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How Online Poker Works
Much like any other casino game, poker comes with a set of rules and gameplay that guides how the game operates.
Like most card and table games, poker is played with decks of cards. The dealer deals with different sets of cards for every player in the game.
The primary objective in the game is for a player to beat other players in the game by obtaining the best five-card poker hand possible or bluffing your way into a win.
To do that, the five cards in a player's hand must have a higher ranking than that of the other players in the game. One of the most exciting things about poker is how the gameplay works.
Even if a player does not have the best possible hand, they can win by bluffing. By bluffing, a player can pretend to have a great hand just in an attempt to get other players to fold.
However, a bluff is only usually effective in land-based casinos where you can fully observe other players.
Typically, when you play the game, the cards dealt to you will determine whether your hand will win or lose the round.
Thus, knowing how the cards are scored and ranked in poker is essential to a casino enthusiast's playing experience when they play the poker game online.
The standard hand ranking in most poker games, such as Hold’em, Omaha, Seven Card Stud, and Five Card Draw, is the traditional card ranking.
The poker hands ranked from the highest to the lowest, and a brief description of their meaning are listed in the table below.
This is the best hand of them all. It refers to a straight that runs from a ten to an ace in the same suit. This hand's odds are as high as 1 in almost 650,000.
A straight flush consists of five cards of the same suit in sequence, such as 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 of hearts. In the event of a tie, the highest rank at the top of the straight flush sequence wins.
Four of a kind
The four-of-a-kind hand has four cards of the same rank and a fifth card, known as a side card or kicker. For example, you can have four Aces or four Jacks and a fifth card. The suit of the four cards or the rank of the fifth card does not matter. But in the event of a tie, the hand with the highest fifth card ('kicker') wins.
A full house refers to a hand consisting of any five cards of the same rank and another two cards of the same rank. For example, you can have 3 Kings and 2 Aces. In the event of a tie, the hand with the highest three matching cards wins. The hand with the highest two matching cards wins if this is also the same.
Flush refers to a hand that consists of five cards of the same suit, but not in a sequence. In the event of a tie, the hand with the highest-ranked card wins. If necessary, the second-highest, third-highest, fourth-highest, or fifth-highest will win the round.
This refers to five cards in sequence but not of the same suit. In the event of a tie, the hand with the highest-ranking card at the top of the sequence wins. It is worth noting that Ace can act as a high or low card, depending on the remaining cards in the sequence. The "A, K, Q, J, 10" combination is the highest possible straight, while the "5, 4, 3, 2, A" combo is the lowest possible straight.
Three of a Kind
Three of a Kind refers to a combination that contains three cards of the same rank and two other cards of different ranks. For example, you can have three Aces with a King and Queen as the fourth and fifth cards. This is the best possible hand for a three-of-a-kind rank. In the event of a tie, the hand with the highest three-of-a-kind card wins.
This refers to a hand that contains a pair of the same rank, another pair of the same rank, and a fifth card of a different rank called the "side card." For example, you can have a pair of Aces, a pair of Kings, and a Queen as the last card. In the case of a tie, the highest pair wins. If both have the same highest pair, the highest second pair wins, and if this is the same, the highest side card wins.
Refers to a combination that contains any two cards of the same rank with three other cards of different ranks. For example, you can have a pair of Aces and a King, Queen, and Jack as the third, fourth, and fifth cards. This is the best possible "Pair" hand. In the case of a tie, the highest pair wins. Should both hands have the same pair, the highest side card wins, and if necessary, the highest-second and the highest-third card can be used to break the tie.
All these combinations can be difficult to wrap your head around, especially if you are a newbie.
But the beauty of it is that when you play the poker game online, card ranking and everything involved is done automatically, and you only have to go through the process.
However, if you want to play poker like a pro, you will need to be able to recognize the combination of every hand you get.
This will help you decide whether you can afford to call or raise or if your best decision should be a fold.
Betting Options in Poker
One of the most exciting parts about poker is that while it has an element of luck, poker largely depends on skills and the players' ability to make smart decisions.
As a result, during any betting round in poker, players are given the option to make some decisions. They can check, fold, bet, call, or raise.
To play poker effectively, you will need to familiarize yourself with these:
- Check: Players can choose to check until a player opens a poker round by placing the first bet. Essentially, a player who checks declines to make a bet while retaining the right to bet, call, or raise later in the same round. However, in the games played with blinds, players cannot check on opening rounds since blinds are live bets that must be called or raised to stay in the game.
- Bet: This is called opening the bet round, and it involves a player putting money in the pot to start a game round in poker. After the bet, other players must then fold, call, or raise.
- Fold: A fold happens when a player decides to walk away from a round, losing the stake they already have in the pot. This is a good option to use when a player thinks that they don't have a good enough hand to keep playing or believe that another player has a much better hand than them.
- Call: To call means matching another player's bet or raise by putting the same amount into the pot. This is usually done to stay in the game round.
