In the past several decades poker has expanded to include several different derivations of the game, including perhaps the most popular form of casino poker, Texas Hold’em. Some of the other variations are listed below.
Right now there are more than 300 Internet poker rooms. The largest Internet poker room has over 150,000 people playing at the same time during peak playing hours. Just do an Internet search for poker or take a look at some of the online poker-related sites, and you will quickly find many places to play and thousands upon thousands of pages of information.
The following games, and others, are readily available online:
1. Texas Hold'em
3. Omaha High
4. Seven-Card Stud
7. Five-Card Draw
8. Triple Draw
Many people were introduced to poker by seeing it played in the saloons in Western movies, and the poker game played was most often 5-Card Draw. Some people may also have heard stories of riverboat gamblers on the Mississippi River. For these reasons, a lot of people grew up believing poker began in America in the 1900s, and the only poker game ever played was 5-Card Draw. Actually, both assumptions are false.
The actual origin of poker is not known. Some say the Chinese played with cards as early as the tenth century a.d. In another part of the world, archaeologists recovered fragments of cardlike items dating to the twelfth or thirteenth century in Egypt. Of course, we don't know what the Egyptians used these cards for, but it could have been the first form of poker. We do know that in the sixteenth century people in India played a betting game called Ganjifa, which used a deck of 96 cards; and in the seventeenth century the Persians played a five-player card game, which they called As Nas, using 25 cards in five suits.
The current 52-card deck is often credited to European countries. In the fifteenth century, France introduced the current suits of clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades in a game called Poque. It is quite possible that the word "poker" is derived from that word. Others, however, claim that the word "poker" comes from the German card game pochspiel or the German bluffing game pochen, which dates back to the sixteenth century. Also, the British are credited with the introduction of games called "Brag" and "Faro," which were played in many saloons in the Old West.
Eventually, poker migrated to the United States in the late eighteenth century and continued to spread throughout North America. Variations of poque called "draw" and "stud" became popular during the Civil War. These terms are still used today.
Benefits of Online Play
Playing poker on the Internet is a tremendous way to gain experience and also less expensive than traveling to a card room. Most players tip the dealer when they win a hand in a brick-and-mortar card room (often called B&M) and also often tip the servers when they bring a drink or food. Playing on the Internet requires no tipping. Thus these expenses, as well as the travel expenses associated with live play are nonexistent.
In addition, you play many more hands per hour online because a dealer doesn't have to take the time to shuffle, and the play is faster because most online poker sites have a time limit for each player to act.
For players who are just learning to play poker or are learning a new game they have little or no experience with, online poker offers a wonderful arena to increase skill, knowledge of the game, and possibly build a bankroll at the same time. Most sites offer the opportunity to play poker for free, using play money. Some sites even have "free rolls," which are tournaments you may enter for free that pay out real money to the winners. In addition, many sites offer real money limits as low as .01/.02. The largest entry level limit at any site currently is 1/2.
The play at the free money tables is not very good, and it is recommended using them only to get a feel for the gaming software and/or to learn a new game. The smaller games of .01/.02 up to .25/.50 (often called micro limits) offer a slightly more realistic feel to a poker game because you play for real money, but the play is horrendous. As you climb in levels, the play improves, but some games as high as 3/6 and 5/10 can have some inexperienced players, just like at a live poker room.
The online poker business is highly competitive. As mentioned above, poker rooms make money from players in the form of rakes (the amount of money a card room takes from each pot) and entry fees. The more players a site has, the more revenue it will generate. For this reason, it seems as though every site has bonus offers to attract new players.
Practically every site offers a bonus on a player's first deposit ranging from 20 percent (deposit $100 and receive a $20 bonus) up to 100 percent (deposit $100 and get a $100 bonus). These deposit bonuses are usually tied to a requirement to play a predetermined amount of raked hands. Before depositing in any online site, make sure you have read the terms and conditions so you know exactly what you must do to receive the bonus.
Many sites also periodically offer reload bonuses (usually requiring another deposit under the same terms and conditions as a first-time bonus) to current players to entice them to keep playing at the site. Many players continuously move from site to site collecting these bonuses (often called bonus hunting), which can be a good way to increase a player's profit per hour of poker play. In addition, if you are able to simply play break-even poker, bonuses can make you a profit as you improve your game.
While playing poker online can be fun and exciting, there are some pitfalls to watch out for. In the next section, we will discuss the legality of online poker rooms, as well as strategy that should be employed when playing poker online.
Plan of Action
A quick way to start playing poker on the Internet is to set aside a small amount of money ($20 to $100) as a test bankroll. Open an Internet bank account (search the Internet for e-payment systems), and then find a couple of established online poker rooms that offer the opportunity to play for free, afford micro-limit games, and provide a sign-up bonus. Download the software and play the free games until you have a good feel for how it works. Then deposit your money, and start playing the micro-limit tables.
Many players jump right into a game that has higher limits before they are ready for it, and then they lose a lot of money before dropping back down in limits. Use these guidelines, and don't move up until you are ready. There is no shame in playing poker for pennies. If you do move up to a higher level and struggle, don't hesitate to move back down.
Poker Hand Rankings
Poker games are usually played with a 52 card deck, although some draw poker games include a joker or two as "wild cards". These cards have two aspects that affect the game:
The cards are numbered ace through nine, and those numbers correspond to the cards' ranks. (Although the ace can be either high or low, whichever benefits the player.) The deck also has "face cards" that are ranked in the following order, from highest to lowest:
The deck is also made up of four suits:
Royal Flush: A royal flush is a straight flush with the ace as the highest of five cards.
Straight Flush: A straight flush is a straight all of the same suit. In the case of two straight flushes during one hand, the one containing the highest card is the winner. The pot is split if both players have the same high card. (A "hand" can mean either the cards in a player's hand or a round of play; in this case, "hand" refers to a round of play.)
Four of a Kind: Four cards of the same rank. Four of a kind is often referred to as "quads." The highest four of a kind is four aces followed by four kings on down to four twos.
Full House: A full house consists of three of a kind and two of a kind. This would be called "kings full of sixes." If there are two full houses during one hand, the one with the largest three of a kind wins. In Texas Hold'em, it is possible for two players to have the same three of a kind; in those situations the pairs determine the winner. If two players have identical hands, the pot is split.
Flush: A flush consists of five cards of the same suit. In the event of two flushes during one hand, the flush with the highest card wins. If they are the same rank, it goes to the next highest card, and on down to the fifth card if necessary. If the two hands are identical, the pot is split between the winners.
Straight: A straight consists of five cards of any suit in order. As with the other hands, in the event of two straights, the one that starts with the highest rank wins. Aces can be used as a high card above a king or as a low card below a two to make a straight. You can't, however, use a king, ace, two sequence; and an ace below a two cannot be used as the high card.
Three of a Kind: Three of the same rank. Three of a kind is often called a "set" or "trips."
Two Pairs: Four cards of two ranks. In the event of two players holding two pairs at the same time, the highest pair wins. If both high pairs are the same rank, then the higher second pair wins. If both high and low pairs are the same, the pot is split.
One Pair: Two cards of the same rank. If two players have an identical pair, such as two aces, the next highest card in each player's hand is compared to see who wins. This is often called a "kicker" and is frequently necessary in Texas Hold'em. (The kicker will be explained in more detail in the next chapter.)
High Card: In the event no player has a hand containing at least one pair, the hand with the highest card is the winner. The rank of cards starting from highest is ace, king, queen, jack, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 if the ace is used as a 1.