Real Money Poker
Though many poker sites do not release information about their revenue, experts estimate that the largest of these are billion-dollar businesses and that the industry as a whole is valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide.
With very little in the way of overhead and maintenance costs, these sites can afford to offer players any table they want at any time of day. Given the convenience and the vastly reduced costs, it's no wonder that online poker is capitalizing the market.
Real money poker players also benefit from online promotions that are far more generous than anything available at a land-based establishment. Deposit matching, monthly rakeback bonuses, and incentives for referrals all help poker players keep and grow their bankrolls.
The Player's Guide to Real Money Poker
This guide will cover the many options for playing real money poker online, including options available to players in the United States. It will also give you information on how to keep your money safe and secure. Finally, you'll learn how to progress through the ranks of real money play—from a complete newbie, to a professional shark cruising the tables for fresh fish.
Options for Real Money Poker Online
There are many Independent sites handle that focus exclusively on table poker. Some of the biggest names in the market are PokerStars, Party Poker, and America's Cardroom.
A few of the larger casinos offer poker along with their other games, but they'll usually ask you to download a separate app or piece of software to play. Major sites that do this include 888, Ignition and Sky.
If you're looking for real money video poker, you'll find it in the core software or app of just about any online casino.
The two ways to play online are to download the site's app or their software. The software is almost always available for Windows PCs, and in some cases for Macintosh computers as well. If you use a tablet or smartphone to play, you'll want the mobile app for your operating system. Poker sites and casinos commonly support Android and Apple's iOS. Users of newer Chromebook computers can download Android apps too.
So what if you have an operating system that sites don't support? Don't worry—you're not out of luck. There's also the “no download” option which allows access to the site's games through your web browser—without having to install anything permanent on your hard drive. Not every poker site has a no download option, but you'll be able to play video poker at most casinos this way.
Where Can Players In The U.S. Play For Real Money?
There are two basic options for players in the United States: the entirely legal, and the not-so-legal.
The United States Federal government has declared all forms of online wagering illegal, including games of skill such as poker. However, State Law supersedes this legality in some cases. The states of Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have legalized online poker play for real money. There are many poker rooms and casinos based in those states that allow you to wager legally. You don’t have to be a resident of the state—you simply have to be in the state while you are playing.
Then there are the not-so-legal options. These are collectively referred to as offshore U.S.-facing sites. The United States government (along with individual state governments) does not prosecute individual players for playing online poker. Instead, their method of enforcement is to fine banks for allowing such transactions to take place. The banks, in turn, try to block these transactions. However, many people in the U.S. still manage to play at these sites—as enforcement is spotty and there are some workarounds regarding transferring money.
Safe and Secure Real Money Poker Play Online
Ideally, the best way to safeguard your money is to play at a site that is regulated by a reputable government agency with a strong reputation for mediation in financial disputes. The best of these organizations are under the auspices of the United Kingdom Gambling Commission and the various overseas territories they have “whitelisted” for online gaming purposes.
Unfortunately, the trouble with UK sites is that they don't allow players from countries where online gambling is illegal. That doesn't mean that overseas sites that cater to these markets are unsafe, but exercise caution because regulation is not as stringent as it is in the UK. Players also have fewer options for legal recourse in the case of a dispute.
Working Your Way Up The Real Money Poker Ranks
If you're a brand new player, you might consider playing games against an Artificial Intelligence (AI) computer initially. AI will never prepare you for playing live games against real people—but it does give you a safe environment in which to learn the rules and flow of the game with no pressure, at your own pace. Consider video poker as a great tutorial to teach yourself the rankings of hands.
The next step is “play money” games. There's no reason for sharks to be in these games, so you can practice with other beginners close to your skill level. When you feel you are ready, you can move up to micro-stakes games, which allow a starting wager of as little as one or two cents per hand. There are decent players at micro-stakes games, and the challenge level is a little higher, but the real sharks aren't wasting their time with pots this small.
You can also look into “freeroll” tournaments, which allow you to win cash prizes with potentially no entry-fee, but expect stronger competition in these.
Advanced players who want to make a profit online often branch out into multi-tabling or playing up to 20 tables at once at lower stakes, where the competition is less fierce.
If you want to try your hand with the pros and potentially break into live action play in tournaments like the World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker, you can try to win your way into major events by taking first place in a verified satellite event.
Real Money, Real Poker Online
Online real money play has a lot of advantages to offer, not the least of which are convenience and low cost. You can play with software on your desktop or laptop, through an app on your mobile devices, or through a web browser on any device. Players in the United States can play legally in certain states but should exercise caution when playing at any site based overseas. With online play, you can tailor your game to whatever level you prefer, from a casual weekly session to a serious attempt to make it to the final table of the World Series Of Poker!