- Raise: A raise happens when players increase bet size in a round, thereby increasing the size of the pot. Most players go for the raise option when they believe they have a good enough round to keep playing or bluff other players into thinking they have a great hand.
- All in: If a player no longer has enough chips to call or raise a bet during a poker round, they can go all-in by playing all their remaining chips. Here, the player that goes all-in can only win the number of chips in the pot when they place the bet, should other players continue betting.
Generally, when someone asks if you play poker, they usually refer to the Texas Hold ‘Em, a game that has become the staple for Poker thanks to televised events like the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and the different movies that have featured poker games.
However, aside from the Texas Hold ‘Em, there are many other versions and variations of this popular game.
Although each of the different types of poker has slight variations in rules and gameplay, they all follow the same basic rule and gameplay.
Before discussing the types of Poker, there are broad groups which the poker game can be classified into.
Generally, most poker variants belong to one of three broad groups, namely "Draw Poker," "Stud Poker," and "Community Card Poker."
- Draw Poker: Refers to games where the players receive a full hand, which they can then decide to trade in a few (generally up to 3) to improve their hand. The most common variant of this category is the five-card draw.
- Stud Poker: This refers to games where each player will receive face-up and face-down cards (typically 5 or 7) in multiple betting rounds. In these games, the player will use the original cards that they are dealt to make their best hand. Standout variants of this category include the five-card stud and the seven-card stud.
- Community Card Poker: This refers to the games where players are dealt "hole cards," i.e., face-down cards, uniquely theirs. They will then playoff these cards with the shared face-up community cards to make their best hand. Standout variants of community games include the Texas Hold 'em and the Omaha Hold 'em.
Texas Hold ‘Em
Driven by the immense popularity of the televised poker competition, the World Series of Poker, Texas Hold’em is easily the most popular poker game in the world.
The game starts with each player at the table receiving two ‘hole cards' to themselves and then progresses as five community cards are spread on the table.
The main goal of the Texas Hold’em game is for players to use the shared community cards in combination with their unique hole cards to produce the best possible five-card hand.
In Hold'em, betting can take place up to four different times. The first bet comes right after each player receives their two hole cards.
The next bet occurs after the first three community cards are dealt and revealed, referred to as "the flop."
The third bet is after the fourth community card comes into play, called the "turn," while the fourth and last bet happens when the fifth community card is revealed, called the "the river."
Texas Hold’em poker is of four kinds, which are usually only different from each other by their betting limits:
- Limit Texas Hold’em: There is a predetermined betting limit on each round in this game.
- No-Limit Texas Hold’em: Like its name already indicates, a player can bet any amount up to all of their chips in this game.
- Pot Limit Texas Hold’em: In this game, a player can bet any amount, but only up to the size of the pot.
- Mixed Texas Hold’em: This variation switches between Limit Texas Hold’em and the No-Limit Texas Hold’em rounds.
The Five-card draw is the most popular draw poker game you will find online or offline. While many players consider the game to be quite challenging due to the option of replacing their cards by drawing new ones, it is quite simple to understand and play.
Generally, each player in the game is dealt five hidden hole cards. After this, betting will occur, and each player will have the option to fold, call, or raise. Once the first betting round is over, there will be a draw.
This means that each player will have the option to select up to three cards that they wish to discard and replace with new ones.
The objective of the draw is to help players try and get cards that will help them produce the best possible five-card hand.
Of course, a player also has the option not to draw if they believe they already have a pretty good hand and don’t want to risk losing it for a worse hand.
After the draw, there will be another round of betting, after which the showdown will happen. The player with the best five-card hand wins the pot.
Essentially, the action in this game follows these sequence:
- Each player receives five hidden hole cards
- The first betting round takes place
- The second betting round takes place
The player’s main goal in this game is to make the best five-card hand after one draw.
Note that if two or more hands have the same hand value (tie), the pot will be split equally. There is no precedence of suit or rank when awarding the pot.
Seven Card Stud
Seven Card Stud is the most popular game from the stud side of the poker families, a game that gives players individual face-up and face-down cards.
As its name already indicates, each player will receive seven cards in this game: 3 face-down cards and four face-up cards visible to the entire table.
The game's objective is for the players to use the seven cards they receive to create the best possible 5-card hand.
One of the many unique things about this game is that players are not dealt all seven cards at once. Instead, the cards are dealt with gradually, and a player will base their decision to stay and place bets as each of the seven cards is revealed gradually.
Here is the sequence of rules that the Seven Card Stud follows:
- Ante: The players put in the ante (the predetermined nominal amount) before starting the game.
- Third Street: Each player will receive three cards: two hidden face-down cards and one face-up card. Based on these cards, the player will start betting.
- Fourth Street: Each player will receive another exposed face-up card, called the "Fourth Street." Then, there will be another round of betting, and each player will decide to stay or stick with the game.
- Fifth Street: Again, each player will receive another exposed face-up card, called the "Fifth Street," and another betting round will happen.
- Sixth Street: Players will receive the sixth card, another face-up card called the "Sixth Street." Again, another round of betting will take place.
