Online Poker 2020 – A Comprehensive Guide on How to Play

Texas Hold'Em Poker Feature ImageYou may think that playing online poker is a lonely, solitary experience. But you would be surprised at what a warm welcome you’d receive if you made that step.

When you sign up to an online poker site, you aren’t just sitting at a virtual poker table. You are signing up to a whole community and a wide scope of exciting experiences.

But what if you’re new? Does it take that long to learn how to play poker? And what’s the best online casino you can play poker at?

You’ll find the answer to all of the above, plus a few tips and tricks on how to optimize your strategy, in this comprehensive online poker guide.

How to Play Online Poker: Rules & Strategy

If you’ve never played poker before, the most common type of poker you’ll play to learn is Texas Hold’em.

Players don’t usually refer to Hold’em as the “classic” form of poker as there are so many popular types of poker, but Hold’em is definitely the form you’ll find most frequently. Whether online or in the real world.

Here’s a run-down of how to play online poker, with Texas Hold’em rules.

Online Poker: Order of Play

online poker tableWhether you’re playing on a poker app, on an online casino site, or in a live dealer game, the Hold’em order of play will still be respected.

First of all, there are a couple of steps to take before you can play.

  • Sign in at your chosen online casino/app.
  • Fund your casino account (if playing a real money poker game).
  • Hit “Play” on your chosen game and choose your seat at the virtual table.

As these are online games, other players from around the world will join you at the poker table. Some games have a live chat feature where you can congratulate a player for their lucky hand.

Here’s how the game will go:

  • Players buy-in to get their chips
  • Dealer deals two cards to each player
  • Small blind and big blind are placed
  • Players look at cards and decide whether to call/raise the big blind
  • Dealer plays the “flop” (3 face-up cards) in the centre of the table
  • Second round of bets, gathered into the central pot
  • Dealer plays the 4th
  • Third round of bets, gathered into the central pot
  • Dealer plays the “river” (final face-up card)
  • Final round of bets
  • Players reveal their cards
  • Player with the highest-ranking hand wins the pot

We’re aware that some of these terms and game features might not be familiar to newcomers. Let’s take a look at some of the most-used poker jargon you’ll find in online games.

Online Poker: Glossary of Poker Terms

online poker blindsBig/small blinds:  automatic bets that get the game started. The small blind will usually correspond to the table’s minimum bet amount. The big blind will be double the small one.

Call: This action is possible if someone has bet before you. In order to stay in the game, you have to at least match the highest bet at the table. To match the highest bet rather than raise the amount is what “calling” is.

Check: Can be signalled by knocking against the table twice. This action is only possible if no one has bet yet, or if your bet matches the highest bet at the table. Strategically speaking, it usually signals that your current hand is weak, and you’re waiting to see the next community card before raising your bet.

Community cards: also known as “shared cards” or “window cards”. These are the “flop” and “river” mentioned above. These cards are placed in the centre of the playing mat and can be used by all players to complete their hand.

Fold: The poker term for surrender. You abandon your bets and quit the game. In online poker, your cards are usually not revealed to the others when you fold.

Pot: The pool of chips in the centre of the table that steadily grows as players continue to bet.

Raise: This is when you bet higher than the highest bet at the table. Usually, you’ll have to bet double or higher than double. Strategically speaking, raising signals that you’re very confident about your hand.card suits

Suit: A deck of cards is divided into four collections or “suits” of cards, all of them comprised of Ace-10 and face cards (Jack, Queen, King). You recognize card suits by the colour and image present on the card. For instance, a “ten of Hearts” will belong to the “Heart” suit and feature a red heart.

Online Poker: List of Winning Hands

We keep mentioning winning hands. Indeed, the goal of poker is to manage to get a winning hand that has a higher rank than the other players.

First of all, card values change from card game to card game, so you should brush up on those. In poker, 2-10 cards (“pip” cards) are worth their number. Face cards have a higher value than pip cards. Their order of value is: Jack<Queen<King<Ace.

Every player forms their hand out of their own two cards and the community cards. Here are the winning hands to go for, ranked from lowest to highest:

  • High Card: If no one has good hands, the player with highest-value cards in hand wins.
  • One Pair: Player has two identical cards from different suits (i.e: Jack-Jack or 8-8).
  • Two Pair: Player has two sets of identical cards from different straight flush
  • Three of a Kind: Player has three identical cards from different suits.
  • Straight: Player has 5 cards in a sequence (ie: 9-10-Jack-Queen-King)
  • Flush: Player has 5 cards belonging to the same suit.
  • Full House: Player has three of a kind + a pair.
  • Four of a Kind: Player has 4 identical cards from different suits.
  • Straight Flush: Player has 5 cards in a sequence from the same suit.

