own (face down). You’ll look at your hole cards and decide whether to match the “big blind” (essentially an entry bet) or fold (or, if someone has bet above the big blind, whether you’ll match that to stay in). Then, the dealer will conduct “the flop,” wherein three cards are laid out face up for anyone to use simultaneously. At this point, you’ll once again have the chance to “check,” match a bet that’s been made, make your own bet, or fold. The dealer then lays down “the turn,” a fourth communal card followed by a betting round; then, “the river,” a fifth and final card before a final round of betting. At that point, the remaining players show their cards and the hand is over.
Once you understand this process –– as well as some basic terms and the proper hand rankings –– you’ll be able to play competently.
Chose a go-to site
When getting into online poker, it’s possible –– perhaps even advisable –– to try out a number of different sites. Even if fundamental offerings are similar, they all feel a little bit different, and it’s wise to take the time to find one you feel comfortable with. While some trial and error is reasonable however, you should ultimately try to select a go-to platform on which you’ll do the bulk of your gaming. It’s just a simpler way to play, and will enable you to better track your progress, engage with a poker community, and, if you’re playing for real money, manage your funds.
The following are a few sites we’d recommend for starters:
WSOP.com – A site seeking to imitate the World Series of Poker’s professional quality, offering both real money and free-play games.
PokerStars – Arguably the most established online platform, primarily serving a sprawling community of real-money players.
Americas Cardroom – A site on the rise, and one that has become popular among Americans seeking real-money games.
Zynga Poker – An established, simple poker platform with strong social components.
Find an app for practice
While we recommend choosing a web platform as a primary source for poker gaming, it’s also a good idea to find an app you like. This enables you to play on the go, and gives you a great way to practice the game in your spare time –– even if that means during a commute, or on a lunch break. And fortunately, there are a lot of poker apps you can play for fun without having to worry about the real-money component, serious competition, and so on. The following are a few such apps:
PlayWPT – The “industry standard” for casual, app-based poker, this is a smooth and reliable platform with a huge base of players.
Texas Hold’em Poker Pokerist – Despite its clunky name, this is an app on the rise, and is known for having particularly appealing graphics (as poker apps go).
Easy Poker – A simple, stress-free poker app that is best known for making it easy to set up games with other people you know.
Zynga Poker – The mobile version of the aforementioned social poker site.
Optimize your gaming setup
Once you know the game and you have your platforms picked out, all that’s left is to optimize your gaming setup. And really, you can approach this about the same way you would for PC gaming in general.
First, you’ll want to address comfort. And yes, this is where the rise of gaming chairs comes into play. These activity-specific pieces have been around since the mid-2000s, but have really come into their own in recent years –– with models from Noble Chairs, Maxnomic, DXRacer, and more now representing coveted items among gamers. They cost a few hundred dollars a pop, but they’re worth it for longer poker sessions.
Once you’re set with a chair, optimization becomes a matter of personal preference. Some poker players like to play with headphones in order to minimize distractions and hone in on the game. Some will want a specific keyboard or game mouse for the sake of smoothness or comfort. And some may go as far as to install curtains or smart lighting so as to tweak the atmosphere according to mood, or to bring about maximum focus. Whatever the case may be for you, give some thought to your setup. Your gaming experience will be better for it.
And that’s about it! With this approach, you can set yourself up for a fun poker experience. From there, you’ll start to meet other players, develop strategies, and –– most importantly –– see your game improve.