- Seven Street (or the River): Each player will receive the seventh and final card dealt face-down. There will then be a final betting round and a showdown after.
- The Showdown: Involves the players revealing their card, where the one with the best five-card poker hand wins the pot. If there is a tie, the pot is divided equally.
Omaha is an entertaining poker variant derived from Texas Hold’em. As such, the game has a lot of similarities to Hold’em.
However, a few distinguishing features differentiate Omaha from Hold’em. First, in Omaha, each player will receive four cards instead of two at the start of the hand, but the community hand is still five cards.
Also, the five community cards are revealed immediately and are not spread out over three rounds.
In the Omaha game, players can also use only three of the community cards combined with exactly two cards out of their hole cards to create the best five-card poker hand.
Like the Texas Hold’em game, Omaha also has a few variations, namely:
- Pot Limit Omaha Poker: This is the most popular Omaha Poker, and it involves players betting what is in the pot (i.e., €100 into a €100 pot).
- No Limit Omaha Poker: In this game, players can bet any amount into the pot, up to their entire chips.
- Fixed Limit Omaha Poker: In this version of Omaha Poker, a specific betting limit will apply to each game and betting round.
Aside from the top four poker game versions that we have listed here, there are dozens of other poker game versions that you can play online. Here are a few that deserve mention:
- 2-7 Triple Draw
- Omaha High-low
- High Chicago & Low Chicago
- Follow the Queen
You will agree that while online casino games brought a lot of benefits to players, such as the increased flexibility and convenience of access, they also came with a few limitations and restrictions, especially for poker games.
Until recently, one of such limitations is the inability to play against other players. With the regular online poker game, you will play against the dealer, a computer programme.
Poker is a social game that is better enjoyed when you play against other players, but computer-generated online poker games can't achieve this.
However, the status quo changed with the emergence of the live casino innovation, a platform that made it possible for players to play casino games, including poker, with a real dealer and other players online, streaming live in HD video.
This made it possible for poker enthusiasts to enjoy their favourite game in real-time from the comfort of their homes while also playing against other players.
Computer-generated online poker comes with several live poker variants that you can play. So, before you join any live poker table, ensure that you understand all the rules and gameplay that come with it.
You will agree that one of the most exciting things about online casino games is the ability to play the games for free using its demo version.
Thanks to the innovation of software providers, casino enthusiasts today can access demo versions of several kinds of games.
They include online slots, online baccarat, online poker, and most importantly, online poker for free without risking their actual funds.
The best part is that, unlike what many newbies often think, demo games, including demo poker games, are not rigged to play differently from the real money versions.
Software developers program the demo versions of their poker games to run the same as the real money version.
The only difference is that one is played using real money, and players can win real money playing it.
In contrast, the other one is played with inexhaustible virtual credits, with any winnings gotten from it also being virtual credit that you cannot cash out.
This means that poker enthusiasts can expect the same gameplay, rules, and randomness of cards when they play the demo version of any online poker game.
Thus, playing the demo versions of poker games can be a great way to get familiar with what to expect when you play any poker game for real money online.
Choosing the Right Site
More important than poker variants, poker strategies, poker skills, or even your bankroll is which site you choose to play the game.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of different online casinos offering their services to players, and while most sites provide decent services, some are better than others.
Plus, due to the sheer number of online casinos available today, players are bound to also run across some disreputable websites.
As a result, deciding where to play poker online is not a decision to take lightly. Thankfully, our team has listed some of the most important factors for you to consider while finding the best poker sites. Highlighted below are some of the factors you should consider when making your decision:
- Licensing and regulation
- Poker game selection
- Customer support
- Bonuses and promotions
- Payment method
To sum up, poker remains one of the most popular, if not the most popular, table games you will find online or in brick-and-mortar casinos. In fact, it is believed that there are over 120 million players across the world that actively play poker online.
Although the game comes in various variations, the basic rules and gameplay are simple: obtain the best possible five-card poker hand or bluff your way into a win.
If you are new to poker, you should get familiar with how the game works. You can also spend time playing the demo versions of the game before you start playing for real money.
Online Poker FAQs
Yes. It is legal for you to place bets on any table games, including poker online, as long as your preferred site is licensed to provide gaming services to players in Ireland.
The short answer to this question is NO. While a site can rig the game, the companies behind online poker sites stand to lose a lot by rigging games, so they usually don’t.
Plus, there are usually rules and regulations to guide against this. But to be safe, make sure that the site you play the poker game at is legit and fully licensed and regulated.
As an Irish player, you are free to participate in any live and online poker tournaments and events.
There are hundreds of online casinos and poker sites offering poker games to players. As an Irish player, you are free to play at any of them so long as they are fully licensed and regulated.
Yes, it is quite possible to make money playing poker. In fact, thousands of professionals play online poker consistently and earn money in doing so.
However, it would be best if you always remembered that poker should only be seen as a fun and entertaining game and not a means to hit the jackpot.