Bear in mind that pairs can be built from your own two-card hand and the community cards. If there’s an 8 in your hand and an 8 in the community cards, you have a pair.

The “high card” rule is also used when two players have the same hands.  For instance, if there’s an 8 on the table and both you and another player have an 8 in your hand, you both have an 8-8 pair.

The winner will be determined by the value of the second card in your hand. So if your hand is 8-6 while the other player has 8-Jack, the other player wins.

Online Poker: Strategy for Beginners

Poker strategy mainly involves how to place your bets according to what hand you have. Whenever you check, call, raise or fold, you are communicating the strength of your hand to other players.

This is where the infamous “bluff” feature comes in.

Bluffing in Poker

poker bluffingYou can bluff in a few other card games, but poker is mainly known for the frequent use of bluff to mislead other players about your hand.

The idea of bluffing is to persuade other players that you have a brilliant hand so that they fold their own. That way, a player with a terrible hand can win against someone with great cards.

In order to bluff efficiently, you first have to know what you’re signalling to the other players by your actions. When raising, for instance, you’re telling other players “my hand is higher than yours” – so you have to be able to predict what the others are most likely to have.

Predicting Other Players’ Hands

As we mentioned in the glossary, checking and calling can be signs of weakness or of “average” hands, whilst raising can be a sign of having a great hand.

You, of course, need to be calculating the odds of other players having lower hands than you according to what’s on the table.

If, for instance, there are three Hearts in the flop and a player keeps raising or making big bets, he might be going after the Flush. So you’ll want to make him believe you have a higher hand than a Flush according to what’s on the table.

Downswings and Upswings: Learning to Bet Responsibly

responsible gamingThis is perhaps the one basic rule that all the experts will repeat until they’re blue in the face:

Only bet what you stand to lose.

It applies to a lot of card games, but especially poker if you plan on doing poker tournaments. These strain a player’s endurance, as you may go on a losing streak (or “downswing”) if you play game after game.

You have to learn when to chase the upswing and when to fold. Also, if you play buy-in tournaments that allow you to continue even after you lose your initial buy-in, it’s especially important to know when to quit.

What Are the Best Sites to Play Online Poker?

You can very easily find a myriad of free-to-play and real money Hold’em games online. Most players sign up to popular poker sites like Pokerstars or 888poker, simply because they’re the most visible.

But how do you choose the best site?

The first thing to make sure of is whether playing online poker is legal in your country, and whether your country features on your chosen site’s “restricted countries” list.

Let’s look at a few of the features you should be paying attention to.

Device Compatibility: Playing Poker on Desktop or Mobile

online poker mobile A lot of players like to play instant poker games for free, just for practice. These will usually require the most recent version of Flash-player. They’ll be available to play on your browser, no download necessary.

When signing up for online poker tournaments, however, players usually have to download game clients on their PC.

If you want to play on the go, there is also a wealth of options for smartphones and tablets. Poker apps allow you to be able to play after installing just the one app, for instance.

Live dealer poker will require a stable internet connection for the live stream to be as seamless as possible. But otherwise, it’s usually available on most devices with no download necessary, too.

Bonuses & promotions

Online Bonus Poker GuideYou’ll be pleased to know that there are poker-specific bonuses out there. Beyond the usual casino sign-up bonus, your deposits will earn you more than one sweet deal!

Indeed, the best poker sites should be encouraging you with poker-specific goodies. You can, therefore, have the advantage of winning free tickets to free-roll tournaments, promotion codes, deals on poker chips, and more.

Turning your bonus cash into withdrawable cash can also be much more fun than having to fulfil an arbitrary wagering requirement.

At some poker sites, you can redeem your bonus cash by playing X amount of hands or earning X amount of player points (these are earned through playing hands or winning games).

Payment methods: E-Wallets & Pay by phone

This is always a great one to look for. You’ll want to be able to withdraw those jackpots as speedily and hassle-free as possible.

Always check your chosen poker site’s available payment options to see if they allow the fastest tools. Pay by phone, for instance, allows you to group your casino deposits with your phone bill.

If you want to play rather than switch between apps to manage your funds, then popular e-wallets and phone bill options are the way to go.